Kajiado County, historically reliant on livestock as its primary economic driver in its predominantly arid environment, is experiencing a notable transformation.

The emergence of multipurpose cooperative societies, spearheaded by a rural women’s network, has spurred diversification efforts, signaling a shift towards exploring alternative revenue streams.

The Kenya Rural Women  Network has successfully registered five women-led cooperatives in Kajiado, aimed at championing enterprise diversification and providing women with alternative sources of income.

Recognising the pivotal role of women in value chains, Pauline Kariuki from the Kenya  Rural Women Network outlined efforts to empower them through multi-purpose cooperatives, aiming to reduce reliance on livestock-dominated economies.

“By enabling women to lead and market products such as beadwork and African leafy vegetables, these cooperatives aim to enhance their economic agency and grassroots engagement,” said Ms Kariuki.

Initially targeting the beadwork value chain, these cooperatives have evolved into a multi-purpose cooperative model, accommodating sectors like fish, vegetables, and energy artisans.

This inclusive approach ensures cohesion and maximises the collective bargaining power of cooperatives.

Highlighting the benefits of cooperatives, Ms Kariuki emphasised their collective bargaining power to increase market access and adaptability to changing market and weather patterns, mitigating the impact of factors like climate change.

James Ngoke, County Director of Cooperative in Kajiado County, underscored the importance of service provision in their department’s activities.

Oficials from Kajiado County with members of different cooperatives who received certificates. Image: BDA
Oficials from Kajiado County with members of different cooperatives who received certificates. Image: BDA

Mr Ngoke said they prioritise promoting and training individuals on the significance of joining cooperatives, followed by comprehensive management training.

He emphasised the importance of understanding cooperatives as business entities, stressing the need for financial literacy and adherence to bylaws.

This project is funded by Huairou Commission through the Fair 4 All Project. The Huairou Commission is a women-led social movement of grassroots women’s groups from poor urban, rural, and indigenous communities, working in over 45 countries. The members work with technical allies towards transformative change that improves the living conditions, status, and quality of the life of women, their families, communities and municipalities.

In response to environmental challenges such as climate change, Agneta Saruni, a cooperative officer in Kajiado, highlighted the necessity of diversifying economic activities.

By encouraging ventures into poultry farming, beekeeping, and other alternative sectors, cooperatives aim to build resilience within local communities.

Reflecting on past hardships, Ms Saruni expressed pride in witnessing the transformation of community livelihoods.

Despite initial skepticism, she said communities have embraced diversification, leading to tangible improvements in their economic well-being.