Every morning, Christine Ashinjila wakes up at 5 a.m. to start making mandazi, a type of fried bread that’s traditionally eaten in Kenya for breakfast or a snack. Christine, 37, usually begins her work by the light of a solar lamp in her home, mixing the ingredients together and kneading the dough. As day breaks, she takes her bowl outside, along with a cookstove and a stool, and she begins frying each small bun until it’s golden brown.
Christine’s house is fortuitously located along a wide dirt road, with a primary school in one direction and a secondary school in the other. Soon, her regular morning customers are lining up, all dressed in brightly colored school uniforms and balancing their backpacks and books. The children are always hungry in the morning, Christine says, and they like to buy mandazi when it’s hot. By 9 a.m., classes have started, Christine is sold out for the day, and she’s got 200 shillings ($2) in profits in her pocket.
Christine’s mandazi business is modest, but she likes the independence that it gives her -- she doesn’t have to rely on her husband for money to buy household items. It also provides good supplemental income to their farm, about half an acre near Buteheli village in Western Kenya.
Extra income is a luxury for Christine, and something that she never had until recently. For many years, she struggled to feed her family. Her harvests usually amounted to just two bags of maize, only enough to last three months. The rest of the year, she would look for odd jobs working on other people’s farms or selling firewood to support her five children and three nieces and nephews that the family had taken in.
Then in 2015, Christine joined One Acre Fund, and she learned how to plant her crops properly and apply fertilizer. Since then, she’s regularly harvested 8-10 bags of maize a season, as much as five times more than before. Now, she no longer has to take on odd jobs to feed her family or pay school fees for the children. She bought a solar lamp, so the house is brighter now and the children can study at night. And she’s been able to compound her income by starting her mandazi business.
“Before joining One Acre Fund, all I could think of was buying food for the children,” says Christine, who’s saving up in the hopes of opening a shop. “Now, I have extra money to invest.”