PlantVillage Empowers Women: Celebrating International Women's Day 2024

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As the global community unites to commemorate International Women's Day 2024 under the theme "Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress," PlantVillage stands at the forefront, showcasing its commitment to empowering women through diverse projects.


One notable initiative is the agroforestry project, which has not only educated pastoralists in Northern Kenya on tree planting as a mitigation effort against climate change but has also provided employment opportunities, enabling them to earn extra income for sustainability.


Under the expansive Warrior View Project, generously funded by Google and in partnership with the County Government of Samburu through KFS, PlantVillage established a tree nursery in Maralal. This strategic move aims to bolster tree cover and crops, effectively countering the region's adverse impacts of climate change.

PlantVillage Empowers Women: Celebrating International Women's Day 2024
A cross-section photo of PlantVillages' Maralal nursery, showcasing lush tree seedlings. Photo credit: Lomitu Lenguris PlantVillage's field officer, Samburu County.


"In response to the impact of climate change in the ASALs, addressing the challenge became imperative. A highly effective strategy involved the cultivation of trees and native grasses. The Warrior View Project set a primary goal of collaborating with women's groups and the local community to improve 1 million hectares of land through tree planting and native grass regeneration.


"We are aware that women are the most affected by the adverse nature of climate change; hence, they are a centerpiece for the initiative," said Melodine, adding that recognizing the scarcity of tree seedlings and species in existing nurseries in Samburu, the project envisioned the establishment of a nursery. She mentioned that this move aimed to ensure wider availability of seedlings, benefiting all six counties.


Empowering Local Women


Since its inception early last year, the project has served as an information hub for pastoralists, offering guidance on planting and caring for trees. Furthermore, it has become a source of employment for local women who have worked as casual laborers, subsequently earning income to sustain their families.


"Currently, we are working with 29 casual women at the nursery. 16 of them work three days a week, while the rest work six days a week. Each is paid $2.8 a day, significantly helping them earn extra money for sustainability," said Rose Saniwa, PlantVillage agroforestry lead in the ASALs.

Eliza Kiptala (in white), Damaris Kasitet (in green), and Hildah Napeyok (in yellow) are working as casuals in PlantVillage's tree nursery in Maralal. Photo credit: Lomitu Lenguris PlantVillage's field officer, Samburu County.


The nursery cultivates more than 29,600 tree seedlings, including Grevillea robusta, Azadirachta indica (neem), Melia volkensii, Terminalia brownii, and Senna siamea. These species are chosen for their suitability in arid and semi-arid regions and their capacity to offer additional fodder for livestock.


"Securing a job in this area has been challenging. Given my employment here since the inception of this project, with my roles being potting, pricking out, and weeding, this opportunity has provided me with financial means to support my family. I am pleased to share that it is through this project that I can clear my children's school fees and meet my family's needs," expressed Hiladh Napeyeko, a casual worker.


Beyond tree planting, the four women of ASALs agroforestry department introduced the Farmer Management Natural Regeneration (FMNR) initiative, focusing on indigenous trees in Northern Kenya. Dorcas Kiprop, a PlantVillage field officer in Baringo, underscores the simplicity of FMNR as caring for trees.


Dorcas Kiprop training one of her groups in Mogotio, Baringo County, on FMNR. Photo credit: Dorcas Kiprop, PlantVillage's agroforestry officer in Baringo County.


"FMNR is simply the act of caring for trees; our emphasis has been on indigenous trees because they are well-adapted to the area, resulting in high survival rates," explained Kiprop. She highlights that the approach has not only led the people in the ASALs to focus on planting new tree seedlings but has also equipped them with knowledge on how to care for existing ones.


The department primarily concentrates on women, acknowledging their accessibility and inclination to implement the training they receive, in contrast to men, who are predominantly engaged in dedicating considerable time to tending livestock in the fields.


"For instance, in Ririma, Marsabit County, where the organization installed the first-ever wick capillary irrigation system, we have been training groups of women in kitchen gardening. Many of them have adopted the same practice at their homesteads, providing their families and the community at large with accessibility to green and fresh vegetables. This helps diversify their nutrition," said Josephine Maro, PlantVillage's agronomist in Marsabit County.

A section of pastoralists who have benefited from the project, accompanied by PlantVillage's field officers.


Empowering Women and Girls


Driven by a passion for environmental conservation and community upliftment, the ASAL Agroforestry team is determined to instigate positive change in their communities, transforming the barren lands of Northern Kenya. These areas face challenges such as gender-based violence, early marriages, and the harsh effects of climate change.


"In pastoralist societies, women and girls traditionally held roles primarily associated with domestic duties and caregiving. Throughout history, their engagement revolved around household tasks, fulfilling family needs, and participating in community activities. However, there is a growing recognition of the pivotal role women and girls play in these communities. They contribute not only to sustaining family life but also possess the potential to drive positive change and development," stated Serah Lanoi, an agroforestry field officer based in Narok.


Ms. Lanoi noted a behavioral shift in the Maasai community through these women's groups, who gradually embrace agroforestry and serve as ambassadors.


Serah Lanoi training a group of women in Eor entkitok, Narok County, on tree planting during a tree distribution exercise. Photo credit: Serah Lanoi, PlantVillage's agroforestry officer in Narok County.


As the world celebrates International Women's Day, these five individuals are inspiring examples of women driving positive change in their communities. Their story underscores women's critical role in environmental conservation, sustainable development, and challenging societal norms.


Through such initiatives in Northern Kenya, PlantVillage is a beacon of hope, demonstrating the tangible impact of investing in women and accelerating progress towards a more inclusive and sustainable future."

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