Nurturing hope and resilience in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic in West Pokot County in Kenya -Dorcas Chepkopus Story

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In 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic was threatening the hope for survival of humanity. Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika and partners chose to support the resilience of the community of West Pokot, Kenya. We did this by working with our program beneficiaries to produce 20,000 masks. Majority of these masks were donated to the needy members of our community here.

This project was not only our expression of hope that the rapid spread of the virus would be controlled. It was also our way of supporting seamstresses in our community, as they had lost their income during the pandemic and were struggling to provide for their families.

In this video we share the story of Dorcas Chepkopus, a woman from Kapkoris location who worked with us to sew the masks that we distributed to street children and families of Self Help Groups that we serve here in West Pokot, Kenya.

She used the income she raised through the project to diversity her livelihood sources beyond just sewing.

Video of Christine David Sharing her Story

Christine David is one of the women who we mobilized and trained to improve her social economic situation as well as that of her family and the village she lives in by participating in Self Help Group activities in Lomut Ward in West Pokot Kenya. She is now a member of Kokwomaral Self Help Group and engages in farming and runs a small canteen business that she opened using a loan that she received from this Self Help Group that she is a part of.

Video Stories of People that we supported with relief food in May 2019

These are brief stories of some of the beneficiaries of the relief food we distributed in Sekerot Location in May 2019. Most of the victims were old women and men who had been left by their families in search of food.

Video of Cluster Level Association Meeting Hosted by Lorokon Self Help Group

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We encourage the self help groups in West Pokot county, Kenya, to form cluster level associations. The goal of these clusters is to encourage savings and group level economic activities. This cluster level meeting was hosted by Lorokon self help group. They raised money from other member groups which they invested in their group project.

Video of Risper Sharing her Story

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Risper is one of the members of the self help groups in West Pokot county, Kenya. We train these groups to engage in economic activities and save part of the proceeds. Through the self help group Risper is continually improving her life and the lives of the members of her family

Women in the front line to improve their social economic status through the self help group concept-The story of Hellen.

Hellen from Togyon

“My laughter tells it all, I never had anything but now I have something to call mine. My name is Helen, I joined Togyon in 2017 when Edmond was mobilizing for self help groups . I did not have anything to eat leave alone to save. However, I made up my mind to join the group and asked God to bless me through the group. At the time of joining the group, I thought it was all going to be about money. I however realized that SHG is far different and the best approach to empower needy people like me. I started by saving 20 shillings weekly and this made it possible for me to receive my first loan. My group advised me not to use the loan to buy cloths or expensive delicacies but invest in a business.  I settled for buying and selling mangoes and before long I started making small profits. The profits  paid off the loan, feed my children and make my savings. I asked for a second loan and expanded my business. I started buying mangoes in Lomut and selling them in Psigor thus making a bigger profit. Before long I had moved to Chepareria selling mangoes and I was making enough money to sustain the business and cater for our needs. I am proud because I have constructed a two bed roomed 18 iron sheets semi permanent house just from the mango business and group loans. I have moved from the grass thatched house I was living in to a now more comfortable house. If someone had told me three years ago that I would one day live in an iron roofed house I wouldn’t have believed it. I have learnt that miracles do exist but it also calls for our determination, self drive and hard work. If I wouldn’t have taken the step of joining an SHG group, I would be still dreaming and going hungry. I am grateful to the Jitokeze team for bring the SHG concept to us because through it we are finding our ways to comfortable living and development.” ( Hellen Togyon SHG participant).    

From Mining Gold to a fashion Design and Dress making Class- Young girls and women abandoning Gold mines in Orwa West Pokot.

Flomena

“I grew up knowing nothing more than mining gold to put food on the table. I was married at an early age when my parents failed to put me in school due to financial constraints. Iam  a mother of two girls 4 years and 1 ½ years old and my husband is unemployed.

Mining gold isn’t stable because some days one can get up to Ksh 600 and other days get nothing at all. Due to insecurity in the area, Most attacks are carried out on innocent women mining gold. I was always worried for my girls and used to think a lot on how to make things better and put them in a good school. When Jitokeze came to recruit girls into the girls empowerment program, I was very happy for this chance. This was a God given opportunity and I wasn’t going to let it pass. I knew once I learn to sew and get a sewing machine, our life will change.

Things were not easy for me though in the beginning. I am a rough person and no one messes with me easily. I would find myself constantly at the disciplinary section. However, through the advises and counseling, I gradually changed and focused on my training.

