When Salome Ndanu Ngui lost her husband in2002, life was very hard. She went through a hard time and her children could not afford to school. The mother of six says that onions, salt, cooking oils and basic home foods were unheard of in her home.
But when the Action aid Food for work project came, Ndanu’s life changed for the better. “I could get food for my children and whenever they needed school fees, I would do a few casual jobs. Life had greatly improved for us,” she says. Luckily, the inlaws gave her an easy time., However, she was still financially struggling.
Ndanu’s homestead in Kamuwongo area in Kyuso District, Mwingi North depicts a happy life. Chicken, goats and a donkey rest peacefully in the compound surrounded by some nurseries. Outside her homestead is another vegetables garden and and a number of zypits which she says have improved the way she does her farming.
Gideon Mukiti, the Actionaid Kyuso Ward Field Manager says says the money that the farmers receive every month is not really like a salary but more of a compensation. He says: “We do not call it a salary as such but compensation. In a month, they work for 12 days. After these 12 days, we get their reports to the World Food Programme for compensation. The beauty about this is that they are compensated depending on the market prices of foods. So if the maize prices go higher, then their compensation goes higher.
Mukiti explains that when they were giving food initially, they would give them 41kgs of maize, seven (7) kg of beans and 2.5kilogrammes of cooking oil. These were later converted to money. Currently, he adds, the farmers are give Sh2,000 per month.
Ndanu, a resident of Mataka sub location, joined the Actionaid and World food Programme’s joint Water and Soil Conservation project in 2006. But in 2007, she left the project briefly to tend to her then newborn baby who is now in nursery school. She would later join the group in October 6, 2010 as a member of the Kakwiro village. In 2013, she became the Group’s chairperson, a positioin she holds to date.
Due to this project, she says that she saw many great things and I that she is grateful to Actionaid. “I began with only one goat and today, I have 11 goats. This is despite the fact that I have managed to educate my children through selling some of these goats. For instance, I have educated one of my children through Youth polytechnic and she is completing this year. I have also built my house, made my shamba and constructed a snacks kiosk. I have also managed to buy a donkey. Besides, I rear chicken which I use for selling or as food. Now I have over 20 chicken,” she says.
Previously, Ndanu says she had so many challenges. “My children were not able to attend school, and whenever they did, they would be sent home often due to school fees challenges. But now after joining this program, I am able to pay for their school fees. So I no longer struggle. We first started with digging terraces for about three years then proceeded to zypits in which we grow vegetables,” she explains, pointing at one of the zypits.
The 160 members then arranged themselves into three groups. Ndanu’s group, known as Wendo, has 31 people and they have already started table banking and have, so far, saved Sh16,970. She adds: “So far, we have over Sh50,000 in savings in all the groups. Previously, we had a group where we would buy goats in the 10 villages. Everyone got a goat just before we got to table banking.”
The group members started by contributing Sh20 each member and when they had saved Sh6,000, they started lending the money out at a Sh100 discount for every Sh1,000 borrowed. WFP and Actionaid initially gave the group food for work initiative whereby area residents would be given food for working. But they would later change to giving the members money for work. Ndanu explains: “We were then issued with ATM cards then we started to receive monthly income. I think the money idea was better because I am able to buy salt, pay fees and cater for other needs within my home.”
The 39-year-old mother of six confesses that the programme has brought her to a position where she can now stand on her own, and even help other people in the neighbourhood. “Now my daughter has competed secondary school and once the one in polytechnic completes school, then I believe I will have some time to save more.” She has also bought some iron sheets as she plans to build a decent house for her children.