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  • Until we meet again, Kenya!

    As I bid farewell to an unforgettable summer in Kenya, I am deeply moved by the kaleidoscope of experiences that have left an indelible mark on my journey of professional and personal growth. This period of immersion in the realities of international development has been both enlightening and thought-provoking. A pivotal lesson drawn from this engagement lies in the imperative to center our work within the local context with genuine humility. My interactions with communities, whether enjoying chai in Lamu or navigating the markets of Mombasa, underscored for me the importance of contextual understanding. Meaningful development necessitates moving beyond the notion of imposing solutions; instead, it involves co-creating interventions with the people directly impacted, respecting their agency and the intricacies of their lived experiences. The landscape of international development beckons a profound commitment to evidence and impact evaluation, transforming this routine practice into a narrative of enlightenment and discovery. This summer in Kenya has not merely reinforced the commonplace notion of implementing initiatives and measuring their effectiveness. Instead, it has unfolded as an ode to the intricate dance between theory and practice, where the diverse landscapes and communities of Kenya have become a vibrant tapestry illustrating the profound significance of rigorous evaluation in the pursuit of sustainable, transformative change. In this dance of impact evaluation, we discover that it is not a mere exercise in measurement but a profound dialogue with the essence of human experience. Each data point becomes a note in the symphony of change, and every evaluation is a chapter in the evolving narrative of progress. The impact, thus, becomes more than a statistic; it is an unfolding story, a testament to the resilience and adaptability of communities, and a beacon guiding the way toward a future shaped by evidence, insight, and meaningful transformation. I am grateful for warmth of the Kenyan people and expat community living there for opening their hearts and homes for me. I will forever cherish those meaningful conversations, memories, and adventures. I pledge to take those learnings with me in my next endeavors. As I look ahead to my future engagements in international development, my enthusiasm is grounded in a commitment to shaping discussions that prioritize a human-centric approach, leverage the power of behavioral science, and underscore the indispensable role of evidence and impact evaluation. Asante sana for joining me on this incredible journey, and here's to the next chapter of growth, advocacy, and making a lasting positive impact in our world. May our collective efforts in international development be guided by the lessons learned under the African sun.

  • Navigating the Complexities of Innovative Research: from RCTs to Qualitative Insights

