Unpredictable harvests in Kenya

Esther Gakobo is a mother of 3 from Kenya. She farms coffee, maize and beans to provide for her family.

Farming in Kenya was once a relatively stable source of income from Esther’s family as she remembers how growing up they would prepare the land from December to January and plant in February with the onset of the wet season. This enabled the crops to do well.

She says: ‘We knew how to budget, when to buy seeds, when to prepare the land, when to harvest. We could harvest in May. The harvest was good, we had plenty.’

However the rains are no longer as predictable as they used to be. This makes it particularly difficult to know when is the right time to plant the crops. At times the rain is so heavy it carries away the fertile topsoil, so that all that is left behind is the poor soil where the crops do not grow well. There are also times of drought when there is no harvest to be had.

Esther explains how she used to irrigate her land but is no longer able to as the water level in the river has fallen so low. ‘The leaves in the coffee are falling down because of the pest. I think the hot weather has led to the breeding of pests. The coffee beans should be red but they are yellow because they don’t have enough water.’

This is having a widespread impact throughout the entire community: ‘There is nothing to sell, nothing to eat. Sometimes you can only take one meal a day instead of three. We used to use the money we got from farming to educate our children and to help people who are close to us. We could create employment. In the community it’s the same. People are very depressed; they are very idle because without farming they have nothing to do. It’s leading to drug abuse and prostitution and HIV / AIDS. People don’t have any source of money for medicine.’