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About Kitui

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The average per capita income in Kitui is less than €2 per day


Empowering Women in Kitui

Friends of Kitui set out to contribute towards women's status and economic independence by giving them a sustainable source of income which they can grow and develop for themselves and their families.

This programme started off in 2006 with the Honey Project. The initial pilot phase of this programme was for the purchase of 200 hives, 100 of the Langstroth type and 100 Kenya Top bar hives. These were to be provided, on a repayable loan basis, to 20 women's groups. 

Immediately after launch, the bee population of Ukambani was decimated following the exceptional rains of winter 2006, and has not recovered. 

By 2008, hive occupancy rates of 35% or so were still far below the 75% level required for sustainability. We  relocated unoccupied hives in an attempt to recover as much as possible from the investment.

In 2007, when the first indications that the beekeeping programme might fall behind expectations, we diverted empowerment funds into other income generating activities which have proved more successful in the Ukambani environment, such as:

  • Soap Making using locally available Aloe Vera plants

  • Chicken rearing

  • Basket weaving and bag making

Soap, Bags and Chickens!

Three women's groups in the parish of Zombe have now built up a track record in micro-businesses. These income generating activities produce a significant contribution to the household budget and give a small cash reserve to meet unexpected demands. Friends of Kitui provided the seed capital for four income generating projects. Under the dynamic leadership of Sr. Florence, four groups were established for soap making, basket and bag making, honey production, and raising chickens. The women organised themselves, each group electing their Chairperson, Secretary, & Treasurer, and collected a small contribution from each member. The seed capital was used for training in soap manufacture, using the local aloe vera plants, and for purchase of materials and equipment.  The women are also selling their produce at local markets,and in Nairobi.

The “Chicken Group” got together in 2008 and funded the construction of a chicken coop in Zombe from their own resources. Following that successful pilot scheme, Friends of Kitui is now supporting a larger scale project and will contribute further seed capital to purchase good quality breeding stock and to provide the essential vaccinations against endemic diseases.  Good quality local breed chickens sell for €1.50 each, or can be traded for other foodstuffs. Compare this with the daily wage for a skilled labourer of €3 and you will realise what a huge impact this project can have on the household.

Our thanks to Mary Brogan, and also to Dalkey “Young Lions” under Robert Lambkin for sterling work on sales of soap and bags.

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The leader of the women's group at Zombe explains to Paul Healy, Alex Kavili and Sr. Florence how the group have successfully set up a goat rearing project with a loan from the Diocese. Having repaid the loan, they are now starting an aloe vera soap making project, and are seeking support for a honey production venture.



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Trainee beekeepers examine the smoker, used to pacify the bees while working on the hive.




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 Alex Kavili explains how the Langstroth hive is constructed

Why is Women's Empowerment needed?

Worldwide, more than two thirds of those living in poverty are women. A similar proportion of women have been deprived of educational opportunity, and suffer the penalty of illiteracy. Gender based violence has a major impact on huge numbers of women in the developing world. All to often the consequences of chronic poverty fall squarely on the shoulders of women and girls.

The Honey Project aimed to give participating women an annual income of €100- €200  ($125-$250 approx). To see the impact this would have, let's look at financial data published by the World Bank:

Gross National Income (GNI) comparisons for Ireland and Kenya




World Ranking

Ireland $27020 $34280 9
Kenya $400 $460 138
Kenya's 2004 ranking placed it 138th in a World Bank listing of 171 countries. Kenya's average GNI figures do not tell the whole story- a huge percentage of the population of the Kitui Diocese lives on less than €1 per day.


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The first training course for the first 20 women participants in the Honey Project took place week commencing September 17th 2006 at Baraka Agricultural College, Molo, Kenya. Baraka College is owned by the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru and managed by the Franciscan Brothers.
The restrictions on womens' access to,property and resources are a major contributing factor to poverty in the Kitui District, as is the case in many parts of Africa. The Honey Project will empower women by giving them control over a resource which will generate wealth for them and their families, and in a way which can expand in the future.  Top of Page This programme intends to improve womens' status, and  hence access to, and control of resources, by providing them with their own source of income through beekeeping. The use of beekeeping as a means of supplementing income is becoming more widespread throughout the African continent, and in many other countries also, and has many environmental benefits.