Kenyan Women Farmers and Agricultural Experts Share Needs, Successes

Article Date

05 April 2010

Article Author

By Gillian Gaynair

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Women farmers in Kenya are hungry for innovative, concrete business ideas. They need more access to credit, training, technical assistance and resources such as fertilizer and seeds. And they’re eager to learn practical ways to invest their savings.

That’s just some of what experts from the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) heard from Kenyan women farmers, the organizations that work with them and local technical experts during a recent visit to Nairobi. ICRW aimed to learn from women what they need and what has worked to improve their agricultural productivity and marketability.

ICRW’s David Kauck, Rekha Mehra and Bell Okello organized the visit on the heels of President Barack Obama’s new global food security initiative, which commits to using agricultural development as a way to fuel economic growth and alleviate poverty in developing countries. The effort also strives to improve the productivity and market access of small-scale farmers, who, like in Kenya and elsewhere worldwide, are most often women. The initiative will work with other national governments, citizens and donors to help countries develop their own national strategies to boost agricultural productivity and curb hunger.

“The administration wants a real consultative process, and we’ve essentially taken this at face value,” said Kauck, a gender and agriculture specialist who spent more than a decade addressing agricultural issues in Africa. “Our hope is that we’re going to stimulate discourse in Kenya that will feed into the national planning level processes. But we’re also trying to capture lessons which will feed up to policy makers in the U.S.”

Indeed, through the discussions ICRW learned more about proven farming practices in Kenya that are already benefiting women including experiments with niche commodities such as mushrooms. Kauck said that there appears to be a market for the fungi, which does not require land, but can be grown in a shed.

“We’re looking for ways to help women farmers be heard,” Kauck said. “If we could become a conduit for them, that would be good.”

Gillian Gaynair is ICRW’s writer/editor.