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Women of Kitale: Breaking the cycle of poverty

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

By Rebecca Brett & Lucy Liddle
Mamma Caroline and her Family - Photo Credit to Nick Spollin

Why Kitale?

For the women in Kitale, life can be extremely difficult. Several interlinked issues have trapped the rural Bwayi community in a cycle of poverty:

  • High prevalence of HIV and political violence have left many children orphaned or in the care of elderly, widowed grandmothers who are often struggling to access vital food, healthcare and quality education.

  • Orphaned children are forced into casual labour on the dangerous streets of Kitale or sent to work on large commercial farms.

  • Work on commercial farms is highly competitive, seasonal, and exploitative, with adults receiving 40p for a full day’s work and children paid even less, often working for only a meal.

  • Women, men, girls and boys often walk long distances each day to vie for the day's work where dangerous chemicals used on the commercial farms have left workers with long term health issues.

  • As a result, many children are out of school and most adults in the community are illiterate.

With very few local opportunities within the rural community, whole families have been left behind, struggling to provide vital food and medicine for their children.

To support the community in Kitale, COCO has partnered with Niaver CBO to fund the provision of Sustainable Agriculture Training to 348 vulnerable women in Bwayi since 2017. This training has had a transformative impact, empowering women to escape labour exploitation and provide for their families.

What is Sustainable Agriculture Training?

Sustainable Agriculture Training teaches local subsistence farmers about simple, affordable, environmentally friendly techniques which can improve their yields whilst having a positive impact on the surrounding environment.

Techniques like planting trees to help conserve water, making organic compost, and planting mixed crops to naturally deter pests have enabled farmers in Kitale to increase their income by an average of 725% in just 1 year, whilst reducing soil erosion and restoring biodiversity in the area. This income has enabled parents to grow food for their families, which increases access to healthcare, enables more children to enrol in school, and reduces labour exploitation.

Recent trainees are doing so well that they were able to donate food parcels and offer employment to families who were at risk of starvation during Kenya’s 5th consecutive failed rainy season, and it is estimated that the 348 trainees have passed on their training to a further 800 members of the community.

Re-growing the community with a resource centre and nursery

In January 2023, the new resource centre and nursery was completed!

This has supported the provision of further vocational training, and sessions on HIV/AIDS prevention, family planning and women's and children’s rights. This is helping to address underlying causes of violence in Bwayi including high levels of theft and violence against women and children.

As many of the households are led by older, widowed women, they have had to work to reshape the social structures surrounding ‘the role of women’ with their community, becoming leaders and actively deterring gender-based violence and early childhood marriage.

The new nursery provides quality education to 80 children from some of the most vulnerable families in Bwayi.

40 of the students are from families that have already received training and can afford the education. 40 of the students are currently studying for free and their families hope to receive the training in the coming months.

Future plans and priorities

Thanks to ongoing support from our donors, COCO have funded Sustainable Agriculture Training for a further 300 members of the community in Kitale to be completed by May 2023. This will enable even more women to break the cycle of poverty, and create brighter futures for their families. We are so proud of the resilience that the women in the community have already shown, and their passion to become leaders and changemakers.

However, up to 2000 families are still in need of vital support due to the ongoing drought in Kenya, with many families still at risk of starvation.

We will be launching an appeal for the provision of food aid and planting for the most vulnerable families in May. We hope to raise £5,625 to provide support for 250 further families - if you can donate to this appeal please click the button below to be notified when the campaign is live.

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