Education in Kenya: One farming family’s determination to send their kids to school

In our second partnership with One Acre Fund, we’ll be following David and Zipporah, smallholder farmers from Kenya, for a whole growing season. From planting to harvest, we will check in every month to see what life is really like for a family making a living from agriculture in rural Kenya. Read part 1. Written by Hailey Tucker.

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Zipporah and David outside their home in Milani, Webuye, Kenya. Photo: Hailey Tucker

David and Zipporah’s biggest financial strains are paying school fees for their children and getting enough food to last them until their next harvest.

Although they both speak with optimism at times, they seem unable to fully shake the uncertainty they seem to have in the back of their minds.

Andrew (12) and Brian (10) go to public school. This costs the family around 7,000 Kenyan Shillings ($82 USD) a year. Their two daughters, Mercy (7) and Charity (6) go to a private school, which costs 14,000 Kenyan Shillings ($163 USD) a year.

Until January, the family generated extra income by selling milk from a cow that had recently given birth. Now the cow’s milk is running low, and David and Zipporah are looking for other ways to make money.

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David and Zipporah have 110 greveillia trees, which they have planted over the years with One Acre Fund. Photo: Hailey Tucker

We own 110 trees which we’ve planted from One Acre Fund, so we cut the older ones and the ones that aren’t straight,” David says. “We leave the straight ones because when they’re old, we’ll get money because they can be used for timber. The crooked ones can’t, so we cut and sell those now for firewood.”

The couple also plans to sell a pig they bought in November for some extra cash.

“When we bought it, our intention was to breed it because they usually produce about 12 piglets, and each sell for 1,000 Kenyan Shillings ($11 USD). But now, our need for food and school fees means we need to sell it. We’re waiting for the buyer to come any day now,” Zipporah says.

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David and his pig. Photo: Hailey Tucker

“We decided to plant different crops and keep different animals because of the risks involved,” David says. “If one crop fails, we can still benefit from the other, or if all the crops fail, we can use the animals for income.”

“Despite the challenges that we are facing, we appreciate that we live in peace, with love in our house, and that we are all healthy,” Zipporah says firmly, changing the tone of the conversation.

“We’re hoping the weather will be favorable to us this year, and we will harvest well,” David adds. “If we do harvest well, we hope to lease half an acre more to farm on.”

ONE is campaigning for African leaders to invest in the continent’s famers, food and futures. Hear more from farmers and take action on our DO AGRIC website.

One Acre Fund serves 135,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania, helping them to increase their harvests and incomes. It provides farmers with a service bundle that includes seed and fertiliser, credit, training, and market facilitation, and enables farmers to double their income per planted acre. To learn more about their work, you can read Roger Thurow’s The Last Hunger Season.