Isiolo County is experiencing a quiet but significant transformation, led by women. In the face of harsh drought conditions caused by climate change, women have taken up poultry farming as a means of economic empowerment. Traditionally, the people of Northern Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) in Kenya have relied on livestock keeping, which has been severely affected by climate change. Women in ASALs, in particular, are vulnerable to climate change due to social norms, economic status, and cultural practices that limit their control over resources and decision-making power.
To address this situation, SNV’s Laikipia, Isiolo, Samburu Transforming the Environment Through Nexus (LISTEN) project has been implemented using a nexus approach to promote sustainable livelihoods and economic development. The project, funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, supports women-led groups to build their resilience to the effects of climate change. Through training and knowledge-sharing sessions, women can easily adopt climate-smart agricultural techniques that integrate Water-Energy-Food management approaches for socioeconomic growth.
Members of the Malka Bisanadi Women Group
One such group is the Malka Bisanadi Women's Group in Kinna Ward, Isiolo County. The group consists of eighteen women and seven men, with women in leadership positions. In 2019, the group started poultry farming but lost all eighty chickens. The group chair, Malkai Ntalo, approached the County Government Department of Agriculture for support to improve their management practices.
Ntalo notes that traditionally, they were pastoralists, but weather patterns have changed; ‘we lose animals daily, and there is no food for our cows and goats, we are embracing new ideas, and now we are doing poultry farming and agriculture,’ she says.
A member of the Malka Bisanadi Women Group feeding the group’s chickens
In 2021, the County Government of Isiolo's Department of Agriculture introduced the group to the LISTEN project to provide technical training and capacity building in good agricultural practices relevant to the changing climatic situation.
The LISTEN project facilitated a trip to Nanyuki, where the group received training on different aspects of agricultural production, including farm preparation, pest management, resilient crop varieties, and water management for increased land productivity. Village-based advisors were identified to offer mentorship and create a network for learning among farmers. As part of the farmer-to-farmer on-farm learning, the group set up a 20m-by-20m demonstration plot to facilitate visualised learning on good agricultural production and water management. The LISTEN project provided certified, hybrid, drought-tolerant green grams and beans seeds. The project also offered organic manure and agrochemicals to facilitate increased land productivity.
A member of the Malka Bisanadi group harvesting beans.
Malkai confirmed that despite the harsh weather conditions, they harvested 9 kilograms of green grams in January. She said, ‘We are encouraged that it is possible to increase production on a larger scale. We are preparing our farms for the next season, hoping the rains will be sufficient.’ The group also has a bustling poultry unit with 250 birds. LISTEN oversaw the group's training on indigenous chicken husbandry, poultry housing and identification, control, and management of different poultry diseases. The training also included poultry feeding, watering, and marketing of poultry products, eggs, and meat.
Malkai highlights the group's noble plan to install a hatchery. The idea is driven by the increased demand for eggs within and outside Isiolo County, in addition to the increased interest from other groups to venture into the poultry business.
he Malka Bisanadi Women's Group in Isiolo County is a testament to the power of women's economic empowerment and their ability to adapt to the effects of climate change. Through the LISTEN project, the group has been able to diversify their income streams, increase their agricultural productivity, and build their resilience to the changing climatic conditions. Such initiatives need to be replicated and scaled up across the country to support more women-led groups and communities. By investing in women's economic empowerment and providing them with the necessary skills and resources, we can build a more sustainable and equitable future for all.
Therefore, it is essential to support initiatives that empower women and build their resilience to the effects of climate change. Governments, development partners, and other stakeholders should invest in programs that provide training, capacity building, and resources to women-led groups and communities in ASALs. Furthermore, we need to promote gender-sensitive policies and practices that enhance women's participation in decision-making processes, access to productive resources, and control over household resources. By working together, we can build a more resilient and sustainable future for the women of ASALs and their communities.