Monsanto’s outreach to communities worldwide is more than just a company value. It goes beyond the company’s partnerships and industry efforts. In fact, sometimes it comes from just one person. Zellipah Githui is that person.
During the past two years, Githui has returned to her village in Ngorano, Kenya, from her job at Monsanto to help improve the lives of farmers and their families. She spent her own money, along with contributions from Monsanto employees, and provided hybrid corn seeds, fertilizers and the services of an agronomist to 16 female farmers in Ngorano.
On the Southern slopes of Mt. Kenya, these village women worked on small parcels of an acre or two with primitive tools. In this culture, the women are farmers because it’s their responsibility to feed the family. But poor planting methods, such as intermingling crops and poor seed selection, have made farming challenging and has led to low yields, even in seasons with strong rainfall totals.
Coincidently, this project, called Gold Finger (because Githui believes a woman’s fingers can produce the equivalent of gold given the right tools and resources), was launched on the eve of one of the worst droughts to hit the region in 60 years.
But Githui pushed on. She provided new drip irrigation systems and introduced improved agronomic practices. The Gold Finger women fared better than most during the drought. Some found that for the first time they were able to produce enough to feed their families without having to purchase additional vegetables. Some also found that due to these improvements, they were able to grow enough beans for their families for six months.
While the corn crop suffered because of a lack of rainfall, the tomato crops proved that with the right input and investments, including drip irrigation, these women could move beyond subsistence.
In the second year, Githui has grown the scope of work to include goats and poultry. She has filed the paperwork to turn project Gold Finger into a not-for-profit organization called Rural Woman Development Initiative.
Githui’s efforts have made a difference in the village of Ngorano. Now, she is poised to continue her mission to all of rural Kenya. It’s a powerful illustration of how agriculture can improve communities.
This report is excerpted from Monsanto’s 2012 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Report. The entire report is available at Monsanto.com.