Women smallholder farmers are particularly vulnerable to poverty and hunger, as they often lack equal access to agricultural information, financing, and decision-making power.
Lydia Wambui Karumba of rural Kenya was one of those women. Karumba was farming tomatoes and French beans, but she could not make her farm productive, and the water supply in her village was dangerously low. She struggled to make ends meet for her three children. Desperate, she switched to farming a local variety of maize. Unfortunately, that also proved unfruitful.
Then Hellen Wanjuki Nyagah, a Farm Input Promotions Africa advisor, came to her village and provided improved maize seeds and information on how best to plant them. That year, Karumba had a productive harvest—so productive, in fact, that she was able to build a foundation for a new house. Encouraged by the success of her crop, she used the new seeds that Nyagah brought the next season. “I kept on working hard,” Karumba explained.
After two seasons, she had earned enough to complete her house. The additional income has also helped her children thrive. Her oldest daughter finished secondary school, went to college, and got a job. Karumba’s younger children are following in their sister’s footsteps.
Before she met Nyagah, Karumba didn’t earn any income from maize. Now she earns Kes 69,000 (US$662) per year from maize alone. In addition to maize, she sells tree seedlings, goat milk, and surplus vegetables from her garden. Nyagah was such an instrumental part of helping Karumba and her neighbors that they fondly refer to her as “Mama Caro”, a term of respect that acknowledges her close relationship with the villagers she has helped.
Nyagah said the program has also helped her. “This sustains me, and I am able to continue supporting my farmers,” she said. “Through my work with [Farm Input Promotions Africa], I have been able to buy dairy goats and a water tank.”
The Farm Input Promotions Africa program is employing more than 1,500 advisors in East Africa, and aiming to reach 310,000 smallholder farm families. As a result of this work, and similar programs supported by AGRA, success stories like these will soon be found across Africa.