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A retired nurse now nursing seedlings to feed her community

Irine Zippy Kalamai, a 62 year old retired nurse in Nandi County, has been farming maize and wheat all her life. She is now using her knowledge in the health sector and in agriculture to transform her community. In her fight to improve the income and nutrition of women, most of whom were battling

HIV/AIDS and were producers of illicit brew, Irene formed the Chepterit Horticultural Growers Organization to help women set up income generating activities, such as seedling propagation and microfinance.

In 2010, the 42-member group raised Ksh 160,000 ($1,951) half of it being from Irine’s own contribution, and bought 4,000 passion fruit seedlings for planting. Unfortunately these uncertified seedlings were of poor quality and most of the farmers lost their crop. This was a huge loss to the community as they had invested heavily with the hope of increasing their income.

However, when all hope seemed to have been lost, in October 2011 the group was introduced to Good Neigbours Community Programme (GNCP), an organization working with the USAID-funded Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project (KHCP) to promote smallholder passion fruit production. In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, GNCP helped the group set up a certified passion fruit nursery, introduced them to various agricultural technologies such as drip irrigation and integrated pest management, and linked them to markets. Irine donated her land where the group has established a nursery with a capacity to produce 75,000 seedlings a year. The nursery has been registered by the Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA) and certified by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS).

As a result of USAID-KHCP’s interventions and technical assistance, the group sold seedlings worth Ksh1.3 million ($15,854) last year. They have also sold 7,500 kilograms of passion fruit worth Ksh 300,000 ($3,659) to the local market. In addition, more than 304 farmers from Nakuru, Nandi, and

Uasin Gishu counties have directly benefitted by buying high quality seedlings from the group. The group is now using the table banking system to save money among themselves, with several members combining their savings to purchase more land for horticulture farming.

“This project (seedlings propagation) brought hope back into our community, for no one was going to try and plant any new crop after what happened with the bad seedlings. I now believe that if farmers can easily access quality seeds, they will have better yield and ultimately high incomes,” said Irine Zippy Kalamai, Chairperson, Chepterit Horticultural Growers Organization

USAID-KHCP’s Gender Mainstreaming Strategy aims to promote income generation and increase food security while at the same time contributing to the responsible management of natural resources and the environment. Passion-fruit production and seedling nurseries are examples of high value crops and improved technologies that the project promotes to help women increase production, decrease workloads and enhance food security for the entire household. In the last year, more than 2,000 farmers (48 percent women) working with USAID-KHCP in Rift Valley region have harvested over 750,000kg of passion fruit valued at Ksh 60 million ($731,707) from 94 hectares.

At the moment, 408 hectares of passion fruits is under production in the region.

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