Welcome to the first edition of the SANGO Diaries!
The pilot of SANGO-Kenya has begun! Just days after arriving in Kenya, Constance and I had our first meeting with women from the Ogenda women’s group in West Othany, a rural community in Seme sub-County. West Othany was one of the communities included in Constance’s original nutrition and food security study in 2017 and with whom we met this summer.
Women’s groups in Kenya are small self-help groups organized at the community level and registered by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development. They engage in activities with various ministries such as the Ministry of Agriculture. There are many groups in a community and they meet both formally – for training, for example – and informally. Working with one group is ideal for our project, as the women are well-organized, know each other, and are used to working together.
It was evident in our meetings what tight bonds these women have. As they listened to the details of the program, they interacted, supported each other’s comments, and, when they were filling out questionnaires to provide baseline information, they worked as a group, helping each other. It was very impressive.
As we drove to the meeting, the dire need for turning to more climate resilient crops was all too apparent: plot after plot of maize was tall and brown. The last rains came hard and early, so the maize grew. Then the rains stopped, so the maize died. By the time the rains returned, the crops were lost. Losing crops means losing a significant part of their food supply — there are no safety nets. It’s devastating for the community. And it’s devastating to see, knowing the impact it has on so many lives.
Next week, Dominick, our agriculture expert, will provide the women farmers a full week of training in environmentally sustainable farming practices. I am looking forward to being in the community all week. I will also be receiving training: the women have promised to start teaching me Dholuo, the local language.