By David Njagi
A new project is uniting farmers in Kenya’s Rift Valley through communal agriculture, a move that could prevent future conflict over resources.
The project, funded by the Japanese government through the World Bank is targeting 3,400 women farmers in Molo and Kitui, for the next three years.
With an initial grant of US$ 3 million (about Ksh. 255 million), women will be subsidized to access more opportunities in agriculture such as access to markets and new technologies.
“But they have to work together in communal groups,” says says Esther Mwaura, the Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood (GROOTS) Kenya, national coordinator. “This will create peace networks.
The project, Accelerating Rural Women’s Access to Agricultural Markets and Trade is encouraging farmers to tap into agriculture, dairy farming as well as cottage investments such as chicken rearing.
According to Molo District Commissioner, Julius Kavita, the project is a perfect approach to bring peace to the region which has proved elusive every time Kenya goes to the polls.
“It is a fact that 85 per cent of projects led by women usually succeed,” says Kavita. “If such projects were in place previously violence would not have erupted because it makes households work collectively.”
According to him, the project leaders have confirmed that the project has no political influence and that it is meant to equip women on agriculture value addition skills to keep off exploitative brokers.
The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) confirms its stake in the project where the research institution committed to subsidizing women with grade chicken from its Naivasha station through mobile phone technology.
“KARI will help in the processing and sourcing for markets for the women,” says Dr. Mabel Mahasi, the KARI center director, Molo. “The women will also benefit from our new research approach in which we are working with grassroots groups.”
By investing in alternatives such as horticulture, the project is expected to give the women an edge over controversial land inheritance issues and position them to benefit from new opportunities like micro finance.
“Farmers have suffered for long because of maize diseases,” says D. Mary Kamau, the director of agriculture in charge of extension. “Kenya is a center of excellence in daily farming in East Africa.”
According to her Ministry, agriculture contributes directly about 26 per cent of GDP and 60 per cent of export earnings, while it employs nearly 75 per cent of the population.