Nurturing women entrepreneurs with smart and sustainable agriculture

March 8, 2016

‘’Women are powerhouse entrepreneurs. Research shows that when women entrepreneurs succeed, they drive economic growth and invest more into their families and communities,’’ said US President Barack Obama during his address at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi. 

Joyful Women Organisation (JOYWO), a Hivos East Africa partner since 2014, has proven to be an important factor in enhancing women’s empowerment in Kenya.

Since 2009, JOYWO has facilitated access to innovative financial and non-financial services to over 100,000 rural women in Kenya. In simple terms, the organisation is empowering women to be in charge of their own money.

Thanks to the “table banking” concept, JOYWO has enabled thousands of women to set up their own businesses in smallholder farming and link up to international markets to export their produce.

Table banking is a financial innovation based on the simple idea that members can access business capital and loans without going through the tedious process of loan applications in micro-finance institutions. It provides a platform where women literally put their money on a table, which then immediately becomes available to other members as loans.

JOYWO has also improved the economic position of 30,000 women through sustainable farming. The women are trained in good agricultural practices, market access and new farming techniques to increase food security and income in their communities.

Their ‘Promoting Integrated Green Farming and financing’ project focuses on increasing agri-business and smallholder entrepreneurs’ income and food security in a clean environment, using safe farming practices that are friendly to the environment. It involves women’s participation in policy formulation as well as strengthening women’s groups to efficiently run sustainable agro-forestry enterprises geared towards increasing household incomes through secure livelihoods.

Hivos has been keen on supporting the scaling up of this project by integrating green farming approaches in sustainable production, financial services and green energy. This approach aims to promote the consumption of sustainably-produced food, boost consumer awareness, open up market access to women smallholders and increase the income of a majority of women in the rural areas

Lydia Musei, a stay-at-home mother and largely dependent on her husband’s income, is one of the beneficiaries of JOYWO. She formed a women’s group with some friends who were selling maize. Through table banking, they wanted to access capital to set up their businesses.

With support from JOYWO, the group was even able to scale up from selling maize to raising chickens, a journey that started with exchange visits to well-established chicken farms in India. In a good month, Lydia now makes about Kshs. 4,000 (40 USD) from her own chicken farm.

Table banking also helped the women to start kitchen gardens where they sell 100 Kshs worth of vegetables every day.

Today, Lydia shows she is one of JOYWO’s champions in agribusiness, evident in her newly-built permanent stone house instead of her old grass-thatched one.

‘’If you have money as a woman in the household, then everything is stable. Money belonging to a woman is equally shared amongst everyone,’’ said Lydia.