Loyo, Kenya: a Story of Women's Empowerment

WFP Logistician Philomena Wanyama (right) with her friend Amase, the Head of the Loyo Food Distribution Centre in Kenya. Copyright: Andrew Macua and Geoffery Arasa/WFP

As a volunteer at the Loyo Food Distribution Point (FDP) in central Turkana, Kenya, Amase has been distributing WFP food assistance to beneficiaries for 10 years.  A native Kenyan, she found her way to the village of Loyo when fighting broke out in her hometown in Todonyang  along the Kenyan/Ethiopian border, and she lost everything – including her husband.

She is now the Head of the distribution centre, making sure that each month, all beneficiaries receive their allocation of cereals, vegetable oil and Corn Soya Blend (CSB), a highly nutritious supplement fortified with micronutrients. About seven women work in the centre, receiving and unloading around 15mt per month of food assistance and storing it in a local FDP before distribution. 

Philomena Wanyama is a WFP Logistician who came to meet Amase at the Loyo FDP when she stopped in to monitor how the local distribution centres were running in northwestern Kenya.  “I noticed this lady running the centre, she was very active,” said Philomena. Not only is Amase in charge of receipts, storage and distribution, but she knows each entitlement of all beneficiaries by heart – and has also earned the respect and recognition of the local community.

“WFP Logistics empowers women through food handling,” explains Philomena. In the Loyo FDP, WFP has promoted the involvement of women in food distribution. As a result, half of those working at FDPs in the central Turkana region are women. In these centres, they are encouraged by WFP to be decision-makers and to take the lead role as the head of their families.

During her three years working for WFP, Philomena has seen other cases which have brought on the empowerment of women through food assistance and delivery.  In another example, local women in the village of Lobei, located in central Turkana, were experiencing problems in getting an adequate supply of water to their farms, where they grow sorghum and other vegetables.  The women saw an opportunity for a sustainable and long-term project under WFP’s Food for Assets programme, by digging a 7km long canal for water storage and irrigation. Under this project, the WFP Lodwar Office, in partnership with Child Fund International, provided and coordinated the delivery of 7,000 sand-filled sacks to be used for water bank protection.  Not only have the women of this northwestern region of Kenya accomplished many things which have contributed to the progressive realization of a sustainable livelihood, but the WFP office in Lodwar, Kenya has been working hard to ensure this keeps happening.

Logistics operations in central Turkana receive about 44,000mt of food assistance each year, coming from the cities of Mombasa and Kitale, Kenya. The distance that food must travel from these two cities to Turkana is 700km and 350km, respectively.  WFP staff and logisticians sometimes experience difficulties in travelling these routes, especially during the rainy seasons, which often renders many roads impassable.  Once unloaded from the truck and stored in a WFP warehouse, food is kept securely before it is off and on its way to be distributed to around 300,000 beneficiaries at one of the many FDPs in the region.  In certain instances, WFP drivers must deliver food as far away as 300km from the storage warehouse to the distribution point, even encountering flooded roads along the way – prompting for food to be hand-carried to its destination.

“Our main goal is making sure that the right amount of the best quality food gets to the intended beneficiary. Despite insecurity in certain places, we deliver,” says Philomena.  She acknowledges that none of this would be possible if everyone didn’t work together: “WFP Staff in Turkana are doing an amazing job, and I am proud to be a part of this team. I really feel WFP is doing good.”

*These photos were taken at the Loyo FDP in Turkana Central, Kenya. Copyright: Andrew Macua and Geoffery Arasa/WFP