Blessed is the hand that giveth: A call to philanthropy in Kenya

Development Foundation shows that Kenya’s philanthropic report card is littered with Ds and Es, failing miserably on altruism and brotherliness.

Not to say that Kenyans do not give big, because they do. One just has to look at the overwhelming response to the 2011 ‘Kenyans for Kenya’ campaign, where over Sh600 million was raised to buy food aid for hunger-ravaged Turkana County.

Or the sheer numbers that rallied behind the ‘#WeAreOne’ crusade to donate money, food and blood to those afflicted by the Westgate tragedy.

On a smaller scale, we have all contributed in those informal fundraisers we so dearly love, the harambees; Sh500 for a sick child, Sh1,000 for someone’s university education abroad, Sh1,500 for somebody else’s wedding budget… everyone has given money to a cause of one’s choice, some more than others.

So if Kenyans give so generously, why do we score so poorly in the philanthropic department?

The reason is that while Kenyans are great at informal charity that addresses an immediate need, they are a little less successful at structured philanthropy, where money is geared towards a specific goal, usually long-term.

Indeed, as one of the respondents in the KCDF study says, “there is philanthropy in Kenya, but it is different from the West”.

“We come from a culture where we support each other and not necessarily in a structured manner,” says the respondent. “In the West there are structures, but in Kenya family and social needs force us to channel resources towards a cause.”

The study finds that “structured or organised giving to philanthropic organisations is not very common among Kenyans”, and that “giving is commonly for deeply personal motivations and happens mostly when the need arises”.

Dr Vijoo Rattansi, of the Rattansi Education Trust, agrees. “Philanthropy is in our blood. Even in the old days, if one member of the village fell ill, the rest of the village would come together to help out. Maybe that’s just good neighbourliness, but to me it’s also philanthropy,” she says.

However, this kind of “piecemeal” philanthropy is unreliable and erratic. If anything, it makes the need for more structured philanthropy much more urgent as a way of systematically eliminating the need for knee-jerk giving.

The folks at KCDF venture that a strong tax incentive is one way of encouraging more individuals or companies to set up structured philanthropy programmes.

Tax regime

However, “there is lack of, or limited levels of, public awareness about the income tax regime that governs public benefit organisations in Kenya,” they warn.

Almost all respondents interviewed for the KCDF report did not have accurate information, knowledge or understanding of the tax laws governing the philanthropy space in Kenya.

Not only are Kenyans unaware of how the tax incentives work for charities, most do not even know that they exist at all.

The report says that donors do not understand the law as it currently stands, saying that it is unnecessarily complicated and designed to discourage potential donors from taking advantage of it.

“Most donors are not aware of the tax receipts that can be utilised to claim tax deductions and they would be hesitant to start such a process because of government bureaucracy,” says the report.

But Dr Rattansi is among the very few who know about, and have taken advantage of, the tax incentives given by the government.

“Oh, there is a tax incentive!” she beams. “I remember when I was chair of the East African Association of Grantmakers (EAAG) we approached the Minister for Finance then, Mr Amos Kimunya. He understood the situation.

“At that time, Tanzania was allowing a certain tax waiver for philanthropy. In East Africa, Kenya was the only country where if you gave there was no tax incentive. He gave us a no-blanket tax incentive, meaning, for instance, if you wanted to donate half your salary to a recognised charity you don’t have to pay taxes.”

And Dr Rattansi should know. She heads the Rattansi Education Trust, a family-run charity that gives students from poor backgrounds a chance to pursue higher education.

The trust was started by Dr Rattansi’s father-in-law, Mr Mohamedally Rattansi, in 1956 and has since then helped over 11,000 Kenyans get a university education. She takes us through a short history:

“I think philanthropy is anchored in what you believe in. My father-in-law started Rattansi Trust because he wanted to do something for the country he loved.

“So he — and his wife Maniben — looked at the socio-economic realities of the time and realised that the country was on its way to gaining independence, and so it would need educated people to run it. So they decided, what better gift than education? And that’s how the trust was born.”

