Kenya: Bertha Ambundo: How one woman farmer inspired a community to improve their lives (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly in Kenya)

    | March 5, 2012

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    Bertha Ambundo is a retired teacher in her 70s. As a former teacher, she assisted many poor girls to get an education. In recent years, she has turned her attention to helping women earn money from farming and catering.

    Mrs. Ambundo belongs to a church in Kakamega County in western Kenya. Two years ago, she was chosen as director of a women’s ministry at the church. Because there was a lot of poverty among church members, she started discussions on what women could do to earn income.

    She says, “After our discussions, we agreed that the church members should form different groups, based on the enterprises they wanted to do.… Some people opted to do vegetable farming, others indicated poultry, and the other group decided to do catering.”

    Two catering groups were formed, each with 20 members. One group cooks for church events such as funerals and weddings. They also bake cakes and decorate for events.

    This group earns about 15,000 Kenyan shillings, or more than $180 U.S., each time they cook for a function. Part of this money is invested in a group bank. Over time, the group purchased all the catering supplies it needs. This has increased profits, because the group no longer needs to rent supplies for each event.

    The catering group purchases most of its vegetables and poultry from the farming groups formed by other church members. Mrs. Ambundo explains, “I motivated them to start greenhouses in which they grow vegetables. Among the vegetables are the delicious African indigenous vegetables like the black nightshade, whose price in local restaurants is very high.”

    Mrs. Ambundo uses her own farm to teach church members how to grow vegetables and manage poultry. She explains, “I am also a farmer and I have all these activities in my farm. I take the members to my home and demonstrate to them how to raise poultry, how to grow vegetables and spices in greenhouses, and how to cook food.”

    Mrs. Ambundo’s desire to help society began when she was a young woman working in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. She formed a women’s group called SAIDIA, which raised money to treat children with physical disabilities.

    As a former teacher, Mrs. Ambundo has a passion for educating girls, who are neglected in most African societies. She asked her church for land to construct a big guest house. The guest house would bring in money to fund the education of poor children. She is writing proposals to donors and her many international friends.

    Mrs. Ambundo asks God to give her more years on earth so that she can continue to help vulnerable people. She has some advice for Kenyans: “Let us produce more than what we can consume, so that we can also make money. Let us do greenhouse farming because the demand for vegetables and rabbits is now high, especially in hotels that are in towns.”