I have been living in our little village Uhuru in Western Kenya for almost three months and what I can say now; it is all about how you make the most out of it! You have to be self-confident, go out there, want to change something, want to actively and openly working together with the farmers. Be proactive, be bold, be curious and be innovative and always be open for change, for something new and for the unexpected! You cannot and you do not really plan a day in Kenya. It is dependent on so many factors but the locals say, if God wants it wants it to happen, it will happen! I am still having a different mentality, first of all I do not relate it to religion because everyone is accountable for their own actions, I firmly believe, and being German and having lived in Denmark for the past three years, makes me appreciating efficiency and time-management! I am still struggling with the Kenyan perception of time and being on time or rather not being on time. Everything here is “pole, pole”, (Swahili for slowly, slowly). On the other hand it allows you to slow down more once in a while, coming from a society where everything has to be faster, bigger, wider…
But what is it that I am actually doing here all day? First of all, no day is alike but that is what I appreciate and value in particular! Half of the time I would be in the office doing some administrative work and the other half we are out in the fields to train, monitor, supervise our farmers.
Let me go back in time and share my first day of work in the field with you. It was already an adventure in itself and a great start! I was going around on a boda boda (motorbike) with my colleagues Kevin and Eunice, so three persons squeezed together, driving through the beautiful, splendid and wide nature of Western Kenya, which is very green and fertile! We were going around following up on some overdue loan installments. So I was able to see a lot of the nature, the farms, getting to know my colleagues better and of course also our dear farmers. What I liked especially about it was the positive atmosphere that was predominant the whole time! The farmers welcomed us smiling, we were offered some of their crops such as plums, avocados, mangos and grilled maize – by then I was already in heaven. Even though we were there to collect some money from them, the atmosphere was at no time pressured or distrustful. Even though I could not understand everything, due to the language barrier of the Luo language, I could very well read the body languages and mimics, which was such a beautiful and precious thing to experience! I could really see how the relationship with our farmers is based on trust but of course we are not named Momentum TRUST without a reason! I was glad to sense this positive atmosphere because often you hear about Microfinance institutions pressuring their members too much and creating hostile environments. Luckily, this is not the case for Momentum otherwise I would also not have liked working for them. But because I met Christian already a while ago before actually moving to Kenya and I have met Mia, a former intern and now board member, in person too, I already knew before what a valuable project this is. I was sure I WANT TO BECOME PART OF THIS and I have never regretted my decision a single second (ok maybe very shortly during one of those nights were I was attacked by too many mosquitoes, despite my mosquito net…), my expectations were exceeded tremendously.
Coming back to my first day of work where we moved around to follow up loans, there was this one female farmer who was overdue but just not able to pay back even a little. So Eunice and Kevin were
discussing possibilities back and forth and also trying to understand why she is not able to payback to be able to better help her. In the end, my colleague Eunice bought one of her chickens for herself and thereby repaid part of her loan. So… it was not only three persons on a boda boda together, no now we were three plus a chicken, and trust me, commuting like this is not an unnatural thing here. This already put such a big smile on my face and this deep feeling that evolves from the inside and makes you so unbelievable happy without even being able to find words for it.
On my second day of work I was taken to a training on group dynamics with Eunice! She is an incredible woman, delivering so much enthusiasm and knowledge to our farmers and I can feel and see their prosperous relationship of trust and mutual respect! It was a training for a new group and in the introduction round everyone was asked to share what makes them happy in life and what makes them sad. Every single person in the group of 14 people answered “I like to work hard to make sure we have enough food because I do not like to not be able to feed my family.” And it was my turn and you are speechless because you are struggling what to answer. My kind of “first world problems” cannot be put in any perspective with the people’s life’s here. It made me thoughtful, it made me grateful but it was also the beginning of feeling more and more disgust about our western society being exposed to this mass consume, the over supply of goods, the food waste we create while others are struggling to feed their families.
