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Mary Mulwa: Bouncing Back After Disaster.

Mary Mulwa mango

“We have always been self-sufficient and suddenly found ourselves with no work and no support. It was a hopeless situation”

Mary woke up one morning to prepare for her usual routine on the farm – harvest vegetables and go to the market.

But the peaceful morning was interrupted by the sound of guns and neighbors running for safety. From a distance, she saw houses on fire. Ethnic violence has engulfed the village near Isiolo, an arid area in the northeastern parts of Kenya.

She picked up her children and ran – leaving everything behind. Her house was destroyed.

“I lost everything. I became confused and helpless,” Mary said remembering her years of trouble.

She moved her family to a rented house in Isiolo town and started to rebuild her life.

“We have always been self-sufficient and suddenly found ourselves with no work and no support. It was a hopeless situation,” she said.

Their only source of income came from her husband who was doing manual jobs in the town. That income was not enough. It was still dangerous to return to the land as the violence caused by land disputes continued.

“ActionAid came to the area and supported community dialogue sessions for peace building. There was calm and we returned to the farms again,” she asserts.

The returnee farmers were impoverished. Each one of them had lost everything that they worked for – a lifetime of hard work had vanished.

Mary Mulwa seedlings
Mary showing a fruit tree seedling ready for sale at her farm in Isiolo.
Jonh Kisimir/ActionAid Kenya

ActionAid started training them on better methods of growing crops – they had to do this in groups and support one another. Mary was anxious to learn fast and take the skills to her own farm since her husband’s income was not enough to feed the family of five.

During the training, she became fascinated with fruit trees.  She loved the trees and the possibility of using them to change the fortunes of her family.

It started with a few papaya seedlings and today her farm has a lot of trees – mangoes, oranges and many others. She has thousands of seedlings that she sells to fellow farmers in the area and beyond.

“I recently made $2000 from selling seedlings to farmers in Merti area,” she confidently said. She used the money to pipe water to her farm and build a fishpond.

Her life has truly changed and she thanks ActionAid for supporting her journey to self-sustainability.

“My initial worry was for my family and my children’s education,” she comments. “But now, my children are almost completing their education.”

Her life is no longer one of hardship and she has continued to develop her skills. She is now an expert in grafting various fruit trees and she trains other women on how to grow fruit trees.

“My life is now easier. With these trees, I am like a millionaire. I want to be the Wangari Mathai of Isiolo,” she asserts.


John Kisimir