PICTURED: Lucy Marani and her sons on their bean farm in Elgeyo Marakwet
ON AN unbelievably steep hillside in the beautiful rolling hills of Elgeyo Marakwet in western Kenya, mother of seven Lucy Marani proudly shows off the neat rows of French bean plants that have transformed her family’s life.
While visitors struggle to keep their balance due to the incline, Lucy is steady on her feet and steady in her conviction that the new business approach she is taking to farming will continue to grow a brighter future for herself and her children.
Fittingly dressed in an elegant jacket that wouldn’t look out of place in a boardroom, Lucy explained that her family’s finances are secure for the first time since she started following a structured business plan on growing and marketing vegetables that are in high demand.
“Before I grew green beans here, I grew a local variety of garden peas to sell to local markets,” said Marani. “I farmed, but didn’t look for a market until the crops were ready.
There was no market because there were so many peas on the market. By the time I found a buyer, the crops would have rotten. Some went unsold and we would make losses.”
Now, her story is very different. Marani only plants crops that she knows in advance she has a buyer for.
She is receiving support from the charity Farm Africa as a part of an extension to the organisation’s Growing Futures project, which was made possible by matched funding received from the UK Government, who matched donations made to the charity’s Growing Futures appeal.
The appeal, which ran from October 2017 to January 2018, raised a total of £410,000, enough to help a total of 2,000 farmers in Elgeyo Marakwet set up profitable horticulture businesses.
The project, which also receives funding from the retailer Aldi UK and the Medicor Foundation, helps farmers escape poverty by growing and selling a variety of vegetables such as French beans, garden peas, mange touts, tomatoes and cabbages. The groups stagger their planting schedules, so that together they are able to guarantee a consistent supply of high-quality produce to buyers.
Marani commented: “I have learnt from Farm Africa to manage my money. I have learnt about book-keeping, financial literacy, leadership, good governance and marketing. We have learnt from Farm Africa that you have to first find a market before you start to plant beans.”
The new approach has translated into a higher and more consistent income for her family, which is greatly benefiting her children, who are now able to attend school regularly. She continued: “The project has changed my life. It has helped me educate my children, I can now pay their school fees.
“My children used to stay at home because we couldn’t afford the school fees because it was so hard to find a market for our produce. I was excited about growing French beans. I was excited to know I would be able to earn income to send my children to school.”
Marani’s success has inspired her two oldest sons, Davis,19, and Felix, 21, to also take part in the project. Davis and Felix are typical of participants in the project, whose core target group is young people aged between 18 and 35, at least 50% of whom will be women. The project aims to enable young people to create their own thriving careers in a market where job opportunities are few and far between.
There are millions more small-scale farmers across eastern Africa in need of support. That’s why Farm Africa has just launched its Coffee is Life appeal, which is raising funds to help more farming families across eastern Africa grow more, sell more and sell for more.
The Voice’s Yemi Williams and his wife Afua will both be running the London Marathon in April to raise funds for the appeal.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: “The Coffee is Life appeal will empower women across Uganda to build their own farming businesses.
“UK aid and Farm Africa are working together to give these women the training and skills they need to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Through UK Aid Match the government will double all public donations to the appeal.”
Coffee is Life appeal
Give before 8 May 2019 and donations to the appeal, including Marathon sponsorship donations for Yemi and Afua Williams, will be matched by the UK government. Your donation will support Farm Africa projects across eastern Africa, and the matched funding you unlock from the UK government will directly fund a Farm Africa project that will give women in Kanungu in western Uganda the opportunity to make a decent living from coffee farming.
You can donate and give farmers in Africa the opportunity to thrive at www.farmafrica.org/coffeeislife or by calling 020 7430 0440, lines are open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.