The unique thing about the Rattansi Trust is that, from the very beginning, it was designed to cater for Kenyans from all races, even with the segregation that was rampant in colonial times.

It was decided that the Trust’s resources would be split into equal categories of Africans, Ismailis, Europeans, Muslims and Hindus, and everyone else not included in the classes.

However, after independence, the categories were scrapped and it was made open for any Kenyan.

“Many people assume that my father-in-law was rich and that is why he set up the trust. But the truth is he was not a rich man at all. He wore one pair of shoes for 10 days! He owned a grocery business in Nyeri and invested in properties little by little, then eventually gave up his prime property for the Trust.

“His philanthropy started in Nyeri when he built a ward for non-Europeans at the Tumutumu Hospital to give Africans and Asians a place to sleep if they were admitted in the hospital,” she says.

The biggest challenge facing the Rattansi Trust has been an extremely high demand for help from needy students that it is unable to cope with.

“I wish we had oodles of money to give away so that nobody has to go away disheartened,” says Dr Rattansi.

It would be impossible to talk about philanthropy in Kenya without talking about Manu Chandaria and his foundation.

He is arguably Kenya’s most visible philanthropist, running the Chandaria Foundation, which has left its mark in schools and hospitals across the country.

He agrees with Dr Rattansi that African philanthropy is mostly family- or community-centred, with no real vision of a collective good.

“African philosophy is to look after oneself and one’s village, tribe or family,” he says.

Streak of selfishness

This substantiates the KCDF concern that people are willing to engage in philanthropy only if they can see the results in those near and dear to them, which might reveal a nascent streak of selfishness where most of us are wired to help those who might be able to return the favour in future; or those that will free us from the responsibility of having to look after them for an extended period of time.

This can be seen, for example, when somebody helps to educate a relative so that he or she gets a good job to reduce the chance of being burdened by that relative’s financial problems in future.

The end point in these acts of philanthropy seems to be selfish, more a function of self-interest than true altruism.

Dr Chandaria argues that one of the biggest problems with “piecemeal” philanthropy is that there is no sustainability on such projects.

“During the time of Kenyatta — Kenya’s first president — and his clarion call for ‘Harambee’, quite a lot of money was collected. Moi, too, with his ‘Nyayo’ philosophy inspired quite a bit of giving among Kenyans. This was a good thing, but the major failing of this kind of giving was that there was no clear indication of how much money was given, making it hard to plan for it,” Chandaria explains.

He says that although a lot of Harambee schools were opened up as a direct result of the call for communal giving, most of those schools were in pitiful condition because there was hardly any money to run them.

A more structured form of giving is seen among companies that identify a cause and support it in a certain way. About this kind of giving, the KCDF report states: “Some corporate bodies will only engage in Corporate Social Responsibility in areas that receive the most attention, or to deeply moving stories, and not necessarily to priority areas of long-term need.”

Dr Chandaria agrees. “What we normally see in this country is CSR. Companies have a responsibility to give back to the communities within which they operate. However, CSR is different from philanthropy,” says Chandaria.

“Pure philanthropy is when people have no other motivation apart from a genuine desire to do good. This is not to say that companies are not engaging in philanthropy; they do that by setting up foundations and trusts that operate outside of where the company is located, and are indiscriminate to the people they serve,” he explains.

The government cannot do everything, and that is the truth. We, the people, need to recognise that and come together to improve things.

For example, if the government has built a dispensary in the village and the only nurse who works there lives 50 kilometres away, it makes sense for the villagers to build a house for the nurse to ensure that she stays closer to the dispensary, therefore making her available to attend to patients even at odd hours.- Dr Manu Chandaria, Chandaria Foundation

He gives Safaricom, East African Breweries Limited and Kenya Commercial Bank as examples of corporations that have well established philanthropy arms in the form of foundations.

A common argument against philanthropy is that the government should provide everything its citizenry needs because people pay taxes for that purpose. In an ideal world, government services would be adequate and nobody would need a helping hand to access basic needs.

