Follow the Leader

Sabina Onyango is a member of a highly motivated HIV support group in Western Kenya. After seeing DIG’s impact in the region, her group expressed an interest for DIG to work with them on sustainable agriculture initiatives for small holder farmers that also have a nutritional impact on people living with HIV.

She became increasingly excited about what she was learning and almost immediately started implementing new techniques in her home garden. Jeremiah, her husband, watched his wife’s efforts bloom and soon enlisted as a member of the group as well. Together, they attended weekly DIG trainings for 5 months.

Jeremiah particularly enjoyed learning about double dug beds and raised enriched beds. He understood how it made planting and attending to crops easier. He started using available resources he had once overlooked, like animal manure and kitchen and yard waste for compost. With even the little space at home committed to vegetable gardening (1/8 acre), these new ideas dramatically increased his yields. 

Through DIG’s seed cost-share support, Sabina is growing kales, carrots, beets, bulb onions, green pepper and other both new and locally familiar vegetables. “They have incredible crop diversity which is making a big impact on hers and her husband’s health,” says DIG’s Regional Coordinator, Olivia Nyaidho. Studies have show that dietary diversity is one of the best indicators of nutritional health and it has heightened importance for people living with HIV. 

Part of DIG’s training incorporates financial planning, record keeping and farm business management. Sabina keeps excellent records with clear details on her month-to-month expenses and profitability. She started harvesting and selling her excess produce in May 2015. Her average monthly sales come to around $40 with spikes in August where she earned $67 and July at $45. 

She actively refers to her records to make informed decisions on garden planning, and says her farm records keep her motivated. The money she earns from her garden she uses to pay school fees and purchase necessary household items from the market. Jeremiah not only supports his wife’s efforts he praises them and is personally encouraged by them.

Together they have plans to expand the land they are using for vegetable cultivation. By reducing their sugar cane production, a crop with little-to-no nutritional value, high nutrient and water demands, and over 18 months to harvest, they hope to increase their space for vegetable gardening by 1-2 acres. They believe this shift will help them meet both their household nutritional needs and increase their income. 

“It’s not just about what goes in and comes out of the dirt that matters, although that is the basis of our work,” say DIG founder, Sarah Koch. “Sometimes what is most compelling is seeing a woman become a recognized leader in her family and community. Seeing her discover her potential and exercise her gifts to create real, lasting change in her life and the lives around her.”