A big event - a milestone in the development of the Kenya Rural Women's Association. After long preparations, the first annual general meeting of WoFaAK with over 200 members took place in Nakuru on 14th of September. The atmosphere was great - there were many opportunities to get to know each other and exchange ideas during the meeting. The delegates were positive about the outcomes.
Mr. Charles Mbuthia conducted through the AGM.
The representing rural women adopted amendments to the existing constitution and for the first time elected nine women representatives to the WoFaAK national executive committee. These women will hold office for the next three years. We would like to introduce the nine members of the state board individually.
Lets start with the Chairlady, Ms Winfred Muthoni Murithi, from County Embu.
Winnie Murithi, Chairperson of WoFaAK
Ms Murithi, we congratulate you very much on your election as Chairperson. May we ask a few questions?
What kind of farm do you have?
I am a small-scale farmer. I practice mixed farming of poultry, beekeeping for honey and fish farming. In addition to that, I have fruits such as avocado, macadamia, mangoes and bananas. For crops, I have maize, beans and cowpeas, and I also grow herbs such as lemon grass and rosemary. I do some kitchen gardening for vegetables as well.
As a second mainstay, I am currently introducing the production of clean cooking stove liners to address climate change.
When did you join WoFaAK and how did you learn about it?
I joined WoFaAK in the year 2017. I learnt about it when I was invited by Daphne Muchai, the current WoFaAK Executive Director, to attend a meeting in Nakuru county. The agenda then was to form a women farmer’s organization as a platform to empower them in areas of agriculture mainly focusing on food and nutrition security, as well as income and wealth creation.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for women farmers in Kenya?
In my opinion, the biggest challenges women farmers in Kenya are facing include, but are not limited to the following:
Information gap. Access to information is low. Most women farmers struggle with a high workload and drudgery. This leaves very little time for them to attend forums where new knowledge or skills are acquired. Government extension services of visiting and training farmers at farm level is no longer the norm. So, the new approach now is demand driven and via digital platforms, which women are inadequately accessing. There is a lot to learn on digital platforms.
There is a low capacity to capture agribusiness opportunities.
We have lots of post-harvest losses. Coupled with the poor infrastructure, we struggle with value addition.
Climate change is showing its effects. Coupled with a low capacity of resilience in plants and livestock, that is a big challenge.
Now that you are Chairlady, what are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to unifying existing members and chapters of WoFaAK to move as a team. I want to give members the hope, that WoFaAK is a platform that is a game changer for women farmers‘ lives.
I want to build the capacity of groups in order to address the above listed challenges, while still being conscious of emerging challenges as the world is dynamic.
I want to make a deliberate effort to increase the presence of WoFaAK in more counties by recruiting more women famer groups. Preferably, I’d like that we cover the whole of Kenya in the near future. Also, the existing groups have to be maintained, so that we have a positive impact in real time. A lot of resources will be needed to actualize this.
I want to promote viable bankable enterprises at both national and county chapters for sustainability of WoFaAK. Thus, the development of business plans will be key. I want to achieve that by engaging trainers on entrepreneurship and mentors. The youth will be given a special focus. I want to enable them to create jobs for themselves and create employment for others. As one part of this, I propose to jointly organize with partners an annual youth empowerment forum where they can showcase their innovations.
Last, but not least, I want to maintain good relationships with our existing partners whom we really value, namely the Government of Kenya, BBV-LIZ and Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB). I would also like to seek new partnerships, as synergies from collaboration are a sure way of developing woman farmers in a wholesome manner, while every partner achieves their own objectives.
Allow me to take this opportunity to thank BBV-LIZ and the German Government for according WoFaAK immense support since its inception. The Kenyan women farmers that I represent here are truly appreciative.
I end with our slogan: "WoFaAK - Wamama Wakulima; Wamama Wakulima - lisha ulimwengu".
We congratulate you very much on your election as Chairperson.
Phassy Mmbone, National Board of WoFaAK, Secretary
My name is Phassy Mmbone. I come from Kakamega County and I am the National Secretary of WoFaAK.
I have an agricultural farm where I grow maize, African leafy vegetables, strawberries and mushrooms. I also keep fish and bees.