But the reality is that the government is hopelessly overstretched and can hardly keep up with the pressure to allocate resources where they are most needed. And this is where philanthropy comes in, to stand in the gap and provide that which the government cannot.

Oh, there is a tax incentive! I remember when I was chair of the East African Association of Grantmakers (EAAG) we approached the Minister for Finance then, Mr Amos Kimunya.

He understood the situation. At that time, Tanzania was allowing a certain tax waiver for philanthropy. In East Africa, Kenya was the only country where if you gave there was no tax incentive.

He gave us a no-blanket tax incentive, meaning, for instance, if you wanted to donate half your salary to a recognised charity you don’t have to pay taxes.- Dr Vijoo Rattansi, Rattansi Education Trust

Dr Chandaria argues that it is lazy and selfish not to give to charity because a government exists. “The government cannot do everything, and that is the truth. We, the people, need to recognise that and come together to improve things.

“For example, if the government has built a dispensary in the village and the only nurse who works there lives 50 kilometres away, it makes sense for the villagers to build a house for the nurse to ensure that she stays closer to the dispensary, therefore making her available to attend to patients even at odd hours,” he says.

He adds that, as opposed to popular perception, philanthropy is not just about giving money.

“If you can give your time or your service to making somebody else’s life better, then you have done your part,” he says.

Dr Chandaria paints a candid picture of why philanthropy is important; it helps realise what cannot be realised by the systems in place.

Self-financing

Just like the Rattansi Trust, the Chandaria Foundation is self-financing, drawing from profits made from investments to fund its activities.

Dr Chandaria and Dr Rattansi both believe that the philanthropy space in Kenya has room for many more people to participate.

“There are a lot of rich people in society who could make a real difference if they wanted,” says Dr Chandaria, “However, you cannot expect somebody to have the same philosophies as you.”

But Dr Rattansi believes that the future of Kenyan philosophy lies, not with the well-heeled members of society, but with the many young people she comes across every day.

“Young people who were born in a free Kenya are the future of organised philanthropy. They live in a free country, are free spirits, and have an abundance of generosity and warmth,” she says.

But isn’t she being too optimistic? The generation she talks about has been often criticised for being too self-absorbed to really take notice of what is happening with other people. Aren’t these the same people who have been described as selfish, self-serving, and with a waning sense of African community?

“There are more good people than bad ones. If one person gives, it might look like just a drop in the ocean, but remember the ocean is full of drops. In time, a few good deeds add up into an avalanche of good deeds,” concludes the incurable optimist that is Dr Rattansi.

Step up efforts against aflatoxin-Farmers urge govt

Farmers in the Brong Ahafo region have commended government and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for their effort in the fight against Aflatoxin but urges government to step it’s effort up further in order to stem its effect on crops drastically.

Speaking at a workshop attended by smallholder farmers, food sellers, agro processors and other players in the agriculture value chain in Techiman, Mr. Fred Asante of the Brong Ahafo Regional Office of the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture mentioned that the fight to control aflatoxin contamination of key staple foods in Ghana has been stepped up in the Brong Ahafo Region.

Trained staffs are expected to pass on the knowledge to farmers on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Asante revealed that the Ministry in collaboration with Plantwise/CABI has set up Plant Health Clinics in Asunafo North, Dormaa Municipality, Kintampo Municipality Tano North and South districts, and Techiman Municipality.

He is quoted as saying, “these are good initiatives which have helped farmers to improve food security and improve rural livelihoods by reducing crop losses to pest and diseases.”

On his part,  Daniel Adotey, a Programme Officer at SEND-GHANA, the project lead organisation, said inadequate pre and post-harvest management practices among small-holder farmers lead to the high and unacceptable levels of mycotoxins in maize and contribute greatly to the high statistics of stunted growth in children under five..

Notwithstanding the facts about the destructive nature of the fungus, aflatoxins have not attracted much attention from policy makers and implemented in Ghana due to lack of targeted advocacy and public awareness.

