When the Mulangoni Assistant chief announced the arrival of the Actionaid project in the area in 2012, the residents were expectant and wanted to seize the opportunity that would, some years later, get them out of poverty.
And to Christine Kalunda Kaimba, her dream to bid poverty farewell has started to bear fruits, thanks to her heeding the subchief’s call to join an Actionaid-led project. “We heeded to the call and we came for the meeting whereby they selected the needy among us, they enrolled us into the project and immediately we began working on the grass and water pan projects,” she says.
A visit to the Mulangoni site where Christine’s group has been planting grass depicts a picture of hope. One-month-old grass sways in the 3-hactare farm that was donated to the group by one of the members, who is also a beneficiary. “This is young grass. We recently harvested much of it and sold,” says Kalunda as we enter into the farm.
According to her, through Mulangoni Pasture Group, she receives some stipends which she uses to get some basic needs at her home alongside paying school fees for her children. She says that once they sell the grass, they buy utensils such as plates and glasses. She adds: “This way, we have improved our livelihoods. In the last sale of the grass, each member of our group receivedSh1,000 which we used for school fees.”
The 52-year-old mother of eleven explains how life has changed for her since Actionaid came for her rescue. Despite some domestic challenges, Christine did not give up on her family and today, she has taken up the sole responsibility to fend for her the children. She explains how she has made it: “My children have been able to effectively and consistently attend school at Kasaini Primary. One of my children has just completed her tertiary education at Masyungwa Polytechnic. This has been made possible by the financial help that I have received from Actionaid,” she says.
Appreciating the help accorded to her by Actionaid through this project, Kalunda plans to construct a home for her children. Majority of the group members are drawn from Muthungwe, Mathunyani sub location, Mulangoni Division, Mwingi North. Here, we grow grass and green grams.
Kalunda lauds Actionaid for having chosen her. “When Actionaid came, they selected me among other needy members of the community. Looking back, I am very grateful because since Actionaid put us in this program, we are now better and our lives have improved tremendously.”
However, she laments the limited number of farm tools, something that makes their work harder. “At times, you find that when the tools come, only three or four people get to receive them. The rest of us are forced to use the normal jembes that we usually use for ordinary farming jobs,” she says. According to Kalunda, majority of the members are widows, widowers and general poor people.
Whenever the group meets, they contribute some money which is usually used to cater for such operations as taking our records to the various quarters.
The group usually plants the grass by ploughing but we weed using our hands. We also harvest by ourselves. The grass takes about three months to mature. “For example, when we plant the grass in December, we harvest in March.”
Ndusya Muthui, another member of the group, and a Kwa Kamali village resident explains how she got the opportunity. The 30-year-old mother of 12 says that she got to know about the program after the announcement by the assistant chief. “So far, I have bought iron sheets and constructed my own house to completion. I have also managed to educate three of my children through primary school. One was schooling here at Mulangoni, another at Tseikuru and another at Kaningo. Today, my children hardly go back home for school fees and I am very grateful,” she explains.
Mwendwa Ng’arya, the group secretary says the group has 120 members with 20 non workers. The group has 27 men and 160 women. The 57-year-old father of 12 describes the benefits that the Actionaid program has brought his way: “Previously, I never knew the meaning of terraces but today my farm output has changed. I have managed to pay my children’s school fees and now I have six goats which I bought in 2013 and they continue to multiply.”
The team meets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Actionaid gave them 10 kilogrammes of seeds of grass in 2012. “We then planted the seeds but unfortunately the rains didn’t do well in the first year. In 2013, the harvest, too, wasn’t as good. But in 2014, things were good and we harvested 320kg of grass seeds, and 25 piles of grass. We sold each pile at Sh250. We buy the grass from among ourselves to feed cow. We also sold the seeds and made Sh140,000 proceeds,” explains Ng’arya.
He adds that since the owner of the current shamba wants it back, the group has been given another 2-acres of shamba by a member of the group for three years. The group also has table banking which enables members to receive money through a revolving fund. “We are in the process of getting registration so that we can stand on our own, even after Actionaid exits.
According to the area Chief Peter Ngui Matiti, the problem of hunger has greatly reduced. “The money the locals get they are also able to pay school fees and thus cases of school dropout have reduced,” said the chief. He says that the area with a 5,000 household population has improved for the better. Residents are now more confident and poverty levels have reduced. “People here are very happy with the Actionaid project and are willing to host the organization for more similar projects in the future,” said Mr Matiti.