Livelihood Support
Sauti Moja provides livestock (camels, goats, and donkeys) to widows and abandoned women to help them recover from loss, become self sufficient, care for their children, restore dignity and regain hope.

The challenge

Droughts frequently devastate pastoralist communities, killing large numbers of the livestock that they depend on for milk, blood, hides, and meat.  Single women with children are often the most devastated by this, and their hope for recovery is least.

In Northern Kenya, the Drought of 2005-2006, which was the most severe in several decades.  Livestock perished in large numbers: almost all the donkeys, >80% of the cows, and about 60% of the sheep and goats died.  Again, in 2008-2009, a similarly devastating drought occurred, further entrenching the poverty already pervasive in the communities and contributing to widespread hunger.

Although the communities coped well with these environmental disasters in the past, current trends of land loss, changing policies, ethnic and resource conflict, population growth, global warming, and disease have made the situation very difficult, if not unbearable.  Most remarkably, the mobility that is critical to livestock raising in arid environments has been dramatically reduced.

Widows and abandoned women face the most difficulty and commonly struggle with immense poverty for various reasons, including a breakdown in traditional social safety nets due to a greater number of impoverished families.  As women, they also have subordinate status, especially if they do not own livestock.  As mothers, they bear huge burden associated with feeding their children and providing an education and health care.  At the best of times, their situation is challenging, but with more frequent droughts, their situations have become particularly dire.  Their chances ofrecovery are less than for households with men, who may be able to find casual work elsewhere.


Ntason is a charming, vivacious widow about 30 years old with six children from 2 to 18 years of age.  She was married at an early age, perhaps as young as 10, to a much older husband.  When he died, he left her a few cattle and goats, but the cattle died in the last drought, leaving her with only a few goats.  The milk and income from these goats is not enough, so each day, in addition to meeting the needs of her own family, she supplements household income by carrying water and fetching firewood for others.  Still, with six dependent children, she is a very impoverished woman.  And, in Rendille culture, a widow can never remarry, leaving her economically-insecure. 

In 2009, Ntason received 6 goats from Sauti Moja, which has helped her become self-sufficient and care for her family!

During one visit, she commented that, “while I was previously stigmatized as a poor widow, I’m now respected as a regular member of the community. Having livestock means everything!”


Our Response

  • Community mobilization.  In all the communities where Sauti Moja works, we ensure close collaboration with community leaders.  Through community meetings and other gatherings, Sauti Moja mobilizes the support of leaders who help identify the vulnerable women in their community and cooperate in activities to assist them.  This fosters program ownership and greater support structures for these vulnerable women.
  • Camel restocking. Camels are the most drought-hardy and environmentally-friendly livestock.  Whenever socially and culturally feasible, Sauti Moja - USA helps women obtain camels, which reduces their vulnerability to future droughts.  In the most recent drought, some of the camels continued to produce milk, while the cows died.
  • Goat restocking. As browsers - animals that browse on trees or shrubs, goats tend to cope with drought better than livestock that graze.  They are also easier to care for and more frequently accepted as ‘women’s property’.  Sauti Moja donates goats to the vulnerable women in semi-arid environments where drought is usually less severe. 
  • Donkey restocking. For many women, donkeys are integral to their daily lives. They rely on donkeys for carrying large amounts of water, food, and firewood across vast distances. Further, some use donkeys for earning income by transporting items to residents of villages or towns for a small fee. Without donkeys, the burden of this work is almost-literally ‘back-breaking’.

In its re-stocking activities, Sauti Moja institutes a ‘pass-on principle’.  We provide only female livestock, and every recipient is responsible to pass on its first female offspring to another vulnerable widow or abandoned woman selected by the community.  As a result, the giving is a sustained activity in the communities, and the number of women helped each year grows significantly.  Interestingly, while unintended, this dimension of the program has led to a real sense of dignity and status for many women: while previously recipients of assistance they become ‘assisters’ of others in their community!

Another important element of the program is that, whenever possible, livestock are selected by the women and purchased from within the communities, which helps inject income into the community and holds sellers accountable to the community.


Our Achievements

  • Sauti Moja has engaged and mobilized the leaders of 10 villages.  The leaders are actively involved in identifying the most vulnerable widows and supporting the restocking activities.
  • 50 women have received camels. All of these camels survived the last drought, which has further confirmed their value in dryland environments.
  • 75 women have received donkeys.  The donkeys have greatly reduced the workload for all the women and in many cases, provided an opportunity to earn income.
  • 516 goats have been distributed to 111 women. Recipients each receive 4-5 female goats, and in some cases, a male suitable for breeding.



Did you know?

Sauti Moja Canada Director, Tim Wright, was exposed to the plight of widows and abandoned women in Northern Kenya when he lived and worked there in 1998-2002.  At that time, he and Paul Galmagar, one of our volunteers, started providing the poorest widows with goats from their flock.   Sauti Moja rose out of Tim’s desire to provide other donors with an opportunity to share in addressing the great need of widows and orphans.  He and previous colleagues have scaled-up this initial effort through this program.

  • Join the LECHE Project which is affordable, supports healthy development of Maasai preschoolers, and helps educate your children.
  • 1000 Widows Initiative – We’ve helped 161 vulnerable women become self-sufficient, so now we are targeting another 839 over the next three years!  More
  • Sponsors for child mothers are desperately needed!  More
  • Read about Sauti Moja’s role in famine recovery here.
  • Read about Sauti Moja’s response to global warming here.