Whiles commending the Ministry of Food and Agriculture for the efforts made so far, Adotey called for a multi-sectoral and multi-faceted approach for efficient monitoring, surveillance and cost-effective measures for control and prevention of aflatoxins contamination in food and feed products along the value chain in the Ghana.

The workshop was organised by ECASARD in collaboration with SEND-GHANA with funding from the Southern Africa Trust under a project dubbed “Deepening linkages between Research, Advocacy and Media practitioners in Ghana for greater policy influence and impact II”

According to Dr. King David Amoah, the National Coordinator of ECASARD, the advocacy partners for the project notes that millions of people living in the country consume high and unsafe levels of Aflatoxin through their diets on a daily basis and it pose adverse health and economic effects along the food production and supply value chain, undermining efforts to improve nutrition, enhance agricultural production and minimizes economic gains from agricultural products, especially for small scale farmers.

The Brong Ahafo Region, a major maize producing region in Ghana is one of the hotspots of aflatoxin contamination as it has all the right conditions that the natural occurring fungi that produce aflatoxins thrive in.

This has led to the destruction of hundreds of bags of grains to the dismay of resource poor and also often, food insecure small-holder farmers leading to huge losses of much-needed income and food, and trade and health consequences.

Ghana has prioritized the realization of the Millennium Development Goals of reducing by half the number of people suffering from hunger by the year 2015. While this effort requires a significant increase in the production and quality of food, food safety issues resulting from aflatoxin contamination present a number of formidable challenges. Aflatoxins are toxic metabolites produced by fungal species during their growth under favorable conditions of temperature and moisture. The main cereals affected are maize, sorghum, rice and wheat and other crops like groundnuts and cassava.

Agricultural products contaminated with aflatoxins pose a major threat to human and animal health. Aflatoxin-contaminated agricultural products have a relatively low market value and are sometimes destroyed depending on the levels of contamination.

Increase Funding To Control Aflatoxin Contamination

Government has been urged to increase funding to the Food Research Institute (FRI) to control aflatoxins contamination of maize and other food products in the country.

SEND Ghana, a non-governmental organisation gave the advice in a policy brief on study on aflatoxins in the Brong-Ahafo Region.

The study titled: “Reducing aflatoxins in maize to improve the income of smallholder farmers in Ghana,” was undertaken by SEND Ghana in collaboration with FRI and the Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD) among some smallholder maize farmers in the Techiman municipality of the Brong-Ahafo Region.

The study indicated that there was high levels of aflatoxins in maize produced in the country, above the Ghana Standard Authority permissible level of 15ug/kg.

“In Ghana, levels in maize above the national permissible levels (total aflatoxins 15uk/kg) have been found in 66 samples out of a total 202 samples analysed over the past three years and still counting,” the study said.

The study said a reduction in aflatoxins in maize would ensure that maize produced from Ghana was not rejected on the international market.

It also said it would improve the income of smallholder farmers to reduce poverty in the country.

Aflatoxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi apergillusflavus and apergillus-parasiticus and mostly found in maize, groundnut, cassava, and yam chips.

According to health experts, aflatoxin is the potential cause of cancer and suppresses the immune system causing humans and animals to be more susceptible to diseases.

Among other causes, the study attributed the aflatoxins to poor drying techniques adopted by the farmers.

The study said high temperatures and high relative humidity in Ghana as is the case in the Tropics are the good conditions for the growth of these fungi.

Among other recommendation, the study called on the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Grains Development Board and the Ministry of Health to, as a matter of utmost importance, recognise exposure to aflatoxins as a major public health issue and incorporate prevention and control in social development issues.

“The effect of aflatoxins in maize cannot be reversed and the only solution is prevention,” the study stressed.

It said the district directorates of agriculture should collaborate with Grain West Africa and other private sector organisations to provide storage infrastructure for maize farmers.

SEND Ghana said the objective of the study was to reduce aflatoxins in maize produced by smallholder farmers to enable them sell their produce to the World Food Programme and the international market.

