In partnership with One Acre Fund, we are following Anne, a smallholder farmer 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 farmer in rural Kenya. Catch up with Part 1 and Part 2. Written by Hailey Tucker.
In the last month, Anne has finished most of her planting. Although she still has to work in her field, weeding and applying fertiliser to each crop at the proper time, these less time-consuming jobs mean she can spend more time on family life.
Her eldest son Briston has left home, but her other children—Sharon (18), Leah (14), Joshua (13), Elvis (7), and Steve (3)—are around the house when they aren’t at school.
Early on a Monday morning, Anne shuffles around the dark house silently but quickly, without needing a light to find her way around. By the time the sun begins to rise, she already has the children dressed and ready to eat.
She tells Joshua to grab a tin bowl for their still-hot morning snack of roasted groundnuts and helps Sharon adjust her school uniform necktie. As the children eat in the kitchen, Anne sweeps the dirt paths around her compound and straightens the crochet cloths that cover the wooden chairs in her house. She shakes her head slightly.
“When I ask duties of the children, most of the time they forget, and I come back to find the duties have not been done,” Anne says. “Sometimes it makes me mad.”
She makes quick work of tidying the house’s mild disarray and returns to helping her children get ready for school. Her husband Isaac has already left for a nearby market, where he hopes to buy livestock he can then resell later in the week.
After the children head to school, Anne lets her livestock out to graze, surveying her field to see what farming needs to be done. She also has to make several trips to the nearest creek 1km away to collect enough water for a house of seven to drink and bathe in.
“What makes me so tired is the running between jobs,” Anne says. “It’s like chasing time, and it makes me tired. I’m always thinking, ‘after this—then this, and after that—then this.’”
Despite the drain Anne feels, she loves being a mother. She smiles as she describes how wild the house gets at night when all the children come home.
“When the whole family is around, some of the kids are very active and noisy. They make jokes and make the whole family laugh. Then there are some that are more quiet. A few even get a bit rough sometimes, and then I must intervene,” Anne says. “ I really like this time each day because I can learn the character of my children—who is who—and it brings me joy to see that.”
Anne says she wants her children to become whatever they want when they grow up, but she hopes they will learn some of her skills too.
“I learned how to grow various types of vegetables and how to plant onions because that’s what my parents used to do,” Anne says. “I want to give each child the opportunity to choose what she or he would like to do, but I hope since they see what I do on my farm, they will learn and be able to replicate if they ever need to.”
Last month we invited you to send a question to Anne, and we received almost a hundred from you! We’ll be posting more of her answers in future posts.
Stephanie Michelle asked: What is the number one obstacle you face as a farmer in Kenya?
Anne: “The rains and providing for the family. Even though I work hard doing the farm activities—they may fail. And even if they fail, the family still looks to me to provide something.”
Katarina Novotna asked: If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
Anne: “It is my dream to sell clothes. Other jobs I may have liked to do would’ve required more education, and I like this idea because the job would still allow me time to take care of my family and cattle.”
Kevin Fath asked: What are your coping strategies for the increased variability of rainfall levels?
Anne: “I look at the crops and if they are growing slowly and turning a bit yellowish, then I know there is too much rain. In that case, I usually dig a trench on the higher side of my field to hold the water. This year, I didn’t do this. Instead, I planted napier grass to serve the same purpose, but I have observed that this year the rains have been so heavy that the grass has let the water run through.”
One Acre Fund serves 125,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi, 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.