I was a watchman but today I earn big from farming

The sun is setting in a beautiful green village in Ukambani region, Mwingi north. The voice of goats and cows returning home after pasture rock the air as we enter the homestead of a former watchman who shares the impressive journey of a project that would, years later, transform his life.

A forty-year-old Elijah Musya welcomes us to his homestead, minutes after downing his tools from a busy schedule around his homestead. Within his compound, the father of seven boasts of a four-feet water pan that he has used to make over 7,000 bricks.

Before he learnt of the Actionaid project, Musya worked in Nairobi’s Donholm area as a watchman. “Before Actionaid came, I was staying in Nairobi as a night guard. I saw that there was no benefit in it so I came back home to try my luck in the new program that Actionaid had proposed,” says the father of seven.

He continues: “I am determined that very soon I will afford to buy a plot around this place so that I get adequate and ample time to do farming here. Through the Sh2,450 that we get every month, I have been able to pay school fees for my school going children as well as buy basic household items.

As he takes us through the various projects he has carried out with the help of Actionaid, Musya explains: “I dug this water pan in 2007 after getting assistance from Actionaid which had offered us an opportunity to have such water facilities within our homes. Since then, I have seen tremendous improvements in my life. In August this year, for example, I managed to make over 7,000 bricks using this water,” he says, pointing to the water pan just adjacent to his main house.

According to him, the bricks enabled him to buy two dairy cows and other livestock. Previously, Musya and his family used to fetch water about seven (7) kilometres away, something that posed a risk not only to the adults but more so to girls and women who would fall victim to violent attacks and wild animals. “This area was so dry and we had no source of water nearby. The only option we had was to walk over seven kilometres in search of water.”

Musya, a resident of Makuka village in Ngomeni Division, Kyuso District, however, laments shortage of farm tools, adding that this has been a major challenge. “We have many challenges. We have no farm tools such as ploughs and digging tools, something that really bothers us whenever we want to start any farming. However, the water problem in this area is now almost a thing of the past,” he says.

Within his compound, Musya sells water to the neighbours at Sh10 per 20-litre jericcan. This way, he is able to make at least Sh1,000 per month. “If you combine this with what Actionaid gives me, then you will realise that my life has become a lot better,” says a happy Musya.

In the neighbouring Ngomeni area, is a farmers group of over 100 members where only 22 men, an indication of the fact that women are now taking a bigger role in development compared to their male counterparts.

The scenario is enabled by the Actionaid focus on empowering women through agriculture and modern farming methods. When Musyoka Mutava, the group chairman, moved to Ndunguni village of Ngomeni Division in Mwingi North, the place had been deserted and he had lost hope in ever reaping any harvest from the land.

“When we came here, we were sold to, some old shambas but now we have worked on them and we are getting good returns. When I joined this project, it gave me more zeal to pursue farming in a more modern way. I had never imagined I would I would eat black beans from this dry place. But now, it is an all-year round thing, thanks to Actionaid,” he explained.

He moved to the area in 2000 and after a short time, he was appointed the chairman of a dam project in the same place. Mutava says: “So when the Actionaid project came, I was asked to assist in leading the program. At that time, the group had 122 members, a number it has sustained todate. The group has 22 men and the rest are women.

As we take a walk through the six hacter of land, Mutava shows us the various transformative projects that the Actionaid’s project has brought to his life and that of fellow residents in Ngomeni.

“All this was a very dry place when I moved here in 2000. Someone sold this piece of land to me and I was unsure of what would come from it. Therefore, in order to keep myself busy, I started selling livestock in the local market, says Mutava, adding that this was the only profitable economic activity that he could engage in then.

But the father of 23 would later change course when Actionaid brought forth a drought management programme to the area. “Before the terraces that Actionaid helped us develop, soil erosion was a major issue here.

Using the funds given to them by the organization, Mutava has dug a 12 feet well which have helped him dig a five feet well in his shamba. “I managed to make 10,000 bricks which I sold at a total of Sh86,000. I used this money to buy two bulls and a donkey. I also planted 20 mango trees which are doing very well now. Mutava has also grown sisal in his shamba.

Every month, he discloses, he pockets Sh2,000 from the Actionaid project which he uses for his children’s school fees. “Since I have no other formal source of income, whenever I get this money, I use it for school fees mostly. I also use it to buy basic household goods.”

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