In Kenya, agriculture, inclusive of the subsectors of forestry and fishing, is an important sector of the economy that accounts for around 29% of the gross domestic product (GDP). Thirty-six (36%) per cent of the population lives below the national poverty line according to the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity brief, 2020.Worldbank.org.Global_POVEQ_KEN.pdf.
Approximately 70% of the population is dependent on agriculture with only 20% of the land being fertile. Kenya has major potential for agricultural production but despite this, Kenya remains a net importer of agricultural commodities and food items.
Smallholder farming is the predominant form of agriculture in Kenya. Farmers lack access to innovations to improve both their income and employment opportunities in the agriculture and food sector and the regional supply of food. There are insufficient links between primary producers, processing businesses, training institutions, advisory services, research, the public sector, the private sector and civil society organisations. This hinders exploitation of the social and economic potential of the agriculture and food sector in Kenya.
The population of the administrative counties of Siaya, Homa Bay, Kakamega and Bungoma, on which the country package focuses on, lack appropriate agricultural innovations for improvement of productivity and subsequently income and employment opportunities in the agricultural and food sector and the regional supply of food.
The Kenya action area is designed to achieve results in the value chains (VCs) of milk and sweet potatoes. In combination, the value chains will ensure a regular income for many smallholders and help to create jobs in rural areas.
The overall objective of the global program GIAE is to eradicate Hunger and malnutrition. To achieve this, GIAE-Kenya aims to increase productivity and incomes of farmers, promote employment creation in rural areas and increase regional supply of foods. Special attention is to the support of underrepresented groups like young people and women. GIAE Kenya focuses on the development of the promising value chains of sweet potato and dairy production with special emphasis on the opportunities of young people and women.
GIAE-Kenya project uses the farmer-based organisation approach (self-help group and farmer co-operatives) to provide trainings, demonstrations and coaching of farmers under the sweet potato value chain. Women form the biggest percentage of farmers involved as the crop was, until the recent past, stereotyped as low value and regarded “a poor woman’s crop”. Cultivation was mainly for household consumption. GIAE project has worked with over 300 groups in three counties with composition of over 60% women, 10% men and over 20% youths. The farmers have been trained on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), commercial vine propagation, business development, market linkages and financial inclusion. Further, the farmers have been encouraged to form groups that have been further trained in the following areas: organisational development – group dynamics, leadership and management.
Working with farmers organised in groups has proved to be cost effective, provides exchange platform for the farmers to learn from each other, reaching to greater numbers and enhances learning on gender topics and mainstreaming where men and women appreciate each other’s roles. This has encouraged a shift in perspectives especially on the place of the women with regards to access to land, decision making, time out of household chores to work on the farm and leadership of the groups. Women has empowered women to take up leadership roles.
As a result, women have improved their incomes, increased investments in sweet potato production and farm input access, expanded to other areas like apiculture. Their living standards because of this have improved as well.
A CASE OF IMANI SELF HELP GROUP SIAYA COUNTY.
The group was formed in 2005 with 16 members (Men – 3, women -13) from Alego Usonga Sub county, Siaya County; with the main objective being members’ empowerment through agribusiness activities including: Sweet potatoes production, Bee keeping and Energy Saving technologies of pottery of improved cook stoves (ceramic Jikos).
GIAE project started working with this group in the year 2018 through training interventions in the following areas:
a) Organisational development
b) Good agricultural practices (GAP)
c) Commercial vines multiplication
d) Marketing and value addition
e) Financial Inclusion (VSLA)
To provide the support to the group in the above areas, GIAE had to collaborate with partners with diverse expertise in achieving the common objective of enabling farmers practice farming as a business using local resources, generating income and creating jobs. Partners we collaborated with included (WHH, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Care Kenya and Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and fisheries at Siaya County Department of Agriculture). The group has farmers doing farming activities commercially where production of sweet potato roots is above 1 acre of land on average per farmer. Other income generating activities for the group include; beekeeping and honey processing, they also contribute to environmental sustainability through making of improved cook stoves from clay for sale. Women are engaged in modelling of pottery, curing and transportation of the ceramic stoves.
The group has also received support from other organizations in the following areas: water harvesting – tank 10,000 litres for vegetable production and fencing of the group activity plot donated by one of the members. This statement can be put together with the other where you have mentioned Practical Action support.
In Financial inclusion group members have been trained on Voluntary Savings and Loans, where they save and borrow from their own funds. The groups have a mix in the leadership managing the group money business (VSLA) of record keeping, money counting, and providing the leadership. What does this mean – mix of leadership?
Their structure of leadership is composed of:
✓ Chairperson; Female,
✓ Vice Chair; Male,
✓ Secretary – Female,
✓ Vice secretary- male
✓ Treasurer- Female
The VSLA activity started with savings and loans in the year 2020. The group expects to mobilize Kes.230,000 revolving funds which they will share among the members in December 2021.
The group commitment to members’ empowerment has seen them receive support from other development partners that include; Practical Action with a repayable grant for seed capital to boost on revolving fund for members of Kes 200,000 under savings for transformation- project. The loan is payable on a quarterly basis until March 2022.
This has assisted the group in getting higher loan which they invest in their individual farms, group income generating project of beekeeping, pottery and sweet potato root production. A few farmers have ventured into value addition of sweet potatoes by making crackies, mandazis and chapatis for sale. This has contributed to increased income of the women involved.
Imani Self-help group Income generating Activities.
Selection of participants for the various interventions by the project has ensured that all gender and youth are targeted and participate. The overall gender mix of GIAE in Kenya is a follows:
The project deliberately targets women and youths in the output and outcome indicators including increase in productivity, income and employment with a target of 50% youth and 35% women.