Empowering a local community to address climate risks and food insecurity in Lower Nyando, Kenya

Published on April 15, 2013 | Author: Chris Macoloo, John Recha, Maren Radeny, James Kinyangi

In the Nyando Basin in western Kenya, climate change and variability are already evident. Droughts, floods and unpredictable rainfall have increased, affecting agriculture and food security. These problems are compounded by high poverty (about half of the population lives below the poverty line) and prevalent HIV (the adult infection rate is around 7.5 per cent) leading to more widow- or orphan-headed households, lost productivity and labour shortages.

Farming is Nyando’s primary source of income and food (a mixed crop-livestock system), but Nyando farms are not diverse and show few agricultural innovations. Lower Nyando also suffers serious land degradation. Soil erosion is rampant in two annual rainy seasons, and run off forms deep gullies that affect about 40 per cent of the landscape.

Poverty, lost labour and less diversified livelihoods and land degradation all make communities more vulnerable to climate risks, directly reducing household food supply and nutritional status. Up to 17 per cent of households are unable to meet their food needs for 3-4 months in a year. Malnutrition is estimated to be 45 per cent among under-fives.

To tackle these problems, people in Lower Nyando organised themselves into six self-help groups affiliated to a large ‘umbrella’ community-based organisation (CBO) called Friends of Katuk Odeyo (FOKO). Households join a group, contributing from KSh100–200 (equivalent to US$1.2–2.4) a month. FOKO now has 20 groups, which comprise 600 households. Of these 20, two are women’s groups. In the others, 70 per cent of the active members are women. Two other CBOs have sprung up — Kapsokale and the North East Community Development Programme. Each CBO is a legal entity and has a bank account used by the member groups. Together, they aim to use community empowerment to tackle food insecurity, malnutrition and increasing dependency rates. In the Nyando basin 1,170 households now belong to a self-help group, and 70-85 per cent of the active members are women.

Each self-help group is led by an elected chairperson, secretary and treasurer, and in most cases at least two of these are women. Representation for the groups within each CBO is based on geographical clusters (often villages). The CBOs, which are runby a five-member executive committee, are mainly responsible for linking communities with relevant government ministries, research and development organisations, and for mobilising resources, whereas local groups make decisions on capacity-building needs and activities.

Macoloo, C., Recha, J., Radeny, M. & Kinyangi, J. (2013). Empowering a local community to address climate risks and food insecurity in Lower Nyando, Kenya. Case Study prepared for Hunger • Nutrition • Climate Justice • 2013 | A New Dialogue : Putting People at the Heart of Global Development. Dublin, Ireland: Irish Aid.
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