    Education is the cornerstone of empowerment and transformation. Yet, in many parts of the world, access to quality education remains a challenge, especially for children in poverty-dense areas. During my internship at Busara, I had the incredible opportunity to work on a project that aimed to bridge this educational gap by assessing the impact of Educational Technology (EdTech) solutions on children's human capital outcomes. The project was a collaboration with the EdTech Hub, and it involved conducting a randomized control trial (RCT) in Kenya. The Pursuit of Knowledge: Blending Theory and Hands-on Experience Our journey began with the curiosity to understand how EdTech solutions could influence children's literacy, social-emotional learning, and gender attitudes. We knew that innovative technology had the potential to transform education and provide children with the tools they needed to thrive, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds. The project aimed to generate evidence that would be crucial for policymakers to improve human capital outcomes in marginalized communities. It was about turning our curiosity into actionable insights. Challenges in the RCT: Balancing Competing Objectives In the project's embryonic stages, meticulous planning was the order of the day. We opted for an RCT, recognizing its potential to yield the most policy-relevant results. Yet, this decision necessitated a tightrope walk along four competing objectives: representativeness, high statistical power, low risk of spillovers, and fiscal restraint. . The Complexities of Reality At this stage, the project seemed poised for smooth implementation, with a well-defined plan that included selecting a mix of six eligible counties in Kenya. However, as many experienced researchers will attest, research and reality often diverge. An article by Jasmin Baier, "Why Randomized Controlled Trials Look Different in the Field than They Do in Class," eloquently underscores the disparity between the conceptualization and execution of RCTs. This article elucidates the challenges we faced in balancing the competing objectives of this project. From RCT Pivot Points to Qualitative Inquiry: An Unexpected Turn The path to executing our RCT was fraught with unexpected challenges and pivotal adaptations. However, I'll spare you the intricate details of these initial RCT pivot points and instead focus on the turning point that became the focus of my internship – the qualitative study. While the RCT would provide a yes or no answer about the impact of EdTech, it was only through the qualitative study that we could delve into the "why" and "how" of this impact. Crafting the Qualitative Study: Seeking Nuanced Insights The purpose of the qualitative study was clear: to unearth the hidden dimensions of the educational impact. We aimed to understand why certain elements of the educational program resonated with children and why neurodivergent children might have different experiences. We realized that educational television could be a game-changer in low-income countries, offering cost-effective, wide-reaching educational solutions. Still, there were many unanswered questions about its impact, especially in the context of neurodivergent children. Our qualitative study aimed to dive into these questions. Specifically, the objective was to explore the qualitative aspects of how children engaged with an educational television program called "Nuzo and Namia" and its impact on literacy, social-emotional learning, and gender attitudes. Designing Innovative Research Tools: A Bridge to Understanding My role in this qualitative endeavor was to design research tools that could capture these elusive insights. Designing the qualitative study was a unique challenge, mainly because it involved working with children. We needed to ensure that each child could express themselves in a way that respected their diverse learning capabilities. Standard interviewing methods weren't sufficient because they relied heavily on verbal communication, which might not capture the nuances of children's experiences. Our qualitative study employed three distinct research methods: 1. Static Observations: This method involved observing children during the TV show using tools like the Stallings Snapshot Tool and the Viewing Observation Tool. These tools allowed us to capture not just what children were saying but also their emotions and interactions during specific segments of the program. 2. Play-Based Observations: After watching the TV show, children engaged in constructing responses using LEGO blocks. This hands-on approach helped us understand how children, both neurodivergent and neurotypical, grasped and applied the play-based learning methods. 3. Caregiver In-Depth Interviews: We conducted interviews with caregivers to gain insights into how they perceived the program's impact on their children. This helped us understand the broader context of the viewing experience. From Design to Execution: The Challenging Yet Rewarding Journey Designing the tools marked just the beginning. The subsequent phase involved rigorous training for enumerators, ensuring they could proficiently use these innovative tools. It demanded extensive preparation and close collaboration with the data collection team. We launched a pivotal pilot phase, which proved instrumental in refining our approach. During this stage, we encountered unexpected issues, such as challenges with the programming for enumerators to input responses on tablets. This compelled us to pivot, opting for guided note-taking templates on paper. Additionally, one child experienced a convulsive episode during an interview, underscoring the importance of comprehending and accommodating neurodivergent traits in our study. Into the Field: Uncovering Valuable Insights Equipped with the lessons derived from the pilot phase, we ventured into the field. This phase encompassed household visits, assuring that enumerators adhered meticulously to the research process, and fostering coordination with caregivers and children to gather invaluable insights. The path was not without challenges, but each obstacle was a stepping stone in our learning journey. Key Findings That Matter Our research uncovered a wealth of insights. We identified the pedagogical elements that made the TV program engaging for children, such as its introduction of skimming skills and the show's ability to prompt conversations among children. Moreover, we found that children exhibited diverse emotional cues, reflecting their varied emotional responses while watching the program. The play-based observations using LEGO blocks revealed how children, both neurodivergent and neurotypical, had different preferences and prior experiences with the blocks. This hands-on approach facilitated creativity, spatial reasoning, and an understanding of spatial relationships. We also uncovered the mechanisms that influenced children's viewership, including the presence of active television subscriptions, caregiver support, and a comfortable viewing environment. Towards a Brighter Future The impact of our research goes far beyond the confines of a project. It has the potential to influence education policies and make educational technology more accessible to children worldwide. By understanding how EdTech, like educational television, affects children, we can create more inclusive, effective learning experiences for all. My journey at Busara has been a transformative one. It's not just about collecting data; it's about making a difference. This project taught me that the path to understanding is often filled with unexpected twists and turns, but it's these challenges that lead to meaningful discoveries. As I move forward in my academic and professional journey, I carry with me the lessons learned at Busara—lessons of adaptability, creativity, and the unwavering pursuit of knowledge. I'm excited to continue working on projects that have the potential to change lives and empower future generations through education. Together, we can create a brighter, more equitable future for all children.

