To ensure ‘No woman is left behind’ in line with the Sustainable Development Goals 2 and 5 (end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture; achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), the VWB VETS project has given specific focus to equipping women with skills and knowledge on improved dairy farm management.
This, in turn, results in improved knowledge on dairy farming which leads to economic empowerment where the women have increased decision-making powers. This has enabled active participation in joint decision making on household issues including how to spend the household income and to voice their views on how they can improve their livelihoods through good farming practices.
For the longest time women in rural and marginalized areas within Meru County have been left behind in the dairy farming sector. This is despite the fact that they are the ones who are mainly take care of the cows. Improved knowledge among women about best practices in dairy farm management means that more households are taking better care of cows. The trainings on gender equality have also seen some farmers report an improved appreciation of the role that women play in the household and community level. This does not only serve to empower women, but also ensures that dairy farms are more productive which positively impacts the quality of life. Equally men have been involved in the discussions to ensure the recognition of women empowerment and have them as allies in reducing gender inequalities. Helping women farmers to adopt best practices in dairy farming can cause improvements in household well-being and improved livelihoods. Dairy farming does not only generate cash income but also ensures having foodstuff that contributes to a balanced diet which in turn leads to good nutrition and ending hunger.
Peninnah, who is 35 years old from Mukami Society, was struggling to contribute to her Chama (table banking) and to make ends meet by rearing a low producing cow.
When the VETs project started trainings at the Society, she attended the trainings and started implementing the teachings. Following her interest and willingness, Peninnah has already started reaping the benefits of additional income in her household.
“Since I started selling milk to a shop owner in my area, I have been able to increase my income which has helped me a lot. I have been consistent in my table banking contributions. Equally I have been able to chip in in paying my children’s school fees, hence relieving the burden off my husband.” She also adds, “Nowadays my family enjoys better and more nutritious meals as the income can support my household’s food needs.”
Through the project, women farmers have been incorporated into various trainings like calf rearing, cow comfort, dry cow and diseases. This was made possible through better nutrition and with the help of the vet surgeon specialist. This made it easy to link the trainings with economic empowerment to ensure the farmers are able to sustain the changes they experience and improve their family’s wellbeing. Peninnah has been able to adapt good feeding methods from the trainings and also made improvements in her cowshed.
As a result of the trainings Peninnah attended, her cow started producing more quality milk and increased the quantity from 4 liters per-day to 12 liters per-day.
With the knowledge from the economic trainings, Peninnah has also been able to establish and diversify her income streams, including reviving her coffee farm and selling manure left over after tending to her coffee and Napier grass.
“At least the returns from coffee have increased from before, hence, I am encouraged to continue investing in my coffee trees and have a good production, which will give me some good returns.”
Peninnah attributes the improved livelihood in her household to the VWB trainings she has attended. Her family is enjoying well-balanced diets, consistent time in school for her children as the fees are paid in time, and she is able to save more than before, owing to the fact she is spending less money treating her now-healthy cows. Her husband is particularly pleased with the changes taking place in his family through his wife’s effort.
“Before, I would be the one making decisions on my own, but now with increased income, I have been sitting down with my wife to decide on what we need to improve in our household and so far, so good,” says Peninnah’s husband.
Through her active participation and desire for growth, Peninnah’s cow was selected for the free estrus and artificial insemination synchronization project sponsored by Meru County. This will help her improve the quality of her heifers and, over time, help her have increased milk production.
Capacity building women and men on good dairy farming practices can increase productivity and hence more income. As a result of Peninnah having an increased income from the knowledge gained from the VWB trainings, her family can now enjoy healthier meals and can look after her coffee farm when not taking care of the cows. This has helped her create a proper waste disposal of manure to a compost pit before it is directed to the farm. With the proper farm management, she can now pay attention to the hygiene of her household, which will ensure her cows are not being exposed to zoonotic diseases that might otherwise affect the health of her cows.
“I look forward to keep doing what you trained us. My plan this year is to have my cows produce more milk to ensure school fees for my children is paid in full and when I get my calf in August will ensure to put all the calf rearing knowledge into practice. I am also encouraged to do silage to ensure I do not disrupt good feeding for my cows especially as the sunny season approaches.” She says with a smile of her face!
Anne Patricia Kanyiri, Gender Specialist volunteer, Meru Dairy