I am proud of myself because in two months I have sewed cloths for my daughters already. Besides sewing, I am also in the adult and continuing education class and I hope with time I will be able to read and write. I plan to change my story from that of a poor girl to a successful business woman in Future.  I know by God’s grace, Jitokeze and my cooperation my dream will come to pass”

Flomena Chenangat

 

Empowerment of young mothers and vulnerable Girls earns us a Trophy

Mercy Nekesa and the director at Jitokeze exhibition table during the international literacy day

Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika has been recognized as the Community based organization supporting young mothers and vulnerable girls in West Pokot. We were awarded a trophy in a colorful event officiated by the Education cabinet secretary Professor George Magoha and West Pokot County governor Professor John Longanyapou during the International Literacy day celebrations on 9th September 2019.

We attribute this recognition to our girls who work tireless to achieve their dreams thus putting us on the map. They have have been open to learning thus not only achieving accomplishments for themselves but for us as well.

Our students are from poor backgrounds, victims of Female genital mutilation, early marriages and abuse. Most of them never had a chance to complete their formal education and have no skill to depend on. As a result, they suffer identity crisis, psychological torture and lack of hope for a better tomorrow.

We train them through our girls empowerment program on dress making, offer them psycho social support, guidance and counseling, literacy as well as farming. Our aim is to empower them to fit in the society and improve their living standards through sewing enterprise.

Our goal is to train and support at least 40 beneficiaries every two years to acquire skills and sewing machines. Each beneficiary is then monitored closely to ensure their business is prospering. We build a personal relationship in that even after two years we still keep in touch with our beneficiaries.

Decisions and Sacrifices our girls make to see their dreams come true-The story of Catherine Chepengat

Catherine Chepengat with her daughters

“I am a divorced mother of two beautiful girls. The thought of how I was going to raise them single handedly used to haunt me a lot. After getting divorced, I moved back to my parents house together with my daughters. I was tasked with doing home chores and grazing goats. I had to oblige because I needed a place to stay and food for my girls.

Later on in 2016, I learnt about Jitokeze from the then Batei ward field officer. Since I knew my parents wouldn’t agree to take me to school, I started gathering firewood while grazing and heaped them at my mother’s place. They thought I wanted to start selling firewood but far from it, I wanted to use it to pay my fees.

In 2017, I joined Jitokeze under the girl’s empowerment program with the aim of acquiring sewing skills and a sewing machine to kick start me start my sewing business. Although my mother agreed to stay with my children, I was still expected to continue grazing and do home chore while on holidays.

I completed my tailoring training in 2018 and managed to raise some commission from sewing items that Jitokeze would later sell. In 2019 April, through my commission, I was awarded a sewing machine. I was thrilled because in my mind I knew that was a milestone towards starting my business.

When I went home, I expected things to change but to my disappointment, my mother told me to keep the machine and continue with assigned tasks of grazing goats. I felt disappointed and when I asked her to allow me start my sewing business she bluntly refused and dared me to move out if I wouldn’t do what she assigned me.

I felt broken but this did not deter me. I looked for a cheap house at the local center and moved out with my girls. I had faith and believed that I will be able to pay my rent and all bills from sewing. I started by informing all my friends and church members that I could make cloths for them at affordable prices. It didn’t take long before customers started coming since there was no other tailoring shop around.

It has been four months since I started my business and I can attest no day goes by without me getting atleast 400 shillings. Apart from my business, I have also planted a plot of black knight shades which I got from Jitokeze. Money from the vegetables goes to paying my rent while the one I make from sewing goes to my children’s school expenses. I have also started saving some money because I plan to purchase school uniform fabrics since new year is fast approaching and parents will need new sets of school uniforms for their children.

Although I feel bad my mother didn’t want me to start my business, I am glad she gave me the chance to go to school by agreeing to look after my children. I don’t regret moving out either because it made me face life and gave me the courage to fight for my dream.”

 

Giving second Chances to vulnerable and lost girls to redeem themselves

Loice Natapar

“My name is Loice Natapar from Turkana County but currently leaving in West Pokot a place called Sarmach. I came to Pokot when I got married but due to constant conflicts between Turkanas and pokots I never had a chance to visit my parents again. My husband took advantage of this fact and started mistreating me since I had no one to turn to. I got stressed and before I knew it I started drinking to ease the pain I was going through. I would go mining gold and the little money I would get would go straight to local brew. This went on until when I was six months pregnant for my fourth child when my husband beat me up mercilessly and ended up losing the pregnancy. I decided to leave and left my kids with him and local bars became my new home because I wouldn’t go back to Turkana.

Luckily for me this year, jitokeze Wamama Wafrika came to Sarmach to recruit girls to join their tailoring program. Deep down I knew this was my redemption chance but no one had faith in me and no one was will willing to be my guardian.

I am grateful to jitokeze staff who chose to give me a chance despite having been told that I am a drunkard and not the right person to join their program. I vowed not to break the trust they had bestowed on my and decided to quit drinking.

