Supporting Smallholder Farmers and Communities in Sub-Saharan Africa
Among this group, approximately half are women like Ruth Kajuju of Kenya. A farmer, a mother, Ruth exemplifies what we like to think of as the Smallholder Effect: by growing her business, she is able to improve life for her family, her fellow farmers, and her community.
We recently had the chance to sit with Ruth at her farm in Kenya, where she spoke candidly about her challenges, hopes, and vision for the future of smallholder farming in Africa.
Q: Tell us about your farm. What are some of the challenges you face?
A: My farm is small in size. Through irrigation, I've planted potatoes, maize and animal feeds, and I use farm manure [to fertilize] these crops. I also grow vegetables. But as a smallholder farmer, I am faced by many challenges. It's hardy to get quality seeds, for example, so I'm forced to buy seeds from my neighbors for planting. These seeds are not of good quality because they are affected by pests and diseases.
Q: Nearly 50 percent of the labor force in smallholder farming are women. What role do they play?
A: Women play the most important part in farming because they perform most duties starting from managing the home and taking care of the family, working in farms, and even in the village. Women come together to start farming and help one another by assisting to cultivate when one of them does not have money to hire casual laborers to do so. [In our community], we formed a women's group, and bought a calf for each woman. Right now, those calves are mature cows.
The teachings I have received will bring [my community] together regarding farming business. It will ensure farmers stick to their work instead of running away to the towns as farming will be a worthy thing.
Q: What has your experience been with the Bayer Smallholder Farming Initiative?
A: I joined the potato pilot program. This Initiative has really helped me. I receive all the farm inputs such as seeds at the right time and soil testing, training to know the best farming techniques. The specialists have sufficient farming knowledge and they guide me. They give me guidance from the time the plants are germinating until I harvest. They know all the possible challenges facing the plants and how to take care of them.
How has this impacted your work as a farmer?
A: I have learned a lot through the [potato] initiative. Even without supervision, I am now confident about my farming. We used to plant without top dressing. Now I know its importance. I know how to spray, the correct spray measurement and how to be safe while spraying. There is also soil testing. I did not know about [soil testing] initially, but at the moment I know the status of my soil before planting my potatoes. I am happy!
Supporting Smallholder Farmers- and Communities – in Sub-Saharan Africa
Q: So how do you envision your future?
A: Since I joined this group, I have got multiple advantages. I´m able to afford education for my children and healthcare. With the money I've earned, I've built a house, and bought cows and goats. Now I also have my dairy farming that generates more income. My children are better, my life is better, and I am a woman recognized in the society.
Through this project, I see great progressing ahead. In the next three years, I might increase my farm from 2 hectares to 5 hectares or more! I will be free from loans because I started my own business. I will be able to save my money in the bank and plan on how to use it.
Q: How might this experience impact your community?
A: The teachings I have received will bring [my community] together regarding farming business. It will ensure farmers stick to their work instead of running away to the towns as farming will be a worthy thing. Many people believe that farming is not a worthy business that can help grow ourselves. When this plan [the Smallholder Farming Initiative] will help the small scale farmers grow, we will be better placed in life.