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A New Way of Life

How does one survive in such a dry place? 

Vibrant colors and abundance of life in her garden are a testament to the transformative power of CA

“Now don’t be fooled; we’re experiencing the dry season as we speak.”

Driving to Catherina’s house, we’re not surprised. The dusty, dry land stretched for miles as we drove to her village. Yet, upon arrival, we were greeted with an incredible surprise. A flourishing garden – right in the middle of the dust!

Catherina Kitonga and her family moved to Muaani Village, situated in Ilatu town in Kenya in 2011. They hoped to start a family and new careers. Catherina began farming but quickly realized that farming was one of the only ways to make a living. Soon after that realization, Catherina noticed the soil was dry, damaged and almost unusable.

Planting was, at times, impossible in this region. Catherina and her husband would do any menial task to gain an income to feed their children. The struggle for income meant the family could save little money and could not always afford school fees. Daily life became difficult as Catherina had to decide whether to buy food or pay school fees. Could you imagine deciding whether to feed your family or send your kids to school? Well, for thousands of families in rural Kenya, this is a reality.

For years, Catherina and her family lived in the depths of poverty, but thankfully, Catherina found a solution.

Catherina met with Tearfund’s partner Fadhili in 2020. With donors like you, Catherina, along with other members of her community, would gain training and knowledge in Conservation Agriculture (CA) and Village Savings and Loans (VSL). Your prayers and support have allowed countless families to receive this life-changing education and training.

For years, Catherina had been farming with traditional techniques that most farmers use. After training in CA, she began using these new methods with life-changing results. Catherina will never return to the old way of farming; “I stopped farming through the old technique because I do not reap anything. Even now. No matter what, I cannot resume that way of farming.” Methods such as limiting tiling, deep mulching and creating more organic pesticides have completely changed Catherina and her village’s yield outcome. Not only has yields almost doubled, Catherina shares that she is “now growing mangoes, peas, pawpaw, watermelons, sukuma wiki and spinach in my kitchen garden.”

Your support has helped people like Catherina and their families. The impact has changed lives, Catherina states that “now the quality of life is bearable.” Although farming with new CA methods improves yields, it is not always easy through droughts and poor farming seasons. But Catherina explains how her training and community building through VSL has created a safe haven; 

“Now imagine when someone doesn’t save, they’ll want to be included in a VSL group like ours to make ends meet.”

So although Catherina and others in the village are gaining and selling lots of food yields, saving income for the harder times is important. For Catherina and others, VSL has allowed them to save and take loans when things are tighter. This is such a crucial practice that Catherina often invites her neighbours to join so that they may benefit from VSL too.

Catherine Kitonga, a farmer, poses for a photograph in her garden in Muuani Village, Nguumo Ward, Kenya, on 7 July 2022. Tearfund Canada is a Christian charity which partners with churches in some of the world’s poorest countries to tackle poverty and injustice through sustainable development; by responding to disasters and challenging injustice. For this year's Tearfund Sunday annual event; the charity focus is on Kenya and has the theme of Renewed Hope.

Once Catherina joined the VSL group, and with her yields growing, she took a loan to buy chickens. This is another source of food and income for her family, and the income that is left over she often puts back into the VSL account. 

Because of your prayers and support, Catherina and others in her village have been freed from poverty and found a new way of life. Through the combination of CA and VSL, families are now thriving. Together, as fellow believers, we have the opportunity to empower one another, and your support has done that for Catherina. Catherina now empowers others with God’s work in her village. 

“God is present. It is not easy to sow without faith. Your crops can grow and still be destroyed by pests, which then wither and die. There is an advantage in putting God first and working hard – you must work hard for God to bless your efforts.” 

There is a lesson to be shared and learned here from Catherina. God is our provider, and when we trust and have faith in Him alone, He can sustain us. Although it takes hard work, it is worth it. Catherina sees the growth of not only physical yields but spiritual yields from the Lord above.

Support people like Catherina, who gain hope through sustainable farming practices

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