Learning to farm her land has changed Caroline's life

Caroline close up

“I am sure if I was not with Ripple Effect I could have lost other children because the small one who died, that was because of malnutrition.”

Caroline Alupe Village, Kenya

Caroline lives in the small village of Alupe, in western Kenya. She has been working with Ripple Effect for the last three years, as part of a project funded by the Mother & Child Appeal in 2017. She is one of 78,500 people* who have been directly supported by UK Aid Match funding, which matched the money raised in the public appeal, to lift themselves out of poverty.

Before working with Ripple Effect, most of Caroline’s land was covered in unproductive shrubs that did little for her except ‘harbouring snakes’. With little knowledge of how to farm sustainably, the staple bean crops she planted would often fail, leaving her with no choice but to beg for food from her neighbours.

She describes how this made her feel:

“I used to sit, go round the village begging and sometimes farming for people…I used to be one of the vulnerable compared to others. I was young, but I felt very weak… My neighbours could not trust me with their money.”

Caroline Kenya

With constant money worries, Caroline’s relationship with her husband was tense. She describes how he would not share his money with her or their children, so she would steal it from him to pay for transport home to her parent’s house.

“My occasional trips back home [to my parent’s] were to get food… I did not want to starve.”

Caroline Kenya

The weather in western Kenya is becoming steadily more erratic due to the climate crisis, pushing many mothers like Caroline further into poverty. Heavy rains are not uncommon, and have ruined Caroline’s yellow bean crop in the past, cutting her harvest by two thirds. Last year, the drought was so severe during the planting season that she would walk for an hour to queue at her local water point, arriving by 9am and not making it home until 5pm.

Training and support from Ripple Effect has helped Caroline to achieve so much. Today she stands proudly in a field of nutritious cassava crops, which was once covered in unproductive shrubs. She and her husband share their money and chores, and the responsibility for making decisions. Her children help on the farm after their school work, which is encouraging them to become independent adults.

Caroline's Cassava crop helps her to provide nutritious meals for her family

Caroline has learned techniques such as mulching and composting as part of the project, which means she can avoid using chemical fertilisers. Like many Kenyan farmers, she would have been encouraged to buy chemical fertilisers to improve yields. But she now understands that these increased yields are only short-term, and they degrade the quality of her soil year after year, which would ultimately leave her worse off. Fertilisers can also pollute local water sources.

Other nature-based solutions such as companion planting and a keyhole garden have helped her to increase the productivity of her farm and protect her natural resources. Clever use of companion planting, like the Push-Pull method, can reduce pests and restore soil health, which in turn produces more, nutritious, vegetables. The design of a Keyhole Garden uses free home-made compost to add fertility and to conserve precious water.

Caroline's family earned enough money from their farm to build their own well in response to the drought in 2020.

For mothers like Caroline, being able to escape from the cycle of poverty has given her a new perspective on life. She now has hope for her future, and for her children, in farming.

“My hope for myself and my family is to live a good life, to be a role model to other families so that people can say 'I want my life to be like Caro'. Those who knew me three years ago can tell you how I have changed.”

Caroline Kenya

It’s not just mothers who have benefitted from this project. Henry is a grandfather who lives on a small farm with his children. He joined a self-help group (like this one in Northern Uganda) for women with disabilities three years ago and thanks to Ripple Effect training and support, now has a thriving farm and improved home.

Henry's farm income is supporting three of his teenage grandchildren through school.

Through sales from his bananas, which featured on the BBC's Follow the Food, he has kept his children in school and is supporting two of them through university. As a disabled man, adaptations have meant that he is no longer held back from providing for his family, and being a valued member of the community.

Mother and Child project: the facts

Our work reached 78,500 people*.

Food security (confidence that people can provide for their families) increased from 6% to 99.7%

Dietary diversity (consuming more than 6 food types) rose from 0% of the community to 88%

People earning more than $1.50 per day increased from 6% to 80%

100% of women are now involved in decision-making, an increase from 23% at the start of the project.

We supported 4,800 families, or 23,000 people, through an intensive face-to-face training programme.

In addition to this, a further 11,576 families, or 55,500 people, engaged with the project through radio broadcasts, community volunteer support and copying new techniques adopted by participants from the main training programme.

This brings the total figure to a whopping 78,500 people. All thanks to you!

With thanks to the UK government funding for matching donations to the Mother and Child Appeal, and making this project possible.