A non-governmental organization has embarked on empowering women in rural areas to engage in large scale production of vegetables and poultry products to improve their economic status and the nutritional value of their diets.
The women under the umbrella the Rural Women Network (RWN) are equipped with skills on farming, civil education, poverty alleviation, climate justice and also peaceful co-existence and dignified livelihoods.
RWN Executive Director, Pauline Wairimu told KNA that women derived from Kajiado, Makueni, Kakamega and Nyanza regions are engaging in growing the Africa Leafy Vegetables (ALVs) not only to address matters nutrition and food security but also promote household resilience
“Women at grassroots level are being trained on vegetables and poultry farming to sustain their livelihoods and food security but we also give them tips on how to mitigate the effects of climate change “she said.
Speaking during an exchange visit at Ewaso Kedong in Kajiado County that brought together donors and champion leaders from over eight groups across the region, Wairimu said the initiative necessitated after statistics in Kajiado west indicated that malnutrition in had hit 25.3 percent in 2019 affecting women and children.
“We had a conversation together with women and identified ALVs for this particular area because the crop could withstand the heat with little water and we came up with centers where we introduced the use of spiral gardens”, she said
She said spiral gardens are designed to illustrate leafy gardening done in small spaces where many varieties of vegetables flourished with little water because the bricks warmed and dehumidified the soil
Wairimu observed that the community in the area faced scarcity of water and covered long distances to fetch water but with spiral garden farming was possible with minimal amounts.
“The spiral gardens is less demanding since they only require as little as 5 litres of water per garden and in one week they require only 3 jerricans of 5 litres and through this they are able to irrigate their vegetables comfortably”, she added
Wairimu said since they started the promotion of the gardens, the community and specifically women groups have benefited through the centres dubbed “Green hubs”.
She continues to say that the whole idea of the centres is however not for the women to come and harvest the vegetables only but also learn the practice and implement them at household level.
“Many have been able to put up similar farms at their homes, some we have supplied spiral garden kits but for others who have not, we want to put up the green hubs in different locations and specifically in the 5 wards in this area so that the women do not have to cover long distances just to access to centres.
“We have eight groups with membership of 561 and out of these groups, we have trained 24 women and out of these selected 6 of them who have been training others and currently they have trained around 104 from the groups”, she said
Wairimu specifically noted one particular group “Naibosho” that comprised widows have been replacing members’ roofs with iron sheets to harvest rain water for domestic use and also for their spiral gardens
One spiral garden can have as many as 120 plants such as Sukuma wiki, spinach, amaranth, spider net and many others and this has been able to sustain nutrition of the women and their households.
In order to mitigate climate change, Wairimu said the RWN is also supporting and encouraging the groups to plant fruit trees as they serve the same purpose as wood trees which they are used to.
“When they grow wood trees, the women are not able to access the resources from it because it is termed as men, but with the fruit trees they will get the food and also by selling the fruits to earn an income”, she added
Going forward, Wairimu said they have plans to establish a water pan to harvest rain water to be able to sustain the Programme and the biggest challenge they have is resources.
Sandra Schilen, Director of the Huairou Commission that was sponsoring the exchange visit in Kajiado, said they are a global network connecting 100 women in grass root organization in 42 countries around the world and have at least 14 offices in Africa.
“Our role in the commission is to support women groups to access resources and funding in in order to live the kind of development that is critical and important in their communities”, she said,
Schilen expressed fears that the rural community was worst affected by severe drought and that investing in women groups for sustainability was a pathway for economic empowerment.
“We have brought donors who are investing in our work in 10 countries and Oxfam Novib being key in the initiative is engaging rural women in promoting families’ nutrition, facilitate access to safe water and also create livelihood initiatives such as bee keeping and selling nutritious food,” she said
She mentioned the ‘Fair For All’ which is a power of voices partnerships under the theme “Trade and making value chains more sustainable’ programme being supported by the Huairou Commission, Oxfam Novib and others in 13 countries Kenya included was to transform agriculture and extractive industry value chains.
Fair for All will support women grassroots groups in value chain processes to access market for their products, get returns and create opportunities for others” she said.
Schilen singled out the Maasai community in Kajiado who do beading works to capture the value chain adding that “we believe strongly in power of organization Focusing on economic empowerment, building on the strengths that grassroots women groups portend to improve their lives through donors from Europe”, she said.
Erick Boonstoppel, Oxfam Novib In Netherlands said that the partnership and support for grassroot rural women was to ensure that climate change becomes more inclusive and fair to women .
“I see a lot of learning taking place and sharing among women on how to produce nutritional for the family especially in circumstances of drought”, he said
As Oxfam, Boonstoppel said the partnership with the rural women network last year in 2021 through the Huairou commission increased opportunities for small scale producers who now have the potential to uplift the livelihoods of millions of women.
Esther Tinina one of the beneficiaries from Naibosho widow’s women group said since they learnt how to plant vegetables, they only have to look for the flour and oil to be able to feed their families.
“As widows who already lost their husbands who were bread winners, before this project we used to suffer a lot, with no money and no water but now with the vegetables that require minimal water, we are able to at least put a meal on the table for our children”, she said.
Tinina whose husband died and left her with two young children says she had been suffering for long but the RWN has given her hope. “My children are now able to go to school since as a group we contribute little money like Ksh 200 and give one person, we can go to the market buy food items in bulk and sell in order to get something small for my children fees and also money to buy food such as flour and oil but not vegetables”.
By Wangari Ndirangu