Report on Kageni Womens Group
By Winston Johston
Three years ago, this project commenced to bring relief and a measure of prosperity to members of the Kageni Womens Group. Located in what is locally referred to as the ‘deep interior’, these women lived in a community which had never experienced any type of outside aid. Not only did they experience economic distress, and a lack of food security, school attendance was low. This lack of schooling was being experienced most by the girl children with attendance in elementary schools showing about 20% fewer girls than boys when ideally the ratio should have been 50/50.
Prior to approval of the project, volunteers from Farmers Helping Farmers visited the area, in both 2017 and 2018, to complete a community needs assessment. The farm families were found to be in need of most things, and by the end of 2018, sufficient funds from the Rotary Clubs in Nova Scotia and PEI had been donated to commence the project, supported by Rotary International with partially matching United States funds.
By the time the project was approved, with changing exchange rates, the total amount of money donated approached $100,000 Canadian. Farmers Helping Farmers were responsible for ensuring all training and resources were delivered at cost.
Initially the Kageni executive received training on both their responsibilities in the project, and the proper operations of a self-help group. The group's executive spent a day at the Heritage Hotel in Nkubu, and all were enthusiastic in the project as this hotel meeting was a first for some. The management training was delivered by FHF staff and by members of the Rotary Club of Nkubu and Meru county staff. The Kageni members had never been a part of such training, and those responsible from the RC Nkubu quickly announced the first rule of the project’s training sessions – “All cell phones off”.
Nutrition sessions were also held by UPEI nutrition students early in the project, and the Kageni members began to practice their message especially on using soaked maize and beans, as well as not taking tea with their meals.
All 50 Kageni members, including about six male members, received a water tank and drip lines, protective fencing and tools for vegetable production, but before anything was delivered, all went to a field day at the Nyeri County demonstration farm on the other side of Mount Kenya.
This was a memorable trip for many women who had never ventured far from home. Here they witnessed drip lines in operation, and many were surprised at the variety of vegetables being produced - especially so many different varieties of vegetable. Previous to this, members were not aware of the different kinds of each vegetable, e.g., not all onions or tomatoes are the same.
Prior to year one’s growing season, vegetable nurseries were established and all members had access to sufficient transplants for their family’s needs. By the end of year one’s rainy season, all members had tanks of water and working drip lines. Most women were amazed at the change in their gardens that a steady supply of water brought about.
Training sessions were held on family relationships, the importance of the education of children, and the importance of transmitting their learned lessons to neighbours who could not be accommodated in the training sessions.
Instructions of protective measures to reduce the probability of COVID-19 infections were provided, as were face masks, soaps for hand washing, and a family water filter. Water filters were provided as in some instances, as river water was being consumed.
Financial literacy of members was improved by their training on the use of FHF-developed farm account books. At each training session, some instructors were drawn from Rotarians from Nkubu. Salome Ntinyari from FHF, organized most of the training sessions and members acknowledged much appreciated to FHF for their interest. Members expressed a desire to see the farming area where Salome grew up, and all received an invitation to spend a day on Real Kimathi’s farm (Salome’s mother). Members brough food from their farms and this was prepared for lunches.
The Kageni executive received a final training session when they travelled to the Mwende Women’s Group, and the two executives spend the day discussing how self-help groups should operate. By discussing collectively,and individually by executive responsibility, the Kageni members felt they were better prepared to properly operate their group.
COVID-19 interrupted training to a degree, but all subjects were covered, although dispensation had to be received from the Meru County officials to have groups larger than ten members. This was accomplished by having the members trained in three groups, with observance of the COVID-19 guidelines set by the government of Kenya and the Ministry of Health. Face masks and hand washing soap were distributed, and best practices for using these demonstrated. A water filter was supplied to all families, much needed as some families were using river water for household needs
The final Kageni discussion session was held with members of the RC Nkubu and county of Meru officials. County representatives were from the Agriculture and Microfinance Departments. The agriculture officials agreed to follow up on the group’s activities, and offered to provide additional training as required. Microfinance officials agreed to provide additional table banking, and microfinance training as may be required. If approved, Kageni members then may quality for small loans at a very low-interest rate.
Not all data could be collected on the success of the project, and the most distressing loss of data was that of characterizing the project’s influence on education of the community’s children. Schools were closed for most of 2020, and since, have been closed for some of 2021. It is hoped that Rotarians in the area will be able to collect sufficient data on school attendance and exam marks to draw conclusions of project influences on member and non-member students.
At the present time, all reports have been submitted to Rotary International and an on-site audit is expected soon. When this is completed, the project will end with the Kageni women in the future much better prepared to look after their families and community.
By Winston Johnston
Food Empowerment of Kenyan Farm Women
A new three year project, entitled Food Empowerment of Kenyan Farm Women, is being launched in 2019 by the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty on P.E.I. Farmers Helping Farmers will provide the project with their resources and technical expertise now in Kenya.
The project will help women in Nkubu, Kenya, become self sustaining through the purchase of gardening tools, water storage tanks, and, just as important, training in the growing of vegetable crops for use and sale.
The Nkubu Project has the $87,000 of financing in place and work will start very soon.
Rotary club member Winston Johnston, a lifetime achievement member of Farmers Helping Farmers spent three years getting this project started and approved.
"A big congratulations needs to go to Winston for getting this project up and running," said Tom Campbell of the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty, the sponsor club.
"This is a Rotary International Global Grant, which means Rotarians around the world are supporting the initiative."
This project is being managed by the Rotary Club of Nkubu, Kenya.
This project has evolved from an earlier Rotary project in Kenya which evaluated the vegetable production methods which will be applied to this new project.
"The previous district project was very successful with significant enthusiasm shown by the Kenyan farm women," said Winston Johnston.
"Food empowerment refers to the empowerment of farm women to increase their knowledge and skills to produce, store, manage or use, and to sell foods surplus to family needs."
"The goal is to empower women in Kenya for economic gain to be able to sell food surplus to fulfill daily needs, and to pay school fees to educate their children for a positive future."
"The women farmers will be active participants of the project by taking part in all aspects of the work," Campbell said.
Farmers Helping Farmers with many years of experience in Kenya farming will be supporting the project by providing their experienced trainers in Kenya.
The Rotary Clubs of Charlottetown Royalty, Summerside, Kentville, Wolfville-Mudcreek, Rotary District of 7820 (PEI, NS, NL, and St. Pierre & Miquelon) and Rotary International are all contributing to the $87,900 project.