“Thanks to this new maize, I am the proud owner of a mobile phone!”, says 80-year old grandma
“My age-mates reckon I am getting younger every year,” says Mary Muthoni from Kimunyu Location in Gatundu, Kiambu County.
After her husband died in a car accident several years, ago, 80-year old Muthoni was left to fend for six boys and two girls, with little else but her one-acre plot of land. Hers is not an uncommon story in many households in Kenya, where women head about one in three households.
Land in Kiambu is scarce, and farm sizes are generally small, meaning the women must struggle to get the most out of it to feed their families. Unfortunately, many farmers have relied on traditional knowledge around farming, including how to prepare the land, space seeds, and choice of seeds and harvests are generally poor.
They were difficult times for Mary and her family; upon finishing secondary school and with little prospects, three of her sons ran away to Nairobi city, where they fell into crime and alcohol.
“Mary was the first person I thought about when I was recruited as a village-based advisor (VBA),” says Damaris Njeri, one of the VBAs in Gatundu sub-county, who approached Mary to introduce the small pack of Dekalb Brand maize seeds DK 8033 in September 2018.
Mary says that because she knew Damaris as a neighbor, she had no hesitation in trying out the seed on a small part of her farm.
“After all, I could always borrow something from her if the experiment turned out badly,” she says.
She says that she was most impressed by the faster maturity and size of the maize from her first harvest and decided to purchase the 2-Kg pack for the following planting season.
Mary Muthoni shows off her new cooking gas, which she purchased after selling green maize last year. She says that unlike before when all the harvest was consumed in the house, she was able to sell some green maize to middle-men who come around to collect from fellow farmers.
“I can now feel some money in my purse like other women here. I never thought I would ever afford a mobile phone, but now I can talk to my children and friends even at night, says a beaming Mary.
She has been able to purchase enough iron sheets to construct a separate house for her physically-disabled son and has just put up a coop where he can start keeping chicken. In addition, she has purchased a small gas cooker and no longer relies on firewood.
“I used to avoid the company of other women a lot, as I always felt inferior. Now I can join in their discussions without fear,” she says.
One of her daughters, seeing the transformation on her mother’s farm, has now purchased the new variety maize to plant at her matrimonial home.
“I wish I had known about this new maize earlier. Perhaps my children would not have left in such despair, but at least I can take better care of myself in my old age,” says Mary.