For over two decades Kenya’s economy has been led by agriculture. With slogans such as “agriculture is the back bone of Kenya” being used in prominent speeches by our Heads of State. Government and development agencies have mobilized funds and come up with initiatives to make this a reality. But over the years, local farmers have remained disadvantaged and left behind. The very produce they have so toiled to harvest ends up in the hands of middlemen that buy at a cost that does not match the cost of production. Leaving local farmers vulnerable, devastated and poor. Therefore, this leads to other problems that will later affect the lives of the farmers as well as their children.
When a farmer fetches low prices for their produce and cannot make enough profit to sustain their livelihood throughout the next season, they become vulnerable. They cannot eat good nutritious food and their children will not access quality care and education. Despite the Kenyan government implementing free education for all children since 2003, this still comes with underlying costs which local poor farmers cannot afford. The stress of life can push many farmers to abandon farming and families in search for a “better” job in urban centers, often leaving children vulnerable and in dire need of support for survival.
After working with women and children for seven years in communities across Kenya and Africa at large, I have found the most underlying factors that have come to play in the poverty of the African rural communities is poverty. While people in rural areas have access to land and water (in most parts), they are unable to break even and sell their produce at a decent profit. In most cases they will make the bare minimum to push them through the season, just biding time waiting for the next. Besides that, many communities are accustomed to growing a particular type of crop, in most cases ones that take as long as 4-6 months to be ready for the market, only to then sell them at a loss.
Modern farming technology is still a big challenge to most farmers in Kenya as people continue using old methods that reduce production outputs and hold them back in the increasingly competitive market. Farmers lack options in what can be produced, and are unable to sustain their livelihoods through having to sell their produce at a low price.
Furthermore, without access to quality, reliable child care in the rural areas women can be held back from returning to work after having children and earning an income support their families. By the time a child reaches age five, 90% of their brain has developed which means the first five years are the most important. Every child needs a safe and stimulating environment to be able to grow and thrive. Access to a quality place to learn and play whilst their parents are at work is crucial to a child’s development.
My vision for Kilimototo is to bridge this gap by empowering small-scale women farmers and ensure all children get the quality care and education they need for the best start in life. With a strong partnership with global buyers of quality Kenyan produce, engaging local women farmers to support growth in production and strengthen their current ways of farming as well empowering them with the knowledge of modern farming methods that will enable them to grow more crops that are in demand in the global market throughout the year. This will translate to improved livelihoods and economically sustainable households that are able to provide for all the needs of their children including stimulation, education, care and protection in community led early childhood development centers.
Kilimototo envisions a world where women farmers are economically empowered to be able to meet all their basic needs and all children get the best start in life. In doing this we focus on enabling women in agriculture to use modern farming methods that will increase their income, improve their livelihoods and ensure the youngest most vulnerable children have access to quality early childhood care and education.
This is our commitment and our contribution to the world in attaining the sustainable development goals as well as the vision 2030 for Kenya. Join us today and be a part of this big family.
By Gilbert Ngaira
Co-founder and Managing Partner – Kilimototo Social Enterprise.