Agriculture / Article / Climate Change / Drylands / East Africa / Kenya / Livelihoods / Pastoralism / Vulnerability / Women

Women playing key role in pastoralist livelihood diversification

Olaimutiai Primary School (Maasai Land, Kenya)

Maasai women in Kenya. Women are playing a key role in pastoralists’ diversification (picture credit: Konrad Glogowski on Flickr). 

A feature story carried by IRIN this week highlights how women are playing an increasingly important role in pastoralist livelihoods diversification in Kenya.

‘Along a small seasonal stream in Ewaso Nyiro village in Narok, southwestern Kenya, Leleseina Nkoitoi sells vegetables from a stall whose bright colours contrast with the parched landscape. In the past, Nkoitoi, like other rural women from the predominantly pastoralist Maasai community, looked after a small herd of livestock, the home herd, which is left behind for the family’s sustenance when the rest of the herd migrates with the men in search of pasture.’

‘Recurrent droughts and subsequent livestock deaths, as well as the closing off of important migration routes due to privatization of sections of the drylands for large-scale agriculture, are forcing pastoralists like Nkoitoi to diversify into agriculture and the market economy.’

From the sale of her crop of cabbages, Nkoitoi earns up to 2,000 shillings (about US$24) a day.

‘“Every day, I make good money and I am able to save. Now I even have a bank account and I keep my money there,” she said. “Now even if drought comes, I can go to the bank and get money to buy food for my children.”’

‘Women are playing a key role in pastoralists’ diversification, according to a recent report published by the Regional Learning and Advocacy Programme (REGLAP). “In the past and simply put, men tended to have more roles in and responsibility over livestock, and women over household tasks and childcare. Today, some key changes can be seen.”‘

‘Besides taking up agricultural activities, pastoral women are also migrating to work as domestic servants, in restaurants and breweries, for example in Uganda’s Karamoja region, leaving the men to work in the homestead plots.’

“Women can, with adequate training on agricultural production, lead their families out of perennial food insecurity.”

Read the complete story: Kenya: The changing face of pastoralism published 26 March 2012 on the IRIN website.

Watch an ILRI photofilm on how pastoralist livelihoods are changing in Kitengela, Kenya.

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