Esther is an entrepreneur.
For many years, despite the countless hours she worked on her farm, Esther rarely had a fruitful harvest. “We always struggled and had to find extra money to buy extra food or things like salt,” she shared. “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 Esther and her family depend on is not exactly “ideal” real estate. Her small farm plot – less than one acre – runs along the side of the hill, squeezed between a road on one side and a gully on the other side. Her home is on 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 Esther and her husband. In just two years, their lives have completely changed.
In 2015 World Renew, with matching funds from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, began training farmers in Esther’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, Esther was skeptical. Even though their crop wasn’t hugely successful, they had managed to make ends meet. Trying this new approach to farming meant potentially risking everything.
Like many of her neighbors, Esther 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 where we visited a farm that was using conservation agriculture. When I saw how it was done, I realized it was simple. Even without money, we can do this. And over time this would be even less expensive than the way we are currently farming.”
After such an encouraging and inspirational visit, Esther began practicing conservation agriculture on her own farm. Before she adapted these new techniques, she would usually harvest about 16 kilograms of maize (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, Esther now harvests 450 kilograms of maize and 135 kilograms of beans. She is using the extra profits to begin a new business.
“Now, I sell produce to other farmers. I sold maize and bought 16 chicks,” she shared.
Some of the maize Esther grows is ground-up and feeds her chickens. By feeding the chickens with her own feed, she saves even more money. She 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 when she decided to take a risk and try conservation agriculture. In just a few short years, life has completely changed for Esther and her husband. “It is less of a burden to get food. I used to worry, but I don’t worry anymore.” Today they work closely with each other on the farm and celebrate this transformation together. And as they experience this change, they have encouraged their neighbors to try conservation agriculture as well.
Esther is grateful to 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.”