Training small-scale women farmers in Kenya: escaping poverty within four years
In Kenya, 70 percent of the population make their living from agriculture, cultivating the commonly barren soils of the country. Most of them are small-scale farming families with two to three hectares of land. More than one fifth of the population is still undernourished. In 1993, with the aim of improving food security in rural areas, Kenyan agronomist Ngugi Mutura founded the NGO Sustainable Agriculture Development Program (SACDEP) and established a training program for small-scale women farmers. It combines organic farming, the breeding of locally adapted seeds and water management with small animal husbandry and the use of renewable energy, as well as self-managed microcredit systems.
The point of departure is always a comprehensive analysis which focuses on which resources are available in the different local farming communities and how these could best be used and increased without high investment costs. Self-help groups of 30 to 40 people, 80 percent of whom are women, receive four years of training in organic farming on their plots of land. The training covers techniques such as composting and the production of natural plant protection. To get started, each group is taught how to construct water tanks and how to finance this through saving and lending groups. The groups also receive milk goats and small livestock. Together the women decide who will first get animals; the offspring is then passed on to the next group members. “Open field days” encourage a regular exchange of know-how between the women farmers, with expert farmers opening their farms for visitors and sharing their experience. As a part of the SACDEP training, so-called “Practicing Skills Facilitators” (PSFs) are defined as contact persons who are available in the field for any questions regarding cultivation. These field days and the training through PSFs are recognized as a successful approach to knowledge dissemination. In 2015, a scientific evaluation praised the success of the program in reducing poverty and achieving equal opportunities for women.