  • The Intersection of Behavioral Economics and Public Policy: A Catalyst for Socioeconomic Change

    Kenya, a nation celebrated for its cultural diversity and breathtaking landscapes, also stands at the crossroads of innovative public policies influenced by the burgeoning field of behavioral economics. This captivating fusion of human behavior and policymaking represents a powerful force capable of addressing multifaceted socioeconomic challenges with holistic precision. As I embarked on my internship journey with Busara in Kenya, I found myself drawn into the intricate web of this fascinating realm, eager to explore its academic dimensions. The Role of Behavioral Science in Public Policy At Busara, a revered research organization committed to poverty alleviation in the Global South, the amalgamation of behavioral economics and public policy offers a blueprint for addressing complex socioeconomic issues. Behavioral economics, or "behsci" as it's colloquially known, is an interdisciplinary field that delves into the labyrinth of human decision-making. It recognizes that our choices are often driven by cognitive biases, emotions, and societal influences rather than a purely rational thought process. Consequently, the broad spectrum of behavioral science becomes a beacon of promise in public policy, gently guiding individuals toward constructive choices and ushering in positive outcomes. Behsci: Concepts, Theories, and Applications One of the bedrock principles of behavioral economics is the Prospect Theory, a theory that offers profound insights into how people assess and respond to risk and uncertainty. This theory highlights the fact that individuals often make decisions based on potential losses and gains relative to a reference point, as opposed to absolute outcomes. This concept forms the initial strand weaving behavioral economics into the fabric of public policy. In Kenya, where financial literacy and access to traditional banking are far from universal, the notion of establishing a reference point has catalyzed a revolution in the approach to financial inclusion. Public policies have been reimagined to present the act of saving as a means to avert potential losses, rather than merely a pathway to future gain. Harnessing the behavioral insights rooted in the Prospect Theory, initiatives such as the digital savings platform M-Pesa have empowered Kenyans to set aside money for emergencies, reducing their vulnerability to financial downturns. Beyond Kenya, in the wider East African region, behavioral economics has left an indelible mark in the realm of public health. In areas with a high prevalence of diseases like malaria, getting people to consistently use bed nets can be a challenging endeavor. Behavioral economics principles are strategically employed to create incentives for individuals and families to use bed nets regularly. For instance, endorsing the use of bed nets as a social norm within communities has significantly increased compliance and reduced the incidence of malaria. Moreover, the concept of "nudging" takes center stage. By introducing subtle yet strategic changes in the presentation of food options, such as prominently placing healthier choices in school cafeterias, policymakers can leverage the Prospect Theory. The reference point shifts from the default option of unhealthy foods to the potential loss of health and well-being. These seemingly insignificant nudges effectively guide individuals toward more nutritious dietary decisions, transforming their health landscape. As Kenya pioneers the integration of behavioral economics into public policy, it also makes its contribution to a global discourse. The Prospect Theory, the power of social norms, and the impact of nudges represent just a few examples of how behavioral economics concepts are inspiring innovative policies aimed at tackling some of society's most pressing challenges. Takeaways for the Future Having had the privilege to witness the dynamic synergy between behavioral economics and public policy in Kenya, several key takeaways emerge: The Power of Context: Behavioral economics emphasizes that the effectiveness of policies hinges on understanding the context in which choices are made. Policymakers can craft interventions that truly resonate with real-world decision-making by embracing the insights derived from behavioral science. Nudges with Impact: The concept of nudging, rooted in behavioral economics principles, offers a simple yet profoundly impactful tool for shaping healthier, more informed choices within society. Behavioral Economics Across Domains: The versatility of behavioral economics is truly remarkable. It extends its influence beyond finance and health, infiltrating domains such as education, environmental conservation, and political decision-making. It unlocks the potential for revolutionizing policymaking across a spectrum of sectors. Long-Term vs. Short-Term Impact: Behavioral economics provides a compass for navigating the tension between short-term and long-term outcomes. Policymakers can design interventions that align with people's immediate preferences while also promoting their long-term well-being, resulting in more sustainable policy solutions. Interdisciplinary Collaboration: The success of integrating behavioral economics into public policy underscores the significance of interdisciplinary collaboration. It fosters a harmonious blend of psychology, economics, and policy-making, highlighting the value of multiple perspectives when tackling complex societal issues. Evaluating and Adapting Policies: The ever-evolving nature of human behavior necessitates continuous policy evaluation and adaptation. Behavioral economics underscores the importance of feedback loops and policy flexibility, ensuring policies remain relevant and effective. These takeaways extend far beyond the Kenyan landscape, holding relevance and significance for countries worldwide. The intersection of behavioral economics and public policy knows no borders; it represents a collective journey towards enhancing individual well-being and steering positive social change.

