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An Integrated Rural Development Program to Improve the Quality of Life
Kenya

Keywords: Women & Gender equality
Poverty Eradication

Background

Involves over 2,500 destitute women left as heads of family when males went elsewhere for remunerated work following repeated, severe droughts. Because of women's poor physical and mental condition, beekeeping and honey processing; milk-goat, fish and rabbit breeding; sun-dried brick-making; handicrafts and an income-generating and nutrition-teaching canteen were initiated and implemented.


Narrative

Kibwezi is a small town which until very recently was only an overnight stop for heavy transport vehicles. Its inhabitants are mostly Eastern Bantu people who migrated into this area sporadically, over many years. In the 1960s the area was hit by the aftermath of the Sahelian drought, whatever livestock people had brought, either died or was eaten. The men left for work elsewhere and the women remained as heads of their families. By 1981 they were truly desperate and when children started dying they approached the Catholic Mission of the Sisters of Mercy in Kibwezi which, in turn, contacted the Council for Human Ecology-Kenya, at that time the only NGO with a holistic attitude to development. The women were organized in traditional mutual-help societies called "mwethia" and the Council decided to take advantage of these to reach as many needy families as possible and make the most impact on the quality of their lives.

After meeting the mwethia leaders many times and discussing with them the possible ways of increasing the women's food production and cash income and, taking under consideration the poor physical and mental condition in which they were, the Council decided that an integrated, multilevel and multi disciplinary approach, combining material, financial and technical assistance was called for. The women needed to be shown ways commensurate to their state and which would enable them to help themselves whilst improving their common lot also. Very little could be done initially in the way of community participation; the women's state precluded anything but immediate actions to relieve their dire popverty, hunger and ill health. Once their capabilities were established, CHEK embarked on two possible programmes which, however, involved skills traditionally reserved for men only. It took courage and desperation for the women to decide that in the absence of thir menfolk, they would attempt bee-keeping and brick-making.Later, a very successful stall-fed, milk-goat breeding programme was established and, later still, having ascertained that the Kamba people would eat fish and rabbits, ponds were built and stocked with Tilapia fingerlings and a rabbit-breeding scheme was set in motion. Still later, a canteen was designed and built on a plot of land in Kibwezi town which had been acquird by CHEK for the women and on which a honey and wax refinery had already been built.

Both the women's groups and the town prospered. Many more Government departments established field offices in Kibwezi and the influx of more and better educated people brought in because of the women's activities, in turn, increased the demand for more and better facilities in the town itself. The number, kind and quality of shops and businesses rose rapidly, banks, private medical clinics, beauty parlours and hardware stores came into existence, a mosque, a public library and a dart club were established. The open-air market has vastly increased in size, water has been piped to it and from being held only once a week, it is now a daily occurence. Many other NGOs have also opened offices in Kibwezi and the sight of young, expatriate, motor-cycle riders of both sexes, is now prevalent.


Impact

We have no figures in response to this question. We have no record of the actual number of government employees that came to Kibwezi following the women's successes nor have we examined the ways in which the private sector, i.e. the merchants, etc. have profitted. However, all the girls of the appropriate age now attend the Boarding Secondary Girls' School initiated by the women in Kibwezi; most of the women have taken adult literacy classes and almost all have individual savings bank accounts.


Sustainability

The Programme has caused LAnd Adjudication to take place throughout the 4 Locations of the District and most former TOL plot holders now have Title Deeds. A special training curriculum for untutored but intelligent businesswomen has been formulated and accepted country-wide. The rules and regulations of co-operative movements and societies of women in rural areas have been modified in their favour. We are not aware of other legislation that this Porgramme may have influenced. The women have learnt to work with each other, with Government and NGOs and have become vocal and active politically. The women asked for adult literacy training and over 5000 adults are benefitting from this advance. Because of the stall-feeding goat programmes a certain amount of denudation and environment degradation may have been saved while many children now have a regular, daily supply of goat milk. Almost all the women now have individual savings bank accounts and many have gone into various businesses.The womn have proved willing and able to embark on trades and techniques not only unfamiliar and innovative to them, but which also encroached on the men's traditional spheres of activity. They have started to replace old mud houses with large and better built shelters, send their daughters to university and indulge in fashionable clothes and hairdos. The programmes on which they embarked,were adopted by consensus; they have succeded in changing institutional arrangements and governance in their participation in a previously males only "world" and have proved that they can very effectively handle decision-making processs. As a result, we feel that this programme can be replicated in other parts of the world and, given a motivated, homogenous group of women, should achieve the same sustainable success.n


Contact

    Kibwezi Women Integrated Rural Dev. Group
    P.O. Box 142
    Kibwezi
    Kenya

Sponsor

    Council for Human Ecology, Kenya
    Council for Human Ecology, Kenya
    P.O. Box 20360
    Nairobi
    Kenya
    254-2-720399
    oscar@tt.sasa.unep.no

Partners

    Kibwezi Women's Integrated Rural Development Group
    Mann Erica, Exec. Director, CHEK
    Box 20360
    Nairobi
    Kenya
    254-2-720399
    oscar@tt.sasa.unep.no

    Adamson, Tynka, Hon. Sec, CHEK
    Box 20360,
    Nairobi
    Kenya
    254-2-721159

    Muli Rhoda, Mrs, Chairlady KWRIDG
    Box 142
    Kibwezi
    Kenya


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