Benta Atieno Anyango is a mother of four and married to Amos Omondi who lives in Kameji village, 8km from Lwala Community Alliance where the DIG trainings are held.
Benta and her husband depend on brick making and farming for their living. Benta also works in the community to reduce stigma around HIV. She works with DIG in collaboration with the ART support, an HIV patient based group organized through Lwala Community Hospital.
She joined DIG in 2011, which has helped transform her life.
I joined this group with a lot of resistance from my husband, my family members and my neighbors. They thought it was a waste of time but with my persistence all of them are changing.
I remember, one day, my husband took all my kales and transplanted before I could even make the beds, he was so excited about it!
Even though distance was far, walking 16km (10 miles) two times a week, I developed a positive attitude towards the training and the distance was no more.
I developed really good friends with the people in the training and now that I am done with the training I am still making new friends from people who buy my kales.
Through the sales of kales and saving income on veggies, that I now grow instead of buying, my daily income is increasing and I am really encouraged!
Benta makes about 150 KSH a week from her home garden and has trained 6 of her neighbors on how to make raised beds, double dug beds, compost, mulch and other organic agriculture techniques. Her and her family now eat regularly from their garden.
Mary Akinyi Ogallo is mother of 3 and supports two other kids in her area. She is married and her husband is no longer working.
Mary works as a tailor at Lwala Community Alliance and is an active member of the ART support group. She is also one of DIG's best farmers, always attentive and hard working in each training session.
At her home, Mary carried on that same work ethic and built over 38 beds and grows kales, black nightshades, onions, and spider plant. She eats out of the garden three times a day and sells excess produce as well.
People are so interested in my garden. Over 30 people have came to my house to ask about it. Neighbors ask how I made it, what I was growing, if I could train them...so many questions about the garden.
I have trained some of them and will hopefully continue to train friends who are interested!
Mary makes 300 KSH a week from produce sales and was a top graduate in DIG's sustainable agriculture training.
Emily Achieng Obunga is a mother of two and at 24 years old she is the second youngest participant in the DIG training. Emily has a laugh and a smile that is completely contagious!
When Emily first started the training she had just given birth to a son. Emily started bringing the newborn to the trainings, wrapping him around her back while she worked. The baby at first had no name, as is tradition. In Luo culture, the naming of a child is an important and yet strangely flexible process. Unlike American parents, Luo parents often wait days or even weeks before naming their baby.
Emily who was inspired by DIG decided to name her baby, DIG. Baby DIG is now 9 months old, strong and healthy and is already learning how to walk!
Emily does not only work hard in the garden, she also has an amazingly innate talent for organic agriculture. She has a huge garden at her home in Kameji Village. She has planted an amazing variety of cowpeas, kales, onions, cilantro, carrots, French beans, pumpkins, and spider plants.
From the things we get here (at the DIG training) we go and plant them in our garden. We save lives, improve our nutrition, then we also have some little money from the garden.
I think I am employed in my garden. It is like my self-employment!
Emily’s self-employment is earning her 700KSH a week for a total of 8,400KSH in the past 3 months. She has trained over 10 of her friends in the area and is looking to further her agricultural education by applying for scholarships to go to college for a degree in organic agriculture.
Patrick was a young man when a traditional healer came to rid his family of a strange illness that had been affecting his father. “People were telling my dad that he must have been bewitched, so they brought in a witch doctor.” After ceremonially cutting the chests of everyone in his family, Patrick’s entire household contracted HIV. He lost his brothers and sister and both of his parents to the virus and at age 26, Patrick discovered he too was infected.
In order to provide for an extended family that was relying on him for support, Patrick started working as a community HIV counselor for his local hospital. He formed a support group and soon heard about what Development in Gardening (DIG) had been doing on the grounds of a nearby clinic. Patrick asked if we could help him build a garden for his group members. We agreed under the terms that he would need to motivate enough group members to take on the long-term responsibility for this project.
Patrick went above and beyond, he organized more than 20 people and in just a few weeks we had turned a barren space of land behind a hospital into the beginnings of a garden. Over the next few months, we worked with the group as the garden matured teaching them about nurseries, water conservation, organic methods, and seed harvesting.
Nutrition is an important part of everyone’s life, but for growing children, getting the right balance of proteins, micro-nutrients, carbohydrates, and fat is vitally important. Maintaining a healthy diet is directly linked to all aspects of a child’s physical and mental development and for the students at Crossroads Springs Primary School in Hamisi, Kenya getting enough of the good stuff as been a challenge. Out of the 323 HIV affected children attending the school only 36 can afford to pay their school fees, which means this is an institution limited resources is already stretched. Since the school serves predominately HIV positive and affected orphans, it means that the children’s need for good nutrition is that much greater.
Development in Gardening (DIG), in partnership with Crossroads Spring Institute, the Segal Family and Starbucks’ International Youth Foundation have set out to establish a large scale vegetable production garden to significantly improve the micro-nutrients going into the school’s kitchen. In addition to the vegetable production farm, a learning garden is being established on the school’s property to teach valuable small scale agriculture skills to the students. The hope is that with the vegetable production farm, DIG will be able to ensure these children will be well nourished throughout their critical school years. Then, with the skills they learn through actively working in the school club garden those same students will be able to continue nourishing their bodies into the future.
While DIG has been busy working out the environmental challenges of the land for the production garden, i.e. terracing for dealing with rain water runoff, water conservation, and soil improvement, DIG has simultaneously begun the school’s club garden which is now growing with full force. Twenty-five students ranging from ages eight to twelve have helped establish the school garden club who meet regularly to learn, practice, and transform their plot of land on school property into a productive learning garden.
When asked about what they’re doing there, the students will tell you about measuring and digging raised garden beds. Why small scale agriculture is important especially for those living in population dense environments like Hamisi. They will show you what has been planted in their garden and where you can find it; they’ll teach you how to check the compost pile and how you know when it’s time to turn it. But my favorite question to ask is what they are most looking forward to eating, which is almost always answered back as skumawiki, a local green that’s full of iron and calcium. The enthusiasm and work ethic of these kids has been amazing. With a little help from their agriculture teacher, Nicholas, and a few select groundsmen the garden club have become some of DIG’s star students. The kids have chosen to plant various local greens, cow peas, spinach, onions, green peas, green beans, peppers, and herbs and couldn’t be more excited about their pending harvest. More land has been earmarked on school property for the club’s expansion, and we hope to involve more students in the farm in the near future.