‘WAPI’ draws 0000s of Kenyan women to market oriented agriculture

 ambitious program geared towards empowering over 300,000 smallholder farmers in the country has been initiated by UN Women in partnership with Amiran Kenya, a move that is aimed at equipping women with knowledge and modern farm inputs to not only cushion the country against food insecurity but also encourage women to take part in agribusiness.

The idea which was borne about a year ago was an initiative of the ambassador of Israel Gill Haskel and the Regional Director of UN Women Christine Musisi. “Miss Musisi approached me with an idea on how to empower women in the country and at first we thought of organizing the normal conferences that is often the norm of many organizations like UN.

But after deliberations, I fronted to her the idea of practically training and empowering the smallholder women groups with modern farming techniques and high yielding crops. She was upbeat about the idea and approached other stakeholders in the industry like Amiran and the ministry of agriculture hence the introduction of the initiative,” explained the Haskel.

The initiative which is now being implemented through a pilot project dubbed ‘Women Agribusiness Promotion Initiative’ (WAPI) has focused on 10 smallholder female self help groups with about 300 members from Meru, Embu and Nyandarua  sub counties. “We first focused on the three sub-counties in order to measure the success because these areas are well known for their massive horticulture production in the country.

After the success of the pilot in about a year’s time we shall roll out the project countrywide to impact on the other women,” noted Ann Njoroge an official in charge of horticulture development from the Ministry of Agriculture. She added that the aim of the project was to transform women in agriculture through a conceptual shift from focus on subsistence farming to market-oriented production using modern and innovative farming practices.

WAPI trained over 30 women from the 10 self help groups chosen from the sub-counties where the project will be piloted. The training which was conducted by agronomists and experts from Amiran and Ministry of agriculture entailed practical visits to the farms to witness challenges facing women in the sector. Yariv Kedar Amiran Kenya Deputy Director explained that the training aimed at equipping the participants with skills in green house management, group leadership, financial inclusion and entrepreneur skills. “Through this program, we have potential trainer of trainers and they will help us in the transformation of the country.” Yariv also added that, Amiran will use the trained women who are also leaders of their respective women groups to offer on ground regular Para-extension services to actualize the implementation of the project. “There is no service for free and Amiran will pay you for the extension services that you will be offering in various areas.” added Yariv.

As a result of the initiative, WAPI has also positioned Amiran as the first private firm in Kenya to partner with UN Women in upholding Women Empowerment Principle joining other 619 firms globally. This is in recognition of the firm’s effort towards empowerment of women and uholding the spirit of gender equality, safety at work and enterprise empowerment. Yariv lauded the efforts adding that women have the primary responsibility of raising new generations and therefore have an upper hand on building the base of modern agribusiness among their young ones which will then benefit Kenya in future.

“It’s important to note that train and empower a woman then you have empowered the whole family and nation at large.”  UN Women awarded the ten self help groups with Amiran Farmers Kits greenhouses of 8 by 15 and they are expected to set the ball rolling in a bid to encourage others in the community to adopt the similar initiatives. UN Women Country Director Zebib Kavuma noted that investing in high value crops such as horticultural value chains through use of modern climate enhanced by smart technologies such as drip irrigation and greenhouses  has a noted potential to lift women farmers from poverty and situations of food insecurity within a short time hence their concerted efforts through issuance of AFK.

According to Haskel, experts have shown that women are good managers and ensure maximum output. “If a womanmanages a greenhouse, then it lasts longer and experiences more yields than when male counter parts are in charge.”

The high yielding crops and modern technology is also expected to help position the market orientation for the produce from the women. Yariv explained, “There is need to ensure that we not only equip the women with better production techniques but also show them how to get the best market prices for their produce and there by guarding them against exploitation from the middle men.

As a result we have taught them how to ensure production throughout the year using AFK and capitalize on the off-season times.” In addition, the coming on board of the ministry of agriculture through Smallholder Horticulture Marketing Programme (SHOMAP) will greatly solve the complex question of market for the produce for the farmers.

Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy with the majority of producers being smallholder women farmers living in rural areas and according to Ann, these women faces a number of challenges that derail their efforts towards food production. “Women are denied access to land and financial assistance.

The cash crops like tea and coffee which can act as collateral in times of need to access finance are dominated by the male counterparts and therefore majority of women are left with clear to develop their efforts in agribusiness to higher levels.”  “Despite the challenges experienced by the women smallholder farmers in the country, Ann explained that their horticulture efforts is contributing over Sh270 billion to the economy and therefore initiating projects like WAPI will not only uplift the livelihoods of the female counterparts but contribute largely to the wellbeing of the economy.