The dirty, thorny, dry and vast land dotted with scattered Manyattas is a true indication of the effects of the current drought on a Kenyan pastoral community in Kajiado County. Located south of Nairobi, the town of Kitengela in Kajiado County has a women-led group that uses a small-scale irrigation project for water management to boost agriculture in this arid region.
Many people here can barely remember the last time they saw rain. “Only God knows when we will have the next rains. We pray day and night … things are not going well here ”, Irene Makui, president of the Nadupoi Olooloitikoshi women’s group begins to tell their story to a group of journalists supported by InfoNile, a joint program of the Initiative of the Nile Basin, based in Uganda. , of which Kenya is a member.
The women’s group owns two acres in the village of Olooloitikoshi. They raise bees, poultry and vegetable vegetables. They use water from a borehole they own to irrigate the vegetables.
Makui says they formed the group in 2015, with 14 women, all of them elderly. They started out by buying goats and saving money. “We realized that as a herding community we had to be unique and we agreed on an agricultural project that will produce vegetables and balance our diet which tends to rely heavily on livestock.
“The community gave us land. Here, the land belongs to the community. We went to the Kajiado County offices to ask for help with water collection. They listened to us and helped us build a water tank and dig a borehole for us. We collect the water and use it for irrigation. The rest is for the cattle. See the trenches for giving water to cows and goats are here.
Makui, a widow with six children and several grandchildren, does not regret having started the agricultural project.
“As a Maasai community, we only believe in raising cattle. Everything else is too much of a fight to embrace, but we are right here raising bees and selling honey to the locals, ”she said. The irregular weather conditions have posed a huge challenge for many ranchers across the country and are disrupting their preferred way of life.
Currently, the Covid-19 pandemic and drought, which was declared a national disaster by President Uhuru Kenyatta, remains a thorn in the flesh for many in the village of Olooloitikosh. “Drought is a major problem. When it strikes most of the cattle die and people get so desperate. We decided to think outside the box and irrigate for extra income. “Ours is to bring change among our women; we don’t want to go through the same problems that our past generations faced. Even if we haven’t gone to school, we can still use our God-given brains to do something.
Janet Koisinget, a mother of eight and a member of the group, says they don’t have the money to buy good irrigation pipes. “We really want to do drip irrigation; but we use containers to spray the farms with water. “It’s so dry, but we’ve planted kale, onions and spinach. We always use cans to sprinkle water on it and our vegetables are growing well.
The women meet twice a month, each member carrying 1000 Sh, which is saved. Money comes in handy when needed, like school fees or household issues.
Koisinget says women in her community are not culturally allowed to own livestock. The men are in charge. The women of the Nadupoi group are elderly, some widows. Many cannot communicate in Swahili, and only five can.
Covid-19 was a disaster for the group as it ruined their sale of milk. “No one could sell milk and no one was buying it,” Koisinget said, adding: “We pray for an end to Covid-19 so that we can get back on our feet.”
Likewise, group member Joyce Sunte praised their work so far. “Despite a few challenges here and there, we are doing well. Mostly, we get water from the borehole and plant vegetables, and at the same time the community here can water their cattle.
Sunte thinks that with more support they will spread out and plant more vegetables. “We don’t have extension services. Even when pests invade our crops, we have no one to talk to … no expert, ”she says.
“We have diversified this project; the bees benefit from the water. They need water and nectar to make honey. Without it, they cannot even enter the beehives, ”she adds.
The National Drought Management Authority, through its August bulletin in Kajiado County, said the average yield for the long rainy season was down 47% from the five-year average. Likewise, the planned area for beans was 10% above the long-term average and the yield below the five-year average of 39%.
The decline in maize production has been attributed to below average rainfall during critical physiological development of the crops. The problem was compounded by the Fall Armyworm. The beans experienced more wet stress and cutworm infestations.
Following the mixed performance of long rains; agricultural production, household access to food and income remained limited by below-average food stocks and income from the sale of crops.
The Covid-19 gender assessment report conducted by the Kenyan government and the UN has shown how the pandemic has impacted many sectors of the economy, including agriculture and agriculture. It showed that household food security was threatened during the pandemic due to declining income, potentially reduced food production and limited market access.
In addition, more women than men had to either eat less, skip a meal (33% and 31%, respectively) or go without food (12% and 10%, respectively).
The worsening of food security problems is the disruption of agricultural value chain activities with a notable decline in access to agricultural inputs affecting a slightly higher proportion of women in urban areas (42%) compared to men. (37%), indicating that the availability and ability to purchase agricultural inputs had decreased.
However, the proportions were relatively similar for rural areas, the two being 45 percent.