For many years, farmers in Makueni County have experienced diminishing crop yields partly due to scanty rainfall but also as a result of exhausting of major nutrients in the soil after growing the same type of crop in the same portion of land. Many farmers in the region were also reluctant to use fertilizers as they believed it would contaminate their soil.
Elizabeth Munyoki and her husband Martin have been growing maize and beans on a six-acre piece of land for many years but each time the crops failed due to inadequate rainfall, they would be left hopeless with no food to feed their seven children and if at all they harvested the produce would be very little per acre due to the low soil fertility. The couple depends solely on their farm to clothe, feed and educate their children and the shortage of rainfall would put a big strain on the family including their social life
It is not until 2014 when Anglican Development Services Eastern (ADSE) with the support from AGRA started working with her group Kasau Ka Kyunyu Hope when she was trained with her group of 21 members on integrated soil fertility management (ISFM). They were trained on growing drought tolerant crops, improved seeds and combination of both organic and inorganic fertilizers to increase their farm productivity.
But Mrs Elizabeth Munywoki a mother of seven school going children is not worried by the adverse climatic conditions as she has already harvested her crop of 3 acres green grams 800 kgs and 2 acres sorghum 1,300kgs. She was linked to the market and was able to sell the 700kgs of green grams at Ksh 70,000 ($ 700 USD) and 1000 Kgs of sorghum at 33,000 ($330). There is more of the crop still in the farm and she estimates that she will reap up to Sh45, 000 when the crop is sold.
The shift to the growing of sorghum and legumes and the adoption of ISFM practices have changed their fortunes. Elizabeth has enough food for her family and from the sales of the produce she has managed to pay school fees for her children and one is currently in the University. Elizabeth and her group members have also been able to buy solar lamps for lighting in the homes and they no longer use kerosene lamps.
Elizabeth says as a woman she has benefitted a lot from the growing of legumes and has also diversified and bought chicken which she rears to supplement the family income. She urges other farmers to learn and adopt the new farming practices in order to thrive. The transformation that the project has had on the Munywoki family is evident in the hundreds of chicks that Elizabeth is now rearing in her chicken coop at home. She used capital from the proceeds of the crops to diversify into chicken farming.
She has one last wish from the people who helped transform her life; that the project be rolled out to other regions in order to alleviate poverty and hunger borne out of ignorance and a desire to cling to outdated societal practices.