Posted on
23rd Mar 2017
by Martina Gant

Last week we made some big decisions about Meru Women’s Garden Project. Margaret Ikiara, CIFORD’s Founder and Director, travelled to Nairobi to spend a couple of days with me working on the programme plans for the year ahead.

Since launching on International Women’s Day in 2016, Soroptimist International Great Britain & Ireland (SIGBI) have raised a fantastic £40k! Whilst they've been fundraising, Child.org and CIFORD have been working closely together to develop new processes for CIFORD that will allow them to track their impact over the lifetime of the project.

One of those processes was to survey a large proportion of the women we’re working with, to understand directly from the women where and what their needs are. Child.org has helped Margaret to recruit new interns, Eunice and Nancy, giving guidance and training on interview skills and data collection. CIFORD has interviewed over 100 women and we’ve learned a huge amount.

We now know that 56% of the women are living in households that earn under $50 per month. With an average of 8.5 people living in the household, that’s a lot of mouths to feed with very little. We also know from this survey that 76% of the women attribute their household income directly to agriculture, so we know that if we can improve the agricultural capacity of these women, we can directly impact their income.

The survey has also helped us - CIFORD and Child.org - to tailor the training programme to specific need. For example, we know that 70% of the women are sourcing their household water from potentially dangerous sources; rivers, ponds and streams. Of these women, only 50% told us that they treat that water by boiling it before drinking it. As a result of this knowledge, we’ve ensured that safe water and sanitation are a key topic on the course. We also provide safe rain collection and storage facilities to the groups but might look into allocating more resources per group based on this result.

By conducting another survey directly after the course has finished, we will know how things have changed for these women and what has been learned. We then plan to survey the women again a year later, so we can see whether the changes we’ve introduced have had a lasting impact.

With this in mind, Margaret and I met to discuss the next steps. Margaret had been working with five women’s groups since January, running light-touch training with established groups so that she and her team can get to know the women and assess their commitment to the training potentially on offer to them.

Out of the five groups, one was not committed. Margaret’s feedback was that the group as a whole wasn't serious about learning; rather than looking for ways to change their agricultural knowledge, they were looking for donations. Margaret isn’t willing to work with women’s groups that aren’t willing to work for change and as a result, recommended that we stop interacting with that particular group.

We agreed to take the other four groups forward and to enrol them onto CIFORD’s year long course; Meru Women’s Garden Project has therefore engaged with the first intake of four groups of committed and dedicated women. We have a total of 198 participants: 194 women and 4 men.

The groups are:

  1. Baraka: 69 women
  2. Mutethia: 43 women
  3. Lachathuriu : 34 women
  4. Mwendwa Rii: 48 women and 4 men

This means we’re working with over three times the women we had planned to work with in on Intake 1, thanks to fantastic fundraising efforts by the Soroptomists.

This year we’ll also be running two Alternative Rites of Passage sessions for a total of 80 girls, which educate girls about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as well as a range of topics like HIV and sexual health, female empowerment and drugs.

We’ll also host a session for 60 boys in December that promotes the dangers of FGM to boys, educating them on the realities of the procedure, promoting safe medical male circumcision for boys (rather than the traditional procedure) and drugs and substance misuse.

What a year we have ahead.