Catherine Kaari lives in the dry and dusty Tharaka-Nithi District in east-central Kenya. Living is difficult in the remote communities of this drought-prone region. The rains are also becoming less predictable due to climate change. Yet Catherine has seen her fortunes change since she enrolled in a poultry project in January 2017.
Catherine lives in a small compound which sits high on the side of a sparse hill in an outlying rural area above a town called Kajuki. The surrounding area is vast, with a few low hills, and Catherine’s home sits on one of these rolling hillsides. It is over an hour away from the nearest large town.
Despite the current rainy season, the vegetation in this semi-arid rangeland can be sparse. The land quickly soaks up any precipitation that falls.
To reach Catherine’s home, a path winds from the road across a small footbridge over a shallow ravine, before sloping up to the top of the hill.
Water rushes through the ravine when the rains fall. Despite the previous day’s heavy downpour, it shows only a hint of mud at the bottom on this hot afternoon.
Catherine’s elderly mother greets us from their small compound while her daughter returns from her work on the other side of the hill.
Along with her mother, Catherine cares for her two young nephews, one of whom is away at school. When Catherine appears and begins to speak with us, it is clear that she is a strong and determined woman.
As she shares her story she is clearly optimistic despite the number of challenges she must overcome. On a daily basis, Catherine or her nephews must walk 3 kilometres to access water for bathing and cooking.
This year, she will need to pay school fees for her nephews, buy medication for her chronically ill sister, and provide nourishing food for the growing family. Many generations of the same family are living under her single roof.
Catherine has been a participant in Trócaire's UK Aid Match (UKAM) project since January of 2017.
With support from Caritas Meru, Trócaire's local partner organisation, Catherine learned how to construct stone terracing around her small plot of land. This maximises the impact of the sparse rains, so she can can grow crops around the steep hillside. She is now growing subsistence crops such as green grams and cow peas.
Despite the poor rains, Catherine is able to use these crops as feed for the chickens who spend the day foraging through the terraces and rocky outcrops that surround the house.
The UKAM project has provided Catherine with poultry, training and ongoing technical support. As a result she can grow, breed and market her chickens for income.
The staff from Caritas Meru trained Catherine how to market her eggs. They also helped her identify a market which would regularly buy eggs from her.
Catherine hopes that her chickens will lay enough eggs so she can continue selling regularly in the local market shops. She also wants to keep a few to provide her family with much-needed protein in their diet.
Each family member chooses the day of the week when they want to have their egg for lunch and this is one of their primary sources of protein and iron.
Since receiving the first 10 chickens, 6 have survived and Catherine has sold enough eggs to buy two local chickens. Only the local chickens are able to brood. The original project chickens are more resilient and better for producing eggs but they do not sit on eggs for hatching.
Catherine can sell her eggs to the local shops for 10 Kenyan shillings each, which amounts to about 74 pence (€0.85). In a month, she can sell enough eggs to make about 1,200 shillings, which is nearly £9 (€10). She says that this has helped her buy extra household items such as sugar, oil, and the drugs and feed needed to keep her chickens healthy.
As the rainy seasons are becoming shorter and less predictable, Catherine has struggled to grow enough food even to feed her family. However, now the inputs and support from the Trócaire project has given her the ability to save money, plan and market her growing poultry business.
Yet Catherine is even more ambitious, and is eager to achieve her next set of goals for 2018. These include buying a goat to provide milk for the family, and paying school and uniform fees so that her younger nephew can attend school.
Catherine is excited about her future. She now sees her hard work paying off, her property becoming productive, and her assets growing.