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Resilient through the drought: Esther Ndavu.

Esther Ndavu, Mwingi, 2019- Millet

As some parts of the country experience drought and subsequent food insecurity, Esther's farm is thriving even with the failed rains.

At this time of the year, most rivers in Kitui have dried up and residents are preparing for a long drought season. The Government’s Drought Management teams are also preparing relief food to supply to residents in Kitui during the impending drought. This year, however, Esther Ndavu and her family will not feature in the list of people set to receive relief aid- and this is for a good reason.

Esther Ndavu speaks softly as she shows us around her farm in arid Kitui County in Kenya. Her farm is lush, green with a variety of food crops, which include mangoes, pepper, capsicum, kales, spinach, pawpaws, avocado, maize, millet and tomatoes.

Her farm lies by the side of the already dry River Enziu from where she gets water to irrigate her farm.

You might wonder how she does this yet the river is dry. Well, this is how.

By the banks of River Enziu, Esther was supported to dig up a well through the Cash For Assets Proramme. Traditionally, during dry periods, people in Mwingi-Kitui County, dig up shallow wells in the riverbed sand and harvest the little water they collect deep underneath the sand, which they use for domestic needs until the rains fall again.  It is this traditional method of water harvesting that Esther improved on, to dig up a deep well that seeps water up and she pumps this water using a diesel-powered pump, into her farm for irrigation.

Esther is one of the few individuals who received support from the County Government of Kitui linkages after ActionAid recommended her as a model farmer since her farm was assessed to be an ideal center of agricultural excellence in Nguni Ward in the county. From this, she received water pipes, a tank, drip irrigation system, and technical expertise thanks to the market linkage she was accorded by ActionAid, who selected her as one of their eligible farmers to earn from the project due to her hard work in climate-resilient sustainable farming.

From her farm, Esther now earns an average of KSh.4000 (USD 40) from selling fresh vegetables at the local market, which she used to feed her family and saves some up to pay school fees for her three children in secondary school. The mother of ten children was trained by ActionAid on agribusiness record keeping in order to track her performance.

 “Before joining the CFA Program, I only worked to feed my children. My husband and I were charcoal vendors and we were not guaranteed an income to even feed our children.” She says.

Having been trained on the impact of charcoal burning on the environment, Esther now understands that she is responsible for conserving the environment and has planted many trees on her farm, both fruit and medicinal trees.

“I now can sell my fruits and vegetables at the local market in Nguni from which I get good money to not only feed my family, but also clothe and educate my children. I even have a surplus to invest in the equipment I need in my farm to enable me to produce more food.”

Esther accumulated her farm savings enough to invest in a new generator for KSh.18000 (USD 180) and continues to pump water into her farm from the River Enziu.

Ten other beneficiaries are located along the river Enziu look up to Esther for training and advice on how to manage their farms.

The CFA (Cash For Assets) program was supported by ActionAid, the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).


Watch the below video of a news piece aired on Citizen TV(Kenya)