Three months down the line, I am back in Sarmach for August Holidays and am no longer staying at a bar but have found a female friend who agreed to stay with me. I have learnt to control myself and being at peace with myself. I still mine gold but unlike in the past the money I get goes to food and other household items. I have not tasted alcohol in three months and I feel so proud of myself. I plan to continue with my dress making training and one day set a sewing business in this center and even train other girls and women.”

 

Enjoying fruits of hard work, determination and commitment-the story of 56 year old Jane Wanjiru

Jane Wanjiru

“I never dreamt that one day I will become a tailor. Life challenges made me assess myself and realized that I wanted to engage in cloth sewing business. My journey into the sewing realm started in 2012 and it took me long enough to get where I wanted to be.

I graduated from Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika in 2016 after 4 years of tailoring training. Despite my age, I used to walk about 8 kilometers daily to attend classes at jitokeze center. I was committed and I had passion to learn and there after establish my sewing business. Jitokeze was not my first tailoring school to attend because I had enrolled in another school but later decide to transfer due to personal reasons.

I acquired a lot of skills while at jitokeze with the intention of implementing them. I know I have not done as much as I would have liked but I am somewhere. I run my business every day for 6 hours and spent the remaining time feeding my chickens, cows and attending to my farm. Even with this I get around 500 shillings daily which goes to home expenses and part of it goes into my weekly savings. My customers know where I live and when they find my shop closed, they bring their cloths to my place.

Despite being a tailor, I still visit other tailors shops to learn whenever I face challenges. I have learnt that fashion trends keep changing and I have to be well versed to continue in this industry. It is also important to know that without inner drive and commitment, it is not possible to achieve anything. I had the desire and commitment and Jitokeze held my hand and that is why I am where I am today”

 

 

 

 

From A bar room to an SHG Training venue-The story of Elizabeth Chenang’at

“When Perpetual yator first visited my home, every one was scared and some of my clients started running away out of fear of being arrested. Little did we know that she was God sent to deliver us and change our perspective about life. I am a single mother of four children and raising them has not been easy. Life tribulations and constant rejection from my family is what drove me to  making and selling illicit brew. Although my business made other villagers especially those saved to side line me, I was happy i could make some money.

my clients were mostly elderly women and men and since i had no other place to run my business I converted my house to a bar. Business was not always good though because both my clients and I suffered constant police arrests for running illegal business.

When perpetual shared about the SHG concept, the elderly women who had come for their drinks saw it a good idea and elected me the group chair lady there and then. since we were only seven, we each recruited one member and we formed Tabalak Self Help Group.

We started meeting weekly and making a small savings of 100 shillings. Perpetual helped me establish a vegetable garden to raise my weekly savings since I could not continue selling alcohol. My home transformed from being a bar to SHG meeting venue. I took my first loan and bought chickens for eggs production to support my vegetable business.

My life started transforming and people stopped hating me. Other women would visit me to share about farming and SHG concept.  I took a second loan to buy a bull for rearing together with my sheep. Through the SHG training, I have learnt that there are many ways of generating income and still be at peace with others. I am at peace with myself and my neighbors and I am no longer worried of where or how to get money in cases of emergency”.

(Elizabeth Chenangat, Tapalak SHG, Kapkoris Location)

 

Self Help Groups Championing for Food Security In their Communities

Jane in her maize store

Food has always been scarce in most parts of Lomut and Sekerot Location. Even though we have been trained on sustainable agriculture, our efforts are rendered futile by the harsh climatic conditions. Most farmers harvest their produce between September and October depending with when they planted. These produce can however not be stored for long without being infested by insects. For this Reason, we end up selling our farm produce at cheap prices and later go hungry due to unavailability of maize in the area. Self Help Group concept has empowered us to deal with this problem and we are no longer hungry.

We have ventured into cereal businesses and due to easy and quick access to money, it is now possible to buy over 100 bags. This has not only seen us make money but also made food available to the community at large. I get maize from as far as Trans-Nzoia and sell it to other traders within Lomut and Sekerot. I observed that people have money but they can not travel far to get maize. As a result, most of them were going hungry and being extorted by unscrupulous traders.

Through the self help group concept, we have appreciated the virtue of identifying problems within our communities and standing in those gaps. I wouldn’t have started this maize store without other farmers efforts and our weekly savings that gave me capital. I am proud because I am making some profit from the business and my people have access to maize.”

(Jane from Ngoting Self Help Group in Lomut)

 

Forests in the arid: What if we could transform Northern Kenya into a forest?

In 1997 El Niño struck Kenya. 10 months of heavy rainfall caused nationwide devastation. Farms were completely destroyed and many were left homeless. It hit our country very hard, but worst of all was the famine that followed.
Climate change causes a cycle of drought and floods that haunts the country yearly. It poses a huge threat to our agricultural sector, which in turn places food security and the livelihoods of millions of Kenyans at risk.

If we do nothing to slow down the rate of climate change or mitigate the effects of climate change, our children are all at risk of hunger, water shortages and mass poverty.

