Pastoralism mainly practiced by the Maasai community, has over the years been under threat. Policies and governance systems that do not support the practice in Kenya combined with climate change and droughts have not helped the Maasai way of life due to inadequate pasture and water.
To tackle this, JKUAT and JICA took the message of women empowerment through agriculture to Kajiado County and undertook a week-long In-country training, December 11-15, 2017 themed: ‘Incubating Grassroots Women Capacity for Sustainable Socio-Economic Empowerment and Livelihoods Transformation’.
According to Leah Monirei, a participant of the 7th regional Women In-Country Training Programme, the training could not have come at a better time.
“As Maasais, our focus has been on animal rearing, but with the persistent droughts experienced in our County, it’s high time we ventured into other forms of farming for economic empowerment,” said Monirei.
Monirei, the Chair of Keekonyokie Dairy Cooperative said, she took up the training to learn about value addition of milk. “With the help of JKUAT and JICA, I am confident that our Cooperative of 100 women will set up a milk processing farm to produce and supply yoghurts all over the County.”
Phylis Matampashi, a Beekeeper from Kajiado West, was grateful for the training, especially the one on value addition of agricultural products. She has decided to go back home and venture into tomato sauce production.
“With the knowledge on organic farming, I believe, when I venture into tomato farming, it will be a success,” uttered Matampashi. Her only concern is that after the training, JKUAT should carry out follow ups on their various projects to give the women technical support where necessary.
Matampashi acknowledged that women empowerment is key for the development of the County and opined that she will encourage women in her group, Inkitoip Women Group to introduce a demonstration farm in her area. “I know it won’t be easy seeing that we are a nomadic community but with the depleting number of livestock in the County, I am confident that organic farming will be picked up.
While urging the Kajiado County government to partner with like-minded institutions like JKUAT, Monirei was upbeat that the knowledge gained will not go to waste. “The Maasai woman is a very creative woman with immense capabilities. With the training and plenty of meat and milk, I assure you Kajiado County will soon have the best youghurt and sausages in the country,” boasted Monirei.
She also urged men to support the women by giving them resources. Culturally, the Maasai woman does not own resources making it difficult for some to venture into agriculture with their own vision.
The In-Country Training Programme domiciled in the Division of Research, Production and Extension (RPE), seeks to improve rural women knowledge and skills in agricultural value addition and entrepreneurship for the betterment of their livelihoods. So far this year, JKUAT/JICA has trained 350 women in Kiambu, Machakos, Nyeri, Kitui, Kakamega, Narok and Kajiado.