Rural women roll back their sleeves to fight poverty

July 13, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 13 – As the world economies shrink and the effects of the climate change bite deeper into livelihoods, women in sub-Saharan Africa continue to bear the brunt of the conditions poverty imposes on them.

More than midway to 2015 deadline for the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Kenya’s prospects for meeting poverty reduction targets are bleak.

According to the One World UK country guides, whilst energies remain absorbed in the process of political reconciliation in the aftermath of the December 2007 elections, there is growing concern at the setback to programmes for poverty reduction, health reform and food security considering that these targets were already behind schedule.

The first MDG goal calls for eradication of extreme poverty and hunger with a target to halve the portion of people whose income is less than one US dollar a day.

However, a group of women in rural Kenya are determined to turn their fortunes around by stepping up production in their tree nurseries, dairy herds and bee-keeping activities.  Led by Anderlin Keter, the 29-member St Emmanuel Women’s Group in Kapchepkok, Nandi Central District is raking in profits four years after their inception.

According to the Kenya Gender Data Sheet (2008) published by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development the percentage of individuals in Nandi living in absolute poverty was 48 percent for women and 47 percent for men. As per the Economic Survey 2008, absolute poverty refers to adults with monthly incomes falling below Sh1,562 and Sh2,913 per month for women and men respectively.

Mrs Keter is sure that the group members needed no further motivation than the deep desire to rise above the widespread poverty that marked their daily lives. Backed by the Kenya Women’s Finance Trust (KWFT), which offered the group the seed money in the form of a soft loan, their lives have undergone a radical transformation.

“Each group member owns a dairy cow, has built a house with corrugated iron sheet roofing and can afford to send at least one child to school,” she says.

From January 2009, the women boast of Sh350,000 in profits ploughed back to members from the proceeds of tree seedlings. A strategic partnership with the Pyramid Youth Group in their locality has yielded four sizeable fishponds netting in profits of up to Sh300,000 annually.

However, these achievements are not without challenges. The women encounter difficulties securing fencing materials to enclose their fishponds. To overcome hitches with preservation, the women only harvest according to the demand.

The youth spokesperson, Stephen Sugut, says his group will team up with the women of St Emmanuel to tap water from a forest source near Kapchekok to supply clean water to all the residents.

Unknown to them, they are in the frontlines against the interconnected global crises of food security and climate change in the face of rising food prices — factors that will stretch their ingenuity and resources to adapt to survival strategies.

As noted in the study Pulling Apart: Striking Facts and Figures on Inequality in Kenya; there is increasing recognition of the significant role women play in the socio-economic and political development of a society.

However, the full participation of women in development continues to be hampered by a number of obstacles essentially putting them at a disadvantaged position in so far as realising their full potential and freedoms.
According to the MDG Report for 2008, ensuring gender equality and empowering women in all respects are factors that are required to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to ensure sustainable development. The report notes that poor farmers can benefit from higher food prices if they are able to produce more than they can consume but many lack the resources to do so.


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