The popular motto that says “Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime” is playing out in Kenya through an innovative government-funded initiative to improve food security and address poverty and hunger in poor areas of the country.
Australia Awards Alumna, Margaret Ndung’u, is helping to drive these initiatives. She graduated from Flinders University in 2005 with a Graduate Diploma in Nutrition. In her role as Desk Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Department in Makadara sub-county, located about 7 km from Nairobi. Margaret is facilitating the screening, assessment and selection of community projects for grant funding under the Njaa Maruufuku Kenya (NMK) Project, which, translated from the local language, means ‘hunger eradication.’
Small Grants to a maximum of Ksh150,000 (approximately US$1,700) are offered to upscale or initiate successful projects led by community groups. Once selected, groups receive training to succeed in implementation. Training involves a series of half-day sessions carried out over a few weeks. The content is customised to the specific project and responds to a needs assessment. Since its inception in 2006, 21 groups (eight women’s groups, six youth groups and seven self-help groups) have received these grants. In all, about 500 people, including family and other community members, have benefitted from these initiatives, indicating that benefits are reaching well beyond those directly involved in the projects.
“Immediate family members and the communities who are in proximity to the beneficiaries have benefitted. This is due to the multiplier effect of the skills imparted to the group and the supply of their products. For example, in Makadara sub-county, groups funded to grow mushrooms normally start selling their produce to their members and neighbours before taking the rest to supermarkets,” explains Margaret.
These grants aim to scale up agricultural activities that focus on hunger and poverty reduction, as well as income generation, and have empowered community groups towards the achievement of these goals. Funded projects, seven of which are still to start implementation, have drawn a total of Ksh2,850,000 (over US$3,227,700). Initiatives funded include livestock, crop production, poultry and rabbit rearing, a tree nursery and a greenhouse for vegetable growing, among others.
More importantly, about half of these projects were successful in earning an income for participating members, improving their diets and increasing their knowledge base as indicated by reports on results achieved by these grants collected through monthly monitoring and field visits. As evidenced, most of the benefitting groups were able to expand and diversify their projects, thus showing positive prospects for sustainability.
Margaret recognises the valuable skills and knowledge she gained in her studies in Australia. “In my day-to-day work, I often apply both the technical and soft skills I acquired in Australia.”