Life in Kilifi, Kenya

Kilifi, Kenya is an intersection of great need and unique opportunities to promote fundamental social change.  The town, rural in nature with about 15,000 residents in the immediate area, faces problems endemic to the developing world—too little to eat, too little medical care, and too few jobs.  One in eight children dies before the age of 5.  Undernourishment, exacerbated by human parasites, is persistent (51% of children in Kilifi are underweight), leading to a host of opportunistic diseases, such as malaria.  Economically, the Kilifi District is one of the poorest in Kenya in terms of per capita income, where waged employment only represents 4% of the population.

The exciting facets of Kilifi are its possibilities and the assets that will help the community realize its potential.  Members of the local Rotary club, along with other large and small charity organizations, are extraordinarily active in the community and eager to work with international partners in the spirit of service.  Kilifi also features a world-class medical center sponsored by the Wellcome Trust that produces high-quality research on the health issues prevalent in much of the world (malaria, TB, malnutrition, etc.).  Furthermore, the town’s location on the Kenyan coast and history make it a significant tourist destination—visitors from Europe frequently vacation in Kilifi and enjoy some of Africa’s most beautiful beaches.

On Location in Kilifi.

Kilifi is situated in Kilifi District, one of the six districts that make up the Coast province and the second poorest in Kenya. The town is situated on the Kenyan coast about 60 kilometers north of Mombasa on a creek which extends inland some 20 kilometers and is traversed by a bridge built by the Japanese in 1991. It is a small town of around 15,000 people. The District Hospital and the town are on the north side of the bridge with some residential areas in Mnarani to the south of the bridge. It has a range of shops for basic supplies, a post office, and two banks. Temperatures range from a minimum of 21 degrees to a maximum of 32 degrees Celsius.

The population of the Kilifi District is estimated to be 720,000, over 80% of which are from the Mijikenda group. The Mijikenda is a loose grouping of nine tribes whose Bantu languages are, to a large extent, mutually intelligible and closely related to Swahili. They are believed to have arrived in the seventeenth century from a quasi-historical state called Shungwaya, now lying in present day Somalia. Agriculture remains the backbone of the local economy in Kilifi District, where 85% of the population makes a living farming.