But what if we could reverse climate change? Perhaps we can engineer our climate now so that we may have adequate, predictable and reliable rainfall in the future.

Can afforestation as a geo engineering method to mitigate the effects of climate change in the arid regions of Kenya? Trees have an immensely positive impact on the climate of a region. They help us to adapt to a changing climate and combat drought by influencing rainfall patterns

We know that growing trees take water from the soil and release it into the atmosphere — a process known as evapo-transpiration. The moisture in the air would then precipitate causing rain, and the cycle would repeat.

So what if we could plant a lot of trees? Could we turn a previously dry area into rainforest? Could turn a barren place into a lush forest teeming with life? Could we do this in a safe and sustainable way?

 

Kenya, Its time for Climate Smart Agriculture!

Climate change poses a critical challenge for food security in Kenya and the rest of the world. Agriculture is the sector that is hit the hardest by climate change. More than ever, farmers need to build their resilience to climate change so that they are able to feed the growing population in a way that does not further deplete our natural resources of soil and water.

Climate smart agriculture is not a new phenomenon. It is an approach help those who manage agricultural systems respond effectively to climate change. It relates to actions both on and off farm measures that help production systems to best respond the impacts of climate change and to adjust these systems to suit local conditions now and in the future. This approach is key in supporting sustainable development and food security in a changing climate.

Different aspects of climate smart agriculture include proper and sustainable management of farms, crops and fisheries, conservation of ecosystems and landscape, sensitization for farmers for better management of climate risks and changes in how we consume food

Climate smart agriculture is about increasing sustainable production and income. Adapting and building resilience to the impact of climate change and wherever possible, reducing green-house gasses.

 

 

Ray of Hope To Vulnerable Girls and Women-The story of Christine Riamareng

Christine Chepengat

“My name is Christine from Morpus Batei ward. I am the third born in a family of six. I spent most of my life at home with my mother and my three siblings since my father was busy moving around in search of pastures for his cattle. My mother never saw the need of taking us to school and at the age of 12 years, I got married off. Being a victim of early and forced married, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was just an innocent and naive girl then. Things changed when I got pregnant. My husband started neglecting me and became an irresponsible drunkard. I continued staying in an abusive marriage until I gave birth hoping that things will change for the best which never did.

My mother accepted me back home but I had to fend for myself and for my daughter. Life became hard  and I almost lost my mind due to stress. I left home one day and started wandering in the village not sure of where I was going or what I was looking for. I thank God that one girl, a former student of Jitokeze, noticed me and called out for me. I stayed in her tailoring shop and watched her work. She than shared with me how she had lost control of her life when she got divorced but through Jitokeze she is back on track and even has a small business to support herself and her two children.

I got motivated and through her help, I came to Jitokeze where I have started my fashion design and garment making training.

Although I have been at the center for only three months, there is a lot that I have learnt and I am proud of myself.  I dint even know how to write my name or even speak Swahili but slowly through the adult and continuing education training, I have learnt how to write my name, some Swahili and English phrases and most importantly I am learning how to read and write. I have also learnt how to draft and sew cloths. I have started believing in myself and I thank God that Jitokeze has made me start valuing myself again. Just as I was helped, it is my prayer that I also start my sewing business in future and use it to empower other girls like me through training them to acquire this vital skills.”

 

Challenges in Meeting Water Security and Resilience in Kenya

Scarcity is the main water-related challenge of many regions in Kenya. Water availability depends on the quantity of water, its quality as well as the timely and affordable access to an efficient service.

Global warming has an impact on water availability. Roughly, for each additional degree that the temperature increases, 7% more of the world population will have at least 20% less water at their disposal (IPCC 2014). Moreover, as population increases, so will water demand for all uses. It is estimated that by 2030, 80% of the global population will live in water scarcity. Currently due to the failed rains there has been a shortage of water and this can be seen through the pronounced water shortage that has been experienced in Nairobi and its environs for the past few months and seems to be getting worse.

Water quality is also affected both directly and indirectly by intense industrialization, population growth and the excessive use of fertilizers in agriculture. Around 85% of wastewater is discharged into the environment without any sort of treatment. Water pollution reduces the amount of water that is safe for human use.

Water management has been a challenge across the decades in Kenya. 41% of the Kenyan population do not have access to improved water sources. This is largely due to the fact that people perceive that water should be a service provided by the government for free.  This has caused is a situation of unsustainable water institutions in the country due to lack or insufficient revenues from the provision of water in the country.

The shortage of water in Kenya is largely pronounced in the rural areas and largely in the arid and semi-arid areas. The availability of water in rural areas has also been one of the greatest challenges with water shortage affecting water for irrigation and for animal use. Find out how Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika is working towards water security, here.

