From Vulnerability to Resilience and Wealth

Teresa Korinda a 62-year-old widow is a true story of transformation from a lowly paid woman whose children suffered from nutrition related health issues and an income of less than $1.25 a day to one who trains other farmers through a local radio program.

A Song From the Ashes

Flashback to 1997; Teresa a mother of three adopted orphans and 2 biological children worked at a local cotton lint company. The pay was meager but enough to supplement what her husband Charles Owino, put on the table. They dreamt of a bright future. Tragedy however struck and Mr. Owino passed on in 1997 leaving a shocked four months pregnant widow to live in denial for several months. The change in marital status, the stigma of widow-hood, the uncertainty of taking over the burden of caring for a young family on meager income of less than USD 1.25 seemed insurmountable challenges. In her words, living in abject poverty and hunger appeared a grave reality.

Her local church counseled and encouraged her to join a group, “Better Living Self Help Group,” where members offered each other psycho social support. With predictions of a looming famine in the year 2000, Teresa pulled herself together and started farming to supplement her income from the lint factory. She joined Kadenyi women group, a social economic group which worked with the Ministry of agriculture and received training on vegetables, maize and cassava production. However Kendu bay is not agriculturally rich and the community living here relies more on fishing from the lake than farming.  New and culturally unique challenges such as like poor soil fertility, lack of access to credit for investment in agriculture, and low rainfall, awaited the group. Despite their efforts, the group had minimal or no returns to show and remained largely food insecure and poor. Her fate was at a downward spiral as soon after, in 2005, the cotton industry collapsed and she was laid her off. She says with poor meals came more and more visits to a local health center due to nutritional related ailments.

“Life moved from bad to worse," says Teresa. "Quality of meals deteriorated, income plummeted yet my children were growing and attending school. It was like sitting, groping in total darkness with no ray of light.”

Teresa never gave up; she sought more training through her group in partnership with church organizations, the government’s Ministry of Agriculture and livestock development.

On scouting for organizations that could give a hand up in farming and training; the women group applied and started a partnership with Heifer International in 2007. HPI-K assessed their viability for partnership and started training them after establishing their gaps. Teresa was among farmers who attended training on HPI cornerstones, group management and goat husbandry. After training, Heifer placed 13 dairy goats and Teresa, being one of the neediest cases, received one.

She recalls, "It brought me happiness; owning a high quality dairy goat from South Africa was dream in my life." In 2009, Teresa was again invited for more training on sustainable organic agriculture (SOA).  "I had attended various training organized by various organizations; this particular one changed my life forever. I learned how to make compost manure which is very vital in organic soil enrichment and key in sustainable agricultural production."

One act of Passing On the Gift that Teresa embraced was training other group members to apply SOA in their farms. They started by planting kales, and tomatoes.  The goat kidded and started giving her family four liters of milk daily.

"We used two liters for family consumption and sold two,” she says. The highly nutritious goat milk helped in solving nutrition related health ailments almost immediately, giving Teresa time to work on her land. In 2009, she dedicated her skills, time, and savings from milk and invested in an acre of tomatoes. Teresa points at her Agro inputs store, which she set up using savings from her vegetable farming. “Imagine, I earned my first ever consolidated sum. Life has never been the same since. ” 

Unlocking Other Partnerships

Other funders, on seeing the potential of the group under the mentorship of Heifer International, were interested in adding value through capacity building in identified gaps. For example, the Catholic diocese planned and trained the group on financial management, savings and loaning. Teresa borrowed $590, which she topped up with other savings and invested in her Agro inputs store. Her current stock is valued at $59,000. The business has a monthly turnover of $1,720.  

God bless Heifer International, today I am a prosperous and respected woman. I have a dream of owning a transport truck in the next two years to help grow my Agro business. Teresa Korinda

The star shone brighter when Ministry of Agriculture and livestock development noticed the group’s progress and introduced them to local poultry (chicken husbandry) trainings.  As a result she added other services such as chicken vaccinations in her agro vet shop and was awarded a dealership for Ecoozoom renewable energy lighting devices.  The combined effect was an additional $170 monthly income.

Teresa diversified her livestock to include three locally bred cows, four local goats, and four pure breed dairy goats. Her original dairy goat has since then kidded eight times; she gave one kid to another needy family as per the Heifers principle of Passing On the Gift, and has sold five kids. She used the proceeds from the sale for the education of her children. Teresa invested in renewable energy to help in protecting the environment; she no longer uses paraffin or firewood for lighting and cooking.    

Teresa is now a trainer a trainer of other farmers. She has trained more than 500 community members on a climate smart agriculture technique promoted by Heifer Kenya and an international research organization (ICIPE).  She also hosts an educational agri-business radio program with an audience of approximately 250,000 people. Teresa has continuously improved her self-confidence and now gives speeches in various public gatherings and serves as a Church official. This espouses high level of recognition accorded to her due to her success as a result of her partnership with HPI.

Teresa and Kandenyi women group are grateful to Heifer International Kenya for its partnership and its gift. They also appreciate other organizations such as the Ministry of Agriculture, ICIPE, and their Catholic diocese their support in making their lives better. She has set plans to purchase a dairy cow, an investment of about $1500, to boost her sustainable farming enterprises.