In our previous blog post (PART 1), we talked about how KEDHAP’s Female empowerment program is benefitting approximately 700 women in Muhoroni and Tinderet Sub counties in Songhor, Kenya. This initiative seeks to address gender-specific obstacles—such as financing, markets, lack of access to land, agricultural training and education, suitable working conditions, and equal treatment—which put female farmers at a significant disadvantage before they even plow a field or sow a seed. KEDHAP is slowly changing the narrative and we hope you will be part of this revolutionary program.
HELPING WOMEN ATTAIN FOOD SECURITY
Functional illiteracy and the lack of a ‘banking culture’ in most rural areas means that a basic understanding of how to handle a savings account, the significance of compound interest rates on savings, the benefits of borrowing to invest in productive assets, the management of debt, etc. are unknown. When saving and borrowing take place on an informal basis, there is little, if any, leveraging effect, and generally, borrowing is done to meet short-term consumptive needs.
In 2018, KEDHAP launched a Microfinance and Food security program targeting women groups and did a pilot program in partnership with our development partners. Yaw Pachi Women Group, Songhor B Support Group, Border B women Group, and Oneno-nam Agricultural groups were chosen to pilot the initiative. KEDHAP has been focusing on gender-responsive budgeting and financial management, including maximized agricultural productivity…
“When we first attended the consultations, it was tough to point out one problem in particular because women are being held back on so many levels here,” recalls Millicent, a 58-year-old mother of five with a family farming business in maize and beans production. As a housewife, she has had to overcome many societal barriers. Millicent says she felt unsure whether her input in the consultations would be taken seriously because “some people simply do not think women are worthy of being listened to.”
In rural Kenya, women like Millicent are still denied the right to own land, access credit, or even receive an education in some areas. As a result, 60 percent of Kenya’s women live in absolute poverty.
To Millicent’s pleasant surprise, the consultations resulted in KEDHAP’s food security program.
“By bringing together people from different ethnicities, everyone was given the opportunity to speak up and identify the pressing needs in our community, including access to food security,” said Millicent. “As a result, we decided to pool our resources into a revolving fund to support women involved in this precarious sector.”
Combining their own finances, the 325 members of the four groups invested more than USD 3,000 (Kshs 600,000), which has since been used to support women by granting loans and organizing workshops on agribusiness practices.
With better agricultural skills and more knowledge of agri-business, the women farmers ensure that the quality of food has markedly improved in the area. Better quality has generated greater demand for products at a higher price and has enhanced women’s access to markets.
“We are making such a difference in the community because we directly respond to women’s needs,” says Monica, secretary of Border B Women’s group. “We hold monthly meetings to measure the progress made and decide collectively how to re-invest the proceeds of the Group. And by deciding collectively, we all hold each other accountable for our actions.”
It is precisely this sense of ownership that makes the heart of community development. KEDHAP has responded to the real challenges of the community and has institutionalized women’s leadership by facilitating the establishment of an inclusive, gender-responsive budget.
With higher income, women are now respected as established contributors to the household. In turn, they feel more encouraged to ensure their voices are heard, reinforcing the cycle of empowerment.
“The beauty of it all is that we did not reinvent the wheel,” Oneno Nam Agricultural Group treasurer Esther adds, smiling. “We were already producing food crops but not in an organized and coordinated way. We already dreamt of standing on our own two feet. We just needed that extra push to take matters into our own hands.”
WHAT ARE THE MEASURES TAKEN BY KEDHAP?
KEDHAP focuses on enhancing the potential of these women 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:
- Access to Land – KEDHAP advocates for women to have equal opportunities to own land compared to men. Currently, not even 2% of the land is owned by women, while the proportion of female heads of households continues to grow. Land reform programs and the break-up of communal land holdings have led to the transfer of exclusive land rights to males as heads of households, which ignores the existence of female-headed households and the rights of married women to a joint share!
- Access to credit – KEDHAP has facilitated women’s access to agricultural services tailored to their needs by providing interest-free loans to women’s groups. In Kenya, few credit allowances are extended to women, mainly because customary laws do not allow them to share land property rights with their husbands or because women heads of household are excluded from land entitlement schemes and consequently cannot provide the collateral required by lending institutions.
- Access to agricultural inputs – KEDHAP encourages the production of food crops using incentives (certified seeds and fertilizer). Women often have limited access to resources such as improved seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides as they lack the income needed to purchase these inputs even after subsidization.
- Access to education, training, and extension services – KEDHAP trains the groups of women it works with to promote the adoption of appropriate resources and technology to free up time for income-producing activities. According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), two-thirds of the one billion illiterates worldwide are women and girls. Available figures show that only 5 percent of extension services have been addressed to rural women, while not more than 15 percent of the world’s extension agents are women. In addition, most of the extension services are focused on cash crops rather than food and subsistence crops, which are of primary concern to female farmers and the key to food security. (*Extension Workers are intermediaries between research and farmers. They operate as facilitators and communicators, helping farmers in their decision-making and ensuring that appropriate knowledge is implemented to obtain the best results.)
- Access to decision-making – Given the traditionally limited role of women in decision-making processes at the household, village, and national levels in most cultures, their needs, interests, and constraints are often not reflected in policymaking processes and laws. However, their representation is essential for poverty reduction, food security, and environmental sustainability. The causes of women being excluded from decision-making processes are closely linked to their additional reproductive roles and household workload, which account for a significant share of their time. KEDHAP addresses this by organizing training on gender roles.
- Access to research and appropriate technology – Women have little access to the benefits of research and innovation, especially in the domain of food crops. Despite ensuring food security at the household and community level, this aspect is given a low priority in crop improvement research. In addition, female farmer roles and needs are often ignored when devising technology which may lead to labour displacement or an increased workload. KEDHAP arranges appropriate training for the target women groups on innovative modern agricultural technologies like greenhouse farming.
KEDHAP currently works with six groups to build up food security.
1) Border B Women Group – 20 members
2) Oneno-nam Agricultural Group – 24 members
3) Yaw Pachi Women Group – 22 members
4) Blessed Widows Women Group – 18 members
5) Ogen OTZ (Operation Triple Zero) Support Group for Adolescent Pediatric – 22 members
6) Tamu OTZ (Operation Triple Zero) Support Group for Adolescent Pediatrics – 32 members
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR THESE WOMEN?
To reach their potential, women farmers need to be seen – and supported. Your partnership can make a real difference in communities like Songhor. 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.