Dr. King David Amoah, the National Coordinator of ECASARD, the advocacy partners for the study throwing more light on the study in an interview with Times Business, said millions of people living in the country consume high and unsafe levels of aflatoxin through their diets on a daily basis and that posed adverse health and economic effects along the food production and supply value chain.

He said there was the need for education for the public to sort out the infested maize from the good ones to promote good health.

For farmers, he said, good agronomic practices were required right from planting to harvesting and storage of maize to combat the situation.

The Women’s Leader of ECASARD, Mrs Gladys Serwaa Edusah, said her outfit had organised a national and district policy dialogue on aflatoxins to create awareness and educate participants on the effects of aflatoxins on health.

She also said ECASARD smallholder maize farmers at Techimaan and Nkoranzah North and South had been educated on the dangers of aflatoxins and and best storage practices.

By David Adadevoh

Agric Ministry told to treat exposure of aflatoxin as major health issue

Mr George Anyebuno, Head of the Aflatoxin Laboratory of the Food Research Institute (FRI) has called on the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), the Grains Development Board and the Ministry of Health to treat the exposure to aflatoxins as a major public health issue.

He said these organizations should also incorporate prevention and control of exposure to aflatoxins in health, agricultural and social development policies and provides scientific advice for its prevention in Ghana.

These were contained in a Policy Brief, aimed at “Reducing Aflatoxins in Maize to Improve Incomes of Smallholder Farmers in Ghana,” discussed at the Policy Dialogue meeting held for farmers and policy makers of the Techiman Municipality on Aflatoxin.

The Policy Dialogue was jointly organised by ECASARD and SEND-GHANA with funding from the Southern African Trust.

Mr Anyebuno explained that aflatoxins were secondary metabolites produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasitic, mostly found in maize, groundnuts, cassava, and yam chips.

“These toxins are also potent causes of cancer and suppress the immune system, causing humans and animals to be more susceptible to diseases.  They are chemical compounds which have been found to be toxic to humans and animals”, he added.

He noted that the grains when contaminated, was difficult to decontaminate, and that prevention was the key word, describing aflatoxins as noiseless killers that undermined human health and stunt the growth of children.

“But they are not often visible on the corn when purchased, once the maize is infected, nothing can be done to remove the toxins as they are very stable compounds even at high temperatures making the maize unwholesome.”

Mr Anyebuno said the MOFA should provide mechanical driers to ensure quick and effective drying, especially during the rainy season, whilst the Directorate of Agricultural Extension Services MOFA should increase education of farmers by Agricultural Extension Agents (AEAs) on best cultural practices to minimize on-field contamination among smallholder farmers.

Based on the issues identified by the Project, Mr Anyebuno gave some policy recommendations, which included that, the districts directorates of Agriculture should collaborate with Grain West Africa (GWA) and other private sector organisations to provide storage infrastructure with the requisite conditions to prevent contamination and eliminate or reduce physical damage to grains during shelling.

He explained that it was the GWA that has the capacity to purchase, store and sell commercial quality maize from Ghanaian farmers and that they should provide innovative storage management of grains from the local market with the utilization of the Silo bag Technology.

He recommended that the Grains Development Board in collaboration with the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) and the Ghana Grains Council should institute and enforce a grading system to provide premium pricing for good quality maize.

The Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, should also increase funding to the Food Research Institute to support research to control aflatoxin contamination in Ghana.

He advised farmers to manually sort out all discoloured, damaged, immature, and shriveled grains to prevent the contamination if not reduce the levels of aflatoxins in maize grains.

ECASARD and FRI in partnership with SEND-GHANA are currently working with farmers to reduce aflatoxins in maize to make it more marketable. The Project partners have also translated existing research and studies on the prevention of aflatoxins in maize into easily understandable community education materials that are being used to train smallholder farmers.

Researchers have engaged directly with farmers and are providing advice and support in the Techiman Municipality and the surrounding operational districts of ECASARD.

Source: GNA