There are so many things that fulfill me, that enrich me, that nourish this deep happiness inside me. It is the encounter with the people, meeting especially the female farmers, starting to bond with them, sharing experiences and thoughts with them, personally witnessing personally the positive impact we are creating, being part of this amazing team down here, moving around with my colleagues on the boda boda from farmers group to farmers group. In general I love those motorbike rides with my colleagues, it is almost cosy, you enjoy the sun and wind in your face while you are talking about literally everything with them. In general Kenyans are very open about their culture, religion and social issues. Whenever I can I am trying to ask as many questions as possible starting at polygamy (a totally alien topic to me personally) to women rights and their standing in society. So many things are very different from what I am used to especially private and social issues but I am trying to understand their way of living and their society better. However, in general I must say that the Kenyan women and especially our female farmers have become my focus of attention. But I feel they need a focus of attention, they need to be empowered, become independent, to be supported, promoted and lifted from their difficult standing in society. But this will be a blog entry by itself because it is a vast topic!
The work at Momentum fulfills me a lot, so I actually started fearing to return to my life back home, into a life of pure office work, inside all the time… Will it fulfill me as much? Give as much meaning to me, create as much impact? I have tried to put those thoughts to the side again, fully embrace the NOW and to grasp every single second here. Here at Momentum you become part of a great team, you are seen as an equal part of the team, you have a lot of responsibilities but also flexibility in terms of creating your own tasks. We are a great team together, “growing together” – which is our motto for Momentum – as a team but also with our farmer. Personally I also do believe in the wisdom of an African proverb, I recently learnt, which says: “If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together”.
Of course you have to put all your engagement and focus into the project, it is not for a certain product you are working, you are dealing with human kind here every day! And they are so dependent on us, they do trust in us and we have to deliver our trainings, knowledge sharing and farming inputs to them properly and in time. This can stressful during the days of farm inputs distribution and the days leading up to it, it entails a lot of planning and we are responsible for so many lives – in this season for 718 farmers. Thereby you have a certain burden on your “shoulders”, we know, we as Momentum are responsible that the farmers in the long term have enough food on the table and can pay the school fees for their kids, those kids that are our future! You can see it as a burden and to be honest, I have had some restless nights but you can also start seeing it as a possibility, as a gift, to actually make a change happen! I am thankful to be part of this project, I believe there are enough organizations, having a positive cause on their agenda but instead of actually creating a positive impact, they are just wasting money or putting too much money in charity! Charity is not the long term solution! The inhabitants of underdeveloped regions have to be trained and empowered. A strategic fit with their possibilities and surroundings has to be identified and supported to enhance their living standards! They need to become independent and not dependent on charitable deeds!
Now you can read Momentum’s first report on the results from the long rain season in 2014. We highlight the impact and outcome of the farmer’s fields as well as the farming conditions and loan repayment rates of the season.
Read the Long Rain Season Report_2014.
The long rain season of 2014 stretched from march to may.
“I am happy to be a Momentum farmer. Momentum has taken me somewhere and will still take me higher”.
Joseph is a farmer veteran. He is 62 years old and has been a farmer for most of his life. However, Joseph thinks that human beings always can develop and believes that it is never to late to learn new things. Since he joined Momentum, he has learned how to intercrop, prepare land and space his crops correctly. Joseph is excited about learning new techniques through Momentum and says: “The training has been good. The training has taught me the value of doing things properly”.
As is often the case in Kenya, land is inherited and passed down in the family through generations, which is also the case with farmer Joseph. Likewise, farming techniques are also passed down, which is why Joseph has never received any formal training prior to his cooperation with Momentum. Because farmer Joseph never received any agricultural training he never seemed to be able to maximize the outcome of his fields before he joined Momentum. Today Joseph can see the outcome of receiving competent and qualified training, directly on his fields and he emphasizes that without the training farmers will not be able to succeed.
