Kabuoch Kawuor – Homabay

The “Great” Otieno Akal: How a handicapped man beat both Prejudice and Poverty

Poverty is s devastation experience, leading to malnutrition and vulnerable communities. Lack of basic needs cripples productivity and weakens community safety nets, for this Riana Development Network (RDN) works with communities at the edge of poverty in Homabay, through Creating Decent Employment Opportunities program (CREEDEP) to introduce innovative and sustainable ways to raise more and better food. Magina community in western Kenya has been disproportionately left out on matter of famer’s development, facing extremely unpredictable weather events such as flooding, lack of good farm input and tools, and inaccessibility to markets. RDN is working with local farmers through diversified activities to enable them cope with and adapt to, negative environmental impacts.

Among the several beneficiaries RDN works with, the story of Otieno Akal strikes the most. He became a single parent after his wife passed on, leaving behind a boy and a girl aged 13 and 15 years respectively. During holidays breaks away from school, his children has been a great source of support and inspiration, consistently helping him to move about his duties. Just like other farmers in Magina, Otieno has the advantage of farm land, but he is limited by several factors  such as inaccessibility to climate information services. Otieno joined the CREDEEP program in November. He was referred to join the program by Walter Lucy – CREDEEP project mobilizer. At the onset, he joined the program to benefit from both technical skills and farm inputs, he grew maize, beans and sweet potatoes for family use. When he joined Riana Development Network, Otieno had the opportunity to be part of over 300 farmers who received training on climate smart agriculture, farm inputs, tools and demonstrated farming. This improved his farm yield from 2 bags of maize to 5 bags of maize. Consequently, Otieno adopted farming of vegetables; Kales, onions and indigenous vegetables. He has had to depend on the support of his children during weekends and holidays community members who he pays with his harvest. Otieno gets help with hard tasks such as ploughing, while he joins during planting, weeding and harvesting seasons.

He continues to work as a cobbler while waiting for harvesting seasons, before the program Otieno practiced subsistence farming. Currently, he has the ability to sell produce surplus and sell to meet other family needs. In December 2019 and May 2020 harvest, he managed to sell off a surplus of 3 bags of maize at a profit of $25, a bunch of banana in December and 3 bunches in April at approximately $8 each, and undisclosed amounts from sale of vegetables due to unavailability of records. This has consequently helped him in buying new school uniform, books and iron sheets for a new medium-sized semi-permanent house. He delivers his vegetables and cereals to the market using his modified wheelchair. Currently, he has tilled more farmland, he also plants a variety of crops such as maize, bananas, cassava, sweet potatos, beans, and vegetables.

RDN delivers practical, meaningful change to local farmers, by mobilizing county government and local businesspersons towards improving market opportunities. Otieno has been linked to local hotels and businesses in Rongo town, he has had the privilege to supply Kales, Onions and sweet potatoes which are collected and transported on a hired motorbike at the expense of the farmers.  RDN acts as linkage between vulnerable e farmers and market opportunities by rallying individual’s produce for bigger markets. By this, farmers like Otieno Akal has achieved better pay for their products, training and a wider network of social safety nets. He practices rotational farming and using plant left over for compost manure.

Otieno is building a better house for his family, he does afford meals regularly unlike before program interventions. Now his children have the privilege to attend school without being sent away now and then for school fees, and uniforms. His major challenge is a better wheelchair that can facilitate movement with lesser effort. Also, his progress has been derailed by illiteracy following lack of education after he fell ill at the age of five with poliomyelitis. He remains grateful to the contributions of CREDEEP program in his life.

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