Although 63-year old Grace Gateria has no formal training, she is a teacher in her own right. She teaches her neighbours how to improve their agricultural production. Grace is a beneficiary of a World Food Programme (WFP) Cash-for-Assets project in the marginal agricultural county of Tharaka in Eastern Kenya.
“Before the project was introduced here, I always planted maize and because the rainfall was not sufficient, I harvested very little,” says the mother of ten. “Now I plant crops that don't need much rainfall such as green grams or sorghum and, in this way, I'm able to harvest much more".
Grace has also implemented the new soil and water conservation technologies that she has learnt. These include constructing negarims and zai pits* at her mango and pawpaw farm. These are simple water harvesting structures used by communities in arid and semi-arid areas to collect rain for improved crop production.
“I've decided to share what I've learnt with my neighbours who are not beneficiaries of the WFP project and many of them are applying these very simple techniques to improve their own crops", says Grace.
In the cash-for-assets programme, Grace and others like her work with WFP on projects involving rainwater harvesting for human and livestock use, soil and water conservation, rehabilitation of degraded land and the production of drought-tolerant crops. These assets and the development of the people's skills enable communities to improve their resilience and increase food sufficiency.
“My mangoes and pawpaws have improved so much and I get good harvests. I no longer have to sell the grains that I grow as I sell the fruits to meet my family’s daily needs,” she says.
*Negarims are diamond-shaped basins surrounded by small earth embankments that help trap water. They are suitable for growing fruit trees in dry areas. Zai pits are boxlike pits used to enhance soil fertility as well as retain water. They are suitable for crops such as sorghum, millet, beans and others.