The Role of PlantVillage's Kitchen Gardening in Boosting Women's Economic Empowerment in Narok County

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In the arid landscapes of Narok County, life has always been challenging for pastoralist communities, especially for children and women like Jackline Normeshuki, commonly known to locals as Mama Mboga.


Normeshuki earned a living for decades by making and selling beads, a craft deeply rooted in her Maasai culture. However, despite her efforts, she earned less than $4 a week, making it impossible to sustain her family.


Desperate for a more reliable income, Normeshuki sold tea at the local market. This activity was a challenging transition. She had to wake up as early as 2 a.m. to prepare the tea and then walk through the dark, risking encounters with wild animals and other dangers, to reach the market on time.


"Nkorinkori market, located about 4 kilometers from my home, is the closest. I had to walk there every Friday morning to sell tea to the business people, who arrived at 5 a.m. to sell and buy livestock. Any delay meant I wouldn't make enough money since several other women were also selling tea," she recalled.


Furthermore, this new business took up much of her time. She had to spend less time at home and with her children. This caused her kids to miss school on Fridays because no one could look after them. The financial pressure was tremendous, and the personal risk was high. Worst of all, her children's education was taking a hit.

The Role of PlantVillage's Kitchen Gardening in Boosting Women's Economic Empowerment in Narok County

Normeshuki poses for a photo, proudly holding freshly harvested sukuma wiki in her hands. Photo credit: Brian Sankei, PlantVillage's Moran in Narok County.


A Beacon of Hope

Amidst these challenges, hope arrived in the form of kitchen gardening, an initiative launched by PlantVillage in Kenya's Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) that empowers local communities through sustainable agriculture. With the help of PlantVillage, Normeshuki established a kitchen garden, marking the beginning of a transformative journey.


"In groups, the PlantVillage field officers taught us the importance of diversifying our nutrition and income sources. Later, they trained us on establishing and caring for a kitchen garden," added Normeshuki.

Normeshuki is seen harvesting vegetables from her kitchen garden. She uses some to feed her family and sells the surplus to locals and a nearby college. Photo credit: Brian Sankei, PlantVillage's Moran in Narok County.


Today, she cultivates sukuma wiki (Collard Greens) on her half-acre plot, where she feeds her family and sells the surplus to her neighbors, earning extra money to sustain her family of six.


"Depending on the harvest, I earn an average of $10 a week from selling the vegetables to my neighbors and students from a nearby college. I am presently getting more than double what I used to earn from my previous business," she said.


This steady income represents a significant improvement over her earnings from beadwork and tea sales. The financial stability has allowed her children to attend school regularly, ensuring they receive the education they deserve.

Freshly harvested vegetables. Photo credit Serah Lanoi, PlantVillage's field officer Narok County.

Furthermore, the shift to vegetable farming has enabled her to manage her time better. She no longer endures the early morning dangers of walking to the market and can now sleep more peacefully and oversee her household more effectively. Her success in vegetable farming has benefited her family and the entire community.


"We no longer have to walk long distances to find fresh vegetables. Mama Mboga has brought this service closer to us, enhancing the local quality of life," said a student.


'Mama Mboga' is grateful for the PlantVillage initiative. She plans to expand her farming activities by establishing another kitchen garden to meet the growing demand for her produce.


"Through such initiatives, we aim to combat malnutrition and decrease the community's dependence on livestock, which often suffer significant losses during dry spells and disease outbreaks," explained Serah Lanoi, PlantVillage's field officer in Narok County.

Normeshuki's success is a testimony shared by more than 80 households in Narok County who have benefited from the kitchen garden project. The organization is maximizing the onset of long rains in Kenya's Arid and Semi-arid (ASAL) counties to establish similar projects.

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