MERTI MAARIFA CENTRE: LINKING THE POOR MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES TO THE REST OF THE WORLD.

By: Guyo Haro Wario and Boru Godana Boru

Its literary being in the dark, it has been lifeless, and that is how Merti community has been living over the years. One of the biggest divisions in Isiolo district Merti is about 260 kilometers North of Isiolo Township. Inhabited majorly by the pastoralists community Merti has been referred to as ‘mwisho wa mawazo’ a Kiswahili word, if loosely translated means the end of thoughts. It was far, far from all the news sources, the community has been starved information wise, except for the few government directives, communicated through the local divisional administration office. Coupled with poor infrastructure like road, Merti sarcastically enjoys the local dailies as still fresh even after days have elapsed. It comes as the most prized item, yet changing hands, for the few to grasp what happens in Kenya.

But things are changing fast, a partnership between MID-P, ALIN, DMI, and RUA is bringing smiles and relief through Merti Maarifa centre. It is going to give Merti community hopes, power and opportunity to interact with the world. It has become a third eye for the community to see, learn and share experiences just by a click of a button despite the poor infrastructure and the distance. All hopes are high; Maarifa Centre has become another door for growth and feeling of inclusiveness. Fully operational after a high profile launch on 20th May,2010, a good number of community members are using the facility to access internet reckoning the importance of the project.

“I never expected this service early; it looks like a service for the rich and people in towns. It has made me keep in touch with the worlds as well as making me access other services that comes on-line.” Says Dansa Billa upon filling a university admission form on-line.“It’s exhilarating; it’s the power of partnership and networking. Apart from the services to the community the facility has helped us to cut on costs”. Says the Mid-P coordinator, Mr. Abdullahi J. Shande. Mid-P was using modem for access of internet before the service was introduced.

The Mid-P Coordinator has long believed that the only way the poor marginalized communities can catch up with the rest of the world and attain the much desired development is only by being compliant with ICT.

“This is one of the practical and meaningful benefits from the partnership that the community should put to maximum use in case they want to be at par with the others. Am happy my dream has come true. I feel proud of this particular initiative and will work to ensure it grows from strength to strength.” Says a beaming Shandey.

Merti Community Maarifa Centre is expected to revolutionize the flow and access to relevant information among the marginalized communities living in northern Kenya. Already different classes of people and institutions have visited the centre and registered with it in the hope of benefiting from this ambitious project.

So far DMI had installed the VSAT and posted, Mr. Guyo Haro, as a field officer, who also doubles as a resident of Merti town to start off the project. A lot of activities including provision of the necessary equipment and continuos capacity building trainings on ICT are example are expected to roll out once the centre gets into full operation.

The Merti Community Maarifa Centre is expected to offer: Internet Services, Development information resource (CD ROMs), Photocopying Services, Video documentation, E-government and E-learning services.

The following words from Mr. Boru Godana RUA Program officer attests to the joy and expectations of the community once the centre rolls out its plans.

‘’I am happy to be associated with Merti Community Maarifa Centre. The absence of these services has been one big obstacle that has continued to lock out the poor pastoralists from mainstream development programs. We sincerely thank the entire staff of MID-P, ALIN, and Mr. Luigi in particular for this wonderful project that we have been yearning for years on end. This will definitely benefit RUA as a result of easy access to improved livestock Market information Livestock diseases and their control and ability to share wider information and knowledge with all the partners.’’  Indeed, a lot is expected out of the centre and this might be the only sure way of unlocking the deadly impasse that has been affecting the development of Northern Kenya in comparison to other parts of Kenya and the entire world.