The story of Leah Wanjiru Kamau aged 36 years.
Leah got married in 1994 and was married for 5 years and then her husband fell ill, he was in and out of hospital for two years. Leah struggled to pay her husband’s hospital bills and also raise her three children. She did this all alone since her relationship with her in-laws had grown very cold. Her relationship with her in-laws became more strained resulting to physical fights. These fights left her injured, devastated and helpless since no one stood by her. Her parents in-law accused her of being the cause of their son’s illness. In 1998, when her husband passed away Leah was forcefully evicted her from of her matrimonial home.
Her house was pulled down and her belongings thrown by the roadside. Leah reported the matter to the local administration. This made Leah’s in – laws soften towards her but they were determined never to let her back to what she had called home for five years.
This caused a lot of stress to her and her children. The children had to drop out of school for a year. Leah contemplated committing suicide. She approached a community based volunteer (who had been trained by the Christian Community Services) working in the area and told her of the agony she was going through. The volunteer introduced her to the Christian Community Services (CCS) committee. Her case was presented to local provincial administration; her in-laws were summoned to the Chief’s office. After several meetings Leah was given a quarter acre piece of land at her matrimonial home.
The CCS committee assisted Leah to organize a fund raising event after which she bought building materials. Community volunteers came together and provided labour for building the house, the house was completed and occupied in less than a month.
Leah has since become a Christian and has been trained to teach Sunday school. She has also joined a village support group for widows that was started by the CCS.
Leah today lives a peaceful life and her children are happily attending school. She earns her living through casual employment in her neighbors’ farms.
The community is still amazed at how they all came together to support Leah.
Leah outside her new house Leah preparing a meal
Laundry time A Happy Leah tends her kitchen garden
CCS started working with the Weruini community in 1999. Weruini means the desert like area. The community had continuously suffered drought and on average had to rely on relief food and handouts for five months each year. On the first day that CCS visited the village many of the local people met us at the local Church with baskets for carrying relief food.
The CCS focused on training the community to grow more food using methods that were appropriate for semi arid areas. Traditional multiple cropping methods were revitalised and drought tolerant seed varieties introduced. CCS worked with 100 households that had formed into learning groups of between 15 – 20 people (field schools) that call themselves the “the enemies of hunger”. This anti-hunger movement has spread to neighbouring locations where 22 groups have been formed and are learning skills from those trained in Weru-ini and also from CCS staff.
The food situation has improved and by mid 2008, none of the 100 core families were buying food. The groups have build relationships with the Ministry of Agriculture extension workers and a local commercial farmer who is supporting them with training in new ways of farming. One farmers’ group has even been funded and contracted by the Ministry of Agriculture to build the capacity of other farmers!
The farmers groups have been saving money together throughout the year for buying seeds and also for attending agricultural shows and visiting of other farming groups outside of their locality.
The farmers have organized themselves to market excess produce which is earning them much needed income. Besides the growing of food the targeted households also keep small animals for supplementing their diet. In all the households, rabbits and chicken are reared and consumed.
The one time hungry village has enough food for itself and an opportunity to feed visitors and tell them of where they (villagers) have come from is never lost.