Kenyan women engaged in the livestock value chain now have a new platform to support and empower them – the African Women in Animal Resources Farming and Agribusiness Network (AWARFA-N). This development follows the recent launch of the AWARFA-N Kenya Chapter in Naivasha, which took place last Tuesday, under the auspices of the AU Interafrican Bureau For Animal Resources (AU-IBAR).
This exciting initiative opens the door for women to become an integral part of the broader continental network with a primary goal of enhancing their involvement and reaping benefits across various animal resource value chains, including feed and fodder. The network will also provide a platform for women to exchange valuable information and ideas on animal resource development, while also enabling them to influence national-level decisions.
In addition to their essential roles in society, encompassing reproduction, nurturing, caregiving, and productivity, women also play vital roles in driving economic growth, ensuring food security, and safeguarding the well-being of children within their homes, communities, and the nation at large.
“However, full participation of women in the animal resources value chains like in many other areas is often constrained due lack of access to land, capital, inadequate skills for value-addition and hence, low productivity levels and inability to achieve meaningful economies of scales,” said Ms Christine Kalui, the President of the newly launched AWARFAR-N Kenya Chapter.
“However, the full participation of women in the animal resources value chains, like in many other sectors, often faces constraints, such as limited access to land, capital, insufficient skills for value addition, resulting in low productivity levels and an inability to achieve meaningful economies of scale,” she added, while narrating her own firsthand experience of the challenges women go through.
“It was a shock for me when I was all set to embark on production and returned home, replete with numerous hives, only to learn that women were not expected to engage in activities that seemingly held permanence in their father’s properties. At first, I thought it a joke, but as days turned into years, I had no choice but eventually had to leave my hives behind,” she said.
“Africa holds enormous potential for animal products, with livestock accounting for one-third of the global livestock population. The continent boasts diverse livestock types, including cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, camels, poultry, and even domesticated wild animals like ostriches, quails, rabbits, and more,” she said in her opening remarks.
Kenya, in particular, has a substantial livestock population, comprising 20,529,191 cattle, 26,745,916 goats, 18,983,760 sheep, 3,222,593 camels, 44,624,453 domestic birds, and 1,965,632 donkeys. These figures present abundant opportunities for consumption, trade, value-added products, and agro-tourism.
Despite this immense potential, women’s participation in animal resource value chains has been hindered by various factors, which have limited them to subsistence family work or informal trading with minimal profit margins. Nevertheless, recognizing their indispensable roles in society, women’s involvement in these sectors promises to drive economic growth, food security, and improved livelihoods across the continent.
Recognizing the overlooked yet critical role played by women in the sector, the AWARFA-N was established in July 2018 with support from the African Union-Inter African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and funding from the European Union. The AWARFA-N Kenya Chapter is an part of this network.
The AWARFA-N brings together women from 32 African Union Member States and comprises continental, regional, and national chapters, all dedicated to advancing the position of women in animal resource-related industries.
Its core objectives include providing a platform for women to exchange information and ideas on animal resource development, enabling them to influence national-level decisions, advocating for infrastructure suitable for women in animal resource production and business, and promoting regional and international trade.
AWARFA-N also places a strong emphasis on capacity development, incubation, knowledge transfer, and financing for animal resource-related initiatives. The network aims to establish supportive networks, embracing public-private partnerships (PPP) to create an inclusive and thriving ecosystem for women in the livestock and agribusiness sectors.
This event, held alongside the Inception Workshop for the Resilient African Feed and Fodder Systems Project (RAFFS Project), marks a crucial step in empowering women involved in animal resource value chains in Kenya and beyond.
The RAFFS Project seeks to address challenges posed by the triple C crises: Covid-19, Climate Change, and the Conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which have led to substantial livestock losses, particularly in the greater Horn of Africa, affecting livelihoods, incomes, and the affordability of essential livestock-sourced foods.