The primary economic activity of the communities we work with is farming; to be exact subsistence small-scale farming. When resettlement was being implemented, a major consideration was enough farmland to accommodate the scores of people displaced from their original home by one reason or another. Each family was given a certain portion of land to farm and settle on. Even people who were not necessarily farmers in their previous ‘lives’ were forced to became small scale farmers by circumstances and thus their lives are very dependent on seasons. Right now, it is the start of the rainy season in Kenya which also initiates planting season.
The planting season is such a hopeful time as most of the population consists of small scale farmers. Everyone is busy preparing their land for planting, gathering farms inputs such as fertilizer and seeds and actually planting the various crops for the main crop growing season between April and September. The landscape is also changing from the driest months of January to March as the vegetation grows back and all around it becomes green again, just like spring time in countries with four distinct seasons of the year.
For the three communities we work with people started land preparations in mid March in anticipation of start of the rainy season. Farmers mostly work on their farms using human manual labor and basic farms tools like hoes. Though in some cases, they do use mechanized means like tractors and other farm machinery although it is rare as it’s an expensive endeavor most common folk cannot afford to indulge.
Recently, when I visited the Haji farm community, most people were busy planting their small farms; both the old and the young. Since school is closed for the April holiday break, children often accompany their parents to farms to assist in cultivating and planting the family farms. This is one way parents teach the next generation both the skills and responsibility to grow crops to feed the family for the coming year. Children often do the lighter duties like planting seeds-putting seeds to the ground- while parents cultivate and prepare the land after a period of disuse every year.
Most small farmers grow the main food crops consumed in Kenya: maize(corn), beans, potatoes and vegetables. Maize (corn) takes about six months to mature for harvest although it depends on the variety the farmer plants. After six months maize is harvested after drying up and is either consumed in a dish called ugali where maize flour is the main ingredients or in a dish consisting of whole maize and beans grain boiled or cooked in a number of ways.
Planting season is such an important and integral part of the community life since the availability of food ensures the wellbeing of the community. Communities where food is scarce has a lower rate of overall development; school enrollment and attendance takes a huge hit which is of a major concern to us here at World Teacher Aid.