our impact :: conversations
What It Takes to Get There
Conversation* with GEOFFREY MAINA GACHERU, Vipani Farmer, 18 November 2005
Hard work is nothing new to Geoffrey Maina. A farmer by day and a tailor by night, he had persevered to take care of his family's needs. Yet, it seemed like they had not moved from where they were many years ago; whatever they earned was just enough to get them by. With three children to support, it was difficult to be optimistic about the future.
What a difference a year has made.
"I will only need two more crop seasons, that is about six months, and we will be within sight of our dream to buy a piece of land to farm. I want to purchase a quarter acre; an acre goes from 250 to 300,000 shillings (75 Shillings=1US$). In September, I sold ten piglets for 1,200 Shillings each. I also made more than 9,000 Schillings from French beans and 6,000 Schillings from tomatoes. In October, I had another 10,000 Schillings worth of French beans. My wife's vegetable shop now makes more than enough to take care of our kitchen budget, so we are able to save our farm income smoothly. Earnings from my wife's shop and some more from our farm and my part time tailoring will make us get there very soon. And, we have two grown pigs which we are keeping for producing more piglets!" says Geoffrey happily.
A year ago when Geoffrey became a Vipani farmer, he had one big dream - to buy a piece of land to expand his farming enterprise.
"Being one of nine children, it was difficult for me to get an education. After primary school, I went to a village polytechnic to train as a tailor, and by doing farm and construction work, I was able to buy my own sewing machine. I also helped my parents send my other siblings to school. I got married when I was 26, and I went into full time farming while doing tailoring in the evening."
"I joined a group of farmers to grow French beans for a company; it was very challenging because I did not have enough capital for seeds and fertilizers. I could manage to grow only one kilo of seed, which earned me about 2,000 Shillings a month. I also grew tomatoes and other vegetables to try to make more income. But my wife had some health problems which drained all our savings. I did some construction work as a casual laborer so we could recover financially. I eventually managed to return to farming, though it was not easy. The cost of seeds was very high, and nothing was predictable - bad weather and diseases caused big loses. It was difficult for me to farm even a quarter of an acre."
"After Vipani, a lot has changed. I previously bought a pump which I couldn't use because it needed additional parts. I was saving some money to buy the parts, but could not quite get the 1200 Shillings I needed; there was always something else that was more urgent. Vipani helped me to get some credit, and arranged to get me a bigger pump with all the accessories. I now have tripled the land which I rent, and am able to grow a full acre of different crops. During my first season with Vipani, I have earned more than 4,000 Shillings from French beans, 4,000 Shillings from butternuts and another 3,000 Shillings from tomatoes.
My wife is also doing well with her vegetable stall. She earns about 150-200 Shillings daily from the sale of vegetables; before, she could not even make 50 Shillings a day. Customers like to buy from her because she sells fresh produce from our farm. My family is now well fed and well dressed.
I plan to buy my own land very soon. I am targeting to save more than 100,000 and I have already managed to save a good amount for that purpose. If all goes well by the end of next year, I will build a house and pay dowry to my in-laws."
Patrick Maina, Vipani staff, spoke to Geoffrey on 18 November 2005
Vipani strives to
R E A C H
every farmer in a community who is stuck in the cycle of poverty.
Reach the poorest.
Enable every farmer.
Advance local support.
Catalyze local economies.
Help generate incomes.
Vipani has the potential to reach millions of poor farmers throughout the developing world.