Self Help Group - Roadmap to Food Security

Climate Change adversely affects Kenya with increased desertification threatening the livelihood of many in Northern Kenya. The impact on food security has been exacerbated by frequent droughts, with Kenya having declared six National Disasters since 1993 as a result of drought (according to the IDRC report on vulnerability among Pastrolists). 

Food aid has become commonplace in the day-to-day lives of communities in these areas with little or no hope for creating sustainable solutions.

Food For The Hungry - Kenya has initiated the Self Help Group (SHG) development model, adopted from the Myrada concept in India, which focuses on creating resilience towards food security for the poorest of the poor in Northern Kenya. The project was initiated in October 2014 and has created immediate impact through its social-innovation approach that focuses on fostering relationships towards socio-economic dependency as opposed to initiating projects or food aid.

As of December 2015, the model has impacted the lives of more than 3,381 people (directly and indirectly) with more than Ksh 800,000 accumulated savings from 465 members in 31 SHGs. The concept is spreading like wildfire even after many Government officials initially expressed overwhelming doubt in its feasibility given the high dependence on aid in the larger Northern Kenya population.

You might be tempted to ask why the model is having such a positive reception by the residents of Northern Kenya with very minimal resources required? This aspect can be summarized by the three key aspects of the project as exemplified by the Sololo SHGs that make it stand out:

  1. Fostering relationships and interdependency towards food security The SHG model fosters relationships among the poorest of the poor by facilitating open dialogue and rotating group leadership to enhance self-esteem of members as well as encourage ownership of the group. FH-Kenya program Coordinator Claire Njuguna asserts that, “The biggest change for me has been the levels of confidence and sense of self-worth that the model has brought back to the community members. Initially they would look down when speaking to you but now their dignity has been restored and they speak confidently.” The Sololo residents point out that the main highlight of the project is how the groups are formed and maintained throughout the initial phase. Tunu Hussein, SHG member, notes that, “The facilitator visited our houses individually and informed us of the project. She was always encouraging us to meet and discuss our welfare together and this gave us the courage to begin small with what we had”.”
  2. Building Socio-economic Resilience Members noted that at the initial formation stage they began by contributing as low as Ksh. 20 per day, which has remained constant even as more members have joined in. The money generated has mainly been used to buy foodstuff on wholesale that are then re-distributed to the families represented by the SHG members. This has ensured that the members no longer borrow food from the local retailers, which left them constantly in debt. The families are now even loaning one another small amounts to clear individual family costs such as school fees, hospital bills, etc. This in turn fosters the bond between them creating trust and resilience. Local leaders have begun taking note of this trend, encouraging community members to join the program. The result is rapid growth of SHGs.
  3. Bottom-up approach to development through encouraging Income Generating Activities (IGAs) In another of the SHGs in Sololo, MzeeGalgallo leads his group members on rotating farm cultivation so as to ensure assimilation of crop production. This transition from a pastoral way of life to a more agrarian approach has promoted food security and diet diversification in several communities. Once self-sustainability is achieved, groups often begin participating in Income Generating Activities (IGAs) to supplement family income. To show it’s stamp of approval, the Government of Kenya, through the Ministry of Social Services, has issued each group with a certificate that guarantees legal status so that they can access loans through joining Cooperatives/SACCOs.
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