Women’s Enterprise Program
Mlambeni Basket Weavers Mwakoma is a group of vibrant women from Mwakoma village, Sagalla Ward, Voi Sub-County. The name ‘Mlambeni’ comes from ‘Mlamba’ which is a Baobab tree. Mlambeni means being under the Baobab tree. Before construction of the Community hall by the Elephant and Bees Project, the women would gather under the Baobab tree and hold their meetings from there. The group was formed in July 2018 and has a membership of 40 women.
The women saw the need to form a micro-enterprise group to raise additional income for their families and to stop dependence on income from subsistence farming; because agriculture is not a sustainable income generating activity in this community due to both elephants and climate change.
Farmers in this village are on the frontline of human-elephant conflict because of the Ward’s proximity to Tsavo East National Park and private ranches. Tsavo East National Park is largely unfenced, allowing elephants to enter and exit the park freely while they follow their migratory routes towards Tsavo West National Park. Increased crop raiding from migrating Tsavo elephants reduces harvest yields thereby decreasing famers’ income from farm produce. Additionally, being in a semi-arid region, the area receives minimal rainfall which makes agriculture an undependable economic option.
The group’s first income generating activity is sisal basket weaving. With support from the Elephants and Bees Project, the women make their traditional Taita baskets unique only to this region and sell the baskets to Hadithi, a local organization supporting women’s enterprises.
Basket weaving not only serves to increase their household’s income but also provides a comfortable social setting where the women can bond and share their experiences and challenges.
The typical weekly meeting always includes a lot of laughter and some singing as the women are working on intertwining their colourful sisal strands, carefully interweaving the strands on their laps, as a beautiful basket is taking form. During these meetings, they learn from each other. You will occasionally find a group of women gathered around one person eagerly showing a new technique she has figured out. Often, they talk about the social issues within the community and try to find solutions for them. This sisterhood is the backbone of the community because as the women develop and becoming more economically empowered, their families and the community as a whole also develops. We are thrilled to have received some funding in late 2019 to start construction on a Women’s Enterprise Centre for this proactive group of women and this should be finished by mid 2020. Please do consider a donation if you would also like to support this wonderful and growing project!