I joined WoFaAK 2017 and I am one of the pioneers. Back then, I had a training with a group of farmers on how to produce (when to plant, what fertilizers to use, when to harvest, preservation and markets). Our trainer introduced us to the concept of WoFaAK.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for women farmers in Kenya?
One of the biggest problems is money, meaning women hardly get any credit from banks. This coincides with the second problem, land ownership (which is often necessary to get a credit). Because the land belongs to the man/husband, he has control. The woman plants and takes care of the crops, when it comes to harvest and selling, the man still has the last word.
Two other correlating problems are transport and markets. The infrastructure needs a lot of work and motorised means of transportation for goods are hard to get by or expensive. And sometimes you get orders from far away. So, there is a market, but the women have no means to reach it.
Now that you are a member of the National Board, what are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to the work! I want to give back to this child, meaning WoFaAK. I pray that it grows from generation to generation, so that we get to an organisation as big and established as the BBV Landfrauen Association in Bavaria.
We want to follow our mentors. To do that, we have to make sure to put all the necessary means in place where possible, without hindering others. We want WoFaAK to be a model to anybody who wants to join. We have to prepare ourselves to be mentors to others. We shouldn’t have to tell people to come join us. They should want to register themselves.
Florence Kinoti, National Board of WoFaAK, Treasurer
Hello, my name is Florence Kinoti. I represent Meru county and am the Treasurer of WoFaAK.
I do mixed farming. On one hand, I do contract farming on Irish potatoes which I alternate with maize, green peas, cabbages and carrots. On the other hand, I keep some animals on the farm.
I joined WoFaAK in 2019. Daphne and I met in a meeting of the National Potato Council of Kenya, where she introduced me to the organisation.
The cost of farming and the equipment is a problem. Since men hold the title to the land, women can’t access loans to finance it.
Another problem is the access to knowledge. Only if you can join a group of farmers, you can learn from each other and participate in group trainings. Women, who don’t have that opportunity, suffer.
Being elected as treasurer of the National Board, my goal is to find out how we can do financial mobilisation. I want to reach more women on the grassroots, through trainings and seminars and trade fairs, and teach them how they can access loans.
I would also like to establish more contract framing, because it is best, knowing who will buy your crops.
Regarding climate change, I want to address the access to water. I would like to finance water pumps, tanks and drip kits for the women, so they can do drip irrigation. This takes very little water, and they would be able to have crops throughout the year and reach continuity in production.
Millicent, Ogola, Vice Chair of the WoFaAk National Board.
My name is Millicent Ogola. I come from Siaya county and am Vice Chair of the National Board.
On my farm, I do dairy farming. I started small scale, but now have already 6 dairy cows. I want to keep enlarging my stock. Also, I grow groundnuts.
I joined WoFaAK in 2017. Janet Omolloh came to our farmers group and promoted the concept.
When I registered, WoFaAK taught us many things - from nutrition to leadership, governance and more. We had the chance of coming together with other groups and exchange ideas. Angelika Eberl visited my farm and in 2019, BBV-LIZ gave me the opportunity to visit Germany, where I stayed on a Bavarian farm and learned a lot.
It’s a real problem to get access to clean water for cattle. Also, poor seed stocks are an issue. For example, did we receive fodder seeds that were not drought resistant. Another problem is the lack of technological know-how, needed to improve rural livelihoods.
I want to have a close eye on development from the National tier down to the Chapters.
I would like the chapters to get bigger. At the moment we are growing from the chapters.
My name is Antoninah Kagwiria, I come from Tharaka-Nithi County. At WoFaAK, I am the youth representative in Tharaka Nithi Chapter and now also the youth representative of the national executive committee.
What kind of farm do you have?I am a farmer and right now doing pig farming.
When did you join WoFaAK and how did you learn about it?I joined WoFaAK a year ago. How? Well I met a woman who was already a member and since I am a farmer and she knew how interested I am in agriculture, she introduced me to this rural women's organisation. I found it very conducive because to me it was an opportunity of having people with the same ideas.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for women farmers in Kenya? The biggest challenge for women in agriculture in Kenya is getting quality seeds.Another challenge for women is to find new markets for their produce.In Kenya, the highest responsibility for the family, the children, sufficient food and health care usually lies with the women. This means that they need money to pay school fees or buy food to ensure that the family can make ends meet.
