Household food security of members and non-members of women Self- Help groups in Mirigamieru West Division in Meru-Central District - Kenya
Household food security in Kenya has been deteriorating steadily with one in every two households in Eastern, Coast, Western, and Northeastern provinces classified as absolutely food poor. Women play a crucial role in household food security in Kenya because they are responsible for over 50% production of food grown. However, with this important role of maintaining food production and acquisition, women are resource poor. Access to credit for the poor rural women is quite difficult. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether household food security is influenced by belonging to women self- help groups. A cross-sectional survey was used to collect data from 100 respondents. The data was analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences ( SPSS). Chi-square, Pearson Product-Moment Correlation, Logical regression analysis and the Independent t- test were used to relate and differentiate variables. In reference to food adequacy, all the respondents supplemented the food from own production with food from the market emphasizing the importance of financial accessibility to food. Women in groups had higher education levels than women who did not belong to any women groups. There was a significant difference in the amount of income earned by the two groups of respondents (p = 0.002, t = -1.768). A significant relationship was found to exist between the percentage of money spent on food and belonging or not belonging to women self-help groups (x2 =23.043, p = 0.000). Women in groups seemed to spend a smaller percentage of their monthly income on food as compared to those not in groups. There was a significant positive relationship between the amount of credit received and amount of money spent on food (r = 0.555, p = 0 .000). Concerning the influence of women groups' activities on household food security, women indicated that the group's activities facilitated them to carry out businesses and improved their food production as a result of their ability to buy farm inputs such as fertilizers. Lack of money to buy food or buy farm inputs and lack of proper storage facilities were the main causes of food insecurity cited by the two groups of respondents. The researcher recommends that, local leaders should encourage women to organize themselves to form women groups, so as to approach micro-finance organizations and Non Governmental Organizations which will facilitate them access credit. This will go a long way in increasing food production and increasing household income. It is also important that the organizations involved with giving women groups' credit combine the package of credit with training the groups on the utilization of credit for the benefit of the household. The interest rates should also be lowered by the financial institutions to make the credit more attractive to women of low socioeconomic status. Based on the results, the study has recommended that a similar study could be replicated in an urban area in this country, and also one could be conducted using a larger sample through inclusion of households from all divisions of Meru Central district.