We began our farming project in Kenya back in 2011 with the intention to feed local orphan children around the village of Mundeku. After initially supporting one particular family to take in these children, it became clear that a better approach was to provide maize to two local primary schools. This way many more children would benefit from having at least one hot meal a day.
Our farm has provided many other benefits too – including providing accessible, clean, safe water; seeds and plants; and employment to several villagers.
And we have been able to support the primary schools by giving children space to grow vegetables, which they kept to supplement their family income.
But we’ve found it extremely hard to make this plot self-sustainable. It just shows how hard it is for local villagers to do anything more than subsistence farming. This is largely because most villagers grow maize and green vegetables which are widely available and low value. In fact, we worked out it costs more to grow maize, than we earned in income from it. It doesn’t make sense commercially.
So we have teamed up with agricultural advisors from the UN Farmer Field Schools programme to offer training to villagers around Mundeku and Butere villages showing how they can work together to generate income for the community so they can move beyond subsistence farming.
Two groups have already formed, each with 15 villagers, who will meet the advisors every two weeks over the next year. They will be given guidance on dairy farming and rearing poultry (Butere) or fish farming and bee-keeping (Mundeku). These forms of agriculture were selected by the advisors as they offer higher value produce that can be grown or raised on small plots of land and are suitable for the different conditions at the two locations.
The villagers have formed their own groups, each with a leadership team, and all members will contribute a small registration fee. This allows them to register the group and set up a bank account.
RRBF has agreed to pay some capital costs such as building a hen house for up to 200 chickens. This will become a more productive unit than having 2 or 3 chickens that typically roam around a small-holding now.
We are also paying the fees for the agricultural advisors to deliver the training. And we’re offering a loan to each group to cover initial operating costs, like buying the hens and feed.
At the end of the year, when we assess the benefit of the programme, we anticipate that the villagers will have repaid any loans plus the cost of the training. And any profits that are left over will be split between the villagers in each group. They can then re-invest in the next year and continue to benefit from increased incomes.
The training will also include ‘table banking’, a form of community saving so the villagers can save funds to implement the training on their own plots. This way they can apply what they learn and benefit fully.
We will oversee and review the training programme but the villagers will take responsibility for what they learn and how they apply it.
The programme will enable villagers to build their own way out of the cycle of poverty and subsistence living. Just like our scholarships where we give children the chance of an education to build their own future.