More Food, Better Food: Empowering Kenyan Women Farmers

October 2020

By Teresa Mellish

Six new cookhouses with school gardens have been built in Meru County in the last six months, since the COVID-19 pandemic started.   Each cookhouse includes three large fuel-efficient stoves, a place to store maize and beans, as well as an area to serve food to the pupils. 

Five of the cookhouses were funded by the Global Affairs Canada (GAC)  funded project, More Food. Better Food:  Empowering Kenyan Women Farmers.  The sixth cookhouse was funded by the 2019 Village Feast. 

We took advantage of the circumstances we are in to get the construction done while there was nobody at the Kenyan schools, which have been closed since March due to the pandemic. 

The cookhouses funded by GAC have been built at the Kirimara Primary School, Kiborione Primary School, Kibirichia Primary School,  Murinya Primary School and Maritati Primary School. 

The cookhouse funded by the Village Feast is at the Michogomone Secondary School.   

All of the schools funded by GAC have more than 300 children between Primary class up to grade 8. One school has almost 500 children. 

The meals are prepared with support from a 4-way partnership, including the parents, the school, Farmers Helping Farmers and Global Affairs Canada, or the Village Feast in the case of Michogomone School.  

The cookhouses will be used to prepare githeri, a stew made of maize and beans, for the mid-day lunch for the pupils and teachers, plus a mid-morning porridge.

The school gardens will provide vegetables for the meal. The parents will provide the maize and beans.  The school will run the program. 

We understand that pupils in grades 4 and 8 as well as form 4  (grade 12)  are going back to school on October 19, 2020. The rest of the students are expected to go back to classes in early January. 

When  the schools are back to capacity, the project nutritionist will offer training to parents on nutritious ways to prepare food. 

Farmers Helping Farmers gratefully acknowledges the support of Global Affairs Canada and the Village Feast.

Here is an update from Project Co-Manager Teresa Mellish.
May 25, 2020

Imagine when Catherine Kathambi wakes up in the morning and has to get her 5 beautiful grandchildren ready to go to school. She is a widow and they all depend on her.  She lives in Mboroga (near Meru)  on ½ acre of land and  she makes uji  (porridge)  for them  for breakfast but she has run out of water.  There is a standpipe in her community so she takes her 20 litre jerry can and goes to the standpipe.  She joins the queue to get her can filled- but as she gets close to having her turn at the standpipe, the water stops.  No more water for today. 

Catherine Kathambi stands beside her new 5000 litre water tank at her home in Mboroga. Her grandchildren are sitting on the tank base:  Elda Kajuju  (10 years),  Hyvin Gatwiri (12 years  holding 2 year old neighbor Shan Makena ),  Trizah Nkatha    ( 13 years),  Brian Mutuma ( 9 years) and . Kelvin Mutethia  (6 years)

The only other water she can get is from a near-by stream; even though she knows the water is not clean, she hopes for the best and heads for the stream to fill her jerry can and carries it home. 

She makes the uji, gets her grandchildren cleaned up and sends them off to school. They are late for school and will be punished for being late. 

Then she realizes that she has some laundry to do, so she heads back to the stream and fills her jerry can again so she can do her laundry and hang it out to dry. 

During the afternoon she makes three more trips to the stream to get water so she can cook supper for her family.  By the end of the afternoon her back is sore. She has spent half of her day hauling water home for household use. She had no time to weed her field or her kitchen garden. 

Now imagine how her day looks when she has a 5000 litre water tank in her yard.  She has clean water to cook her food; her grandchildren will be clean and will get to school on time.  She can set her laundry to soak while she goes out and weeds her garden for an hour. Her kale  in her grow bag is  growing nicely so she can include it in her supper menu.  Her orange flesh sweet potatoes are growing well so she harvests a few and cooks them so her children can have them for breakfast the next morning. 

She has time to go to the field and weed her maize as well as her potato crop which she plans to sell for much needed cash. 

She harvests and stores the rain water. When the rain water runs out she can run a hose to the standpipe and fill her tank at night (when there is no other demand for it)   on the two days a week it is available.   She will share the water she has with her family members and neighbours. 

With funding from Global Affairs Canada , Farmers Helping Farmers has installed 324 water tanks at the homes of the members of 7 womens groups.  Farmers Helping Farmers signed a contract in September for the project entitled: More Food. Better Food. Empowering Kenya Women Farmers. Knowing that access to water is the most urgent need of farm families, we assigned four of our Kenyan personnel to start installing water tanks in November. By the end of March, 324 tanks were installed.  Each of the 324 women paid for the costs of the base for the water tanks to sit on. 

This project provides for support and training for farm families to improve food security  which we do with the members of 8 womens groups, 3 dairies and 5 schools.   When COVID-19 hit Kenya, the Government of Kenya directed that no group gatherings were allowed  (same as here in PEI).  We directed our personnel to work only with individuals and we prioritized their work on vegetable production.  They were establishing vegetable seedling  nurseries for each of the groups- so they would have seedlings to transplant into grow bags.  Then the women would not have to go to the crowded markets to buy vegetables. 

Kenya has 1161 confirmed cases of COVID-19  and until this week, Meru County had  no confirmed cases. However this week they have confirmed two cases.   We are at least happy that the members of the 8 womens groups have access to water at their homes.

FHF has directed our personnel to stay at home for the time being. 

FHF is doing the work we can do balancing this with the safety of our staff and the members of the womens groups and dairies. 

Because of COVID-19, we are very sad that we have to cancel our fund raising barbecue in August. We are equally saddened that the Village Feast has to cancel its fund raising feast in July.  

We will certainly continue to need the support of Islanders and our donors. 

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

January 2020

FHF has signed an agreement with Global Affairs Canada for a four-year project with $1 million in federal funding.

The project, More Food, Better Food: Empowering Kenyan Women Farmers, will combine the full range of our proven approaches to improve food security and nutrition of hundreds more farm families.

More Food, Better Food will require us to attain a new level of volunteer involvement and donor support.

Over the four years, 49 volunteers will be needed for three week placements in Kenya, and over $250,000 will need to be raised to contribute FHF’s share of the project’s cash needs.