“Taught Us to Fish”

Article Date

04 June 2014

Article Author

David Snyder

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Notepad in hand, Rispah Ayiecha moves comfortably among the stalks of growing vegetables, eager to highlight the progress she and her group members have made.  As treasurer of the INDA CBO Group, a local farmers’ group in the community of Banyore, Western Kenya, she knows better than many here just how far they have come.

“Before, most of us were not used to saving [money], so we just planted with local materials,” Ayiecha says. “We used manure for fertilizer, but it was not producing enough for us to eat.”

Thanks to the Innovations in Gender Equality project – known as IGE-Tech – working in close collaboration with USAID as part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, things are improving. Launched in 2012, IGE-Tech is reaching into two rural counties in Western Kenya to help smallholder farmers, especially women, save money throughout the year. From these pools of savings, poor rural farmers can purchase critical farm inputs, like seeds and fertilizer, in time for each planting season. The ultimate goal of the project is to support and empower women, who are the backbone of agricultural production and household food security but have traditionally been left out of decision making in both of those realms. 

“Most food production has been under the control of men. But when men are trained we find they are often poor communicators,” says Bell Okello, ICRW’s East Africa Regional Representative and Director of the IGE-Tech project, explaining that male family members often fail to pass on knowledge received in trainings to women who actually carry out much of the farming.

To change that dynamic, the IGE-Tech project, working in conjuncting with Feed the Future, seeks to incorporate women fully into the agriculture decision-making process, providing information on better agricultural practices and high quality seeds and fertilizer to use in their farming. In addition, the project works with partner agency AGMARK, a Kenya-based nonprofit that specializes in helping smallholder farmers access information on better agricultural practices and farm inputs like seeds and fertilizers,to train group members to save money collectively. Members are then able to take loans from the pool of savings, which they pay back within 30 days at 10% interest, thus growing the savings available for the next loan recipient.

For female participants like Rispah Ayiecha, the newfound savings are a critical element of the project. Now able to play a more active role in making farm-related household decisions and no longer reliant solely on her husband for money to purchase farming inputs, Ayiecha says each day in the project provides a valuable opportunity to learn.

“Before when I wanted something I had to ask my husband and that could cause problems,” says Ayiecha. “But now maybe, because of savings, I have money to add to what we already have, and we make decisions together.”

Indeed, the impact of those savings can be dramatic. Since they formed in 2013, the 27 members of the INDA CBO Group – 14 of them women – saved more than 39,000 Kenya Shillings, about $475, by April of this year. By accessing loans from that pool at planting season, the group members were able to purchase high quality certified seeds. And with training from AGMARK/ICRW Community Mobilizers, the group members learned to plant more efficiently by spacing their seeds at optimal intervals and using manure and chemical fertilizers effectively.

As the rains fell on their first project food plots in April, farmers participating in the project were optimistic about a bumper harvest and hoped to earn income not only from their savings’ interest but from selling potential crop surpluses. This means the world to women like Rispah Ayiecha.

“Before there was commotion in the family because we had to ask for seeds and fertilizer,” she says. “But now we save, and we are so happy because AGMARK has taught us how to fish, not just given us fish.”