The success of Wawire, in Kimilili, demonstrates how income generating activities can free farmers from poverty. Patrick Wawire used to be like any other farmer in Kenya: Producing just enough to feed his family and struggling to pay his childrens’ school fees. This was until early 2011 when he learnt about the i-TOF centre and its farmers’ training programme in Western Kenya. Soon, he realized that this was what he needed to improve his situation and that of other farmers. Together, they formed a farmers’ group and named it Agricultural Development Improved Centre (ADIC). The local i-TOF worker Alfred Amusibwa started training them in organic farming. Patrick did not only adopt sustainable agriculture, but also started a range of new income generating activities.
He wanted to do beekeeping, but did not have enough capital to purchase modern ones. This situation prompted him to make his own beehives using locally available material. Advised and encouraged by Amusibwa, he tried out a jua kali (informal) design and constructed simple wooden boxes, which he covered with a black polyethylene sheet at the top. Within a short period, each of the boxes was occupied by a colony. At the end of the season he harvested more than 80 kg of honey, which he sold at a good price in Nairobi. He ploughed back the profits into more investments.
He also tried a range of other activities, such as the keeping of geese, chickens and rabbits. The most successful of his projects was aquaculture. After an i-TOF training on fish farming and management, Wawire, together with other farmers, renovated fishponds which they had earlier abandoned. Now Wawire can harvest as many as 10,000 pieces of tilapia every season per pond. He reinvested his earnings by building more ponds and today owns 15 of them, up from the two he initially had. That’s how Wawire turned from a small-scale farmer into a successful entrepreneur, within only one year.
Most people in his situation would have squandered their earnings on luxury items. Not so for Wawire. He invested most of his profit in helping his community. He has set up a kindergarten, paying teachers to hold classes in the local church during the week. And currently a small communal dispensary is under construction, also thanks to his funding. Asked what motivated him to help the community, he explains that he enjoys engaging in community work. “I want to free this community from poverty and my fellow farmers to be role models to others,” he says. And already several of them have improved and expanded from aquaculture into bee or poultry keeping. Through their merry-go-rounds savings and lending scheme, they have been able to raise enough money to buy sheep for every member. “And now we plan to start savings to buy dairy goats and cows for our members, for us poverty will be a thing of the past,” says one of the members with confidence.
The Organic Farmer, November 2012 (Article on page 6)