Meet Paulina, an Indigenous woman farmer from the rural town of Chepareria in West Pokot, Kenya. When you first meet her, she seems quiet and reserved. But ask her about her farm, and she comes alive with excitement.
Where she lives in Chepareria with her eight daughters, Indigenous families like hers depend on the land for food and income – for their survival.
But the impacts of climate change make farming harder every day. “The biggest challenge of farming now,” she told us, “is drought.”
East Africa is facing its worst drought since 1945 with millions of people on the brink of survival. The dry months are getting longer and longer. Access to water is scarce. Women and girls – traditionally tasked with collecting water – have to travel farther distances to dwindling streams to find what little exists. This makes farming – Paulina’s livelihood – all the more difficult.
But Paulina is not easily deterred.
Seven years ago, she met Lucy Mulenkei, leader of our Kenyan partner organization, the Indigenous Information Network. With MADRE’s support, Lucy works with Indigenous women farmers in rural Kenya to help them adapt to climate change threats, including by training them to harvest rainwater. Paulina has been attending our trainings for many years. With your support, she has learned new methods to implement on her farm.
For example, Paulina learned to set up a rainwater collection tank. And it has made all the difference on her farm. That’s because the tank collects and stores enough water during the rainy season that she can water her crops during the worsening dry season. What’s more, it means that she and her daughters no longer have to walk for hours in search of ever more distant water sources.
Paulina loves to farm. She spends her days on her land, turning the soil, planting seeds and tending to her crops. Others farms in her community that don’t have rainwater tanks risk devastation by lingering drought, with crops failing and plants withering away. But not Paulina’s. Over the years, with the help of her rainwater collection tank and other strategies she’s learned through MADRE and IIN, her farm has flourished. Here's a video of Paulina farming cassava:
“It was a small farm at first,” she told us. “I grew maize, beans and cassava to sell in the markets and earn income. Through the years, my income and water tank helped me grow my farm.”
Now, she’s added ever more new crops to her farm: a wide variety of vegetables, mangos, avocados and more. And she sells her surplus produce in local markets. She invests the money she earns back into her family. “I use my income to improve my house, to clothe my children and to take them to the doctor when they are sick,” she told us.
But there’s another reason Paulina works so hard on her farm. You see, Paulina never went to school. In her community, educating girls is not seen as a priority.
But she wanted something different for her daughters. So, every day, she worked in the fields. She worked hard so that she could give her daughters a chance at what she never had — an education. And she succeeded. With money she raised from her crops, she paid for tuition and books, and she was able to send all eight of her daughters to school!
Not only do her daughters receive the education that Paulina was denied. Just imagine the ripple effects. When a girl goes to school, it helps to grow her confidence. It opens her horizons and enables her to step up as a community leader.
“All my children are girls, and they are all going to school. I am very proud of them,” she shared with us with a large smile on her face. Here’s a photo of Paulina with her fourth daughter, Angelique, who is now in her third year studying at university!
We asked Paulina what she is most proud of. “When I started my home, I started with empty hands, with nothing. But now, I have a farm, I have food, and all my girls are in school. I’m proud of my children. And I am proud of my hands that work hard to make something.”