When a group of women from the semi-arid West Pokot county pooled resources to invest in irrigated agro-pastoralism and poultry farming to tackle the high rate of malnutrition among their children, they failed. did not know that the deal would turn into a giant enterprise that has now transformed their socio-economic livelihoods.
But nearly 10 years later, the business has changed the lives of 40 members of the Morombus Mother-to-Mother support group, winning the hearts of the county government and many aid agencies operating in the region.
They achieve a stable source of income and a balanced diet for children by cultivating short-term crops like sorghum, finger millet, beans and vegetables alongside pastoralism, which is the main source of livelihood for most of the people. households in the region.
“For many years our children suffered from malnutrition due to poor nutrition, mainly tea without milk. The lack of stable income has prevented us from buying alternative foods to improve their health as fathers and husbands are the only decision makers when it comes to selling family assets, ”said Dorcas Ngaliman Wishan , the leader of the group.
Driven by the high poverty rate, the women drew 500 shillings each at 20,000 shillings as seed money and purchased a variety of drought-tolerant vegetable seeds and 20 chickens.
“One of our members donated a five acre demonstration land near the Muruny River for a stable water source where we planted vegetables and the returns have never been disappointing. We made a reasonable profit, which allowed us to start a similar project on our own small-scale farms, ”Ms. Wishan said.
The group received a big boost after a non-governmental organization – Action Against Hunger – donated 384 water pipes and a 5,000-liter water tank to enable them to expand the provision of piped water to more members for domestic and agricultural purposes.
This allowed them to increase the cultivated area and generate more income.
“We no longer depend very much on our husbands for money to buy healthy foods for our children and meet basic needs like clothing since we have our own income. Our members can now comfortably grow vegetables such as spinach sukuma wiki (kale), amaranth, tissue-grown bananas, cassava, carrots, among others, resulting in attractive prices in the markets premises, ”said Sylvia Mesunja, one of the group’s managers.
Among the main markets for raw materials produced by the group are Makutano and Lodwar, in Turkana County.
“Traders as far away as Lodwar buy produce at the farm level or at Chepareria market with a bag of sukuma wiki up to Sh 3,000, carrots Sh 6,000 per bag and onions Sh850 per net.” , Julia Lusili, said one of the members.
The region of Chepararia is ideal for the production of carrots and onions, which allows the women’s support group to benefit from the collective bargaining strategy to achieve better yields.
“In addition to generating stable income thanks to the investment, we have prioritized a balanced diet for our children. A decent diet with lots of fruit will keep diseases away from our children, which will allow time to expand the project and earn more money, ”said Irene Pserur, another member.
According to Sylvester Kyuli, head of Action Against Hunger in Western Kenya, the strategy is to economically empower women in arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) countries to access quality food to fight against malnutrition and improve their livelihoods.
“Our goal is to empower mothers and other caregivers to screen children for acute malnutrition at the household level, in addition to providing them economically,” Kyuli said.
In West Pokot, the humanitarian agency supports the women of Nyanga’ita and Chepkondol in the constituency of Sigor.
“We want to increase the detection and coverage of malnutrition treatment, which can be effectively achieved by empowering women economically through such projects,” Kyuli explained.
West Pokot County has a 45.9 percent malnutrition rate, one of the highest in the country. But undernourishment is expected to decrease as more women invest in stable sources of income to improve their livelihoods.
“Some of our members have branched out into raising poultry and making traditional decorated pearl necklaces, which has saved them a lot of money,” said Joyce Chepkiach, who raises more than 30 chickens.
She earns an average of 1,500 shillings per week from the poultry trade and an additional 1,200 shillings from decorated necklaces. A collar goes for between Sh200 and Sh500.
The group operates a table banking system where it grants loans to its members at low interest rates to support their operations. They opened an account at the Makutano branch of the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) where they deposited nearly 0.5 million shillings, allowing them to access financial credit to advance their investment.
“Access to financial credit remains our main challenge as we want more women to join the group or form similar associations to empower them economically and overcome socio-economic challenges at the family level,” said Ms. Chepkiach. They plan to operate factory outlets in Chepareria and Makutano Township to enable them to be strong entrepreneurs in the region.