What they need is some guidance and help as well as intervention in linking them to the market.
Thankfully, there are shining examples of what guidance and exposure can do to women living in the rural areas and change their economic fortunes.
- They have mobilised other women to learn new farming methods through technology, hard work and persistence.
Angelina Kavithe Francis is a small-scale farmer in Kitui county who dropped out of school at Standard Three. But that did not stop her from addressing a panel at the United Nations headquarters in New York during this year’s Commission on the Status of Women in March.
The married mother of five and grandmother of four was confident as she proudly narrated to a full house how far she has come from a struggling peasant to a successful farmer. She laboured through her English, throwing in a Kiswahili word here and there.
She nevertheless passed her message — to a rousing response and standing ovation to boot! Needless to say, she was impressive.
Kavithe explained how her life and that of her family and groups of women in her village that she has helped to mobilise to get trained have changed after learning new farming methods through technology, hard work and persistence.
She and her neighbours used to work year in, year out without making much of a profit from their small shambas, cultivating mainly tomatoes and maize. This is because middlemen and brokers would rush and buy their produce at throwaway prices, right at their farms, but end up making more profit than the women despite all their toil.
Kavithe is today a successful horticulture farmer on her three-acre farm. She managed to shrug off the middlemen, bought a motorcycle — which she rides to deliver her tomatoes, spinach and green maize, among other produce, to Kitui and Kwa Vonza markets. She is eyeing two new universities in the locality as potential markets.
For now, Kavithe tells me, her focus is to “emancipate” fellow women to physically go to the market and sell their produce — as opposed to selling to unscrupulous middlemen.
“I make sure I take them there,” Kavithe told me last week, when I called on her, before riding off for the mission. “I hate to see them go through the exploitation that some of us suffered over the years.”