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Women farmers

The Maasai are in transition from a nomadic, pastoral way of life to more stationary, agricultural based livlihoods where primary income is from farming and livestock. Government training programs are designed for male farmers. Low interest agricultural loans are available largely only to men even though women do most of the planting, harvesting and processing. Women contribute up to 80% of the work force yet hold only 1% of land titles or 5-6% of land held jointly.

About 30% of households are headed by widows or women whose husbands migrated to cities in search of jobs. A title to land is required for credit. Women have no way to access loans to buy farm equipment or otherwise earn income. They are rarely allowed to inherit land. If they are widowed, orphaned, unmarried, separated, divorced or infertile, they are at significant disadvantage.

Poverty and economic dependence expose them and their children to exploitation and violence. Malnourished or traumatised, girls turn to commercial sex work or early marriage, while boys become child laborers, engage in drug abuse or other irresponsible behavior.

To turn this around, MANDO is fnding ways to provide microcredit – loans with easy terms – for women trapped in chronic poverty. Along with this will come empowerment through training, self help groups and legal help.

Maasai women meetingThe strategy is community mobilization to assure ownership of results. These results intend to include social power so that they can fight for their rights, obtain equal property rights, get training and low interest loans – not to mention that women's personal life could include more choices such as safe sex or reject sexual advances as well as outdated and dangerous cultural practices such as female genital mutilation.

A recently completed pilot program included:

  • loans for agriculture and livestock such as seeds, fertilizer, geese, chickens, ducks, bees and goats
  • training in farming, entrepreneurial skills, health and human rights
  • supervision, monitoring and evaluation
  • water harvesting solutions and improved sanitation

A summary of what was learned as well as valuable basics to anyone wanting to set up in farming will be sent upon request. E-mail asking for the agriculture training manual.

Women farmers will be encouraged to organize self-help activities to make taking care of the children easier, mobilize in groups to do the seasonal farming, organize common transport, market products and maintain sale stalls. Subsequently they will be able to alleviate hunger, improve nutrition, educate their children and assure better futures for them. Girls will have positive behavioral and entrepreneurial models for their future.

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