Eunice Lepariyo

Eunice Lepariyo (standing) with some beneficiaries of her initiative at one of the farms in a temporary camp in Uwanja Ndege, on the outskirts of Marigat Town in Baringo South on August 1, 2023.

| Florah Koech | Nation Media Group

Baringo woman educating locals on climate change

What you need to know:

  • Ms Lepariyo, the executive director of the community-based organisation says her objective is to champion the rights of indigenous women in Baringo South.
  • The rising water levels in Lakes Baringo and Bogoria, she says, mostly affected women because they are the ones who are left behind to take care of the children.

Torence Ledaa, 40, weeds her vegetable and sweet potato farm at the Internally Displaced People camp (IDP) in Uwanja Ndege, Baringo South, which she has called home since March 2020.

She is among the over 10,000 people who were displaced from their homes in the flood-prone Ilchamus ward following a rise of water levels in Lake Baringo.

For Ledaa and 150 other households, they settled at the safer Uwanja Ndege, on the outskirts of Marigat town, where they live in temporary camps. Their houses and entire livelihoods were marooned by the flooding, and save for a few iron sheets, she didn’t salvage any other thing.

“When we settled at the camp at the time, we depended on well-wishers on virtually everything, ranging from food to clothing. Most of the affected locals did not manage to salvage anything after their houses were swallowed by the rising water levels in the Lake. I had two acres of seed maize farm but it was swept downstream,” says Ms Ledaa who was displaced from Loropil village.

Eunice Lepariyo

Eunice Lepariyo (right), the director of Baringo Women and Youth Empowerment Group with a group member at her two-acre maize farm in Perkerra Irrigation Scheme in Marigat on August 1, 2023.

Photo credit: Florah Koech | Nation Media Group

Through the seed maize farming, she says, she used to cater for everything for her family including school fees for her five children and other necessities.

More than 500 acres of land in the flood-prone villages were completely swallowed by the innundation.

“When we were displaced, some locals sought alternative land to live in, but those who had no funding settled at the temporary camp. We were given tents by the Kenya Red Cross, which were not enough especially for large families,” says the mother of four.

She said women and children have borne the brunt of climate change with some forced to sleep on bare floors and on empty stomachs.

“To ensure that our children eat and get clothing, we had to rely on charcoal burning and other menial jobs, which were not sustainable. Life here became unbearable as most families could not afford food, let alone school fees and clothing,” says the displaced woman who also serves as the chairlady at the camp.

These were the same challenges other women faced at the temporary camp. Last year, however, the women started to plant vegetables and other crops that are resistant to drought at the camp. Thanks to education and help they got from Eunice Lepariyo from the minority Ilchamus community who serves as the director, Baringo women and youth empowerment group.

As Kenya joins the world in marking the International Day of Rural Women, the challenges, innovation and resilience of people such as Ms Ledaa and millions of others across the country comes into sharp focus.

“Due to the myriad of challenges women were facing at the camp, we were educated on various ways to survive the effects of climate change, which had adversely affected our way of living, including the planting of drought-resistant crops, trees, and vegetables that can also help us get money to sustain our families.

“The group gave us chicks and seeds for various crops. I planted vegetables and sweet potatoes that I can now sell to the households here and I am now able to get money for some necessities rather than depending on well-wishers as in the past,” says Ms Ledaa.

From the farm, she gets more than Sh500 a day from the sale of the produce.

Purity Karaiyo, another beneficiary of the empowerment group also tells the Nation that through the sensitisation, she was able to switch from pastoralism to farming, owing to depletion of pasture that is not enough to feed the many livestock.

“I had dozens of goats and cows, which I used to struggle with due to depleting pasture after most of it was swallowed by flooding. The organisation gave me maize seeds which I have planted on more than two acres and are almost ready for harvest,” says Ms Karaiyo who expects to get more than 30 sacks from the produce.

Ms Lepariyo, the executive director of the community-based organisation says her objective is to champion the rights of indigenous women in Baringo South, especially those affected by climate change.

Eunice Lepariyo

Eunice Lepariyo, the Director of Baringo Women and Youth Empowerment Group.

Photo credit: Florah Koech | Nation Media Group

She got the experience in 2009 through a four-month training in Geneva dubbed the indigenous fellowship, basically studying human rights.

Most of the women in the Ilchamus community, she says, have borne the brunt of flooding, with some forced to sleep with their children in the open, with no food and adequate clothing after their houses were marooned.

The rising water levels in Lakes Baringo and Bogoria, she says, mostly affected women because they are the ones who are left behind to take care of the children. As a result, she explains, she came in to train them on how to adapt to the effects of climate change, focusing on alternative livelihood and resilience.

“Most of the people from the minority Ilchamus community who have adversely been affected by the perennial flooding are pastoralists who used to solely depend on livestock keeping. More than three locations in the community including Salabani, Ng’ambo, and Ilng’arua were adversely affected by the rise in water levels. I decided to train them to seek alternative livelihood for their sustenance, especially those displaced from their homes,” says Ms Lepariyo.

“We have more than 150 households living in temporary tents and if you go there, most of those affected are women, who have been forced to start their lives from scratch. That is the reason why I am targeting them to be resilient and rebuild their lives” she adds.

After offering the women adequate skills, she gave them tree seedlings, maize, fruits, sweet potatoes, and other seedlings that are resistant to drought.

“I am happy when I see women progressing and providing for their families without much strain. Women from this community, especially those from the flood-prone areas have suffered for long, with some unable to afford food, clothing, and even shelter for their families. I want to see them become independent, taking into consideration that many are the breadwinners,” Ms Lepariyo says.

She raises concern that in the Ilchamus community, patriarchal issues have hindered women from progressing, with men believing that a woman’s place starts and ends in the kitchen.

“I have trained the women to do extra work apart from being housewives like venturing into business, farming, and others. My ultimate goal is to try and make the community realise that women are also supposed to go out and seek employment, cultivate, and do any other work that men can do,” she explains.