Most Kenyans still rely on small family farms for a living. As soon as the rains come, some 70% of rural households will begin the annual planting season this month. Farmers like Florence Luteya in Kakamega are hopeful that the harvest profits will afford her family a measure of security, in food and finances, for the coming year.
Her surplus maize won’t just feed her family over the year but may be sold on to local markets --- earning money to pay for school fees, healthier meals or to make investments on a new cow or business. From the markets, some of her harvest may be sold on and on, eventually taking it to the nearby city of Kisumu, feeding another Kenyan family without a farm of their own to rely on.
It’s farmers like Luteya that feed the nation. Their role in ensuring national food security cannot be overlooked and, in order to help them do their jobs well, we have to make sure that they have the tools to make the most of their often small parcels of land.
That’s why we were honoured to have hosted Deputy President, Dr. William Samoei Ruto, along with a delegation of local and county leaders, at our Kenya Headquarters last month. They came to celebrate the more than 400,000 Kenyan farmers that we serve while recognizing their contributions to the government’s Big Four Agenda particularly around national efforts to increase food security.
“Today, I’m here for the farmers...,” His Excellency Ruto said, almost bowing to the crowd of 800 farmers who came to hear him speak, “...on behalf of the Government of Kenya I want to thank you, in a very special way.”
Food Security is at the heart of Kenyan government policy because higher agricultural output means higher incomes for farmers, food resilience within their households and, that their farms are as productive as possible.
For over a decade, we, at One Acre Fund, have worked in partnership with Kenyan farmers to help them achieve every one of these goals by offering seed and fertilizer on credit, training on improved farming techniques and, post-harvest support to help them maximize their yields and incomes. Together, we’re moving towards a common vision of a food secure Kenya.
During his address, the Deputy President commended our operations in Kenya particularly for our partnership with farmers. After speaking to one of our clients, he was convinced that our model was viable and, he even committed to helping us reach more farmers across the country.
For farmers like Florence Luteya, this partnership has meant that her family of 10 is financially secure and healthier with a diversity of nutrition options at their disposal.
“I did not know about crop diversification until I enrolled with One Acre Fund. I only used to plant maize. They taught us about sweet potatoes, carrots and vegetables. This helped our diets and our health has improved a lot,” she says.
For Peter Makasi, a cheerful 69 year old, from Wabiya village in Western Kenya, productive farming has changed the tides for generations in his family. After his first successful harvest, five of his 10 children followed suit and enrolled too.
Where his family struggled to put two meals on the table each day, he says, “Now we’re in Eden! Food security is no problem. Anytime I want to eat, I eat. Food is always there.”
Farmers also shared that larger, more consistent, harvests have led to financial security for their families.
Jenipher Likhotio from Kakamega district, not far from our Kenya Headquarters, reported that improved harvests year-on-year allowed her to escape the grips of the annual hunger season, the period between planting and harvest when food stocks tend to run out. They have also allowed her the freedom to provide for her family.
She started a kerosene business shortly after enrolling with us in 2011.
“Life is now better and easier; I don’t struggle as I used to. I have enough money from my business to pull me through my financial needs. I feel empowered as a woman,” she says.
Like Florence, Peter and Jenipher, more than 400,000 One Acre Fund clients are proving what’s possible when farmers have the tools and training they need to thrive. We honor the Government of Kenya for recognizing each and every one of them during the visit, and look forward to working together to support many more farmers in the years to come.