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Same profession - two worlds - with the board of Bavarian rural women association in Kenya

06. 03. 2023

More than five years ago, the rural women of the BBV started their commitment in Kenya. Have we been successful so far? Have we been able to promote the women's ability to act and their self-confidence? For one week, state farmer Christine Singer, her two deputies Christine Reitelshöfer and Christiane Ade, the new elected regional farmers Rita Götz (Upper Palatinate), Claudia Erndl (Lower Bavaria), Beate Opel (Upper Franconia), the director of the rural women's department,Dr. Andrea Fuß and  project manager Angelika Eberl exchanged their experiences with women and men in Kenya.

 

The international cooperation between Bavarian and Kenyan rural women has now been running for over 5 years. Under the motto "Same profession - Two worlds", BBV-LIZ supports Kenyan women with special training offers and cross-national knowledge exchange between rural women from Bavaria and Kenya in the areas of interest representation, income generation and nutrition education.

In order to sustainably improve the living conditions of Kenyan rural women, a strong association capable of acting is needed. The aim of the second project phase, which ends at the end of March, was to put the Kenyan rural women's association "WoFaAK," which was founded in the first project phase, on a stable footing.

The aim of the current trip was to talk to women about changes on their farms and in their living situation and to hear, how far the establishment of the Kenyan rural women's association has progressed. To this end, we visited women farmers on their farms and attended meetings of the county associations in western Kenya and the national board of WoFaAK in Nairobi. We also spoke with representatives of the German Embassy, the Andreas Hermes Academy and the Green Innovation Center about their work.
 

First visit: The German Embassy in Nairobi

At the meeting with Daniel Günther, Head of the Economic Cooperation and Development Unit at the German Embassy in the capital Nairobi, the focus was on the challenges in Kenya and the coordination of German Development Cooperation by the German Embassy. The main goals are to support the rural economy in order to stem the rural exodus and to increase productivity in agriculture in order to ensure food security. Here, too, the effects of climate change are already being felt: In some regions of Kenya, five rain seasons in a row have failed. Farmers have to adapt to this. In this context, Mr. Günther emphasized the importance of projects with partners of the civil society - such as the Bavarian rural women association - to give rural people prospects for the future. He was very impressed by our commitment and the results. He said that we rural women had good and credible access to rural women - the most important prerequisite for a constructive dialog at eye level.

Dt. Botschaft in Nairobi mit Daniel Günther

Our delegation in front of the German Embassy together with Daniel Günther.

 

Second Visit: Two Farms in Western Kenya

We visited two of these women in western Kenya. In Siaya County, Monica Ojee, a widow with three workers, manages her 3-ha farm growing maize, peanuts, millet and beans. She has four cows that give 10-15 l/day. Monica delivers the milk to a cooperative and gets 50 shillings/l (38 cents) for it. On the free market she would get 70 shillings/l (54 cents), but she would have to market it herself, which is not profitable for her. With the milk money she pays her workers and the concentrated feed for the cows. Since attending our agribusiness training, she has been successfully fattening 200 chickens every 4 weeks. She is marketing the chicken successfully via WhatsApp. Once they are ready for selling, Monica sends a short note to her neighbours and customers.

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On Monica's farm: short rest in front of the kitchen and the supply store.

 

"I have learned through the BBV-LIZ trainings, above all, to keep regular records of income and expenses, about the daily amount of milk, about the pregnancy of my cows and so on." 
Monica is a member of the WoFaAK board and advices two selfhelp groups with whom she shares the knowledge she has learned.

bei monica im Garten

Monica collects the fermentation substrate from her small biogas plant in a basin in the garden.

Short distances to distribute the substrate save time and money.

 

We also talked about the hand-over of the farm to the next generation. In Kenya, it is unusual for a farm to be handed over during the lifetime of the owner. In most cases farms are inherited. Due to the usual real division among the heirs, the farms become smaller and smaller and thus unprofitable. Many heirs therefore no longer cultivate the land themselves, but lease or sell it. For this reason, the owners keep their farm until the end - a vicious circle that makes it difficult or impossible for many interested farm successors to have a future in agriculture.