 

West Pokot needs more Irrigation Initiatives

West Pokot covers 9,169 square km, of which 41% is arable. The agricultural activities undertaken in the county correspond to the three main agro-ecological zones highlands (Lelan), mid-lands (Kapenguria) and lowlands (Kacheliba) There is currently only one functioning irrigation initiative by the state, Weiwei irrigation scheme. Another irrigation scheme, Kaminia irrigation scheme, was approved and funded but conflict among the locals and bad grassroots politics have caused serious delays. Chesang’at and Msiywon are other proposed irrigation projects yet to be implemented. Because of the low investment in irrigation infrastructure and the difficulty of reaching rural homes, Irrigation is used by just 1.4% of the households. In addition, irrigation is mainly carried out in the lowlands where pastoralism is the main activity and there has been limited conversion to crop farming. Irrigated farming has benefits and drawbacks: it could potentially improve crop productivity, but at the same time it could pose a serious threat to the water supply of downstream communities, especially during dry periods. This being the reason why Kaminia irrigation scheme is facing resistance from the locals. This problem could be addressed and potentially mitigated by regulating water extraction from rivers. Water harvesting and irrigation have proven successful in improving productivity of certain crops and have transformed the transition zone between highlands and lowlands in Ortum. Within ten years of the introduction of irrigation, West Pokot has become a major producer of onions nationally; production will increase further once more irrigation initiatives are set up in the coming years.  

Importance of Water Security in Strengthening Climate Change Resilience

There is an urgent need for water security in Kenya, more so within marginalized communities which are prone to major drought. Water security is part of the post-2015 development agenda as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Water security as defined by UN water as “the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate  quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human  well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against  water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving  ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.”

The role of water in food security is undeniable. Increasing availability and productivity of irrigation water for the people in marginalized communities will play a big role in strengthening the community’s resilience to climate change. Irrigation ensures that there is a constant supply of produce all year round regardless of the climatic conditions.

When people have access to water for irrigation, they can produce more food and have a surplus to sell. The transition from subsistence to commercial farming means that they can make a living from agriculture and achieve some form of income security.

Ensuring that marginalized communities have access to adequate quantities of water will help in conflict management. Conflict between communities over watering holes for their animals will be significantly reduced. Conflict between people and wild animals for water will also reduce.

By ensuring water security, the quality of life for people in marginalized communities is improved significantly. Women and children need not transverse long distances in search of water and in so doing will save time, encourage children to enroll in school and improve personal security.

Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika understands the importance of water security in strengthening climate change resilience which is why the organization engages in the construction of sand dams in drought prone areas in West Pokot. These sand dams help to harvest water during flash floods in seasonal rivers. Making water available in these rivers for longer than the rain seasons.

 

Embracing Female Education for A better Tomorrow- The story of Mary kameur

Mary Kameur

“When my husband died, I went back to my father’s house where I started living with my children. My father did not like the idea of me sending my children to school and kept on discouraging me. One time he told me to give out my daughters as house maids and my sons as herders to start generating income. I felt bad considering the fact that he had denied me education and was trying to deny my children their right to education as well. When I remained adamant, he chased me out of his home. I felt broken but my determination to see my children educated got even stronger. I cancelled my daughters and discouraged them from undergoing Female Genital mutilation. All I wanted was for them to have a different life from the one I had lived. I later joined a self help group of farmers who have been with me all through. I got moral support from them and when my children were sent from school due to lack of school fees, I easily acquired a loan to settle the school needs. God blessed me with well wishers as well and currently my second born daughter is in her final year at the university and the rest are completing their high school level. Apart from educating my children, my dream of owning land and having my own place to stay has come true. Through self help group, my honey business expanded which made it possible for me to increase my weekly savings thus making it possible for me to get large loans. Each loan I got went into constructing my house and part of it went into my honey business to ensure I get some returns to repay the loan and for home expenses. I thank God for how my life has turned out. I am no longer the poor widow who had nothing. All people who used to mock me for not circumcising my daughters are the people approaching me for advice. I have forgiven my father as well and from the small income I get I ensure I take care of him as well. My goal now is to sensitize other women on the importance on educating their children and not giving up despite the challenges. ”

Strengthening Small Scale Agriculture is the Key to Attaining Food Security and Environmental Sustainability

Christina David from Lomut showing the manure she uses in her farm

Small scale agriculture employs, feeds and affects the majority of people’s lives in the country. Therefore, improving productivity and employing sustainable farming practices will have a significant impact on the overall food security and environmental conservation in Kenya.

Small scale agriculture in Kenya is usually done on small pieces of land. In these farms, oftentimes both of plants and animals are kept. And in most cases the produce is for subsistence and the surplus is sold for income.

80% of the rural population derive their livelihoods from small scale agriculture. By transforming small scale agriculture from predominantly subsistence into a modern, sustainable and more productive form of agriculture, we can greatly affect the lives of farmers and communities who account for the majority of the people in the rural areas.

