Esther is a farmer from Makongo village and a member of the Makongo Farmers Network in south-central Kenya, where she owns ½ acre of land. She was forced to relocate from Eldoret in western Kenya due to political instability during the 2007-08 Kenyan crisis, which displaced about 600,000 people. A single mother, today she supports eight children, five of whom are in school.
Following common practice, Esther believed that her only option for securing her family’s livelihood as a farmer was to grow maize, and she invested in maize seed and fertilizers for the 2015-2016 growing season. Esther planted the seeds, tended the plants, cared for the field and crop, harvested her maize, then brought the crop to market. After she added everything up, she found that growing maize cost her more than she could sell it for at market. She was losing money, having already invested in the type of farming she had hoped would support her family.
In February 2016, a trainer from Seed Savers Network Kenya (SSNK) visited several farmer groups to conduct training in vegetable farming and seed saving techniques. SSNK is one of Seed Program International’s local partners, headquartered southeast of Nakuru in Gilgil. Esther participated in this training, and through this SPI partner program, received vegetable seed donated by SPI. Using new knowledge and seed, Esther began planting vegetable crops in place of the maize.
“I used to spend KSh 5,000 on maize seeds. I couldn’t make enough money to cover my costs and I went broke. This is now my second term planting vegetable crops, and the only challenge I have is lack of water to irrigate my crops.” — Esther
After the first season of planting vegetables, Esther not only recovered her earlier maize investment, but brought in twice as much vegetable income on top of that. With training support from SSNK and the cooperative support of the Makongo Farmers Network, she changed how she worked and not only provided income for her family, but also fed her family with the vegetables grown from the new crops. Further, Esther has since helped other members of the Makongo Farmers Network transition to vegetable crops. What an inspiration!
Esther is only one example of the many women who are using seeds provided by SPI through a local partner to adopt vegetable farming and take steps toward securing their family’s income and nutrition. Empowerment is important at every level of an SPI partnership, from investing in the local expertise and leadership of partners like SSNK to supporting enterprising and industrious women farmers who gain more control over their lives through networking and education.
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