Providing a Lifeline
Jennifer and her husband married in 1985; at the time her mother-in-law was recently widowed and the family was extremely poor, relying primarily on subsistent farming activities on the family property. As her husband was unemployed, Jennifer worked hard on the farm to earn enough cash to cover school fees for her husband’s siblings. After their second son was born, her husband enrolled in college but they still struggled. At the time Jennifer’s only water source was walking to a nearby river several km away and carrying it back in 20-liter jerry cans. One day she slipped on the mud and broke her leg, she prayed that God would help her. Soon after she was able to purchase a small water drum to collect and carry water to her home. The family struggled through the birth of her five children and Jennifer had to work several basic jobs and work long hours for their survival. Two of her children are now college professors; three sons are married and reside on Jennifer’s land.
In 2009 Jennifer and several women launched a women’s group to plant trees in partnership with the Permaculture Research Institute - Kenya. In 2013, Jennifer heard about Path From Poverty and was referred to the Kisau Cluster leader, Susan Musyoka, where she learned about income generating activities and micro-savings. Jennifer now has two rainwater catchment tanks (one tank for herself and one for her daughters-in-law) and a solar panel on her property.
The Twone Mbee Group has 20 members with Jennifer as its Chairwoman. All group members have at least one water tank and are now either working towards a second tank or solar panel. Water tanks are distributed to members based on need: The first five water tanks were assigned to five widows in the group; the next five to impoverished families. Ten members currently have solar panels. Kisau Cluster members collectively decided to plant at least 200 trees, selling saplings for profit. The women also make sisal ropes and weave colorful baskets for sale at the market.
Jennifer is immensely grateful to Path From Poverty and its supporters – she credits the organization with the group’s ability to succeed and told us it has brought the whole community together. Women with catchment tanks assist non-member women by giving them unrestricted access to their clean water; they also offer solar energy to non-member women for charging cell phones, which are now a lifeline in rural Kenya.