I cannot remember exactly when I started farming. But I know that by first or second grade I knew how to plant corn and potatoes and milk cows. I was also taking care of my brother—who is three years younger than me—and working with my mother on our farm in Central Kenya, 141 kilometers north of Nairobi. It was hard work. It was important work. It was how my mother fed the family.
I am very familiar with the challenges of farming in Kenya; I have experienced these challenges for way too long.
Every year, I return to Kenya and I see the challenges farmers face.
This past December, I started sponsoring a group of 16 female farmers from my village by providing them with resources like seeds, fertilizer and agronomic training, to improve their farming practices and their yields. I provide these resources because I know the women are not able to purchase them. They’re afraid that purchasing fertilizer or pesticides will cause them to go into debt. They also do not have a good way to predict when rain will fall. Some of them end up planting too early; some too late. This happens year after year.
But unfortunately, even with this support, the crops still failed this year due to drought. Like many other agricultural areas, farming in Kenya is mostly dependent on rainfall. A failed crop means money lost, but even worse it means a lack of food. Food for women farmers. Food for their families.
Right now, East Africa is experiencing the worst drought it has seen in six decades.
Although I’m in the United States, working as a Monsanto employee, I’m a Kenyan farmer at heart, and I know and support many of my fellow farmers still working the land. I know first-hand what the farmers in East Africa are currently experiencing.
That is why I am so encouraged by Monsanto’s recent donation to the Horn of Africa relief efforts and our ongoing contributions to making farmers more productive.
My hope is that both efforts will help small rural communities and individuals in East Africa, like the women I sponsor, break the cycle of hunger caused by a lack of resources and poor farming conditions.
By Zellipah Githui
Zellipah Githui works in research.
The photograph is of young maize plants in the ground in Kenya before the drought devastated agriculture – including this field.