Transforming lives in Kenya

31.07.2012

Partnership working helps women become farmers

The lives of scores of African women and children have been transformed by the kindness of a group of Liverpool people.

£3,000 raised by a gala evening celebrating Merseyside Black History Month in October has been used to help train a group of Kenyan women - who previously had been forced to beg for food - to manage scarce water supplies, cultivate land and grow their own crops.
  
The project, which was overseen by international aid agency The Barka Foundation, has been such a success it has attracted a gift of five acres of land from the Kenyan government and funding from Israel for women to learn advanced water conservation techniques.

Cash from the project came from an evening of entertainment in Wavertree organised by Maureen Chendo on behalf of Neighbourhood investor Plus Dane Group and in association with partners like the Kenya Community Association – who identified the village of Kanini Kaseo as one in need of urgent help.

The drought-struck village on the edge of a refugee camp – which received a share of the cash - had previously seen women and children forced to walk miles each day in scorching heat in search of water.

Traditionally in the village’s culture, women are viewed as being responsible for the production of food and so the project focussed on empowering and educating them.

Maureen, who is a neighbourhood officer for the Merseyside and Cheshire housing association, said: “When I heard about the women’s plight I arranged to speak to them on the telephone. They were crying because they were hungry and thirsty and their children had no education. I told them they needed to stop crying, that they needed to use their energy to focus on what was truly needed. The answer came back that they needed a way to keep water, so the project was set up to dig trenches and reservoirs to trap what little rain does fall and then conserve it for agriculture.

“Now when I speak to the women there are voices of laughter, there is food on the table and children are going to school. It shows you what can be achieved if money is spent in the right way.”

A trustee of the project and lecturer at Kenyatta University, Sister Scholar Nganda, said: “Never have I come across a partnership like that between Plus Dane Group and the Kenya Community Association, filled with such zeal to transform lives and turn environmental challenges into opportunities for a group of women who (until the project began) had trodden dusty pathways in the scorching sun all their lives.” 

A book about the project has been produced by Polish members of the Barka Foundation. A copy was recently presented to Maureenand Plus Dane’s chief executive Ken Perry by the Kenya Community Association in thanks.

Baiba Mjidho, chair of the KCA, added: “Both our organisations exist to help people reach their maximum potential.”