The Woman Delivering Food Security to Kenya
Maureen Muketha is working to deliver gender equality and food security to Kenya. The 26-year-old nutritionist and native Kenyan is a woman delivering food security to Kenya through Tule Vyema. It is a nonprofit that emphasizes education, sustainable farming techniques and female empowerment.
About Tule Vyema
Tule Vyema means “let’s eat right” in Swahili. Ms. Muketha founded the nonprofit in 2018, after graduating from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture in Kenya. Instead of looking for opportunities outside beyond the borders, she focused her attention on her own community, a pastoral region outside of Nairobi called Kajiado. Here, malnutrition is a major issue.
WHO reported that chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension are becoming more prevalent worldwide, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, 55% of total deaths have links to these non-communicable diseases, which are often a result of malnutrition.
While it is no secret that eating vegetables is fundamental to sound nutrition, vegetables are simply a luxury that many people in the Kajiado cannot afford. The average household in the region lives on $1.50 per day, while one bunch of vegetables costs about 50 cents or one-third of its daily income. Impoverished households must then rely on cheap, highly processed food rich in sugar, salt and fat.
Industrialization is exacerbating this issue, from the emerging prevalence of cheap fast food options to motorcycles and scooters, which are taking the place of walking. As a result, people are consuming more empty calories and exercising less. Through Tule Vyema, Maureen is addressing this issue with education, first and foremost.
Tule Vyema offers free education on the fundamentals of nutrition in order to address food security in Kenya. The organization teaches women how to prepare produce so they can retain their nutrients, and conversely, which preparation methods to avoid. For example, boiling vegetables leaves many of the nutrients behind in the water.
The program also emphasizes the value of indigenous vegetables such as African nightshade, amaranth, cowpeas and spider plant. Tule Vyema also teaches sack farming, which is an efficient method of growing crops.
Sack farming turns a simple sack into a vertical garden. Farmers fill the bags with a combination of manure, soil and pebbles, and then, the crops grow out of the top and the sides. This technique requires less water than other growing methods, which makes it more viable in an arid climate and helpful in the mission of delivering food security to Kenya. This method also requires less land, which allows farmers without large plots the option of growing food in their own backyard. Additionally, sack farming results in better pest control, leading to fewer lost crops. Finally, it enables farmers to grow indigenous crops without using harmful pesticides, thus maximizing crops’ nutritional value. Not only has sack farming increased food security in Kenya, but the women who have adopted the technique are also enjoying the newfound economic freedom it provides.
Most women in Kajiado households are homemakers. However, often their main source of income is household chores for neighboring houses. This type of work is frequently unreliable and low-paying. With sack gardens, women can sell surplus vegetables within their community.
The women of Kajiado are taking on leadership roles within the organization, handling logistics such as scheduling classes and bringing education straight to the doorstep of those who do not have the time to seek it out on their own. The administrative people who live within the communities give Tule Vyema real staying power.
Looking to the Future
In just two years, Tule Vyema has helped over 800 households achieve food security. With its early success in delivering food security to Kenya, Maureen Muketha wants the program to expand beyond its borders.
“God willing it expands to various other countries because this is a problem not only in my county but it cuts across the country and even globally,” said Maureen.
– Greg Fortier