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Photo: Phillip Maher, World Renew
Photo by Phillip Maher, World Renew

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Photo: Phillip Maher, World Renew
Esther Kaari has improved her livelihood through conservation farming.
Photo by Phillip Maher, World Renew

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Photo: Phillip Maher, World Renew
Photo by Phillip Maher, World Renew

Esther Kaari is an entrepreneur.

For many years, despite the countless hours she worked on her farm in Kenya, Kaari rarely had a fruitful harvest.

“We always struggled and had to find extra money to buy extra food or things like salt,” she said. “I usually harvested very little. Our land is stony and sandy, located on a steep hill. It refuses to seed well, and the topsoil runs down the hill.”

The land that Kaari and her family depend on is not exactly “ideal” real estate. Her small farm plot – less than one acre – runs along the side of a hill, squeezed between a road on one side and a gully on the other side.

Her home is at the top of the hill, looking down on the dirt road, farmland, and gully. A river meanders alongside the road. Sometimes hippos swimming in the river will venture out of the water and eat nearby crops.

Yet this small, unspectacular piece of land has been transformational for Kaari and her husband. In just two years, their lives have completely changed.

It started when World Renew received matching funds from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a unique partnership of 15 Canadian member churches and church agencies who share a commitment to fighting hunger, to work in Kaari’s community.

Through this partnership, in 2015 World Renew began training farmers in Kaari’s community about conservation agriculture – an approach to farming that focuses on improving soil quality and keeping as much moisture in the soil as possible.

At first, Kaari was skeptical. Even though her crop wasn’t hugely successful, her family had managed to make ends meet. Trying this new approach to farming meant potentially risking everything.

Like many of her neighbors, Kaari eagerly watched the first few farmers begin to use conservation agriculture.

“When I heard about the way the project helped farmers, I became interested,” she said. “I participated in an exposure visit to a farm that was using conservation agriculture. When I saw how it was done, I realized it was simple. Even without money, we could do this. And over time this would be even less expensive than the way we were currently farming.”

After such an encouraging and inspirational visit, Kaari began practicing conservation agriculture on her own farm.

Before she began using the new techniques, she would usually harvest about 16 kilograms of maize per season on her land. To put this in perspective, maize farms in the province of Ontario average a yield of 160 bushels per acre – over 4,000 kilograms.

Just three seasons after she began practicing conservation agriculture, Kaari now harvests 450 kilograms of maize and 135 kilograms of beans on the same plot of land.

She is using her extra profits to begin a new business.

“Now, I sell produce to other farmers. I sold maize and bought 16 chicks,” she said.

Some of the maize Kaari grows is ground up into feed for her chickens. By feeding the chickens with her own homegrown feed, she saves even more money.

Kaari recently bought 19 more chicks to produce eggs. The added income has allowed her to begin working on a new home, and she has many other ideas of how to continue to grow her business.

It all started with churches in Canada contributing to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and with Kaari deciding to take a risk to try conservation agriculture.

As a result, in just a few short years, life has completely changed for Kaari and her husband.

“It is less of a burden to get food. I used to worry, but I don’t worry anymore,” she said.

Today Kaari and her husband work closely with each other on the farm and celebrate this transformation together. They have also encouraged their neighbors to try conservation agriculture.        

Kaari is grateful to all those who have helped hundreds of farmers in her community. “God bless you for improving my life. I will leave my farm to my daughters and son. It is more productive than ever before. I thank you for helping us.”

This is just one of many success stories that have resulted over 35 years of partnership between World Renew and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

In 2018 alone, over 425,000 people, such as Kaari, benefited from this partnership.

On March 3, Christian Reformed churches across Canada will have the opportunity to celebrate this partnership and support it with an offering on Canadian Foodgrains Bank Sunday. To learn more, visit worldrenew.net.