Mawazo Bora Self-Help Group Catalyst for Resilience in Isiolo

Published July 27, 2015 by

Members tending to their 3 acre farm in Kambi Garba village of Isiolo CountyMembers tending to their 3 acre farm in Kambi Garba village of Isiolo County

31 year old Madina Wario, a mother of 4 and the chairlady of the Mawazo Bora Self-Help group, informs us that prolonged drought in recent years has threatened the livelihoods of many residents in the area who, as pastoralists, depend on livestock and natural sources of water for their survival.

Initially coming together in May 2012 to raise money to engage in agriculture for domestic consumption, Mawazo Bora Self Help group is now playing an important role as a catalyst for the empowerment of these group members in Isiolo, by, in particular providing women with access to finance.

The group started off growing maize and beans on their one-acre farm in the Kambi Garba area in the outskirts of Isiolo town. In March 2013, the USAID-funded Resilience and Economic Growth in the Arid lands – Improving Resilience (REGAL-IR) started engaging with Mawazo Bora SHG, selected mainly because they held proper records, had some savings and showed a commitment to developing the group further.

The group was mentored, received trainings on good agricultural practices, farming calendars, exposure tours and how to market their produce, and was linked with the Ministry of Agriculture. In mid-2014, the group received KES 60,000 (USD 705) from REGAL-IR’s Community Resilience Fund, to boost the quality of their farm productivity and to expand their farming activities. As a result of the trainings, mentoring and seed capital support, the group diversified to more profitable crops such as onions, tomatoes and kales. To date, the group has quadrupled the size of their farm and income and are planning to expand the farm even further by introducing poultry farming.

“We’re now selling our crops to the local community, schools and to people who come here to buy. We’re confident now in how to grow these vegetables.” Madina informs us.

REGAL-IR has leveraged the power of Self Help Groups such as Mawazo Bora to help communities in arid lands break their dependence on pastoralism, ultimately enhancing their empowerment and opportunities. REGAL-IR is supporting six farmers’ self-help groups in Isiolo County in crop production, targeting 312 beneficiaries. The trust and confidence gained through these shared activities has proved an invaluable foundation for the success of the groups in managing the group fund and developing their small business skills, allowing them to pool their profits and strengthen community resilience.

Water is still a precious commodity here and the newly trained farmers are careful not to waste any as they water their crops. Growing vegetables is only part of the challenge, because good nutrition also depends on knowing what to do with the harvest. Through REGAL-IR, the women in this community have participated in cooking demonstrations where they were shown how to cook vegetables such as spinach in a way that makes them tasty but also retains their nutrients.

“This community is building greater capacity to withstand shocks, and to maintain their livelihoods in the future,” said Hussein Adan, an active member of the group.