Based on 60 years of research led by Dr Rene Haller - who famously transformed a limestone quarry wasteland in Mombasa, Kenya, into the nature park and wildlife sanctuary - The Haller Foundation has developed a tried and tested methodology that equips smallholder farmers with water security, materials and knowledge to build sustainable livelihoods at scale and lift themselves out of poverty.
It begins with community and continues with the digging of dams and building of wells and bio-loos, then grows with localised R&D, farmer training, and connecting communities to health and other services, and finally scales via innovative mobile technology enabling us to reach millions of farmers globally with sustainable, affordable farming knowledge.
Through education, Haller helps local communities build sustainable futures.
Since we launched the app, Haller has impacted 45 communities and trained 15,000 farmers at the Mtopanga Farmer Training Centre.
We’re so proud to have supported Haller in helping deprived communities get back on their feet.
I am a huge supporter of Haller’s work and in September last year I, alongside a group of other supporters (including my son, Hugo), embarked on a journey to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa.
As a digital consultant, I spend my days advising businesses on the best ways to transform using technology to be more efficient, productive and successful - that is so more obvious here. Successive droughts have destroyed livelihoods, triggered local conflicts over scarce resources and eroded the ability of communities to cope. An estimated 2.9 million people require medical interventions and primary health needs and, worryingly, 2.6 million people are experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity - it is vital that as many communities as possible have access to a source of water, both for drinking and farming. If farmers can farm and make a living for themselves and their families even during droughts, their children can go to school, and they can develop an income for the first time.
In this good cause, there was the slightly (errr, maybe more than slightly) daunting task of climbing Africa’s biggest mountain - standing nearly 6000m above sea level - and despite the altitude sickness and combination of the exhaustion and extreme weather, when you’re walking through the clouds and come to be above them - you feel on top of the world. To stand at the summit with my son was a life-affirming moment.
And, knowing that we had raised just over £40,000.00 for the Haller Foundation, made the moment and the struggle even sweeter.
Descending the mountain wasn’t enough for us, we wanted to meet the people this technology was helping most and the communities being developed because of it. Firstly, you are presented with poverty - but, more positively, communities being rejuvenated and happiness. These communities can often be isolated; we witnessed women at the heart of the community making it work day to day while the men sought work in the nearest city of Mombasa (still with considerable journeys to undertake to get there as public transport is lacking).
I was humbled.
The uniqueness of Haller’s offering to deprived communities in these coastal areas of Kenya is understanding of both ecology and economy - coming from Dr Rene Haller’s 60 years worth of work and empathy with the area and its people.
We saw communities digging out ponds and dams, which in turn feeds the crops and plants. We saw ripe aubergines and tomatoes - one member of a community told us that ‘for the first time, we have a surplus of produce’ - that surplus can then be sold on to pay for things we take so much for granted like education and primary health facilities.
Internet connectivity is not a problem in Kenya, 89.4% of the population has internet access, and thanks to providers Kenya has faster internet than Sweden. Over 60% of Kenyans own a smartphone - all of this shows how crucial Haller’s technological, app-based innovation is to isolated communities. The Haller app is a constant, on-demand source of agricultural knowledge and information that educates communities to create sustainable futures. It was brilliant to see intergenerational support too - the young helping the old to use and manage the app acts as an education in itself. Also, for those who are illiterate, in communities where education is poor, can hear instructions aloud in both English and Swahili.
The Haller app is technology changing lives. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a little struggle in comparison with the Kenyan ecology communities have to fight against to sustain their livelihood. The Haller Foundation continues to work hard for the future prosperity of Kenyan coastal communities.