TOWARDS A NEW HORIZON: Songhor women join efforts to combat poverty
Ella wiped her brow as she gathered some firewood in the sweltering heat. Her two most time-consuming activities included fetching water and firewood. Widespread deforestation made these tasks more burdensome and prevented Ella from devoting more time to their more productive and income-generating tasks. As was the norm in her village in rural Kenya, Ella’s 6-year-old daughter had a share in these activities, while her 5-year-old son was allowed to spend time with their father…
Today, Ella’s life has changed thanks to Kenya Economic Development & Human Advancement Project (KEDHAP), which brings change to the community through its food security and gender empowerment projects.
In Songhor, Kenya, impoverished women are beginning to earn an income, grow food crops, develop new skills, and start collective savings thanks to KEDHAP’s Female empowerment program benefitting approximately 700 women in Muhoroni and Tinderet Sub counties.
ADDRESSING GENDER-SPECIFIC CHALLENGES
Globally, reports the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the majority of economically active women in the least-developed countries work in agriculture. Gender-specific obstacles—such as financing, markets, lack of access to land, agricultural training and education, suitable working conditions, and equal treatment—put female farmers at a significant disadvantage before they even plow a field or sow a seed. Inherent gender bias in the economic system, for example, can regularly limit a woman’s access to credit. (Source: National Geographic)
In Kenya, agriculture provides the primary source of livelihood for a large majority of the population, accounting for more than two-thirds of employment and almost half of Kenya’s GDP. The agricultural sector is particularly ‘feminized,’ with up to 80 percent of rural women participating in agricultural activities. Although women form the backbone of Kenya’s economy, they are often excluded from the decision-making process, which affects their everyday lives.
As a step in this direction, relieving women from time-consuming tasks such as fetching water and firewood, and food processing can allow them more time for productive work and would enable their children to attend school. KEDHAP’s Food Security ministry works to provide interventions to alleviate their tasks in a way that will significantly enhance their contribution to household food security.
WORKING TOWARDS A SOLUTION
KEDHAP currently works with established women’s groups, training them on microfinance and providing them with farm inputs to boost savings and agricultural productivity. Through organized groups, KEDHAP helps women pursue equity in access to resources to produce food and attain purchasing power to buy food that is not produced there. KEDHAP focuses on enhancing their potential to generate food security. Specific measures are taken to address the constraints faced by women farmers, and special consideration is given to the needs of female heads of households. (Read more in PART 2 of the blog post here.)
DIGNITY THROUGH INDEPENDENCE
Alice is the chairperson of Oneno-nam Agricultural Group. This group consists mainly of widows who have taken up agriculture to enhance food security and income generation. Alice says that the benefits they have received from KEDHAP through training have empowered them to take responsibility and ownership of their family’s future. They are using the land left to them by their deceased husbands as a resource to generate food and income. Alice says, “With training and very little help, I have discovered that I can comfortably take care of my family!” a sentiment echoed by Millicent, her secretary. Millicent adds – “We are now producing our own food, and as you can see, we are getting healthier and even get surplus produce to take to the market.” Besides the training, KEDHAP has equipped this group with interest-free loans and certified seeds and fertilizers.
Lillian, another women’s group member, says, “I have regained my dignity back! KEDHAP trained us on how to manage our businesses and gave us an interest-free loan which helped me add stock to my small shop. I have since grown my business, and now I can stand on my own feet for my children. I no longer need to do odd jobs; neither do I need to beg my relatives to support me and feed my children. I am so grateful to KEDHAP and those who support us.”
JOIN THE MOVEMENT AND SUPPORT THESE BRAVE WOMEN
Abolishing gender-specific barriers in farming would not only empower women to achieve their highest economic potential but could also help feed a hungry community. Earning extra income would enable women to spend more on health care, nutrition, and education for their children—investments that could produce long-term, positive results for farm families and their neighbors.
Alice, Millicent, Lillian – these and many more success stories encourage KEDHAP to continue its ministry. All these couldn’t be achieved without the invaluable support from YOU, our generous donors for whom we are grateful. If you would like to support KEDHAP on its mission to empower female farmers and impact their communities, donate here.
Sustainability is critical for any project, and we ask that you be a part of this process by becoming a monthly donor. You may be the miracle that women like Ella are waiting for!