Marceline Mwamuye had a busy weekend. On top of planting maize and tending to her farm animals, she worked with local fishery experts to dig a pond on her half-acre of land in Kilifi County, an arid region along the coast of Kenya. Marceline will fill the pond with water, and place sacks of manure along the edges to provide nutrients so algae will grow and support a thriving fish population.
The fish in her pond won’t just benefit her household; she wants to use her new fishpond to teach others in her village to do the same. In Marceline’s community, most families rely on farming and fishing from the ocean for their livelihoods. However, with declining wild fish populations due to pollution, overfishing and climate change, they are forced to find alternatives.
“There used to be fish in the ocean, but now there is nothing,” said Marceline, who grows a variety of crops, raises chickens, goats and now, fish.Through her involvement with Global Fund for Women grantee, Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood (GROOTS), Marceline uses her own farm as a demonstration plot to teach women about indigenous plants and organic farming methods that can reduce the cost of production, improve productivity and increase household income.
While women produce 80 percent of food in Africa, they make up 60 percent of the hungry. And although African women are the primary food producers, due to entrenched patriarchy and political mismanagement, they are rarely able to shape the policies that determine their own food security or their continent’s agriculture. Marceline’s demonstration pond, however, gives ordinary women the tools to build some resilience to these and other challenges, including overcoming gender discrimination to gain access to land.
As a Global Fund grantee partner since 2003, GROOTS believes that women can become “masters of their own destiny through direct participation in decision making processes.” Since their establishment in 1995, they have increased women’s representation as village elders, provincial administrators and managers of educational institutions. The network has mobilized over 2,000 women-led grassroots groups across 12 counties in Kenya.
Speaking Their Mind
The Global Fund partnership with GROOTS is part of a larger initiative to support rural women’s groups in Burkina Faso, Kenya and Uganda working in sustainable agriculture and the promotion of women’s rights. Twenty-two groups have received a total of $400,000 to improve agricultural activities and document the knowledge and aspirations of rural women on food systems.
Over 50 percent of Global Fund’s grant-making in Sub-Saharan Africa supports initiatives led by and for the empowerment of rural women, like Marceline, who are vital to the revival of African agriculture and the strengthening of the women’s rights movement. Global Fund staff met Marceline this October as GROOTS was launching its grant project.
“I’m not afraid to speak my mind,” said Marceline, who is also a retired teacher and volunteer district education officer. “I will keep speaking until everyone who needs to hear something has heard it.”