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Maasai Women Benefit from Poultry farming

Ewaso Ngiro in Narok County is a semi –arid zone and sparsely populated area stretching across 153 square kilometers.  Plagued by drought, famine and other effects of climate change resulting in more and more limited availability of pasture and water. The poverty level is generally high owing to among other factors; marginalization of women in economic development, governance and decision-making both at household and community level. Pastoralism remains the main economic activity of the Maasai people of this region and continues to support majority of the households.

Looking after the homestead and caring for children as they wait for their men to return home from the grazing fields is the routine for most Maasai Women. However, groups of women through Farmer Field Schools (FFSs) established by Mainstreaming Sustainable Land Management in Agro-Pastoral Production Systems of Kenya Project that is financed by Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Supported by United Nations Development Programme - Kenya (UNDP- Kenya) and Implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries through the State Department of Livestock. Have defied this culture and are engaging in income generating activities to improve on their livelihoods.

Highlight

  • Women joined Farmer Field Schools (FFS) to acquire knowledge and skills to improve their lives and livelihoods
  • SLM project supplied poultry to households in Ewaso Ngiro as part of livelihood diversification for pastoral households.

The women, most of whom have little or no education, have joined Farmer Field Schools (FFS) to acquire knowledge and skills to improve their lives and livelihoods. The FFS approach has been used by SLM project to build the capacities of communities in Narok North, Mbeere North, Dadaab and Kyuso. The women have undertaken training in poultry husbandry, and management encompassing issues of nutrition, housing, disease control, marketing, breeding/upgrading and sustainable land management practices. SLM project supplied poultry to households in Ewaso Ngiro as part of livelihood diversification for pastoral households. Given that poultry enterprise among the Maasai community is a reserve for women, the project considers this support as an avenue for economic empowerment of Maasai women.

In 2012, 50 women in Ewaso Ngiro received 50 Kenbro chicken. The breed was introduced to the farmers to crossbreed with the local birds to achieve better chicken breeds compared to local variety they have been keeping.  The Kenbro eat on kitchen scraps and can withstand arid environment. In addition, they have desirable qualities such as resistance to common diseases especially New Castle disease, fast maturity, gain weight quickly and improved egg size. The beneficiaries have this to say about the Kenbro breed:

Today, we cook eggs to supplement our family’s diet and sell the rest at market rates. Before we were given these chickens, we couldn’t afford to buy eggs. But now we can get eggs at home…” and when the men are out, we still have some cash of our own” (Elizabeth Koila of Enduatanara FFS member)

Today, more than 130 women from Ewaso Ngiro, Mulot and Suswa have been trained on poultry husbandry and management. This has enabled them achieve higher income:

Before the SLM project came to us, I used to sell my chicken at an average of Ksh. 250- 350 per bird at the local market but now after upgrading my local chicken using the cockerel I got from the project. This has since changed as our birds now fetch between Kshs. 800-1000 per bird depending on the weight” (Elizabeth Koila, FFS member).

The interventions by the project have improved on the economic well-being of women in the community. Women are now able to cater for household needs such as paying school fees, buying food and thereby enhancing their position in decision making within their households. The income generated by the households from the sale of improved chicken and eggs is approximately Kshs. 150,000 within a period of six months after introduction of the improved breeds.     The amount of money and benefits accruing from the SLM project intervention are evident. This is what Chemorut FFS member said:

Before the intervention, we had only few birds and we had no intention of building numbers because we knew they would all be wiped out by diseases. Interestingly, today we have over 840 birds that are vaccinated. We have also gained skills in diseases control from the training we have received from the project” said Everlyne Rotich, member of Chemorut FFS

There is therefore need to promote poultry keeping by pastoral women to enable households achieve improved nutrition needs and better income. Moreover, it gives women opportunity to earn extra income.

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