Innovation and improvement of simple technologies like water harvesting, conservation tillage, better seed management and post-harvest handling will improve output and conserve the environment. Crop diversification and introduction of drought resistance crops has had a positive impact on income and food security as in the residents of West Pokot through the Jitokeze Wamama Waafrika white sorghum value chain project.

Many rural homes have farmlands and livestock, most common animals in West Pokot are cattle. Cattle are known to be some of the biggest methane emitters.  Employing new uses of animal and plant wastes will conserve the environment and reduce carbon footprint. One way of doing this is the use of bio-digesters, households that use bio-digesters will reduce methane emissions and reduce the pressure on forests for firewood and charcoal.

Use of sustainable and improved agricultural techniques will increase output and conserve the environment. These include inter-cropping, adopting of agro-forestry practices among others.

All these and more ways of strengthening small scale agriculture will ensure that we attain food security in a manner that is sustainable and kind to the environment.

What is Ailing the Agricultural Sector in Kenya?

emily lokwasia in her pumpkin garden
Small scale agriculture in Kenya is quickly losing its appeal as an income generating venture. More youth are abandoning farming activities in the rural areas in search of better opportunities in the urban areas. This is largely attributed to the fact that small scale farming has, over the years become unyielding. Cost of production in agriculture is very high. In fact, the cost of production in Kenya is higher than any other country in East Africa. This can largely be attributed to the taxes levied on agricultural input. It costs more to hire laborers, land and buy farming inputs in Kenya compared to other countries. Because it costs more to produce anything in Kenya compared to its neighbors, imported produce is cheaper compared to local produce. So we import. For example, 90% of Kenya’s pineapple and eggs comes from Uganda. We import fruits from Egypt, Tanzania and South Africa. The cheaper imports contribute significantly to the demise to the local commercial agricultural sector Agriculture is availability of water. Kenya has been ravaged by a cycle of droughts and floods. Climate change has made it difficult to predict the onset of long rains and the short rains have become too short to sustain another crop. On the other hand, Irrigation services are too expensive for any small scale commercial farmer. Extension officers from the ministry of Agriculture have become nothing but a distant memory. There was a time in Kenyan agriculture where extension services was available to small scale farmers. These extension officers would advise farmers on good agricultural methods to improve output. Sadly these services are not available anymore. At Jitokeze Wamama Waafrika, we are helping farmers mitigate the problems ailing small scale commercial farmers by providing advice, and when possible, seed to farmers so that they are able to improve their livelihood and food security.

Women creating opportunities in the face of drought caused hurdles-The story of Christina David Kokwomarar Self Help Group

christina David in her shop copy

Self help group concept has widened my thinking and has made me venture into projects I would never have thought of. When I started farming, most people dissuaded me citing it as a risky project but my mind was set. Through this project, I turned out to be the sole producer and distributor of vegetables and green bananas in my village. My neighbors no longer walked tens of kilometers to Lomut center to get vegetables again.  During this dry season, I could still supply vegetables to most households in my village thus earning myself income. However, as the dry spell continued, water became scarce and this made the village elders  restrict water usage. Irrigation was banned to secure enough water for animals and for home consumption. This was a major blow to my farming project but I did not lose hope. I had already planted some green maize which are almost fruiting, cassavas and even green bananas which do not require a lot of water.

Since I could no longer get enough cash from farming, I sat down with other farmers in my Self Help group and they advised me to venture into cereals business. I saw it as a good idea but I chose to start a canteen instead since there was none in the area. From my small savings from farming I managed to built a shop and took a loan from my SHG and started running my business.

Although I don’t get as much as I used to get from farming, I am grateful I still have a source of income. I can still get my weekly savings and some money for family upkeep. I count myself lucky because am no longer depending on selling goats and chicken to raise income for food.”

 

Impact of Climate Change as Observed by Farmers in West Pokot County

Farmers in West Pokot County have observed the impact of climate change across the entire county. Climate change has affected agriculture across the production system as well as the quality of produce. One of the most commonly cited changes observed by farmers is the occurrence of torrential rains. Torrential rains have caused wide spread soil erosion and leaching of soil. The poor soil quality in turn results in poor quality crops, particularly for potatoes, and can increase production costs as farmers are required to apply more fertilizer. Consumption costs have also gone up, as the low production leads to shortages and spikes in demand. Farmers also observed that increasingly, rains fall continuously rather than intermittently. The continuous rains are then followed by long dry spells.  Since radiation during the rainy period is inadequate, crop growth stagnates and are soon exposed to strong radiation during the dry spells. In addition, the onset of the first growing season delays and starts in late April rather than in mid-March, which delays planting. This tendency is tied to the new phenomenon of unpredictable rainfall that disrupts farmers´ ability to plan their crop cycles. For example, little planting is carried out in the short rains period which is supposed to begin in November. Farmers also note that there is a longer gap between the First and Second rains within the same season, thus longer dry spells. At Jitokeze Wamama Waafrika, we are working in tandem with farmers to strengthen resilience against the negative impacts of climate change. Finally, farmers report lifestyle changes due to changes in climate. In general, residents of West Pokot now wear lighter clothing compared to the late 1980s when the climate was cooler and people wore heavier clothing.