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Monica Ojee in front of her stockpile of her own corn, millet, beans and peanuts packed in bags.

 

Women and families benefit 
Phassy Mbone is chairwoman of the self-help group "Woplah", which supports people infected with AIDS/HIV. She is a member of WoFaAK since 2018. Phassy also sits on the WoFaAK County board in Kakamega as treasurer. "Especially the trainings on income generation and improved nutrition funded by BBV-LIZ help the women and their families", she confirms.
Her farm stands on many legs - fish farming, beekeeping, dairy cows, goats and chickens. Soon, she plans to grow mushrooms. She has already built a dark mud hut for this purpose.

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In the future, Phassy wants to manage her farm organically. To that end, she recently set up a compost processing unit with earthworms to turn compost into fertile soil. "This saves me from buying the expensive fertilizer".

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Phassy is full of ideas and knows how to inspire the members of her self-help groups and encourage them to follow suit. She is currently building a kind of greenhouse to grow traditional African leafy vegetables.


Strengthening women's self-confidence
One day was dedicated to a joint meeting with the three County Chapters of Siaya, Kakamega and Bungoma. We wanted to hear how things had gone so far with the development of the rural women's association. The women were full of praise for the activities offered.

 

kakamega LAVO und countyboards

Alice Ombima from Kakamega proudly explains: "We have learned a lot: We can represent WoFaAK and ourselves with confidence. We can stand in front of people and talk without fainting. We give interviews on radio and television." 

 

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The youth representatives reported that young women had grown a lot as a result of the trainings. 
A systemic change in society is noticeable, they said - the relationship between young men and women is changing.

 

"Now we can pay the school fees for a whole year in advance and thus invest in the future of our children," confirms Carren Odhiambo from Siaya. 
Above all, the training on how to avoid domestic violence has made a big difference. The women now know their rights and who they can turn to if necessary. Through self-organized educational events in the communities, much suffering has been averted. "Even though Bungoma leads the statistics of incidents throughout Kenya, the number of cases is going down," confirms Jacklyne Wabwoba from Bungoma.

 

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The executive committees from Siaya, Kakamega and Bungoma with the BBV Landfrauen.

 

Bringing in and communicating your own experience

The County Boards criticised the WoFaAK National Board: communication with "those at the top" is not going very well. Therefore the County Boards want  a democratically elected representative from each county to join the national board. So far, the national board has consisted of appointed women representatives. We promised the women in western Kenya that we would address the sore points....

 

lavo in nairobi 2

.... which we did in our next point of the agenda. Bavarian and Kenyan national executive committees were meeting on the next two days. It was a very intensive exchange about the tasks and competences of a national board, about legitimacy and democratic elections. There was enough time available. Everyone was able to contribute. Again, we felt the great acceptance for our contributions. Everyone knows that we speak from decades of experience and have lived through many similar situations and mostly solved them well.

 

Strengthening self-confidence and solidarity

Chairlady Christine Singer thanked for the constructive and open atmosphere. "You are really strong women and we know that WoFaAK is in good hands with you. There are problems everywhere, you have to tackle and solve them.  We are looking forward to further cooperation."

 

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First row: Christine Singer, Daphne Muchai, Christine Reitelshöfer and Winifred Murithi.

 

We then talked about future cooperation with Jan Pusdrowski, program manager of the Andreas Hermes Academy (AHA) for Ethiopia and Kenya. The AHA has been supporting the Kenyan farmers' association KENAFF since 2016. Here, there are many points of contact with the Kenyan rural women's association WoFaAK. We want to make our contribution so that synergy effects are recognized and used - while respecting the autonomy of each organization. 

 

jan Pusdrowski

 

Christine Reitelshöfer concluded: "We are proud of our professional colleagues in Kenya and wildly determined to continue".

 

The prospects are good - the third project application is about to be approved. Let's get on with it.