Harnessing the power of women farmers in Kenya to fuel community prosperity: The Jiren Jabesa Women Group

By Betty Mutua, Faith Nyagwoka and Alex Hori

By Betty Mutua, Faith Nyagwoka and Alex Hori

The residents of Isiolo County, Kenya live in a challenging environment: the county’s arid climate severely impacts the lives of its farmers and their livelihoods. To adapt to these circumstances, some enterprising residents formed the Jiren Jabesa Women Group, a women’s only savings group that pools its savings and provides financing to its members to help them earn livelihoods.

“We came together to form this group in the efforts of battling rampant poverty and nutritional deficiency diseases that engulfed this area evidenced by the number of orphans and vulnerable homes in Isiolo,” Habiba Abdullo, the group chairperson, recalled.

While each member contributed to the savings group, at first, the group struggled to meet the savings targets and repay loans. It then became clear that the group needed to boost their savings with an additional income stream so, the group began selling chicken eggs in Isiolo town and then raising goats to earn more money.

To support the entrepreneurial activities of this group and others like it, in 2018, MEDA began working with the Kenya Marketing Livestock Council (KLMC) through the M-SAWA project that was funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC). Through M-SAWA, the Jiren Jabesa Women Group benefited from financial literacy, business, and production training sessions for livestock farmers.

“Our group was introduced to KLMC through one of our group members. Through this relationship, KLMC has equipped us with knowledge on livestock diseases and goat rearing skills like feeding, sheltering goats, and linked us to livestock markets…. With the KLMC and MEDA’s support, we have learnt to exhibit best goat-keeping practices,” Habiba said.

The group has also benefitted from financial literacy training which equipped them with knowledge on keeping financial records and accessing external sources of finance. As a result of these trainings and exposure the group has been able to apply for and benefit from the county development funds, which enabled them to buy more goats for the group.

In the future, the Jiren Jabesa Women group plans to expand into the international export market with the support of KLMC. Despite the slowdown in business due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MEDA remains optimistic that through the skills and market connections formed through the M-SAWA project and with KLMC, it will enable the Jired Jabesa Women group to continue on its long-term growth trajectory.

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  • MEDA is an international economic development organization that creates business solutions to poverty.