Nurturing dreams of sustainability- The story of Priscila kapcherop

Priscila Kapcherop

“I am a single mother of three children and the thought of how I was going to raise them, school them and ensure they have their basic needs was something that tormented me for a long time. Although my parents allowed me to build my house in their compound and stay with my children, they made it clear that they will not take the responsibility of raising them. I used to till people’s farms, collect water and firewood to get some money for our upkeep. While part of the money was for food and other needs, I would ensure in a week I purchase a chicken to rear. This went on for long until I started selling eggs and chicken to the nearby market. I invested the money I got in sheep and goats with the aim of selling them in future when need arises.

In 2017, I learnt about Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika and decided to join the tailoring program. My mother agreed to look after my children. Since I had no money, I decided to sell my sheep and goats and enrolled for the tailoring program. During holidays I would collect firewood and water to make some money and increase my chickens to ensure constant supply of eggs which my mother would sell to feed my children. In 2018, I approached my parents and asked them to support me so that I sit for the National Industrial Training Authority exams. Surprisingly, they agreed and I sat for those exams which I passed and got a grade III Certificate in dress making.

I am proud of myself because I managed to pay for my two years training fee myself and completed my tailoring course. All my three children are now in school and I am still continuing with my poultry project. I have even improved a lot through the poultry trainings I received at the center especially on poultry housing, feeding and vaccination. I still rely on this project because I have not started my own sewing business. Currently I am back at jitokeze despite having completed my training. I have been contracted to sew different products through which I earn some commission. I am positive that soon I will earn myself a sewing machine from the commission I make and start my own sewing business back in my village.”

National Climate Change Strategy: 9 years on yet Kenyan’s still die of starvation

Kenya has endured a cycle of droughts and floods, each year the effects being worse than the year before. This year, vulnerable groups are facing starvation as a result of droughts that are ravaging several counties. While the government’s poor planning largely to blame, this issue opens dialogue on the impact of climate change on food security. Nine years ago the Kenyan government launched national climate change response strategy and five years later, it launched the National Climate Change action plan. This seemingly comprehensive and progressive plan took 20 months to produce. It emphasized on strengthening the country’s resilience to climate change and reducing the carbon footprint. Since the launch of this plan, the country continues to suffer through the cycle of droughts and floods. But why? Considering all the effort that has been put into creating the national climate change action plan, five years later, shouldn’t we have made headway in strengthening climate change resilience in the country? Especially among the vulnerable populations? What derails this plan is what ails all the other sectors of our government, a kleptocratic culture, the prioritization of white elephant projects and bad politics. These expensive ailments have led to the current economic bankruptcy, meaning there is no money for the 1.8 trillion to be set aside for the 5 year climate change program. Jitokeze Wamama Waafrika works with vulnerable communities of West Pokot to strengthen their resilience to negative effects of climate change. Food security is one of the most important causes the organization champions. One successful program is the farmer’s empowerment program which empowers women by teaching sustainable agriculture and irrigation methods to ensure that their families have food all year round. See how this program has helped Elizabeth Chelimo and her family and help us assist more families like these by donating to our causes.

Striving to Succeed-A Story of Hope, Struggles and Determination- Maureen Cheyech

Maureen Cheyech at her shop

“After completing my training at Jitokeze Wafrika in 2016, I was not lucky enough to start my own business as I had always dreamt. All the commission I had made through sewing various products for the online shop went it paying my fee arrears for the two years I was at Jitokeze. I chose to seek employment in Makutano town where I would be contracted to sew different products for a small fee. I saw this as a good strategy because I was going to earn, learn how to run a sewing business and at the same time make contact with customers. Although I would only make small amount of money, I had a good opportunity to learn how to run a sewing business and I knew the skills will come in handy when I finally establish mine. I worked for two years as a contract seamstress and the earnings I got helped me get a second hand sewing machine. this was a great achievement to me considering I would use part of that money for my upkeep, pay my sons fees and give some to my mother. With my own sewing machine, I decided to leave my job and start my small business. I couldnt do much considering I had no fabrics to begin with. I settled on a shop verandah and started mending cloths for customers. once in a while I would get good business like sewing school uniforms. Although I left my job, I sometimes get small business from Jitokeze to sew products for their online shop. the money I get from this contract goes into settling my remaining fee arreas because I am yet to clear. Life is much easier  despite the fact that I am still clearing my fee. A day can not pass without me making some cash from my business even after working at Jitokeze. If not for these skills I acquired at Jitokeze, I would probably be still selling charcoal and firewood back in my village and my son wouldnt be in school. I have dreams of expanding my business one day and even from from a verandah to a real shop and even start training other girls interested in fashion design and garment making”

