Programme for Agriculture and Livelihoods in Western Communities (PALWECO)
More than three quarters of Kenyans rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. The agricultural sector supports 70% of the population through crop production, extensive and intensive livestock keeping, fishing and forestry. The agriculture sector employs over 80% of Kenya's rural population and is the largest foreign exchange earner. The geographical coverage of the Programme for Agriculture and Livelihoods in Western Com-munities (PALWECO) includes seven districts: Teso-North, Teso-South, Busia, Butula, Nam-bale, Samia and Bunyala. The Lake Victoria Basin, which includes these seven districts, covers only 8.4% of Kenya's territory but contains more than 40% of the total population.
The average farm size in the Programme area is 2 ha with a carrying capacity of 2.25 livestock units per ha – 79% of the population are involved in agriculture. Smallholders have increasingly diversified production, shifting their farming from maize to high-value horticulture and livestock products, as well as from on-farm to off-farm income sources. Nevertheless, most farmers still regard on-farm activities as the main source of income. Although the seven districts do not represent the poorest in Kenya absolute poverty remains at 60% or higher and averages at 64% across all districts. This is significantly higher than the national averages for rural (54%) and urban (53%) areas. Almost 70% of households are unable to access basic services such as water, health and education.
The Programme has two categories of beneficiaries; direct and indirect. The direct beneficiaries are poor communities and households within the seven districts in Western Kenya. Particular attention is given to vulnerable groups and women. The estimated number of direct beneficiaries is about 600,000 individuals, considering that part of the total population is semi-rural. Among the direct beneficiaries are the Programme‘s target groups, i.e., communities and households that are directly involved in activities supported by PALWECO. Other direct beneficiaries benefit through capacities developed and strengthened by the Programme.
The indirect beneficiaries of the Programme are government departments, non-governmental organizations NGOs and Civil Society Organizations, including community based organizations and faith based organizations, and private sector service providers that support the Programme‘s implementation, coordination and alignment.
The overall (long term) objective of PALWECO is decreased poverty in selected districts of Western Kenya through improved living standards and livelihoods of rural population. Major improvement of the living standards and livelihoods will take a substantial time whereby the entire life span of the Programme will probably be beyond ten years horizon.
The purpose of the first phase of PALWECO is strengthened capacity of rural population in selected districts of Western Kenya to influence structures and processes affecting them and in-creased wealth from farming and non-farming activities in a sustainable way.