UN agencies collaborative efforts help empower women and maintain peace in Kenyan provinces

21/08/2013 - 

The UK ambassador to the the three Rome based agencies FAO-IFAD-WFP, Neil Briscoe, recently undertook a visit to Mwingi, Kenya to see the joint project addressing gender inequalities in Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience building. 

The purpose of the visit was to show how partnership by the three UN agencies in collaboration with the government of Kenya and Action Aid is benefiting from each other’s comparative advantage and positively affecting lives of hitherto food insecure households.  

Different farmer groups, among them Kithethesyo, Katiliku, and Kaithango, have greatly benefited in terms of enhanced crop and livestock husbandry capacity employed by the Farmer Field and Life School (FFLS) initiative. The FFLS is a form of adult education based on the concept that people learn from field observations, testing and discussing the dynamics of small livestock and crop ecosystems from the early development to maturity stage following the seasonal production calendar. In addition, the activities under this initiative have contributed to enhancing peace building in the conflict affected areas within Mwingi.

Robert Allport, FAO Representative in Kenya, noted that the FFLS project uses the Human Ecosystem Analysis (HESA) in combination with the Agro Ecosystem Analysis (AESA)  where trained facilitators explain and analyse  human health and social problems through analogies with plant and animal problems. “Special group activities encourage learning from peers, thereby strengthening the communicative skills of the participants and encouraging group building.” he said.

Kyuso, which is situated in a low rainfall area is characterized by high prevalence poverty and food insecurity. “This has resulted into frequent resource based conflicts, particularly between the farmers of Mwingi and pastoralists from the neighboring Tana River county”, according to the area deputy county commissioner Peter Maina. “The conflicts increase food insecurity because they occur in areas considered to be fertile and most appropriate for crop production.” Maina observed that activities implemented under the joint project have significantly contributed to enhancing peace in the affected areas.

Queen Katembu, FAO Kenya gender officer says the FFLS approach has promoted gender equality and improved relations among the residents of Kyuso as they have been able to work together towards the common goal of improving food security and nutrition for their families and therefore building peace amongst themselves and within their homes. “The impact has been tremendous as the approach has helped strengthen social re-integration and proved to be a powerful tool for peace building, reconciliation and reconstruction of social cohesion between different ethnic groups,” she confirms.

FFLS help empower women

Among the project sites the UK ambassador visited the Katiliku FFLS, which is a group with twenty two members who are engaging in small scale irrigation and water harvesting. The project has enabled the members to increase vegetable production, leading to improvement of household incomes. Meanwhile, the group members have gained knowledge on the use of drip irrigation, terracing for soil conservation, as well as sustainable use of shallow wells to enhance the availability of water for crop production. Although there are few male members, the group is predominantly comprised of women. With growing income, the group notes that they now need financial management training. The members are now able to make their own food, which is a major contribution to addressing food security. 

In Kaithango FFLS, the thirteen group members are practicing sack gardening. Through women empowerment trainings, the women in the group have discovered they can take up leadership roles even in their households. “We have learnt that our rights as women derive from the constitution of Kenya - which is gender sensitive - and we are now empowered to elect women leaders,” says Josephine Kyenza, the group leader.

Asked whether the FFLS programme is benefiting them, the group unanimously agreed on the importance of sharing the lessons they have learnt with their children so that they can learn at an earlier age. Capacity building and promotion of peer training combined with FFLS activities among local populations have created a spill-over effect. “We have become role models to our children,” Josephine confidently says.

The FFLS initiative is contributing towards poverty reduction, peace building, food security and promotes gender equality in Kenya. At the end of his visit, Briscoe applauded the successful collaboration between the three UN Agencies and on a light note asked them to apply for next UN Rome-Based Agencies (RBAs)  collaboration award.  

Submitted by: Madegwa Emah
FAO Office: FAO Kenya
Country: Kenya