John and Maureen help farmers
John and Maureen have helped hundreds of poor farmers to work their land more efficiently. Their farm showcases how these farmers can grow crops more intelligently and avoid going hungry.
Watermelons have become John Muthui’s and Maureen Museo Mwanza’s prime fruit crop – sweet, juicy and very profitable.
“It’s hard to grow watermelons here. We’ve experimented for several years in order to succeed,” says John.
The melons need a lot of manure and exactly the right amount of water.
“Few people succeed in growing them so there isn’t a great deal of competition,” says John, smiling.
Farming adapted to drought conditions
A few years ago, John and Maureen visited a member of the clergy who introduced them to intelligent, water-conserving farming methods and showed them how to make their dry fields thrive.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘This is for us’,” says Maureen.
So they moved from the Kenyan coast to Kwa-Vonza in Kitui county, a few hours’ drive from the capital, Nairobi, and started work on growing crops.
“We saw that the project supported by Diakonia was good. So we signed up,” says John.
“And we haven’t regretted it for a single second,” says Maureen.
Provide help to others
Today, they play a key role for hundreds of farmers in the project, the same role as the clergyman they learned from: providing inspiration and proving that it’s possible to get crops to thrive in an area savaged by drought.
“Most of our neighbours are poor. It feels great to be able to help them achieve better harvests so that they don’t have to go hungry,” say John and Maureen.
The land in the area is incredibly fertile. “It’s actually perfect for farming here,” says John. “If I plant a small melon seedling today, I can harvest it in 2½ months’ time. We get three harvests per year. It’s fantastic!”
There’s just one problem: it’s dry here.
“But now that we’ve learned to collect rainwater, use specially adapted seeds and efficiently water our crops, things are actually going extremely well,” he says.
“We work as a team. We love working together. I’m the sales department and he’s the production department,” says Maureen, pointing at John and laughing.
Even if the land is fertile, farmers have to work very hard indeed.
“We don’t even have time to fight,” says Maureen, smiling. “Actually, when we have extreme amounts of work to do, we do sometimes bicker.”
John smiles in agreement.
The toughest part is the watering, which is why they’ve just started irrigating.
“When we’ve got the irrigation system up and running properly, we’ll be able to live in perfect harmony,” says John with a jocular wink to Maureen.
Home-made irrigation system
Simple black hoses with small holes right beside each seedling have been placed in the spinach field. They are connected to a small plastic barrel standing on top of a home-made wooden tower. Each time the spinach needs to be watered, they go and get water from the reservoir where they collect rainwater, climb up the little tower and fill the plastic barrel with water.
“Soon we’ll have a water pump that pumps water from the reservoir to the barrel. That’ll make a big difference,” says John.
He is in the process of teaching other farmers irrigation.
“It’s fantastic to be able to inspire them, to show them that it’s possible to grow crops in a more intelligent way. It feels great,” says John. “I feel that it’s my job to help my fellow human beings.”