With the aim of driving self-sustainable agriculture projects in rural areas of Kenya, local organization A Better World (ABW) visited some of their budding garden projects during the team’s excursion to Africa Nov. 4 to 20.
Eric Rajah, co-founder of ABW, said because education and healthcare have been the organization’s primary focuses over the past 25 years, they wanted to expand their project-base by working in water and agriculture, two arenas desperately needing attention in remote Kenyan communities.
Starting about a year and a half ago, ABW set about developing gardens in areas where clean water and natural sources of food are hard to come by. Rajah explained that while ABW plays an important role in getting the gardens started, it’s up to the community to sustain them.
“The community has to be involved,” Rajah said. “It’s important that the community has ownership, and they feel at the end this is their project. That way they have pride looking after it, and they can tell their children, ‘Look what I’ve done for our family.’”
Christina Williams, the agricultural coordinator for ABW, has had the opportunity to see firsthand how ABW’s agriculture projects have been operating since their implementation last year.
She said while gardens like the one at Segera Mission, a remote community housing a clinic, school and now an expansive garden housing everything from potatoes to kale, are already showing a great deal of success, others are lacking the leadership needed to sustain such an operation.
“Segera is just one of those dreams where they have taken full initiative, and you can see it’s their garden,” Williams said. “Then we have some where no one has really taken control of. And I can only do so much from Canada. These projects have to be theirs — we just want to help them start growing their own food.”
Williams added that although ABW can initiate a project and ensure they provide the local community with all the knowledge they need to upkeep their gardens, a big challenge is the community utilizing the project as intended.
“The biggest part of it is giving them the empowerment to actually take care of themselves,” she said. “It’s just giving them the tools and knowledge so they can do that.”
Another resource difficult to come by in rural areas of Kenya, which is, of course, central to the success of any agricultural project, is water.
Working in conjunction with ABW, Melissa Kirchhoff from Vancouver was the recent donor of a water kiosk to the small community of Ikonge. Wanting to see the water project in action, Kirchhoff decided to join the ABW team on their mission to Africa.
Growing up in a developed country like Canada, Kirchhoff explained even as a child she had trouble picturing any place in the world that didn’t have access to an endless supply of clean water.
“Coming from Vancouver, having no water is a really foreign concept,” Kirchhoff said. “I couldn’t fathom how somebody could have no water — for us, it’s everywhere, it just comes out of our faucets.”
With that particular source of water providing some 2,500 people with clean water, Kirchhoff said she was overwhelmed seeing how a staple, which most people don’t even think about because it’s so accessible, could impact so many lives.
“It’s about empowering people — it’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up,” Kirchhoff explained. “What really made it for me was the look of gratitude in the eyes of the community members. You could just see how much it really improved their lives, it was really amazing.”
By Anna Brooks