Lucy Wairimu a once jobless middle aged woman who lived on handouts is now a proud owner of over ten goats that supply her with over 30 litres of milk daily fetching her some Sh2,000.
Lucy is among thousands of farmers who have benefitted from The National Agriculture and Livestock Extension Programme.
The idea is that farmers with mutual interests form groups and then ask for support and aid themselves, for example, regarding the best methods for different forms of agriculture and livestock rearing. Small-scale farmers are thereby enabled to become more efficient and get better returns on their products.
"We had to collect water from far away. The first thing I did with the money from the sales was to install running water. I carried on. Then I sold another goat and arranged so that we could build a latrine," Lucy said with pride.
High walls surround the little plot where maize and banana plants sway high between the pumpkin and bean crops. There, three cows and many chickens share their space with goats and a house of corrugated metal, wooden planks and earthen floors. Then the crowning glories of the house: the tap with running water, the composting toilet in its own structure right by the entrance, and nearby is the construction site of the family's new house.
From having spent two to three hours daily fetching water, Lucy and her family have time to spend on things that can provide income. Instead of using a hole in the ground lined with plastic as a toilet, they can now close the door behind them, while reducing pollution in the ground and the spread of diseases.
Lucy leans her head against the goat's stomach and holds a jar underneath the teats while she milks. She gets approximately three to four litres a day. She keeps a litre for the family and sells several litres every day. The daughter Milka takes the milk from her mother to warm it on the stove for the grandchildren. Because even though all of Lucy's children are grown up now there are, except Milka and her daughter, another five grandchildren living at the farm since their parents died.
Three years ago Lucy received information about meetings for all those interested in becoming goat farmers. Lucy, who did not have a job, thought it sounded interesting and went to a meeting the following Monday. An agricultural expert told them about all the advantages of goat rearing.
"At the next meeting, Martin came again and told us how we should feed the goats. A cow eats 75 kilos, which feeds six goats. He also told us that a litre of goat's milk sells for Sh100 while cow's milk only fetches Sh30. "We decided to start a group and together save money to buy goats," Lucy remembered.
Now Lucy is considering giving up the three cows and instead expanding the goat rearing since this gives greater returns in terms of income and improved health. "When I started rearing goats I had high blood pressure. When I slowly started drinking goat's milk I became a lot better. My children are really healthy. They do not get any diseases, neither malaria nor anything else. Goat's milk has been good for our health."
The time is just past eight in the morning and a small group of men and women are starting to gather in a circle in the shade at Lucy's. They sit down on the light blue plastic chairs and, when they run out, people sit down on hay bales and wood pallets. The milk goat farmers meet once a month and discuss everything related to goat farming. They save money together in order to buy goats, borrow male goats for breeding and negotiate prices for goats and goat's milk.
Martin Ng´ang´a is responsible for this area within the National Agriculture and Livestock Extension Programme, NALEP, as one of their 7, 000 agricultural experts around the country. The idea is that farmers with mutual interests form groups and then ask for support and aid themselves, for example, regarding the best methods for different forms of agriculture and livestock rearing. Small-scale farmers are thereby enabled to become more efficient and get better returns on their products.
Martin Ng´ang´a says that this group requests what they want to learn and are managing the work themselves. He is at the meeting at Lucy's and Moses', one of the country's 20, 000 farmer groups within NALEP. This commitment and the strength in being able to bring change is the backbone of the goat farmers' success. Together they have managed to make poverty more bearable for millions of families.
"I am really glad for this group. It has given me strength. Without the group we would not have been as healthy as we are today."