Out and About in the Naari community

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Doing the ‘Mwanambere’ dance with Upendo women group

by Anne Shileche

I have spent the last one month traversing the Naari community in Meru. This place is both cold and hot; it depends on which location one stands. It is also rocky, and when we are in the car, mostly we are vibrating because of the rough and rugged terrain. I have learned some key Meru words to help with communication. But even with my efforts in pronunciation, my accent still sells me out. Nonetheless, I am awed at the warm hearts of the people in this community, they have been kind to let me into their homes and their lives. Some women have nick named me ‘Mwanamberi’ after I did a dance gig of the popular West Kenya song by the same name.

The majority of people in Naari are small-scale farmers, they keep dairy cows for milk and grow crops like maize, beans, Irish potatoes, and vegetables. The community has a dairy cooperative society which gives farmers a place to sell their milk. Naari Dairy Cooperative Society collaborates with partners like Farmers Helping Farmers and Queen Elizabeth Scholars to assist members with their farming ventures. Training in areas of agriculture, cattle management, and human nutrition is being offered to many farmers in the area. My movement within the community is to do with visiting selected farmers at the dairy, and finding out their perceptions on this training, how they are using it, and what is challenging or working for them.

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In this picture, I am administering a survey to a woman who has received training on how to prepare and cook nutritious food. Survey questions range from demographic information, group organization and structure, self-confidence and community engagement. I am using a tool called Growth Empowerment Measure to help measure women’s emotional empowerment. The GEM tool was developed by Australian researchers led by Melissa Haswell. I am excited to pilot the GEM tool in Kenya.

        My whereabouts in the community would be incomplete without taking the time to enjoy and appreciate some things like the sun, the food, and the smiles.

It took me experiencing a winter in Canada to appreciate the sun in Kenya. I am always happy to bask in it. I also enjoy the ripe avocados falling off Naari trees; this place is magical.

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Lastly, my time in the field can never happen without Mary, my translator and Paul my driver, they tell me village stories which are hilarious. They have become my mama and papa.

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