Joseph has eight children whom all have been able to complete primary school because of his revenue: “Before I never used to get more than 2 bags. This season I will be selling one or two bags. This is a great difference, which I believe is because of the training I have received from the Momentum trainers. Because I am now a trained farmer I farm much better, even though I was a farmer for twenty years before I got to know about Momentum Trust”.
Farmer Joseph has a dream to one day to be able to generate enough surpluses from his farm that he will be able to start a project in his community, he will be remembered for in the future. Farmer Joseph also has a hope to expand into pig farming and poultry farming – not before he receives the right training though!
“The training has led to a big change in my life. I used to farm without knowing what I was doing. Now I know why I’m preparing my land, why I’m digging and what takes place in the ground after I’ve planted”.
Meet Florence. Florence is 38 years old and has six children. Five of her children are still in school and Florence hopes that she will have the means to support them all the way through their education, so that they one day will be able to enter the formal employment market.
The main income of Florence’s family comes from her one-acre farm. Florence also owns two cows and she sells their milk to help support her and her family. Furthermore, when it is time to distribute mosquito nets or give the children in the area polio vaccines, Florence steps in as a community worker and offers her assistance. Although she enjoys it, she cannot depend on the little income she earns as a community worker, because of its irregularity.
Her first season as a Momentum farmer yielded the best output she has ever seen on her farm. However, because of a poor raining season, it is still not enough to support her and her family until the next harvest: “This season with it’s poor rains, I have seen that the Momentum farmers were the only ones to harvested something. Even if our outputs did not live up to our expectations, we were left with much more than those who are not Momentum farmers,” Florence says.
Before Florence joined Momentum she would harvest as little five to ten tins of maize, which is between ten and twenty-five kilos. However, after she joined Momentum Florence harvested 360 kilos of maize and 75 kilos of sorghum, even with the poor rains for that particular season.
Florence’s husband, who is farming the land with her, did not understand the new farming techniques until recently, but now points out: “There is money to be made in farming and better methods to use than the traditional ones. I have just realized this now and I want this knowledge to be shared”.
William began to farm when he was 12 years old. After completing secondary school he was taught the traditional farming skills by his grandmother. Farming has always been a natural part of William’s life and he has never had the desire to leave his area of origin to do to something ells.
Before William became a Momentum farmer, he farmed after the skills taught by his grandmother and he considered it a success if he could harvest one bag of maize, equivalent to 90 kilos, each season. However, by his first season as a Momentum farmer William harvested as much as 405 kilos of maize.
The key to his success, William believes, is knowledge. With the right farming techniques, training and inputs, he has boosted his farming output significantly. With this positive impact he wants to expand and become a proper farmer. To William a proper farmer means someone who not only grows crops, but also keeps cattle and poultry.
William is keeping the Momentum business training in mind and the future is looking bright.He plans to acquire the necessary knowledge on poultry keeping and to plan his farm well to make it easier to manage.
Today William is 62 and has five grown son. With inspiration from his father, one of William’s sons is now saving to buy his own land and become a Momentum farmer himself.
After completing primary school by the age of 10, Pamellah dropped out of school. Now she is 39 and has four children. Pamellah hopes that her children will have the opportunity to have a different life than her.
Pamellah joined Momentum in 2014 and works hard to become a good farmer. To Pamellah, a good farmer is someone who has enough food to properly take care of the family as well as securing that the children of the family are all in school.
Besides maintaining the farm she also works part time as a community health worker in Siaya. She dreams of starting her own liquid soap business: “Having the skill to make something, like liquid soap, can mean an income and employment for my family”, Pamellah says.
As a mother of four, with one of her children paralyzed by epilepsy attack, Pamellah has a lot of responsibilities.
However, with the training and planning skills she has been provided by the Momentum loan packages, she feels confident about her farming and expects to prosper in nearest future . Besides form starting up her own liquid soap business, she also plans to expand her farming activities to keep poultry. She hopes that these initiatives will enable her to build a stable house for her family.
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