Fighting illiteracy Among vulnerable girls- The story of Susan Chenang’at

“My name is Susan Chepengat from Morpus. One year ago I joined Jitokeze wafrika to learn fashion design and garment making under the girl empowerment program. I had never been to school before thus I had no skills in writing and reading. Jitokeze did not discriminate me based on this weakness but took it as the starting point in transforming my life. I got enrolled in the adult and continuing education where I started training reading and writing. I would attend this class twice a week and the rest of the other days in fashion design classes. Unlike other students, I used to be given oral exams and all the questions had to be read out loud and interpreted to facilitate my understanding and provide appropriate answers which the examiner would have to write for me. I didn’t feel comfortable because I would feel others were laughing at me especially when I give a wrong answer. My trainers were patient with me and they kept on encouraging me. Slowly by slowly, I started reading and scribbling things on my own. I started asking my trainers for more homework to perfect my newly acquired skills and before long I started sitting exams like other students. My performance improved greatly and I gained confidence in myself again. Since I could take measurements well and perform simple calculations, my sewing improved as well. I feel more confident to even sit for the national literacy exams in July this year to get a proficiency certificate in basic reading, writing and numeracy. Apart from this I am also planning to register for the National industrial Training Authority exams once I get the required examination fees. All these would never have been possible if jitokeze had not believed in me and given me this opportunity despite my background.”

From A tobacco seller to a reformed Peace Ambassador- The Story Of Yarangiro Kaitalel.

kaitalele Yarangiro

“When I Joined Korosion Self Help group, I was a tobacco seller something that had made all my neighbors despise me and my family as well. My wife who was the group chair lady then encouraged me to join the group and work with other farmers. Having no friends, because of my business, I saw this as a good idea and an opportunity to redeem my image. I did not leave my business though but got interest in keeping poultry. I started buying a chicken or two each market day and started rearing them. As my savings grew, I qualified for a loan which at first I wanted to invest in my tobacco business. I was however persuaded by other farmers and my trainer Edmond and decided to farm water melons instead. Unlike selling tobacco, farming was labor intensive and time consuming but I was happy because other farmers in my group were always supporting me whenever I needed help Through the SHG Peace and conflict resolution module, I saw the need of changing my business for the good of the community. In as much as tobacco was fetching me good money, it was breaking families and making wives and children go hungry and lack basic needs. I stopped selling tobacco and focused on farming as well as poultry keeping. I also started attending church services and came to appreciate loving others and doing good always. I started paying more attention to my family and even started helping my wife back at home something I would never have done in the past. I also started encouraging other men to love their families. I would attend chief’s barazas to encourage other to embrace each other and live in harmony. Through my peace initiatives, I met elders of the Marakwet community and persuaded them to work with Pokot farmers and have a common farming project. This was meant to reduce animosity between the two communities and make them see each other’s importance. This approach has not only brought peace but has increased food production in the area as well. I was also appointed the Joint meeting chairman heading a total of 33 Self Help Groups with a total of 495 members from four sublocations in Lomut ward. This forum has also made it possible for me to preach peace and for the groups to work together towards achieving development. I am happy and I thank God for SHG which has transformed me and changed my beliefs. I have learnt to be neat and even dress decently. I have learned to respect women especially my wife and above all I have learned that it doesn’t matter how much money one makes, what matters is how many lives one changes.”

From classroom to Farming-The story of Elizabeth Chelimo

I joined Chemwok Self help group in 2018 and one year down the line I have seen a lot of benefits. Despite being a primary teacher, I realized there was a lot that I did not know. Through our trainer Edmond, I learnt how to keep poultry, cultivate my farm and be part of a group. I channeled water to my farm and planted some bananas, mangoes and sugar canes. I also planted cow peas, spider herbs and clotoraria for home consumption. My green grams however dried due to lack of enough water. Due to the ongoing drought, we have limited the amount of water we channel to the farms to ensure we have sufficient for home and animals consumption. After being trained on sustainable Agriculture, I decided to start using manure as opposed to the inorganic fertilizers that are not only expensive but also harmful to the soil. Apart from farming, I have also started a small food café. I accesses a loan from my group and used it to open the café. I have also ventured into poultry project to cushion myself in case one of my projects stalls. So far I have a total of 30 chickens although I have not improved my breed from the indigenous breed.  I sometimes sell the chickens to get some chicken feeds and to settle some bills when need arises.  Poultry project has been very beneficial because I also get eggs for home consumption especially when I can not access any vegetable due to time constraints.

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