1 November 2009

Kenya: Widows Support Themselves Selling Maize to World Food Programme

Nairobi — Widows are often looked down on and pitied in Kenya. But the widows in the village of Angata Barakoi in the Transmara area of Kenya were determined to help each other and make a life for themselves, without relying on handouts and charity from relatives. Eighty-six widows banded together to form a support group to deal with the effects of HIV, grief, and the difficulties of living in a community where they had lost their status after the death of their husbands. The group decided to support themselves by growing their own maize. They were able to get loans from a local bank to buy seeds and other inputs. Finally, at harvest time, the World Food Programme (WFP) gave the group a contract to buy 250 metric tons of their surplus harvest through the Purchase for Progress programme. The following are profiles of two of Angata Barakoi's widow farmers.

Consefta Kimundu

Consefta Kimundu, 28, is delighted that for the first time the widows were able to sell their maize for a decent price.

"It's a very good thing we've done," she said, "We now have a source of income. We never had the money to transport our maize to market."

The long, dirt road from Angata Barakoi to the nearest market is full of potholes and is rarely traveled by trucks.

Many of the widows need loans because they inherit almost nothing. Consefta's husband's property was divided amongst his family and Consefta only received a "very little" piece of land. Later, bandits stole the few animals she owned and Consefta was left destitute with her eight children.

Through a group loan from Equity Bank, the widows were able to buy seed and fertilizer. Consefta rented land from her brother-in-law in order to grow more maize. Now, after the sale of her surplus harvest, she is tremendously proud of what she has achieved. During bad times Consefta had to pull her children out of school to help look for food. She hopes she will no longer have to do that.

"I'm now going to pay for school fees for all my children," Consefta said. "I'll also be able to pay back loans."

Christine Nyongi

Christine Nyongi, 48, gathered together the community's widows two years ago and is now chairlady of the group. She is tremendously proud of what the group has achieved in its maize sale to WFP and is looking forward to using the money to help her 10 children.

"We've learnt that we can buy and sell as traders," she said. WFP spent weeks on the ground training the widows on how to measure the moisture content of the maize and how to clean the maize according to WFP standards. This training will hopefully be useful in the future when the widows want to sell their surplus to buyers other than WFP.

"We don't need to be supported," Nyongi said. "We can educate our children. I'm going to use the money to also improve my house. We will grow more maize in the future. Previously, we only got 2,000 KES (Kenyan shillings) per bag, when we were selling to traders. WFP has given us a better price."

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