Widows are a vulnerable demographic lacking in economic means, social capital and means to protect their individual rights. In recognition of their unique status as societal pariahs, community-based organizations in Kitui County came together and brainstormed ideas for creating sustainable livelihoods for widows living amongst them. Earlier on, it was evident that sustainable agriculture would be transformative and practical. It was a consensus that through a communal collaborative effort, widows could grow crops and raise livestock to guarantee them a source of food and income.
Sustainable agricultural practices were intended to protect the environment, expand the natural resource base, and maintain and improve soil fertility in areas where it was practised. Based on a multi-pronged goal, sustainable agriculture was chosen as it increased profitability, and income, and promoted environmental stewardship.
Kitui region is located in the Arid and Semi-arid region of Kenya that receives little rainfall which is often sporadic.
Among the activities undertaken were:
- Rotating crops and embracing diversity.
- Planting cover crops and perennials.
- Reducing or eliminating tillage.
- Applying integrated pest management (IPM).
- Integrating livestock and crops.
- Adopting agroforestry practices.
- Managing whole systems and landscapes.
It should be understood that these widows were women previously displaced from their matrimonial homes, and they lacked the technical skill of utilizing scanty ecological resources to practice agriculture.
The introduction of this activity was therefore revolutionary in a sense. Previously destitute mothers could now look forward to harvesting their crops and selling them at local markets. The proceeds from this would then be used to pay for their children’s school fees, rent living quarters and purchase dignified clothes. The resultant social effect was the emergence of a class of empowered widows, who no longer looked at society with a bowl in hand, begging for sustenance.
As a sustainable agricultural practice, the resulting effect was;
- Increase in productivity, employment and value addition in food systems.
- Protection and enhancement of natural resources.
- Improved livelihoods that fostered inclusive economic growth.
- Enhanced resilience of widows, whose socioeconomic ecosystem could withstand different economic shocks.
- Adapt governance to new challenges especially as widows acquired social capital and economic power, they were able to hire legal aid to advocate for and speak for their rights.
The example of how widows were rescued from the throes of poverty and propelled to a life of hope and dignity is what the goat foundation aspires to and continues doing across the country. Scores of women have received a pair of goats from this foundation and the socioeconomic outcome has been similar. At the Goat Foundation, we felt encouraged to observe how different aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals were being attained by the simple act of communal cooperation, training and inculcation of relevant skills. It is for this reason that our foundation not only offers a pair of goats to widows, but we also provide crucial financial literacy training that ensures these women can start to grow their financial base through making informed decisions.