Something a little bit different today. From time to time I’m contacted by people interested in having me use the blog to say something on their behalf. Earlier this week, an email dropped into my inbox from Leslie who works for the charity ActionAid. Leslie told me about Rina. This is Rina –
Rina is a farmer in Kenya. Not long ago she was what you would describe as a struggling farmer – struggling to produce enough to feed herself and her family. But, with help from ActionAid, Rina has turned things around. And not only on her own farm. She’s now putting food on the table at home, paying the school fees needed to keep her five children in education, and she is one of the organisers of the Tusonge Mbele Women’s Group (Let’s Move Forward Women’s Group), a self-help group made up of other female smallholders in the local community.
This change of fortune for Rina began in 2012, when ActionAid provided funds for a group of farmers like herself to learn some really important business skills. They were given training in budgeting, agricultural and organisational skills. And they were given opportunities to network with other farmers in the area, a chance to exchange ideas on what was working… and what wasn’t, under the local growing conditions. These extra skills gave Rina and the other farmers in the group access to investment in the form of loans and, perhaps more importantly, the confidence to talk to banks and customers, allowing them to grow their businesses.
“The visits to farmers who are doing well also helped me to decide to take farming seriously. Using the knowledge I’d gained about good agricultural practices I planted some pumpkins and was blessed to get a bumper harvest.” says Rina.
As many of you will know, when you have a glut – whether it’s tomatoes, runner beans, or pumpkins – it’s time to get creative and look at different ways to use or preserve the crop. Rina was able to sell some of her pumpkins, then used others to make chapattis – see, creative.
“I sold some and used the remaining to prepare chapattis. Now people love my chapattis and are always coming to my home to buy them especially in the morning. In a day I sell 200 chapattis at Ksh. 20 (£2.60) and most of the time I am out of stock by 11am!” said Rina.
Rina’s story is just one of the successes that ActionAid can claim to have helped along the way. The training they provided means that Rina has not only improved the lives of her family, but is helping others to do the same by passing the farming and business skills she has learned on to local farmers… now that’s a really good return on the investment made by ActionAid. As Rina says, “I am glad that now I can provide for my family and am happy that as we speak I have cleared my children’s school fees. Now I have a reason to smile for I know I can take care of my family.”
So, why am I telling you Rina’s story? Well, this story has a happy ending, but there are so many more stories out there still looking for that positive turn that can change lives around. ActionAid is running a campaign to raise some of the funds it needs to write more stories with happy endings – She Can aims to help girls around the world escape lives of poverty and violence. Many of the projects they are involved in are deceptively simple, but can make a huge difference. For example, something as easy as giving girls in Ghana a bicycle so they can travel to school more quickly and safety. Walking long distances to school leaves the girls with less time to complete the household chores expected of them and study, a bicycle cuts travelling time and keeps the girls in education.
And here’s where you come in… a donation to the She Can campaign can go a long way towards helping women and girls improve their lives and solve some of the problems that are holding them back. Even better, all donations made before 25th June will be matched by the UK Government – effectively doubling anything that you are able to give. I’m not good at asking people to give money (… one of the many reasons I never made it in the business world), but I do like to support a good cause and this kind of project strikes me as a very good cause – enabling people who want to help themselves by providing the tools they need, whether that’s practical, in the form of transport to school, or through teaching them the skills to succeed in their chosen field. What do you think?
Rina’s story and all the photos in this post were provided by Leslie Sinoway from ActionAid.