Farm Pond That Rescued a Family In Makueni
Hellen Kanini is a famous vegetable farmer in Maua village, within Makueni County. She plants cabbages, terere (Amaranthus), managu (nightshade), onions and spinach. Hellen supplies her vegetables to traders who in turn sells to various markets within the County.
She harvests three times a week. At every harvest, Hellen pockets KSh 600, which totals up to KSh 1800 in a week. “This money helps me to comfortably pay bills for my family. I can even afford luxury life,” says Hellen with a smile all over her face. The capacity of the pond is 500 cubic meters, Hellen plants high value vegetables on ¼ acre on which she can continue producing vegetables for at least 2 months after the rains
Apart from using the proceeds from the farm to fend for her family, Hellen supports needy children from her area, including paying their school fees. This, she explains, how she gives back to the society.
As she laughs all the way to the bank, life however hasn’t been easy for Hellen, who is a widow. Challenges started after she lost her husband, who was the breadwinner. “We depended entirely on him. So after his death, we were left in the cold. No one was willing to support us financially,” she narrates.
Left without any option, Hellen had to look for a way to start fending for her children. She started doing menial jobs. At times, her children had to accompany and help her do the works.
She explains, “I used to do the menial jobs with my older children, who had completed their studies. Those that were still in primary school would go to school as the rest of us worked.”
After two years of menial jobs, in 2019, Hellen was linked to the National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP), a Government of Kenya (GoK) project that is implemented through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Irrigation (MoALF&I), State Department for Crop Development (SDCD), with funding support from the World Bank.
The window explains that she was among those NARIGP chose to help in tilling their lands. Since she had no land of her own, the officers intervened and asked her father to allow her use land in planting vegetables. When he agreed, the tractor came and dug the land.
Hellen started with cabbages. She shares that since Makueni is an arid area, her immediate challenge was lack of water. “Lack of water became my immediate challenge. I wasn’t sure whether l will manage cabbages without water,” she recalls.
However, determined to succeed, Hellen with the help of her children, started by fetching water from a nearby river and irrigating her land. Her hard work, started paying off after her vegetables matured. People who saw her vegetables farm started coming to buy from her. Soon, word spread like bushfire that she had vegetables, and people came from all directions to purchase cabbages.
“By the time l had harvested all the cabbages from the farm, l had made some good money. For the first time, l realized there is money in the farm,” she explains.
Hellen resolved to expand her farming activities, by using some of the money she had got from selling cabbages so as to increase her income in the next harvesting season. Hellen hired another piece of land and planted cabbages, terere, managu, onions and spinach.
In the next harvesting, Hellen made even more money. She now paid school fees for her children with ease. Nowadays, she has several lands she has hired.
She used the money from farming to purchase irrigation equipment. Water challenges is now a thing of the past, to her. Hellen uses hosepipe to water her land, which makes her work, much easier and harvests her vegetables throughout year.
She reveals her children now appreciates farming and offer her great support in the farm. “I owe it to NARIGP. It has taught me that there is money in farming, if you want to. Farming is now my daily job,” she says happily.
However, Hellen has also had fair share of challenges in the farm. She explains, “The challenges we face as women is tilling the land. Casual labourers do not know how land should be apportioned, so I have to do it myself. When my children come, they are the ones I engage to help me till the land.”
Also, once in a while, her watering machines breaks down, and the technicians available charges her a lot of money to repair. She says, “Right now, my water pump is broken down and fixing it is quite expensive. I need someone who will charge me fairly.”
Hellen however is encouraging farmers, especially women and youths to invest in farming since there lies a fortune. She says, there are also many organizations like NARIGP that can support them through training and input and equipment.