No more hunger for Jackson
Jackson Mbaki has put the years of hunger behind him. No more queuing for food parcels. His harvests are now so bountiful that Jackson has a surplus, and he wants to help his neighbours farm in the same intelligent way. That is why he has planted an ‘exhibition field’ by the roadside.
Jackson and his wife Penina have a small shop beside the dusty track. There they sell maize and beans that they grow themselves, along with other items that people need, such as washing powder, sugar and ballpoint pens. Behind the shop Jackson has leased a small piece of land where he grows maize.
“I call it an exhibition field,” he says. “I want everyone in my community to see how good it is to grow things in this new way,” he says.
This part of Kenya is severely affected by drought. For a long time Jackson and most of his neighbours have been dependent on emergency relief to survive. Climate change has made the situation even worse.
Through intelligent farming and water conservation, Jackson and the other people in the farming project supported by Diakonia have managed to struggle their way away from the queues for food parcels.
“Look here,” says Jackson, stretching out his arm.
He points to his small leased plot and then sweeps his finger towards the landowner’s maize field. The difference is striking. Jackson’s maize is thick and dark yellow. His neighbour’s is thin and pale and only half as tall.
“My neighbour is growing maize in the usual way – mine has been grown in planting pits,” he says.
The method is as simple as it is ingenious: you dig a shallow pit with straight edges. Then you add a layer of manure, a little dry grass, and then you shovel some earth over it. The manure gives the seedlings the nutrition they need and the grass prevents evaporation.
Requires physical work
“I want everyone to understand how fantastic it is,” says Jackson. “That they can improve their lives so much.”
But not everyone takes the opportunity. Making planting pits, digging a reservoir and then watering the seedlings is hard work.
“Some people think I’m trying to con them. That I’m getting paid to get them to farm in this way,” says Jackson. “I’m not, of course. But I know how it feels to go hungry. And today, I have plenty of food.”
This means certain obligations, according to Jackson. Because in his opinion, no person is an island.
“If you achieve success, you have to help others. That’s what being a human being entails,” he says.
“How can I feel good when my neighbours are suffering?”
“We need support”
He nods slowly while talking and goes silent for a moment before opening his mouth again.
“There’s one more thing I want to say.
We’re so happy to have received support from Diakonia. Now we have food. That’s huge. But we’re not stopping there. We’re carrying on the struggle and taking the next step. We’ll now be growing produce to sell. Then we can buy what we need. We’re so happy that you’re not leaving us now, that you want to be with us as we take this major step. We hope you understand how much this means to us.”