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Kenya: Pastoralist communities grow vegetables that resist the drought

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In Baringo County, located along the great Rift-valley bed, the Churo population predominantly rely on their livestock as a source of income. The onset of third failed season devastated livelihood and exposed the pastoralists to economic, and food insecurity.

Vegetable such as night shade, collards and amaranth remain expensive and unavailable in Churo due to the drought and scarcity of food and water. This poses a great challenge to access nutritious and healthy meals for families who often have to rely on traders ferrying the nutritious food from over 70kms away.

In order to survive and aware of those challenges, a group of 20 women from Churo, took the lead and formed the Cheptimonwo farmers' group as an empowerment initiative. This led to the establishment a vegetable garden in order to supplement their food basket. The vegetable garden provides vegetables for households' consumption and for sale. Today, the farm helps cut off dependency on vegetables from other regions and boosts local economy and local consumption.

Producing nutritious food in Kenya

Walking into Cheptimonwo farmer group in Churo, Rift Valley region in Kenya, the ululations and smiles from the joyous women resonate, sharing their joy after benefiting from seeds distribution and vegetabl husbandry extension service, now reaping the benefits of their hard work.

The Cheptimonwo farmer group was formed in January 2019 in Churo, Baringo County. At the beginning, the farm counted 20 pastoralist women who organized themselves in a "merry-go-round" a small social saving group designed to empower women and support their solidarity and economic independence. However, the drought affecting the region is particularly severe and causes drastic loss of livestock and dramatic fall of income. Resilience and creativity, and a little help from ACTED, led the farmers group to develop a vegetable garden to reduce their dependence on markets and grow their own fresh vegetables creating a reliable source of income.

When the group heard the call of ACTED supporting small auto-organized groups, John Neko Loyopo, now chairperson of the Cheptimonwo farmers group, decided to support the initiative and offered his land to the vegetable garden. The support of ACTED came at the time when the drought hit hard and access to nutritious food became tumultuous.

"Mboga ya ACTED": the vegetables of ACTED

When ACTED started the I-CREATE Project, with the support of Concern Worldwide and USAID-BHA, they identified the Cheptimonwo farmers group and several other small group initiatives to be supported in Churo. Thus, after discussing with the group members to understand their objective and needs, ACTED provided fencing materials, farming tools and around ten varieties of vegetable seeds such as kale, spinach, tomato and onion, to boost their efforts. Alongside, ACTED organized training sessions for the group members about seed spacing, pest control, nursery beds technique and other farming methods used in dry areas such as zai pits and oasis gardening.
Empowered with appropriate tools and knowledge, the farmers continue their activity in autonomy while ACTED is regularly monitoring progress and conducting visits and sharing of experience among groups members.

Now, the products sold from the Cheptimonwo farmers groups are well appreciated by the population for their quality free of chemicals and for the proximity to the local population, who named them "mboga ya ACTED", "the vegetables of ACTED" in Swahili.

The vegetable garden transformed the lives of its 80 members

The group members went from 20 at the beginning to nearly 80 today. By joining their efforts, saving together and benefiting from ACTED's help, they now have access to nutritious vegetables and more confident to face the ongoing drought
Thanks to the vegetable garden, the 80 women members learnt new farming techniques, contributed to the food security of their families and their community, and increased their income to purchase other products for their needs. Women gained in resilience, independence, and a new role within their household and the village. Today, according to the Chairperson of the community, the majority of the members earn an average of 200 Kenyan Shillings (2 $) a day twice a week from the sale of vegetables.

John Neko Loyopo, chairperson of the Cheptimonwo farmers group observed improvement of coping strategies in the village toward the hopeless drought: people took their fate in hands, gained hope thanks to ACTED's aid added to their ideas and do not suffer from hunger as before.