Making progress despite the pandemic

October 2020 Update - More Food, Better Food: Empowering Kenyan Women Farmers

Farmers Helping Farmers gratefully acknowledges the support of Global Affairs Canada. 

At project onset, we were fortunate to have personnel available to move from other work to implement this project, and we hired a human nutritionist. We had done many of the project activities in other Kenyan communities, so the project had a smooth and productive start. 

 So far, we have installed 320 water tanks, distributed solar lights to all members of the eight women’s groups, and established 140 vegetable grow bags at women’s homes. 

As of August 31, 2020, we have planted demonstration plots of lucerne (alfalfa) at 42 farms, spanning 20 of 22 dairy training groups and demonstrated compost-making for four women’s groups. 

During those on-farm activities, the project nutritionist has provided the project participants and their extended families with training and participatory cooking demonstrations to promote infant and young child nutrition.  

We have built cookhouses at all five of the project schools, and are currently establishing screened, irrigated gardens at each of the schools.

These project activities have strengthened the independence and self-sufficiency of our partners and reduced the need for the women to go out from their farms for necessities, thus reducing their risk of exposure to COVID:

  • Water is available from project rainwater collection tanks.
  • Vegetable grow bags reduce the need to go to market for vegetables.
  • Solar lights reduce the need to go out for paraffin for lamps or charge mobile phones.
  • Cookstoves reduce the need to gather wood. 
  • Increased farm-grown and stored cow feed reduces travel to get forages for cows.
  • Hermetic (airtight) sealed bags preserve staple foods against insect damage, reducing visits to markets.

In addition to reducing exposure to COVID, these project activities all reduce costs for project participants, at a time when many have lost income due to the pandemic. 

Fortunately the virus has not been widespread in Meru County to date, but the partners’ lives are being affected by health restrictions such as the curfew, the closing of schools, and travel restrictions.  

Many of the money earners in the families lost their jobs.  Children are all home from school, missing school lunch programs.  Food markets were disrupted.  Children were sent home to the farms from Nairobi for grandparents (or aunts and uncles) to care for and feed.  

Adapting the Project to COVID

In response to the pandemic, the Kenyan government indicated in March 2020 that meetings were not permitted.  We had to adjust our activities from the group training that we had planned, to training project participants at their homes so that their health would be protected.  

Often, these on-farm training sessions have included members of extended families, rather than just the individual women who are members of a project partner group.  The project nutritionist attended 56 of these family meetings and demonstrated how to feed small children better and improve their diets using the vegetables they had on the farm.  

We are very fortunate that we have not had to cut back on our program. We are fortunate that this project has provided many things that these families needed – the most fundamental of which was water. 

Although our Kenyan personnel have been able to maintain a strong pace of work, COVID-19 will limit our volunteer travel to Kenya for the time being.  Clearly we will not be travelling there in 2021.  However, we are hopeful that we might be able to have volunteers return to Meru County in 2022. 

Farmers Helping Farmers gratefully acknowledges the support of Global Affairs Canada. 

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