This is the seventh post of Farming First’s #FillTheGap campaign to highlight the gender gap facing rural women working in agriculture.
When Beatrice Gichuru’s husband passed away around three years ago, she lost not only her partner but her also provider and guardian. Like many Kenyan women, Beatrice had relied upon her husband to provide the land she farmed.
But in becoming a self-sufficient widow, Beatrice overcame the tragedy as well as the gender gap that means only one per cent of Kenyan women own land and access less than 10 per cent of available credit.
It was in the wake of her bereavement that she began working with IFDC’s 2SCALE project, which trains farmers in the field to teach good agricultural practices, increase market access, demonstrate the benefits of improved inputs, and encourage technology transfer.
Beatrice has attended most of the 2SCALE trainings offered in her area in Meru County and put all of what she learned to use on her small farm. In a short amount of time, she has scaled up her practices by growing better crops for fodder, growing a larger variety of crops, investing in more livestock, and managing natural resources by turning manure into biogas.
By using a biogas digester, Beatrice is able to harvest manure from her cattle. Beatrice can now produce enough organic fertilizer for her farm – complementing the mineral inputs she has learned about with IFDC – as well as processing by-products that can be used in pig feed, and providing gas for cooking at home. As long as the cows produce manure, Beatrice will never run out of her energy source.
She now manages a 1.5-acre farm full of maize, sorghum, green vegetables, cowpeas, pumpkins, bananas, yams, and coffee. She even employs two men full-time and raises chickens for eggs and meat, as well as several cows and pigs for milk and meat.
In four years, she went from three cows to 12 cows and plans to scale up to 40 animals in the future. More than that, she is providing an example of success to many local farmers and agripreneurs who regularly visit her farm to see how she works.
The crops and produce are all arranged to maximize water efficiency. She continues to grow better types of crops for silage, which contributes to better milk quality in her cows and the continued production of rich manure.
2SCALE has also helped Beatrice access local markets in the Mount Kenya area and in the city of Meru. She sells eggs from her chickens, as well as meat from broiler chickens, to local retailers and hotels. She is also partnered with a local dairy aggregator that works with many small dairy farmers to buy milk, test for quality, and send to a processing facility in Nairobi.
As if running an extremely busy farm wasn’t enough, she also works as a teacher at a local college to supplement her income.
This way, Beatrice is able to feed herself and also bring sustainable produce and dairy to local markets. She also contributes to the local economy by employing two farmhands.
And importantly, she is setting the standard for equality in her area by proving that a woman can truly succeed with or without a husband.
For more stories of bridging the gender gap, visit Farming First’s Fill The Gap page or follow #FillTheGap on social media.