Global agricultural charity Farm Africa is making a difference to the lives of Kenyan farmers when the rains fail.
For two thirds of people in Kenya, who rely on the food they grow and animals they keep, ongoing droughts have left many struggling to produce enough to feed their families.
In recent years Kitui county, which is part of Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands in the south east of the country, has suffered from significant variations in climate, seriously impacting both agricultural production and food security.
Sabina, a 43-year-old mother, is just one of thousands of farmers in Kitui who Farm Africa has worked with to build their long-term financial resilience to the impact of droughts.
This includes diversifying her income stream, growing drought-tolerant crops using high-quality seeds and adopting water conservation techniques.
Sabina said life had been tough due to successive crop failures due to lack of rain, which meant the only alternative was to sell livestock and buy food to feed the children.
But Farm Africa, she said, had made a difference: “I found out about Farm Africa from one of my relatives and decided to set up a farmers group so we could receive training to help us improve our situation. We now have 21 members and all are women.
“Farm Africa has taught us lots and I now see poultry farming in a different light. I understand that by diversifying between farming crops and keeping livestock I can spread the risk because I am not reliant on a good harvest for my only source of income.
“I have learned how to run things as a business and about practical issues like what feed to give. Chickens have a short production cycle which means you don’t have to wait too long to make a profit because within three months a chicken will have grown big enough to sell.
“Chickens are also easy to manage as once you have given them food you can leave them in their house while you attend to other business. I have been keeping chickens for two seasons. Some of the eggs have hatched now so I have 38 chicks, and I have separated four of the hens so they can lay more eggs. I am planning to rear the chicks to maturity to sell and meanwhile I will produce more chicks to keep the cycle going.
“In addition to selling some of the eggs, I have also been able to use them for home consumption. Before I could not afford to buy eggs but now they are part of our diet and are contributing to the health of my family.
“Farm Africa has been able to deliver our farmers group from the darkness by showing us how to farm better and have united us through training. Now we know that poultry farming is a good way to make money – chickens equal wealth,” she added.
One company supporting Farm Africa this Christmas is US-based Kynetec, which provides data, analytics and insight for the poultry and animal health industries. The firm has made a donation to Farm Africa’s “Growing Futures” project, which equips young people in Kenya’s Trans Nzoia County with the skills and knowledge to successfully establish agricultural enterprises.
Stephen Hearn, Kynetec chief executive officer, said the company was humbled to be able to make a difference: “With the sponsorship of Farm Africa and Growing Futures, we are supporting a community, the environment and the vital agriculture industry.”