So many times, women find themselves selling immediately after the harvest when prices are very low - meaning they receive less money than they had actually expected.There are also cartels that enter the market and offer the products at very low prices, thereby depressing the price.There is virtually no support from the husbands. Therefore, the women's entire focus is on the farm. They have no other source of income.
Now that you are a member of the National Board, what are you most looking forward to?I am very exited to be in the National Board. I am a very positive person and a fighter for the women´s space and I feel they are not given enough room here.I want to work actively in the Board– and I want to introduce a new source of business, agribusiness. Because I am a farmer, I have realized there is a lot of income coming from the pigs. I want to introduce this idea to the members. So at least they can grow some financial stability, because once the mother has money, the family is taken care of.
Mary Wajiru Kibue
Hello, I am Mary Wajiru Kibue, I come from Muranga County and my position in the National Board, as I was elected yesterday is Deputy Secretary.
I am a farmer, I do dairy, I have three cows, whereby I sell my milk. I also farm coffee, I do tea and also small vegetable farming. I farm my home domestic consumption, maize, beans, vegetables. I am a small scale famer.
When did you join WoFaAK and how did you learn about it?I joined WoFaAK in 2022, October. In February 2023 I was elected as a Regional representative.
I was introduced to WoFaAK by Daphne, because I have some activities with women on grassroots level. I have been training women on community development skills. I used to organize women at the grassroot level at their farms. So I was also elected to represent women farmers at the County level whereby I represent women in CASSCOM (CASSCOM is the multi-sectorial County Agricultural Sector Steering Committee (CASSCOM) that is aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity). In this county steering committee I am representing farmer women. That is when I heard about WoFaAK. Women should be organized in one organization so that women can be heard at all levels of the government. I attended three training sessions about Leadership and Governance with WoFaAK. In the training I learnt about communication skills. That is when I started organizing those groups into one organization and after that now we opened our County chapter.
For one our farming lack markets, because even if you tell women to do an activity, we do not have good market to sell.
Also, women are discriminated. Women work hard, only they do not know their rights. No one to lobby for women farmers.
At the same time they are the pillars in their farms, because they work hard to support their families, to support, when men are in other activities. To me this is the biggest challenge, women are not understood, not adhered, they do not have their voice.
For example the area I come from, women are the ones who are planting, the ones who take care of the cows, but the money belongs to men. This discourages women. They need to know their rights.
So those are the challenges, as I am in the WoFaAK National Board, we will have activities for the women to be heard and adhered.
I come from Meru County, being one of the members at the National Board, Representative there for people living with disabilities.
Me I am a farmer. I do mangos, maize, beans, vegetables, fruit trees like avocado, pawpaw and oranges.
I am a member of WoFaAK from last year. I learned about WoFaAK when I was attending another workshop from agriculture. And I had a friend there who shared with me about WoFaAK. She introduced it to me and she told me that if I want to be one the members, I have to include a group or I have subscription as a champion. Which I found is necessary.
I informed my group members so that we can register. And when I went back, I mobilized my group and we registered last year in May.
Women being the managers of their homes have many activities before going to the farm. You take a lot of time, just taking care of the kids, cooking, washing cleaning the clothes. When she is finished with this, she goes in the farm, which is late. She works very hard so that she can achieve at least do something at the farm.
That is a challenge.
There are a lot of other things which a woman encounters.
Let’s say at home the father feels that a woman should not own a farm. He cannot allow her to have a title of land or to hire land.
Or even trees. If a woman plants trees. The husband feels, that he has a path for these trees. His wife wants to cut these trees so that she can buy some food for their family.
The husband refuses and says: No - you have no right to cut the trees. And you remember it is the wife who planted them. And then the husband does not allow it. “You have no responsibility of doing that”.
Or responsibility of men. Men they are now refusing to take most of the responsibility. Let´s say, there are young children in school, it is the wife who is going to meetings for school, going to meetings in community. The husband remains at home, saying, that those are her duties. We see these days men are a bit reluctant in taking their responsibilities of supporting.