  • Internship Behind The Scenes: A Day in The Life

    My summer internship in Kenya has been a journey unlike any other. I fell in love with the country and its sense of ease. Its enchantment goes beyond its breathtaking landscapes; it's a place where simplicity, warmth, and purpose converge to create an extraordinary experience. My life in Kenya was extremely fulfilling, with each day bringing a new adventure. Morning Bliss: Setting Intentions Each day begins with a mindful ritual that sets the tone for how I want my day and feeling to shape up: intention setting. This reflective practice connects me with the vibrant energy of this city, grounding me for the day ahead. Local Coffee Delights Nairobi hides gems in plain sight, and my favorite local coffee shop is one of them. The aroma of freshly brewed Kenyan coffee fills the air as I sip and chat with the friendly baristas who've become familiar faces during my stay. A Boda Boda to Work Nairobi's streets blend traditions and modernity seamlessly. My daily walk or motorcylce ride to the Busara Center office or the location of that day's fieldwork is a vibrant tapestry of local markets, street vendors' conversations, and a bustling cityscape. Connecting with Colleagues At the Busara office, I have the privilege of working with an exceptional team of researchers and professionals. The collaborative spirit here is infectious, and I relish the opportunity to exchange ideas, learn from my colleagues, and contribute to projects that have the potential to drive meaningful change. Whether we are at the lab testing behavioral economic games, collecting data in the field, or brainstorming a new project, we are all driven by the shared purpose of public service. The Café Office and Inclusivity In the late afternoon, I relocate to a cozy café that's become a second office. This particular café is unique—it's run entirely by individuals who can't speak or hear, and we've all learned sign language to communicate. It's a beautiful testament to inclusivity and the power of human connection. Physical Well-Being: Tennis, Kickboxing, and More Evenings are a dynamic mix of physical activities—tennis, kickboxing, or general workouts. But what truly stands out is my personal trainer's remarkable story of rising from Nairobi's slums to become a global fitness influencer. His journey embodies resilience and the indomitable human spirit, he was a constant source of inspiration for me. Nairobi's Nightlife and Exploration As the night falls, Nairobi's lively nightlife awaits. Every night, my and my friends discover something new. Whether it is salsa dancing, rock climbing, or restaurant tasting. Nairobi's diversity ensures that exploration never gets old. Evening Reflections and Bonds Back at our cozy flat, my flatmate and I share stories and insights from our day's adventures. It's incredible how we, two girls from different corners of the world, found each other by chance. Despite our diverse backgrounds, we share a similar value system and profound perspective on the world. We've become chosen sisters, engaging in conversations that explore Kenya's complexities and the broader human experience. My time in Nairobi has been a holistic blend of daily rituals, adventures, and heartwarming connections. Kenya's magic has woven itself into my everyday life, infusing each moment with purpose, wonder, and the joy of exploration.

  • Exploring East Africa's Natural Wonders: A Journey of Mountains, Lakes, and Cultural Riches

