By Mary Mwendwa
In the dusty , dry and hot landscapes of Lenkobei village in Kajiado County in Kenya, a group of women have decided to beat all odds and empower themselves economically and socially through smart farming.
Emaiyanata Self Help Group is a symbol of hope and resilience in the semi-arid Kajiado County, where drought brings devastating catastrophes to the pastoralist community of the Maasai people. They started farming last year 2014, tomatoes, onions , bananas,cassava and kales which have seen them transform their lives drastically.
“As women in this arid region of Lenkobei we sat down and decided to engage in farming to supplement our livestock which we are never sure of when drought hits. See now it has been so dry since last year, all cows have been taken to the Nguruman hills where they can get some pasture and water from the hills. Horticulture farming has proved to us that we can empower ourselves economically and take our children to school. Drought has proved to be the order of the day in this region, this has made it very difficult to keep many livestock as they die in the process.” says Sipion Ene Leketony, member of the group.
The one and half acre farm has consistent water supply from Nguruman Hills stored in a dug pond of capacity 120 cubic metres and pumped through a solar system that fills a 5000 litre tank for the drip irrigation system technology used.
Saaloi Leshashi, chair , Emayainata Self Help group views the project as God sent.As the name suggests “A blessing in maasai language”,”we have seen lives ttransformed here in this Lenkobei village .we also have livestock but we cannot depend on them entirely, when drought hits their prices drop so low that we count our loses bitterly.”She sighs.Saaloi testifies that climate change effects are real and cannot be taken for granted anymore.She thanks those who came to their rescue through technical support and training that has seen the farming project survive.”We have poor road network here and therefore we even sale our produce locally and therefore don’t lose on profit margins.Our diet has been improved too, we get vitamins and the tomatoes serve as fruits at household level.”
According to Anthony Bainito,Ward Agricultural Extension officer, Magadi Ward,”Emanayata group is just an example of how communities can build resilience through climate smart farming.I trained them and I can testify the fruits are seen.This is a pastoralist community and now they are embracing crop farming, at first it was not easy to convince them, but slowly they are accepting.Drip irrigation has been the best technology in this water stressed region.With the limited water supply farmers are able to irrigate using little water for their farms.” Anthony has received several requests from other groups who are interested to farm to be trained.”This is very encouraging to us in field work”.
Joseph Ntiiti,Chief,lenkobei says that poverty and illiteracy high levels are some of the challenges facing his people.He would like to see his farmers receive exchange field trips to other regions for them to learn modern farming methods practically.”We are tired of persistent drought and the only way we can run from this is to diversify our way of life and venture into farming.”He concludes.
The group ekes almost 28,000 every month from sale of the produce which is saved as a revolving fund to help the members in times of need like when they have school fees challenges.
The women project which has received massive support from men, aims at enhancing nutritious food production at household level,creating awareness on food production technologies , enhance income generation and to create employment opportunities for both youth and women.
According to 2014 drought outlook report, the Government of Kenya declared an impending drought with an estimated 1.6 million people affected. After a poor performance of the long rains between March and May 2014 in the arid and semi-arid zones, the drought situation continued to affect both pastoral and marginal agriculture livelihood zones (the North Western, Northern, North Eastern, South Eastern and parts of Coast) with an impact on households’ food availability as well as livestock productivity. This has continued to exacerbate in many dry regions like Kajiado county.
The group started farming last year through technical support of Arid Information Network (Alin),Act Change Transform (ACT) ,Swedish embassy and UKaid with land donated by Shompole group Ranch.