Widows reject food aid as they embrace farming

Some of the members of Mere widows in Malindi, Kilifi County. [Curtesy]

Food insecurity has been a huge challenge in Kilifi County which has been hard hit by drought. According to National Drought Management Authority 4.4 million Kenyans are in urgent need of food aid with locals in Kilifi county included.

Though the situation is dire, some residents are now tired of handouts and relief food. To rewrite their story, a group of 60 widows in Mere, Malindi decided to come together and start farming as a way to earn a decent living.

The Mere Widows Group was started by Matilda Bulemi, a resident who used to get requests from widows for maize flour to feed their children. She decided to bring the widows together and formed four groups consisting of 15 members each. Most of the widows do not have enough land so a well-wisher donated part of his land for the project. The Smart Harvest met the team during one of their meetings in Mere. The members aged between 41-78 years have one thing in common, they are tired of food donations and want to improve their lives by growing their own food.

Bulemi who chairs the groups, says politicians have been taking advantage of the women's desperate state to seek for votes.

Resilient team

"During campaigns, the women were duped by politicians to get votes but after the elections, they were left desperate. They were promised many things but these promises were broken," she says.

Ms Bulemi says now the group is now asking for concrete requests like boreholes which will support their farming activities.

"It's raining now and the water is going to waste. Our leaders should come to sensitise people on rainwater harvesting but they are nowhere to be seen. They are just waiting for drought then they will show up carrying packets of unga," she says.

The chair lady says they are planning to spread their wings to cover the entire county.

Jumwa Mumba, a 53-year-old widow says they are tired of queuing for relief food.

"We are old, we cannot fight with men when relief food comes. The last time they brought relief food, I did not get anything because of the crowd. We just want a borehole; the rest we will do for ourselves," she says.

Another group member, Irene Shindo, a 41-year-old mother of 11, says they only need support on farming and they will do the rest.

"We need boreholes, generators, water pumps and pipes to kick start our farming project. We are tired of handouts," Shindo says.

Boniface Hassan Pinji, the land owner who gave the widows a piece of land, encouraged other well-wishers to support them.

"They need more boreholes. They are concerned that in a month or two the rains will stop and the boreholes will come in handy to support their farming," he says.

Village elder, Kingi Nyanje, says women have lived on handouts for too long and their plan is to improve their livelihoods by using the resources they have. To change their fortunes, the group leader has been trying to reach the county government without any success.

"I have gone to the deputy governor's office thrice. They gave me an appointment but I did not meet her. Deputy Governor, you are a mother like us, we have tried to reach you with no success. Kindly look for us. We just want boreholes to support our farming activities," says the group chairperson.

When The Smart Harvest reached out to Chula Mwagona Kilifi County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture, Livestock Development and Blue Economy, she said the county has set aside a budget to build two boreholes in the 35 wards.

"We have given tractors to the farmers, at a subsidised price of Sh1,700 per acre. So far we have distributed seeds like maize, cashew nut, cassava and sorghum in dry areas," he says.

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