    I am very grateful that my summer in East Africa has been a truly holistic experience. From engaging in impactful work to nurturing my well-being and having heaps of fun, this season had it all. In this blog post, I want to take you on a journey through my travels and explorations in East Africa, where I discovered the enchanting blend of nature and adventure that this part of the world has to offer. Conquering Majestic Heights: Mount Longonot My journey began with an exhilarating hike up Mount Longonot, a dormant volcano. The ascent challenged my physical limits, but the views from the summit were worth every step. Gazing out over Kenya's rugged landscape, I couldn't help but feel a sense of serenity and unity with nature. Standing on the edge of a volcanic crater was a reminder of the earth's power and the ever-changing dynamics of our planet. Camping by Lake Naivasha: Camping by the tranquil shores of Lake Naivasha was a serene escape. Under the canvas of the African night sky, surrounded by the sounds of wildlife, I realized the importance of preserving such natural gems. The freshwater lake and its diverse birdlife left me in awe of the beauty of coexistence. Hells Gate and a Cinematic Experience: Hells Gate National Park was like stepping into the world of "The Lion King." The dramatic cliffs and iconic Lion King's Pride Rock were cinematic landmarks, but it was the wildlife living in harmony that truly captivated me. The presence of baboons and zebras reminded me of the delicate balance of the animal kingdom. Coastal Charms and Cultural Complexities: Venturing to the coast was a must, and Diani Beach offered paradise-like relaxation. But beneath the surface of this tourist haven, I discovered a tapestry of traditions and influences, all woven together with the utmost sensitivity to the region's complex history, including its unfortunate involvement in the trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean slave trades. Lamu Island: Where Time Stands Still: Lamu Island was a cultural treasure trove. Wandering its narrow streets and admiring intricately carved doors, I felt like I'd stepped back in time. The island's Swahili culture, shaped by centuries of trade with Arab and Omani merchants, was a fascinating blend of history and heritage, influenced by centuries of trade with Arab and Omani merchants, was a fascinating blend of history and heritage, with a mindful recognition of the historical complexities that have shaped it. Zanzibar's Allure: While Kenya was the heart of my journey, I couldn't resist the allure of Zanzibar in neighboring Tanzania. This island paradise, with its blend of history, culture, and stunning beaches, was a dream come true. Exploring Stone Town's labyrinthine alleys, savoring fresh seafood, and diving into azure waters to discover vibrant coral reefs reminded me that history and natural beauty can coexist harmoniously. Policy Implications and Takeaways: As I reflect on this incredible journey, I'm reminded that every corner of East Africa holds unique treasures. My experiences weren't just about seeing places; they were about connecting with the essence of this diverse and vibrant region. A region where nature and culture are intertwined, and equitable economic mobility is both a challenge and an opportunity. As I return from this incredible journey, these takeaways will continue to inform my work in the region. I believe that with thoughtful policies and a commitment to preserving the environment and culture, East Africa can offer its people not only a rich cultural heritage but also the promise of economic prosperity and equity.

