Never too old to learn

How one grandmother is learning new skills to support her family

Rose at her home in Kitui, Kenya. Photograph: Farm Africa/Tara Carey

In the semi-arid land of Kitui, Kenya, farming is no easy feat. With rainfall unpredictable, farmers often have to watch their crops wither and die in the heat.

But for 80-year-old Rose, left to care for her four grandchildren after the deaths of her husband and two sons, her farm is her livelihood — she relies on her harvest to feed her family and pay for her grandchildren’s school costs so that they can all get a good education.

“The rains are unreliable — sometimes they are good and then the next season they are not — so I am not always able to harvest enough food for my family. When there is hunger I have to encourage the children to endure the situation and have hope we will be better tomorrow.

“I am putting lots of effort into making sure they go to school and I look forward to them becoming more educated so they will be able to get good jobs.”

Rose on her farm. Photograph: Farm Africa/Tara Carey

Rose has been farming since she was young, and is well-versed in traditional farming methods. But farming is hard work, and has become more difficult with age.

“I spend most of my time working on the farm during the rainy season, from morning to evening, but during the dry period when there are no rains I spend half the day. I farm maize, beans, cow peas and dolichos. The main challenge is the weeding, it is tiresome and you have to use a lot of energy.”

With fellow farmers from the Kathivo women’s group. Photograph: Farm Africa/Tara Carey

Two years ago, Rose joined a local women’s farming group which receives support and training from international charity Farm Africa. And working with the women’s group has reaped huge benefits for Rose and her family. Farmers share their expertise with each other, and attend training sessions on soil and water management. The group also sell their crops together, to earn a higher price at market.

Farm Africa’s project officer Onesmus advising Rose on her farm. Photograph Farm Africa/Tara Carey

“I like Farm Africa’s work because the approach of assisting farmers with high quality seeds which are important for good production, and linking us to the market, is helping us to get a good income. I receive training on crop production and am benefitting from what I am practising at home.

“Although I am old I can learn new things even now and am seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”

Rose teaches her 12-year-old grandson Kiilu the farming techniques she’s learnt. Photographs: Farm Africa/Tara Carey

And the training sessions and bulk sales have already made a difference to Rose and her family. With a better income, Rose can not only keep her four grandchildren in school, but also buy some household essentials:

“With the money I received through the farmers’ group I bought three plastic chairs to sit on, and then I bought another two. I have wanted them for a long time because I did not have chairs before, I had to sit on an old jerry can which was very uncomfortable and I felt embarrassed when guests came to visit.

“My new chairs are precious to me because I got them from my own sweat and now I can give my visitors somewhere to sit.”

Rose at home, making use of her new chairs. Photograph: Farm Africa/Tara Carey

To find out more about Farm Africa’s work with farmers like Rose in Kitui, please visit our website.