Kenya Women Holding is spearheading this pilot project in four regions of the two provinces namely Busia, Funyula, Migori and Nyatike, after it commissioned a successful site survey through the Ministry of Fisheries.
Other partners in the project are AMWIK, Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), Men for the Equality of Men and Women (MEW), Practical Action and the Ministry of Fisheries.
The agencies visited the selected areas on January 2011 to familiarize with the women groups who acquire loans for their businesses from Kenya Women Finance Trust.
Kenya Women is taking charge of financial aspects of the project which will include developing a loan product for those who want to take up the project. The loan will be advanced through its financial department commonly known as Kenya Women Finance Trust.
AMWIK is in charge of producing 10 pre-recorded radio programmes on the project in liaison with the other partners, to be disseminated to the locals through 20 women groups. This involves AMWIK training 40 radio listening facilitators selected from the 20 groups in target areas on basic skills of moderating the listening sessions and writing brief reports on the discussions.
The content of the programmes include information on gender based violence, women’s rights and existing legal frameworks that address such issues; the importance of respect and inclusion of women as partners in development towards gender equality and equity; fish farming and basic information on prudent financial management of resources availed by partners within this collaboration.
Apart from imparting knowledge on fish farming, the success of empowering women in the areas also lies with effectively creating awareness among them on issues of human rights. In her address during the familiarization field visit, Ms Agnes Leina, a programs manager at the Coalition of Violence Against Women (COVAW) regretted that women continue to face domestic violence due to lack of knowledge on their rights. ‘It is on this note that COVAW will educate the women on their rights, various forms and signs of SGBV, and how to avoid or overcome them. We (COVAW) will organize legal aid clinics for the women to understand the need to safeguard their rights, train law enforcement agencies and also health care workers on how to handle cases of SGBV.’
She added that women need to understand the dynamics of issues affecting them so that they are able to fully unlock their economic potential independently for the benefit of their households.
And for collective responsibility in safeguarding the rights of women, MEW is in the project to engage and enlighten men on the need to accord women equal rights in all spheres of their lives. ‘Despite the fast changing roles and social construct between men and women, we think that men are the greatest impediment to achieving equal rights for everyone because of the myth that they are always superior,’ says MEW Chief Executive Officer Rev. Timothy Njoya adding: “As MEW we will strive to influence the perception of men concerning gender equity and equality.”
The project is coming at a time when the government is decrying the increased levels of overfishing in Lake Victoria while laying the blame squarely on fishermen who it says are using wrong fishing methods that have led to massive dwindling of fish stocks in the lake.
George Owiti, an officer in charge of fish farming at the Ministry of Fisheries in Nyanza, is however optimistic about the prospects of the project. “The programme will ensure increased food security, improved health and nutrition levels, create more employment opportunities and therefore generate more revenue for the locals.’’
He explains that in the year 2010 alone the government allocated Kshs. 1.1 billion as grant to would be fish farmers, and a total of 28,000 ponds were built around the country. This year, he says the government has earmarked a whooping Kshs. 2.8 billion to support fish farming projects countrywide under the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP). Part of the money will be used to establish aquaculture parks, by supporting public facilities to enhance production of fingerlings.
The Ministry of Fisheries are the lead advisers on how to identify areas that are viable for fish farming, and providing the technical knowledge on fish farming for those who want to venture into aquaculture.
Availability of an appropriate market is key to a successful venture into fish farming for trade. Practical Action is therefore incorporated in the project as experts on market matters. Their role is to provide information to existing and would be fish farmers on how to establish appropriate and sustainable markets, as well as advise on how to identify fish processors, storage facilities and proper market chains for their produce. Mathews Wanjala who works at the organization stresses that it is good for fish farmers to particularly understand the dynamics and players of the market, to enable them plan on production that can sustain market demand.
There is hope that the project will enable women in the areas to rear and sell fish without going through middle men and brokers along the lake, thereby reducing sex for trade and the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS scourge. The partners also envisage that members of the groups who directly benefit from this pilot project will reach out to other community members through direct sharing of information as well as hold joint radio listening sessions. Successful implementation of the project will also see it rolled out to other parts of the country.