From food aid to food grown independently

“With this food security project, now there is plenty of food; we do not need relief assistance anymore.”

Photos and story Lucy Murunga. Edited by Rachael Boyer.
Published December 2, 2011 at 12:00am PST

Severe drought in 2004 left the residents of Kenya’s Samburu district dependent on food aid for survival.

The 2009 late rainy season brought signs of hope and budding crops, but poor rains later in 2010 disappointed. The progress was undone, and nearly half of the district’s 200,000 residents were again vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.

A combination of prolonged dry spells and crop failures crippled lives and livelihoods in the district.

“A majority of the residents lost livestock to the drought in 2009,” explains Geoffrey Targon, a local government official. “Others lost livestock — their lifeline — to cattle raiders and have ever since been solely depending on relief food.”

Taking initiative, making it happen

Despite these challenges, some of the community members said they were tired of depending on relief assistance; instead, they wanted to grow food and feed their own families.

A group of 25 women in the Samburu district formed the Logorate women farmers group. Being a primarily nomadic community, many of them had never farmed before, but they wanted to learn. World Vision, in partnership with the Kenyan government, came alongside them.

“Within a period of two years, World Vision Samburu food security has been able to train 628 farmers on aspects of organic farming, rainwater harvesting, water conservation, soil fertility,” says Daniel Gitau of World Vision in Kenya. “All these techniques are key in crop production.”

Women from the farming group gather to show some of their recent harvest.World Vision also provided seeds and tools to the farmers who completed their training.

A success story — one of many

Natito, a mother of nine children, says all she needed was training and support to get started with crop production. Two years later, she is reaping large harvests. This year, she harvested an entire granary of maize.

“After I received training, World Vision also supported me with seeds and farm tools that enabled me to begin farming,” Natito says. “Now, my family has a regular supply of food, all from the farm.”

Now child nutrition in Logorate has improved, since they grow a variety of crops. Elina, a member of the farmers group, says they even grow more food than they can eat.

“Now, we not only eat the food, but also sell part of the produce to earn an income to improve our lives, because we have realized that agriculture can also be a reliable source of livelihood,” Elina says.

“With this food security project, now there is plenty of food; we do not need relief assistance anymore.”

Making the most of rain

Natito, a mother of nine, has been keeping busy with her new farm. She harvested two granaries of maize this year!For an arid and semi-arid area, the farmers say the early onset of the 2011 October rains was good, leading to a bumper harvest and farms bustling with life.

But the unreliable rainfall in the region worries Daniel a lot. “We are therefore training the community on rainwater harvesting, so that when the rains fail, there is water in the reservoir to ensure crops have a constant supply of water throughout the growing period,” Daniel explains.

“World Vision is also putting up a water borehole in Logorate village near the farms that will help address water challenges, because we want this project to thrive,” he adds. “Following a massive success in the group demonstration farm, there are plans to replicate the same in the individual farms.”

Dreams for the future

Members also have a group savings account where they save part of the proceeds from food sales goes to pay for unforeseen emergencies.

Farmers from the group say they are grateful to World Vision for showing them how to farm, and for supporting them through the process. And while they appreciate World Vision’s help in the short term, they say their long-term goal is independence — to have money in their accounts from running sustainable farms, so they can care for their families’ needs.

Three ways you can help

Thank God that residents of Kenya’s Samburu district have found a way to grow their own food and provide for their families, without emergency aid. Pray for others across Kenya and the Horn of Africa who are still suffering from the effects of prolonged drought and food shortages.

Make a one-time gift to our Horn of Africa Food Crisis Fund. Your donation will multiply five times to help provide emergency food, healthcare, and other critical assistance to this suffering part of the world.

Sponsor a child in Kenya. Your love and support for a boy or girl in need will help provide stability and a critical safety net in times of crisis.