These are uncertain times for everyone everywhere and there is so much that is new and difficult to cope with, so I hope you will be cheered to see and hear about the positive news resulting from your recent support for the Wamboma project.
As you know, we crowdfunded at the end of 2019 because our project was at serious risk of failing because of the impact of climate change. The 120 farmers in the two project villages lost their crops due to floods and drought and had no cash to replenish their seed. In addition, Stuart and Grace, our project managers, knew that we could not simply replace the stock without attempting to mitigate the impact of climate change. New seed would need the protection of greenhouses, tanks, pumps and drip irrigation. We needed our own land so that we could farm without worrying about the land being taken back from us. The women needed to be trained to manage the greenhouses and to know how to make their crops thrive, and we needed a van that could tackle the difficult terrain to continue deliveries. It was fantastic of you all to help us raise sufficient funds to enable the Wamboma co-op to achieve these critical goals. Now, the greenhouses are up – you can see from the images what has happened, and hear, too, from the women in the following report from Grace.
The Greenhouse Farms
In March 2020, the women from Mailisita and Namuai villages were privileged to each receive a greenhouse from the project stakeholders. The women were very happy and have expressed so much gratitude to the co-operative management team, as well as to Equality in Tourism. In Namuai the women’s chairperson, Mama Eunice, spoke on behalf of her fellow women. “The greenhouses have come at the best time in our lives,” she said. “We have battled drastic climatic changes that have destroyed our crops, sometimes leaving us penniless. These climate-change disasters are mostly unforeseen and it has been hard to protect our crops without resources such as greenhouses. But here we are, celebrating receiving our first co-op greenhouse. We are beyond delighted and happy. We feel like heroes again.
To the applause of the women, Mama Eunice continued: “With this greenhouse, the women will be able to farm for their future, as our co-op slogan says. We are confident to say that we have finally seen and reached for the light at the end of the tunnel. We will now be able to do our farm activities all year round without hesitation. The heavy rainfalls, flash floods and extensive droughts don’t scare us anymore. We are moving forward with great zeal and energy, working together to end poverty and improve our living standards.”
The women in Mailisita were also excited to receive their own greenhouse. They cleared and sprayed the land before transplanting their crops in the greenhouse. Mama Elitruda Soka, the group’s treasurer, spoke for the women, saying: “We are so happy to receive our greenhouse. We extend our gratitude to the whole management team and our beloved Ms Tricia for making this happen. With the greenhouse in place, the women can produce quality products needed by the tourist market. We are all aware of how greenhouses can prevent pests and diseases. We have all wished to practice organic farming to meet market demand. Now, we will be able to do that. This will also positively affect the quantity of produce that we can offer to our clients.”
The women in both villages agreed that these greenhouses will offer a new, brighter future, not only for themselves for their families, too. They know that they’ll grow better-quality produce, which will attract new markets and increase their incomes. The women save their money in their highly valued microfinance scheme. They can take loans out against their savings, which they use to expand their farm activities and address their household needs.
COVID-19 and Wamboma
The COVID-19 pandemic is devastating news for the women farmers. Tourism has been hit hard by events and the women can’t predict if they will get a good market for their crops this year. Yet, the women remain positive, taking precautionary measures to keep working on their farms and in the greenhouses. Although they might well have lost the hotel market, they know that, for the first time, they will have food security for themselves and their families. Destinations across the world that are over-dependent on tourism, such as Kilimanjaro, are struggling because tour operations have stopped.
We were all very excited because a leading ethical adventure operator was due to offer financial support by bringing its groups to the farms to buy provisions from the co-op and enjoy lunches prepared by the women. It was a wonderful opportunity that is now, very sadly, on hold. The project has also decided to close its Wamboma shop during the pandemic for health and safety reasons.
In the absence of tourists and with hotels closed, the project is planning how it can survive the crisis. It is now seeking funding to train the women and provide the equipment for drying and packaging their produce, for creating a website and delivering farm boxes, and for buying all necessary protective and sanitary equipment, such as sanitisers, buckets with taps, and soap, We would be delighted to hear any other suggestions you might have about how best we can manage this situation.
With thanks to you for enabling this to happen,
Kaa Salama – Stay Safe
Tricia Barnett, Director, Equality in Tourism