World Food Day 2016: A Recipe for Success
How one farmer’s hard work is helping to grow a brighter future
As a mother, wife, farmer and accomplished chef, Syokau Patrick works hard to provide for her family in Kitui, Kenya.
But as determined as she is to give her children the best possible start in life, she’s found that earning a reliable income from her small farm can be a struggle.
Syokau has become all too used to watching her harvests wither when the rains don’t arrive, leaving her out of pocket and without the income she needs to provide for her children:
“To plant a crop you have to buy the feeds and pay for labour so it is great loss for me if the rains don’t come and the crops die.”
But even in Kitui’s dry soils, farming can be a profitable enterprise for women like Syokau. And since she started working with Farm Africa in 2014, Syokau has been learning about how she can generate more income from her farm.
Syokau is now part of a women’s farming group — she’s even recently been elected chair. She’s found that working with others has helped her to improve her income, as she and her fellow farmers can get together to spread the cost of buying fertilisers and equipment for lower prices, share resources and farming tips, and sell their produce collectively. As Syokau says:
“When you are united you are strong. With the other women you share ideas and are able to assist each other.”
Farm Africa has been training Syokau’s farming group in how to grow more traditional crops, such as sorghum, mung beans and cow peas, which she remembers her parents growing when she was young. These crops are well suited to the dry soils of Kitui as they need less water than crops such as maize, and have a faster production cycle.
Syokau is receiving advice from Farm Africa on how to manage the diseases and pests that can blight these crops, so that she can grow a healthy harvest to support her family.
“From Farm Africa I have learnt that traditional foods can do very well in this area, but most people don’t grow them. These crops are very important because they do well here and we can learn from that.
“Many people farm without focusing on income generation — but farming can be a business. These type of trainings can help us grow enough food that we can use and also sell the surplus to get income to improve our family welfare.”
And with the increase in her income, and a loan that she’s taken out from her savings group, Syokau has been able to pay her children’s school costs, and buy them everything they need for their classes.
“I finished primary school when I was 18 years old. There was a lack of fees for my secondary education, but I really wanted to go on with my education and become a nurse or an accountant. Because I missed that I really want my children to go to that level.”
But Syokau isn’t just investing in her family’s future, she’s helping to improve their lives now. Her mung beans are a nutritious addition to the family dinner table, and Syokau has saved up to treat herself to some new pots and pans so that she can cook for her family and their guests.
“With my last crop I bought a new hot pot and glass jar. I bought six pieces, it cost 3600 Kenyan shillings. I have been wanting a new hot pot for three years — I use it to keep food warm when I have visitors.
“I felt very, very happy when I went to the shops and bought my new pots.”
Syokau even shared her recipe for Githeri with us — a Kenyan stew, which her family enjoys:
Tomatoes, onions, green pepper, garlic, mung beans, salt and pepper to taste
Boil the mung beans in a pan full of water until soft. Fry the onions, garlic and pepper in oil, and add the tomatoes. Drain the beans, mix together and cook for a few more minutes. Serve hot!