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In 2019, we at CAS Trips received some amazing and inspirational Changemaker Challenge projects, which made the evaluation process very difficult. After a lot of internal back-and-forth we are honored to announce the 2019 Changemaker Challenge winner: A Brighter Future Led By Nature by Abbas, Anoush and Alisha. 

A Brighter Future Led By Nature, is an initiative which aims to provide sustainable jobs in the sector of seaweed farming to women who are unable to support their family whilst breaking the stigma surrounding the employment of women in the coast of Kenya. 

The groups first goal was to create a manual based on how to perform seaweed farming so that eventually the women working at the seaweed farms could become independent. Additionally, by sharing the manual, the team was able to spread the word to many more women about this occupation that requires little-to-no capital and gained high revenue. 

After creating and sharing the manual, the team managed to gather eight women and worked with them to create the Seaweed Farm in Diani, Kenya where they grew, harvested, dried and sold seaweed to various cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies.

We asked the team to answer a couple of questions, here they are – we could not be more proud of their educated and thought-through answers! 

What inspired you to participate in the CAS Trips Changemakers Challenge 2019?

One of our founding members, Alisha, attended the CAS Prague Spring trip with a few other students from our school last year. Whilst there, she learned about the various types of Changemakers and thoroughly appreciated the meaningful impact which the activities organized by CAS Trips, made in the local community in Prague. Thus, after her return, she had a lot to share with the rest of the team. 

Shortly after, we all retook the Changemaker test, helping us to determine the different Changemakers we were. Fortunately, our contrasting skills complemented one another, and we began to look into the possibility of applying our project to compete in this competition, after realizing the large impact we were making in the local community. 

Therefore, Alisha’s stint at the Prague Spring, enabled us all to gain inspiration from other young Changemakers she encountered. This competition was the opportunity we needed to spread our initiative, and hopefully, inspire other young Changemakers to follow suit.

Why did you create the ‘A Brighter Future Led by Nature’ project?

One of our founders, Abbas, came across a documentary on Seaweed Farming and how it has been implemented in Indonesia and recently became a high-selling commodity in the country. After discussing some ideas with the other founders, we decided to implement this idea of Seaweed Farming in the coast of Kenya. Having lived here for our entire lives, seeing the long lasting effects of unemployment on people, and how it has caused the poverty rate to rise, we were inspired to help our local community by establishing a type of job in the market. 

Anoush, another one of our founders, later suggested we should focus on the employment of women due to the stereotype in rural Kenya that women are supposed to stay home, cooking and cleaning, while men should earn for the family. This has led to the women being more unemployed than men and soon eradicating this stereotype became part of our goals. We aimed our initiative to follow three of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which aligned with our project, in order to help achieve them. We focussed on the first, fifth and eighth goals of “No Poverty,” “Gender Equality” and “Decent Work & Economic Growth” respectively.

What were some of the biggest successes you experienced? 

There were three main successes we have experienced (for now, of course) in the course of our project. Our first success was creating our Seaweed Farming manual and distributing it as that was one of the major goals we had aimed to achieve. We created a manual in both English and Swahili (the local language of Kenya) which encompassed every step of farming seaweed from finding the right land to selling to customers. 

Our second success came shortly after our first. Once we had made the manual, we found eight women, gave them each a copy and worked with them to create a Seaweed Farm. At the end of every three weeks, these women were able to bring money earned from selling harvested and dried seaweed to help feed their families and better their lives. 

Our last (but hopefully not the least) success was winning the CAS Trips Changemaker Challenge. Winning this competition is not only a great opportunity for our initiative, but it also allows us to share our project with the world. And we hope we can inspire others with ‘A Brighter Future Led By Nature.’

Did you have any set-backs? If yes, how did you overcome them? 

We encountered challenges when translating the manual and communicating with some of the women, as none of us are fluent in Swahili. Thus, we wrote our manual in both English and Swahili, in order to accommodate the language preferences that both we and the women had. We even encountered challenges when translating the manual, but this was overcome by working with peers and family members who were more familiar with the language. 

We also faced challenges in balancing our school work and other extracurricular activities with the time and effort needed for this project. We tackled this challenge by creating a timeline on when different activities should be achieved. This included activities such as when the women should be trained, or when the drying apparatus should be built. This helped us ensure that we were always up to the task and that our project was running smoothly. We also split the responsibilities equally based on our strengths, so that none of us was too overwhelmed.

Where do you envision your project to be in five years’ time? 

In five years, we hope to have implemented the farm in other coastal areas of Kenya, in order to extend the scale of the impact created. We are currently working towards carrying out our project in Bamburi, an area on the north coast of Kenya. We also hope that we would have a larger community of women working out our farms. Our goal right now is to employ 25 women. We are also working towards creating partnerships with more local cosmetics brands that value community empowerment and environmental sustainability.

 What is one piece of advice you would like to give future Changemakers Challenge participants?

It is difficult to limit the advice we wish to share with fellow Changemakers to just one, hence we will discuss our three most invaluable tips. To begin with, we urge all future Changemaker Challenge participants to take the Changemaker quiz, which will then help them gauge how compatible their team is. 

Moreover, the results of the quiz also aid in dividing roles and workload among members, in accordance with their strengths as a Changemaker. Furthermore, we would suggest that the project these future participants submit, be a cause that they all are sincerely passionate about, as this will speak volumes to the judges. Finally, we would like for you all to remember that a prize does not quantify your success as a Changemaker. Regardless of the outcome, be proud of your initiative, as it certainly empowered your community in one form or another!

Again a huge congratulations from the CAS Trips team to you! As a prize, we will be welcoming the team at the Global Student Conference in Boston, where they will have a chance to also present their amazing project to the rest of the group! We look forward to seeing what 2020 will bring to us!