Mentor Mothers: Millicent

DIGWhat does 'Women Empowerment' mean? There is many definitions of empowerment but DIG looks at it as a process where an individual becomes an agent of change moving from “I can’t” to “I can.” One of the women farmers that represents DIG's work is Millicent.

Millicent is 27 years old and was born in Siaya County in Kenya. As a young girl, she completed her primary education but was forced to drop out of secondary in her second year because her parents could not afford to pay for her education. She later found work as a house help and got married to her husband. Unfortunately this is a very common story among rural women in Western Kenya. Since then Millicent has had five children but her three youngest daughters all suffer from physical disabilities. Although her children suffer from a genetic disease, her neighbors and her community viewed her and her household as being cursed. Being isolated and stigmatized, Millicent as had to rely on herself to work, feed her family, and support her children.

Millicent joined DIG farmer field school in 2017 when DIG started to work in Homa Bay County; she was most interested in the income generation aspects of the training as she saw it as a opportunity to be self-employed and better support her family independently. During the DIG training, she was one of the most studious participants learning how to plant variety of vegetables and quickly adopting sustainable agriculture techniques at home. In just her first season of this year Millicent made around 3000 KSH ($30) every month from sale of kales and onions from her farm. She also is one of the only women in the area who is growing butternut squash. Now neighbors that feared even walking by her house have begun to visit her garden, enter her home, and aski her for advice and support.

She has moved from being a stigmatized woman to a community trainer and leader. She is delighted to work with DIG because she wants to share a message of hope with other women like her.

In 2017, DIG launched a new program site in Homa Bay County in partnership with Agriculture Implementation Support Services (AGRISS), Marindi Hospital, and the Ministry of Agriculture to improve nutrition status, income generation, and food security of vulnerable populations. After 6 months of working with the hospital on the Priority Household Program for severely malnourished under 5 year olds and community groups through our Mobile Farmer Field School, it became clear that DIG needed more trainers. Honoring our core values of local empowerment and gender equity, DIG started a training program called Mentor Mothers. Millicent is one of three of the star women Mobile Farmer Field School graduates. We are building their capacity as local facilitators and as a resource to support women in their community. Millicent

Meet Benta Atieno

bentaBenta 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.

Meet Mary Akinyi

maryMary 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 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.

Meet Emily Achieng

emilyEmily 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's Group Garden

Patrick's Group GardenPatrick 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.

Continue Reading

  • 1
  • 2