A group of women finds money and fame in soil

A decision by 20 women to embrace sweet potato farming in Homabay County has turned the region into a commercial sweet potato growing area, with the group being one of the lead suppliers of sweet potatoes in the County.

Homabay County has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country at 34% and the poverty rate is at 44%.  Women are the most vulnerable with many left to take care of their children. The members of Longo we giwach SHG came together to support themselves and fight poverty through the income generating project.

During its early stages, the group almost collapsed after members failed to embrace group activities. However, that was their strongest turning point after a HiH EA trainer trained them on group dynamics.

They are all beneficiaries of HiH EA enterprise development training. Their other group activities include table banking, merry go round and social welfare. “I thought the only constitution is the Kenyan constitution. But look, this is our group constitution and it guides us in running the group,” says Helen Opiyo the group chairlady.

They have strengthened their table banking after increasing their contribution from Ksh 100 to Ksh 200 and now have a revolving fund of Ksh 50,000 which members borrow to start individual enterprises and repay later with interest.  Their table banking is well controlled since the group ensures good record keeping by ensuring proper update of the cash book that contains each and every member’s page for recording of the savings and amounts borrowed and loan repayment.

We had never practiced sweet potato cultivation and some of us were cagey on whether to embark on the project. Our unrelenting spirit became our drive. Sweet potatoes are drought tolerant and are relatively easy to plant and we rarely use pesticides.

They grow the sweet potatoes on half an acre piece of land. “Every member has to participate in the planting, weeding, sowing and selling of the produce. Our first harvest season was the most memorable! We harvested 7 sacks of sweet potatoes. Each sack selling at Ksh 3200! Some of us had never held a Ksh 1000 note and here we were with more money.

The members’ lives and those of their dependants are now transformed. “We are our own bosses. We even loan our husbands money. We are empowered women and are competing in markets

Their families are food secure as they feed on the nutritious sweet potatoes.

They plan to use part of the money they get from their second harvest season and a loan from HiH EA Enterprise Incubation Loans to buy an ox to plough their land and also buy a one acre farm to expand their sweet potato farming business. They also plan to embark on value addition by producing sweet potato crisps which is a more sustainable venture and would be marketable beyond their localities. The group also plans on buying plastic chairs and tents that they will be letting to the community during events to earn more income.

The empowered woman is powerful beyond measure and beautiful beyond description.” Steve Maraboli

We had never practiced sweet potato cultivation and some of us were cagey on whether to embark on the project. Our unrelenting spirit became our drive. Sweet potatoes are drought tolerant and are relatively easy to plant and we rarely use pesticides.