FFA Women Empowerment in Isiolo County

 Hardships and triumph of a single woman in Isiolo County, a case study of Kuresha Bile.


Name(s) of interviewee(s): Kuresha Bile


Age(s) of interviewee(s): 36years


What is their family situation? Kuresha is a single mother of two. Her daughter and  son are aged 15 and13 years old respectively. She lives in Kambi Ya Chek area in Isiolo County. She is survived by her 86 year old mother after losing her father in 1996 and her four brothers.


Specific Issue Explored/Illustrated: Hardships and triumph of a single woman in Isiolo County, a case study of Kuresha Bile.


What ActionAid project are they linked to and how? Kuresha is linked to the Food For Assets project. She joined the project in 2009 when it was transformed from Food For Work. ActionAid team approached the area chief who in turn called for a community meeting. Residents were taught about the project and what it entails. After the training process, a targeting exercise was carried out and Kurashe luckily secured her place, been selected as the FFA secretary.



Kurashe Bile, is a local farmer in Kambi Ya Chek, Isiolo County. She engages in green gram farming among other drought resistant crops. She is a reflection of the other young women in Isiolo county practising small-scale farming in the county.


Her venture into full-time farming started after she couldn’t go to high school due to financial constraints. Bearing in mind she had to feed her family, she worked relentlessly to till her small land in order to acquire food for her mother and her children who are now both sitting for their KCPE examination this year.


Aside from farming, Kurashe is also an active member of small financial groups courtesy of the education and trainings she has received form AAIK.


Isiolo County has had a history of ethnic clashes dating five years ago. Most people were displaced from their inhabiting areas forcing them to seek refuge in other localities. Kurashe, being a victim of circumstance,had to start her life all over again.



Transcript of the interview:


Personal life and education


‘’My father died in 1996, forcing my mother to take care of my brothers and I on her own. I went to school at Kambi Ya Juu primary school where I studied upto class 8.Coming from  a single parent family, my mother couldn’t afford to further my education therefore I had to stay back home’’


‘’My husband and I started having issues after I got my first child. His profession was driving, therefore he would travel far and wide and not come home for over 6 months. This strained the relationship and my family disapproved of his behaviour. We however got our second child, but the behaviour chain remained the same permanently paralysing the relationship.’’



‘’My two children are sitting for their KCPE examination and I am very willing to take their education further. However I only rely on farming which is not a very strong area in Isiolo County. If I could get any further financial assistance, I would be more than greatful because it will mean that my children can have a strong educational background’’


‘’It is a great challenge to support my 86 year old mother as she is among the vulnerable in the community. Farming in Isiolo is challenging due to poor rainfall. These fluctuations replicate on the food we harvest thus making it hard to adequately feed our families’’



‘Before ActionAid came in I was simply a small scale farmer on a piece of land I acquired from my family. Farming was good until the Water Resource Management blocked the rivers we relied on for irrigation in the year 2009. Coincidentally, this was also the period when the ethnic clashes occurred rendering most people homeless. I tried various forms of odd jobs including charcoal burning because I had to feed my family lest they would have succumbed to hunger. I still remember the clashes like it was yesterday, 19th August, Thursday,2009.’


‘My family used to also mainly rely on keeping livestock. Life, was difficult due to cattle rustling, lack of water and pasture for the animals.’



Isiolo county is generally an arid and semi-arid area with low lying plains on most parts of the region. Ewaso Nyiro is one of the main sources of water for both domestic and agricultural purposes. The county receives very low precipitation with an average of 300-500mm annually. This hinders the farmers from growing a wide range of crops. The pre-dominant type of vegetation is shrubs and Acacia plant species that are well adapted to the high temperatures.



‘FFA started it’s functionalization in 2010.Before we used to have FFW(Food For Work) which entailed beneficiaries working for food. However in the Food For Assets it involves working on community assets to benefit the beneficiaries. When we started off, we used the local administration to mobilize the citizens to attend our meeting. Through these engagements we were able to identify the vulnerable in the community. We do this through the Community Based Targeting Distribution (CBDT).In our program we target 80% of people who can work and 20% of those who benefit without giving any labour. Such people can be the sick or elderly. FFA carries out activities such as excavation, weeding, planting and compacting. Once the farmers are fully empowered we relocate and move to another locality.’ Phillip Kiolonzo, Project Coordinator, AAIK, Isiolo.




‘FFA has played a key role in improving my life. Thanks to FFA, I am now a better and wiser farmer. FFA project has taught me on effective farming methods including the best period to till the land.  With reference to the training, I now know it’s wise to plant at least 2 months before the rainy season. In addition, due to the rainfall unpredictability in Isiolo, FFA officers taught us to plant drought resistant crops such as sorghum and green gram cereals.


Aside from empowering my farming skills FFA has played a key role in bringing unity within the 5 subtribes in the region. When they first came in, in 2009, they insisted that their project is an all-inclusive and non-partisan initiative to any form of tribalism. This was a total game changer because people started valuing teamwork and looking beyond ethnic lines.


Lastly, the message on women rights came out affirmatively. FFA has switched things up, when it comes to how people perceive women. I now know my rights as a woman. Moreover, I now realise that I am entitled to land, something that has for a long time been inclined towards the male counterparts. A girl has a right to a descent education and therefore, I will ensure that my daughter acquires the same level of education as my son’’ Kuresha added



‘Through FFA I have been able to comfortably feed my family and share with my neighours in equal measure.I also used to be a charcoal burner,a practised immediately I discovered farming is equally lucrative’ Veronicah Naweshu,45,Committee member,FFA and a mother of four.

‘I used to do odd jobs but not anymore.FFA has empowered me to be able to feed my family.  Something I highly appreciate’ Aden Ndio,30,FFA committee member, married with two children.

‘FFA has taught me to be self-reliant, something I value with high regard. My children are now healthy as opposed to the past’ Katherine Naweshu,45, mother of 6 and FFA committee member

 Interview Carried Out by;

Beth Njeri/ActionAid