  • Kenya's Quest for True Independence: Unraveling Complex Legacies

    As I embarked on my journey in Kenya, the allure of its rich cultural tapestry, vibrant landscapes, and resilient populace filled me with anticipation. However, as I delved into the heart of this East African nation, I found myself grappling with a profound question: Has Kenya truly achieved genuine independence? Living amongst Kenyans, engaging in heartfelt dialogues, and keenly observing the realities on the ground, I couldn't help but discern the lingering impact of historical events and external influences. Despite Kenya's official independence from British colonial rule in 1963, echoes of history continue to resonate, shaping the nation's socio-economic landscape. One cannot ignore the harsh living conditions endured by a significant portion of the population. Many Kenyans face dissatisfaction with the state of affairs, a sentiment that has fueled recent protests and demonstrations led by the opposition party, which led cities to completely shut off for days, hindering economic activity and social mobility. Living in Nairobi during these recurring protests, I was not able to leave my home to even get groceries or go to work for days. This undercurrent of discontent highlights the complexities that lie beneath the surface of apparent independence. Kenya's post-colonial landscape is marked by a persistent foreign influence, raising concerns of neocolonialism's shadow despite its sovereign status. The French, among other foreign powers, exert a lingering impact on Africa's destiny, casting doubt on Kenya's complete attainment of independence. This sentiment reverberates across the continent, as demonstrated by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's recent address at the New Global Financial Pact Summit in France. Ramaphosa's unequivocal declaration, standing alongside African leaders, emphasized that Africa is not seeking handouts but equitable partnerships for self-driven development. In his poignant words, "We are not beggars." This sentiment encapsulates the ongoing resentment towards historical imbalances, exemplified by unequal vaccine access during the pandemic and barriers to vaccine manufacturing from global organizations. Ramaphosa's call for fair treatment and shared global responsibility underscores Africa's insistence on self-sufficiency and recognition on the global stage. As he noted, "We kept saying: what is more important? Life or profits by your big pharmaceutical companies?" This stark contrast between prioritizing lives and commercial interests echoes the lingering frustration felt by African nations. The challenges faced by African nations are often exacerbated by the financial constraints imposed by international aid and multilateral organizations. On the surface, these organizations offer crucial financial support that can catalyze development initiatives in these nations. However, beneath this benevolent exterior lies a complex web of conditions and stipulations that raise fundamental questions about the true intent and morality of such support. For instance, the World Bank's financial assistance to African countries is typically tied to specific economic reforms or policy changes. While these conditions are often presented as measures to enhance fiscal responsibility or governance, they can also have far-reaching consequences. In practice, they might shape a nation's economic policies according to the preferences of the lending organization rather than the specific needs of the recipient country. This can inadvertently steer these countries towards an economic path that aligns more with the global priorities of these organizations rather than their own sustainable development objectives. Climate action is a good example of this... Moreover, it's disheartening to observe a significant number of economic establishments, such as hotels and restaurants, still under the ownership of foreigners, particularly of British origin. My interactions with some of these proprietors revealed an unmistakable aura of entitlement, deeply rooted in a history that predates Kenya's independence. The land upon which these establishments thrive has been passed down through generations, with scant awareness or empathy towards the rightful custodians – the Kenyan people. During a weekend camping excursion on a farm in Lake Naivasha, the breadth of this issue became even more apparent. This expansive property boasts a strategically invaluable location encompassing over 70% of the lake and its islands. The farm employs a predominantly Kenyan workforce, laboring under arduous conditions around the clock. Conversations with them revealed a sense of gratitude for their employment. They shared that the land is owned by a British family who spends a fraction of the year there, managing the business remotely. Meeting the British owner firsthand stirred discomfort. He inherited the land from his grandparents, who claimed ownership long before Kenya's independence. He spoke with an air of entitlement and pride, his condescension towards the local staff palpable. My attempts to compliment the farm's staff were met with dismissive responses – an unsettling showcase of his perceived superiority. In a conversation, he remarked, "We've managed it better than anyone else could. The locals needed our guidance." His comments underlined a stark disinterest in local perspectives and culture. His mentality underscores a troubling trend where external owners hold a superior position, leaving locals to acquiesce. The absence of a visible and assertive sense of entitlement among Kenyans towards their land raises pertinent questions. To what extent is Kenya's economy and its resources genuinely vested in the hands of its people? Such a scenario prompts a reevaluation of the country's sovereignty, the distribution of economic control, and the intrinsic ties between ownership, history, and national identity Examining these historical and contemporary influences led me to contemplate the manifestations of racism, a pernicious force that has traversed generations. The impact of racism and slavery are complex interplays of historical injustices and contemporary social dynamics. Racism's dark shadow has cast itself over generations, perpetuating a narrative that may inadvertently shape the mindset of some Kenyans. It is not a question of victimization or submissiveness, but rather a reflection on the historical and systemic influences that continue to influence perceptions of self. As an observer and a seeker of understanding, it is imperative for me to approach these reflections with sensitivity and humility. I am but an onlooker to the unfolding narrative of this beautiful nation, striving to comprehend its complexities and celebrate the indomitable spirit of its people. In conclusion, Kenya's journey toward genuine independence is ongoing and multifaceted. While external influences, historical legacies, and contemporary socio-economic dynamics cast shadows, the spirit of its people shines brightly as they navigate challenges and seek a more prosperous future. An equitable and empathetic lens will aid us in supporting Kenya's aspirations for self-determination and prosperity while fostering a world where historical injustices are acknowledged, and true independence can flourish.

  • Adventures in Maasai Mara: Wildlife, Tribe, and Lessons for Sustainable Development

