A single mother of six, 33-year old Ewoi Arii runs a small business in Nadapal, Turkana County, selling food items such as sugar, rice and flour.
In 2011, she made what she calls ‘one of the biggest decisions’ in her life. She joined a group called Etic, which means ‘work’ in the Turkana language.
“This group has helped me overcome many difficulties,” she said.
Previously, Ewoi earned her income from weaving and selling items made out of reeds. Today, she still enjoys doing this, but as a side business.
“My income was very little and unpredictable. I could not afford enough food; I ate mukoma (wild palm fruit) to survive,” said Ewoi.
Started as a self-help group
The women who started the Etic collective had a common interest in weaving. They made hats, mats, brooms, and baskets out of reeds and straw collected along the riverbanks.
But faced with increasing needs and a desire to grow, they started ‘table banking,’ where members put money aside to loan it out in time of need.
“If I cannot raise school fees, the group loans me some money, and I pay back after a month,” said Ewoi.
Asset creation pays off
But the members of Etic Women Group still lacked enough food, until the World Food Programme worked with the group to start an irrigation scheme along the River Turkwell, a productive asset with the potential to help them produce enough food for their families.
To fill the immediate food gap, WFP started giving each family a ration of food comprising cereal, pulses, and vegetable oil, in return for the days worked on the irrigation project.
“We want to increase the acreage under cropping so we can produce more. We are going to collect harvest and sell jointly,” said Mary Logorio, the group’s chairperson.
“When we open up more farmland and channel water to all the plots, we will no longer need the food rations from WFP.”
Agricultural markets access
WFP has helped construct two storage facilities and equipped the group with a three-wheeled motorized carriage and a small-scale grain mill. The storehouses can take up to 86 metric tons of grain.
“Initially, we stored our harvest in our huts in the village. Rodents would attack the food, and sometimes thieves would break in and steal,” said Ewoi.
Through WFP’s Agricultural Markets Access and Linkages initiative, the group has learned skills in farming, post-harvest care, value addition, and marketing.
“Eventually, we want to collect and mill grain in large volumes so that we can sell the flour at a profit to local schools and traders.”
County Governments taking the lead
The Etic Women Group has since grown from 30 to 110 members, and has diversified its membership base to further support the community – 22 of the current members are men.
The group is also now accessing financial and technical help from other development partners working in the county. Their aim is to continue to expand production and venture into processing their harvest, ready for markets.
Notably, the Turkana County government is investing resources in many of the initiatives supported by WFP, and incorporating asset creation projects into its development plans.
With time and sustained support, asset creation helps communities produce more, earn a stable income, and graduate from WFP support.
WFP’s asset creation projects are supported by Australia, Canada, the European Commission, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, UN CERF, and USAID.
Source: World Food Programme