I feel, in my subcounty, there are no groups which have registered. There is only the group I come from and another one. And we have experience of some chairladies of organisations, coming introducing, saying nice things to people, and then they disappear.
So I did not want to advocate much about WoFaAK before. But now I am excited, I am going to mobilize the community and some groups to join WoFaAK. So that members and women can be empowered.
I am exited of going outside of this meeting and be active.
Mariam Nafula Makokha
My full name is Mariam Nafula Makokha.I come from Bungoma County Chapter from a group known as Wesakulila Kambini Women group, a farmers group in Kimilili subcounty. Kimilili subcounty is one of the 9 sub counties in Bungoma. I was chosen to come to the National Board by the Chapter Board. I am a member of the National board.
I have a 6-acre land farm, most of what I do on that farm is cash crop, maize and beans, which takes 6 months in every year until it is harvested. Once we harvested we have short time crops like green vegetables, cabbages. I have paw paw, avocado, oranges, pineapples at times.
Since 2010, I was the chairperson of Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation here in Bungoma County. By then Kenya had just started the Counties. So, when an issue came up in the county, I used to be the first person to be contacted. So, in 2017, a lady by the name Rosalia, who was the first chairperson of the WoFaAK Chapter Bungoma from 2017 to 2023, approached me. She only had one group by then. Because of my influence, I managed to recruit 9 groups for WoFaAK. So kam ich zur WoFaAK. In March 2023, I was elected as chairperson of WoFaAK Chapter Bungoma.
Up to now I love WoFaAK, also because BBV-LIZ, represented by Mrs Angelika, has provided a lot of training. And these trainings - I want to assure Bavarian ladies - that it has made three quarters of the women leaders, that is village administrators, ward administrators, three quarters of the women in that leadership are WoFaAK Members.
No 1 Farming is mostly done by women. The cost of preparing for farming is high. And because the women don´t have strength financially, they end up using their hands to prepare their land, then plant, then cultivate, then harvest. You see, it makes them tired more.
No 2 Once they have gotten the crops like me. The maize price at an early stage is very low.They do not have the market. An because they need the money, it will force them to sell that maize so they get money at a throw-away price to use it for another preparation of the land.
No 3 The third issue for women is, where to sell their crops at the right time or with the right price. If assisted just to get the buyers – would make the women feel very comfortable.
Now that you are a member of the National Board, what are you most looking forward to?Being my first time on the board at the national level. Since we started wofaak we have never had an AGM. And you know in an organization most important is the constitution. Now the Bavarian have made us have the constitution is the hearts of an organisation. My prayers are transparency, accountability, hard work must be set on the board of the national to see Wofaak stand. And with my age, with the experience I have had in many organizations at that level. I will strictly stand by my rights to see it take off. Thank you so much.
My name is Lucyline Karimi from Tharaka Nithi County and I am a member of the National Board.
I am doing mango farming, also maize, beans and a bit of hibiscus.
I was introduced to WoFaAK in Nakuru as part of a support programme for soil testing in which I took part. I am a full member of WoFaAK for about a year now, and our County chapter was registered in January.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for women farmers in Kenya?
One challenge is, that women do a lot of farming - but tend to benefit less from it in purely financial terms.
Let me explain this using the example of my district: In the lower part of my county, we grow green peas, mung beans, millet in big amount and also tobacco. When it comes to harvesting, the women don't know where or to whom they can sell their harvest. Most of the time, broker buy our harvest at a low price. We would much rather sell directly to large companies without middlemen so that we can get a better price and at least a profit.
To make matters worse, women here in Kenya are not very well recognised in farming. As a result, they often leave the marketing of their products to their husbands and thus also their source of income.That is why these women farmers need training in agribusiness and need people who can show them how to market their products well. I think women need to be empowered so that they have power over what they do. That would increase their standing in the family and on the farm.
It is important that they can have confidence in themselves.That they learn to work together as a team: working together as a team, harvesting together, looking for markets together and selling together.
What I am most looking forward to is that WoFaAK will really focus on further training for women in order to empower women in their work. And above all, that we work as a team from the grassroots, where we come from, right up to the national executive committee.