Utithini Women and Child Care Orphan Group
Utithini Women and Child Care Orphan Group is based in Mwala, Machakos County and has a membership of 25 people; 23 women and 3 men who are mostly farmers. The group supports 80 orphans who are at various levels of education; primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities. They cater for their food, uniforms and medical care. The group is involved in various small activities to cater for the orphans' needs including; farming, soap making and lately selling of amaranth grain and its products. In early 2011, the Kenya Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (KASAL) project gave funds for grain amaranth commercialization in the region. The goal of the project was to increase family income, enhance food and nutritional security and create employment for the youth. Since the KASAL project started funding commercialization of grain amaranth the group went into production amaranth grain as a major activity and each member grows at least ¼ acre of the crop.
Through the support of the European Union to KARI during the KASAL phase and now ASAL APRP, the group has been trained on production and utilization amaranth grain. The group was also supplied with 15 kg of seeds to start off and was given pesticides to control insect pests. It has also been linked to INCAS Healthy International Company (processor) to sell their produce. The group was not willing to sell their produce at the price that was being offered and instead decided to do processing and marketing on their own. They mill the grain and make various products from both the flour and grain like popped amaranth which they sell in the local market and beyond. The group has rented a store and buys the grain from its members and other farmers in the area. The proceeds from sale of amaranth grain and its products enable them to pay school fees for the orphans, buy them uniforms and other basic needs. Besides selling of the crop, every member uses amaranth in their daily diets. Nearly everybody has reported improved well being since they started consuming the crop. Every member also contributes 15 kg of his/her amaranth produce towards the orphans' kitty. Five kilograms are used to supplement the children's daily diets while the other 10 kg are sold to raise funds to support the children.
Between 1st June and 31st August, 2013 a total of 230 kg of amaranth grain was contributed by the group and another 220 kg were bought from other farmers. The group sold 230 kg as seeds and other products raising Ksh 46,300 (€4,600). Ksh 14,400 was used to pay school fees while Ksh 3,000 went to the purchase of school uniforms. Ksh 18,050 was spent on rent, painting of the business premises and purchase of utensils.
The group members are happy with amaranth production since it is a dual purpose crop and they eat and sell both the grain and leaves. After contributing to the children’s kitty and retaining some amaranth for home consumption, each member sells the surplus to supplement family income. Proceeds from amaranth sells has contributed positively to each household with some using the money to construct animal pens, poultry houses, fencing their farms, even extending their houses and paying for their children’s school fees.