    I am delighted to share the thrilling escapades of my enchanting safari to the renowned Maasai Mara, a breathtaking wildlife haven nestled in the heart of Kenya. Into the Wild: Discovering Maasai Mara National Reserve Our journey begins with the awe-inspiring Maasai Mara National Reserve, an expansive sanctuary named after the Maasai people and the majestic Mara River. Spanning over 583,000 hectares of untamed beauty, this place is not just a park; it's a living, breathing canvas of nature's finest artistry. As I ventured into this pristine wilderness, I found myself utterly humbled by the serenity and homogeneity of wildlife. The air reverberated with the enchanting chants of vibrant birds, while lions roared majestically, and elephants communicated through deep rumbles and trumpets. Each species seemed to have its unique way of expressing itself, a mesmerizing dance of sounds that transcended the boundaries of human language. A highlight of my safari was the outstanding annual wildebeest migration which starts in late July, a phenomenon where millions of animals bravely traverse the savannahs in search of greener pastures. Witnessing this grand spectacle was like witnessing a timeless dance of life and survival. And then there was the Big Five – the five most magnificent animals of Mara, presenting an array of wildlife that graces Maasai Mara's untamed landscapes. From the majestic lions ruling the savannah, the elusive leopards stealthily observing their domain, and the gentle giants of elephants strolling gracefully, to the formidable buffalo herds and the endangered rhinoceros, each encounter left me in awe of nature's power and splendor. What struck me most was the harmony with which animals coexisted and communicated with one another. As I observed a pride of lions, I marveled at how they moved together, their every step exuding unity and purpose. Witnessing a herd of elephants playfully interacting, tenderly caring for their young, and even engaging in playful wrestling matches made me realize their vast intelligence and emotional depth. Among the most astonishing moments was an encounter with fifteen lionesses, the true queens of the savannah. Their regal presence was overwhelming, and I found myself holding my breath as they effortlessly ruled their kingdom. I was also lucky to witness a hyena attacking lionesses, a rare spectacle of the complex dynamics of predator and prey. Each encounter held its own allure, leaving me with a deep sense of reverence for nature's wonders and the delicate balance that sustains life in the wild. Yet, amidst the majesty, I couldn't help but feel a pang of sadness at the intrusion of human presence. It was both disturbing and disheartening to witness tens of cars gathering around innocent animals, invading their private moments of feeding and play. The relentless pursuit of the perfect photograph seemed to overshadow the significance of simply being present in their world. Encounters with the Maasai Tribe: Heritage and Generosity Amid Struggles My safari journey took a profound turn when I had the privilege to spend time with the resilient Maasai tribe. These extraordinary people have a history and heritage as vast as the land they inhabit. With a population of over a million, the Maasai are among the most prominent ethnic groups in Kenya. Their distinctive customs and intricate beadwork are a testament to their rich cultural identity, passed down through generations. Their traditions and way of life are deeply intertwined with the land they call home. One of the most captivating rituals I witnessed was the Adamu, a jumping dance performed by young Maasai warriors. The energy and rhythm of their chanting, accompanied by high-energy whoops, showcased their desire to attract potential wives and demonstrate their strength. Yet, besides the beautiful heritage and warmth, I couldn't overlook the challenges they face. The Maasai's nomadic lifestyle, centered around their cattle as their primary source of food and wealth, is increasingly difficult due to external influences and modern-world encroachment. Limited access to basic necessities and poor living conditions pose formidable struggles for the tribe. I had the privilege of spending time with Maasai mothers, whose strength and determination resonated deeply with me. Amidst the hardships, they radiated love and care for their families, sharing tales of their daily lives and experiences. Their resilience is remarkable, particularly when considering the societal norms they adhere to, such as polygamy, marriage customs, house chorus, building responsibilities, and the significance of killing a lion for great esteem within the community. Sustaining Harmony: Policy Implications for Conservation and Development As I reflected on my encounters with both wildlife and the Maasai tribe, I couldn't help but draw some policy-relevant takeaways. Maasai Mara serves as a powerful reminder of the delicate balance between conservation and socioeconomic development. Preserving natural reserves like Maasai Mara is not only crucial for wildlife and biodiversity but also holds immense potential for poverty alleviation within local communities. Sustainable tourism, when managed responsibly, can provide income-generating opportunities for the Maasai people and support their efforts to preserve their culture and heritage. However, there's also the challenge of striking a balance between tourism and conservation. Implementing policies that protect wildlife habitats, regulate visitor numbers, and ensure fair revenue-sharing mechanisms with local communities is essential to foster long-term benefits. Empowering communities to actively participate in conservation efforts is equally crucial. By promoting sustainable land management and wildlife preservation through education and capacity-building programs, we can cultivate a sense of ownership and commitment to preserving their land and resources. Final Thoughts: Cherishing Nature, Celebrating Heritage As I left this haven, I couldn't help but wonder about the paradox of our presence. While our desire to connect with nature is genuine, the extent of our intrusion and greed often left me questioning the bounds of our responsibility as stewards of this fragile ecosystem. As I continue my public-service journey, I will remember the lessons from the wild and the warm embrace of the Maasai tribe. By nurturing a deep appreciation for nature and advocating for sustainable policies, we can create a world where wildlife, heritage, and communities thrive together. Happy trails and warm regards, Adhwaa

