Nkaisunkui ole Marima is a young man from Ongata Naado, a dusty village in southern Kenya. He is married and has three children. Just like his Maasai kinsmen his livelihood revolves around cattle, but most of their cattle have been lost to recurrent drought.
Many of them have attempted to grow maize and beans, but successful harvests have been limited to a few bags – not nearly enough to satisfy their nutritional needs. The crops failed because of unreliable rainfall patterns and destruction by elephants and zebra. Eventually Nkaisunkui’s and the other men in the village gave up all hope of ever getting anything from their farms and became reliant on government food aid.
World concern helped start a food security project in Nkaisunkui’s village, targeting the school where two of Nkaisunkui’s children attend as the site for the new project. A 30-acre piece of land was fenced off with a solar powered electric fence. Initially, maize was grown on 22 acres, beans on two acres and the rest was left for horticultural crops.
The farm became an outside classroom to teach the children agricultural techniques. Drought resistant crop varieties were planted to teach the villagers that it is possible to get a bumper harvest despite dry weather conditions. At the end of the season, the farm yielded 86 bags of maize.
“This is the only successful farm in our vicinity for many years,” said Nkaisunkui.
Most of the maize will now be used to supplement the school feeding program, an initiative aimed at helping retain hungry children in school. The surplus will be sold to parents at a subsidized rate.
Nkaisunkui is currently employed by the school to take care of the solar electric fence. He underwent practical training as the fence was being fixed. He goes round the fence daily to ensure that there is no loose-hanging wire and also monitors the voltage levels.
“The fence has successfully warded off the destructive animals, especially elephants,” he said.
This season, the school is growing vegetables and citrus fruits. The parents who visit the school learn how they can transfer the technology to their farms. Families are optimistic there will now be enough food for their community to thrive, and expressions of hope can be seen on villagers’ faces.