Rethink What You Know About Women’s Conservation Groups

Women groups in Laikipia have played a significant role in community development and conservation of our natural resources. Blessed Women’s Group from Matanya is one such group that continues to empower surrounding communities, and commendably churning out smart water farmers. These women have seen how water can be a cause of conflict and strife and are on a mission to ensure that their farming practices do not hinder water conservation efforts. They are part of the Laikipia Irrigation Acceleration Platform (IAP) of which the Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership is the secretariat.

The IAP in Laikipia County is making great strides in water management for the small-holder agriculture sector. The Platform was established in May this year by the Smart Water for Agriculture Program of SNV (Netherlands Development Organisation). This Project aims to increase income and food security for households around the county. The Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership (MKEWP) is supported by an LWF secretariat.

Halima Mohammed, Secretary of Blessed Women’s Group, together with 20 other members were recently supported by MKEWP to attend a Kisima field day. We caught up with them to find out more about their activities, and how similar platforms have played a key role in actualising their water conservation efforts.

LWF: Tell us about Blessed Women’s Group:
Halima Mohammed (HM) on behalf of Blessed women’s Group: (laughing)…..There is a lot to say about us! We are currently 30 members all living in Matanya. I joined the group over 5 years ago so these women are like my sisters. We all make a living off the farming that we engage in so that we can support our families and take our children to school. We realised that we needed to become more organised so that we can participate in discussions around water conservation. We knew we can make a difference in the way we use water, after all, we are 30 members in the group but truthfully we are almost 150 if you count all our family members……those are many water ambassadors!
LWF: Are all 30 members of the group women?
HM: Yes, initially that was how we were structured. But one of our members passed away… that was a very sad day for all of us. She left behind a family. Her husband insisted on continuing his wife’s work. He felt strongly about being a part of us and wanted his children to continue learning about water conservation, so now he is officially part of our group!
LWF: And what do you farm?
HM: We all plant vegetables like sukuma, spinach, maize, potatoes and tomatoes depending on the season. Some of us have a dairy cow or two that provide milk for the family. The excess is sold. But it is not always easy trying to get our produce to market and that is why we were so excited to join Laikipia’s IAP because they give us a lot of information on market linkages for our produce.
LWF: If we were attending a Kisima field day 10 years from now, what would your participation look like?
HM: We will have a stand of our own and a demonstration field…if they would allow us. We would use our participation to talk about Smart Water Irrigation and the importance of water storage. Take today for example, it is raining very heavily! Most members of the women’s group have installed various structures to harvest rain water but many members of our community do not invest in these structures, and in the end face many problems during dry spells. And of course we would have one of these tractors….(laughs)…that would be wonderful!
But today has been a great day and we have learnt so much and talked to other farmers that are facing similar challenges. Exchange of ideas is always fruitful.
LWF: What advice would give young women who want to succeed in farming and community engagement?
HM: Get organised! You can do so much when you work as an organised group; we have seen this first hand. Also, young women should not fear asking questions and getting involved in issues such as conservation. For many years our men are the ones that spearheaded such activities, we see that in even the way our WRUAS are structured, but this is changing! We have learnt that without our input, discussions and decisions made are not inclusive. Many of us women are out in the shambas farming and running our households, if we are not contributing to important discussions about conservation and how we live then others will make for us and that is not good for the community.

Important MKEWP Update:

We are honoured to announce that the Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership’s Flora and Fauna International proposal to the Darwin initiative has been approved. The UK£ 400,000 project will run for the next four years and is as a result of an integrated community development effort that will focus on the communities surrounding Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The Water Conservation component will be implemented in partnership with the MKEWP.

Launch of the Project’s work plan, and collaborative actions will commence this September.

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