  • Embarking on a Journey: Exploring Behavioral Economics in Dynamic Kenya

    Greetings, readers! Welcome to my blog, where I'll be sharing my exciting journey as an intern at the renowned Busara Center for Behavioral Economics in Kenya. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to delve into impactful work, gain invaluable experiences, and immerse myself in the vibrant culture of East Africa. Join me as I document my adventures, from professional insights to travel tales, volunteer experiences, and everything in between. About Me: Before we dive into the heart of this journey, allow me to introduce myself. I am a Masters of Public Policy masters candidate at Harvard Kennedy School, passionate about the intersection of economics, policy, and human behavior. Throughout my academic and professional journey, I have been captivated by the profound impact behavioral economics can have on shaping policies that can improve equitable and sustainable progress for societies. It is this passion that led me to Busara, a pioneering institution that shares my enthusiasm for understanding human behavior and its policy implications. Why Kenya? Embracing Complexity and Challenging Myself: Kenya, often referred to as the "Gateway to East Africa," embodies a captivating blend of natural beauty, cultural diversity, and rich history. Beyond its stunning landscapes, Kenya has emerged as a hub for social impact and innovative development initiatives. The complex nature of Kenya's development landscape presents a unique opportunity to address socio-economic disparities and uplift marginalized communities. By immersing myself in this dynamic environment, I aim to understand the intricate web of challenges that hinder progress while harnessing the power of behavioral economics to design interventions that are effective, equitable, and sustainable. Moreover, the decision to move to a new continent, immerse myself in a different culture, language, and way of life was a conscious choice to challenge myself. I firmly believe that pushing beyond our comfort zones is essential for tackling complex development challenges effectively. By embracing the unknown, I hope to gain new perspectives, foster cross-cultural collaborations, and develop the adaptability required to address the multifaceted nature of socioeconomic development. A Glimpse into Kenya's Transformative Potential: Kenya's allure extends far beyond its bustling capital, Nairobi. From the breathtaking savannahs of Maasai Mara to the pristine beaches of Mombasa and the captivating landscapes of Mount Kenya and the Great Rift Valley, this diverse nation is a treasure trove of natural wonders. Its rich cultural heritage, with over 40 different ethnic groups, adds to the tapestry of experiences that await me. From a Research Lab to Transformative Institution: At the heart of my journey lies the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics. The origins of Busara can be traced back to a professor's research project via a temporary lab in Kenya, where the team recognized a significant gap and need in testing and evidence within the global south. This realization ignited a spark of curiosity and set the foundation for what would become a pioneering research and advisory organization with the largest experimental lab in the Global South. Founded in 2012, Busara has grown to become a beacon of behavioral economics in Kenya and beyond. Their commitment to applying rigorous research, behavioral experiments, and randomized controlled trials to solve development challenges has propelled them onto the global stage. The center works in close collaboration with policymakers, NGOs, and private sector actors to bridge the gap between behavioral science and evidence-based interventions. Busara's journey is one of empirical discovery and practical impact. Their work spans multiple sectors, including health, finance, education, agriculture, and governance. The cneter has become a key player in shaping the development landscape not only in Kenya but across the African continent. I am honored to be part of this remarkable organization, where I will have the opportunity to contribute to meaningful research projects, collaborate with passionate professionals, and witness firsthand the transformative power of behavioral economics. And so it is, one exciting decision, 3 vaccinations, and a large box of malaria pills later, here I am, ready for my summer in East Africa: As I embark on this incredible journey in Kenya, I am filled with anticipation and excitement. Through this blog, I aim to share the stories, lessons, and adventures that unfold during my internship at the Busara Center. Together, let's explore the immense potential of behavioral economics in driving positive change, challenge ourselves to embrace complexity, and learn from the vibrant communities and cultures that make Kenya such a captivating place. Stay tuned for more updates as I delve into the world of behavioral economics and embrace the transformative power of applied research, one story at a time. Karibu Kenya! (Welcome to Kenya!)

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