Justus Mutua says many people suffer from what he calls “poverty mentally sickness”; that is they say, “ I am poor, my family has always been poor, I will always be poor, and there is nothing I can do about it”. Justus says I say “No!”. Justus says with a smile on his face, “it is my hope to inspire people before they expire.” Justus’ demonstration farm with drip irrigated raised planting beds, rainwater harvesting system, rabbits, laying hens, and milk goats shows people what they can do to improve their situation. With his community development training along with assistance from Healing Hands International and Caring for Kenya Justus “helps people help themselves”. He teaches individual farmers and groups composting, raised planting bed construction with a compost trench in the middle, drip irrigation, and mulching. Justus relates that where people use this training for dry season farming it is like an oasis in the desert. In a recent 3 day food security workshop hosted by Justus with the help of Healing Hands Agriculture staff members Carl Burkybile and Ebenezer Udofia 75 farmers were taught this new way of farming. Farmers who learn and use these techniques often say “this has changed the way I farm and I will not go back”.
What is taught must be simple, affordable, and sustainable. We teach farmers to evaluate their available resources and to use what they have. For example, instead of buying and using commercial fertilizer they use animal manure, vegetation, and kitchen scraps to make compost that provides both nutrients and organic matter to the planting bed. When farmers complete the training, make a compost pile, and construct a raised planting bed, a free drip irrigation kit id provided. One drip kit will provide two drip lines for a 50 foot long planting bed allowing the farmer to grow 100 plants. With 5 gallons of water in the morning and evening enough vegetables can be raised to feed a family of 5 during the dry season.
In addition to working with individual farmers, Justus has formed several self-help cooperative groups. They range from milk goat coops, rabbit raising coops, and farming coops to soap making and sewing. Through mini-loans and mini-grants these groups are able to start up small businesses to better provide for their family. In the goat coop, Justus Mutua and Ebenezer Udofia provided goat raising instruction prior to purchasing the goats. The first generation bred females are expected to be given to new coop members. In rabbit raising, people first join the rabbit raising group, learn how to raise rabbits, and build their own rabbit cage; then they are given a bred rabbit. The new 12 member ladies farming coop first received training and then planted two raised beds of onions. With the help of Healing Hands International’s $250 they received a donkey to carry water, a water storage tank, hand tools (shovels, grubbing hoes, rakes, water cans, and a wheel barrow) and two drip tape. Their plan is to add 10 to 20 more raised planting beds with drip irrigation. The soap making group raises aloe vera plants for use in their soap making. The foot pump and the water tank provided helps the ladies get water to the planting area and has allowed them to expand their production. The purchase of treadle type sewing machines has helped three sewing coops making school uniforms and other clothes for sale. Startup businesses such as produce stands, fabric businesses, and an electronics stores have given others the boost they needed to provide for their family.
In Justus’ community development training he says he has learned that people need to be led not managed. He graduated from Nairobi Great Commission School and the Dorcas International Theological College Community Development program. He says his long range plan is to help people become food secure and provide for the needs of their family. Justus says, “the level of success in our life, whether ministry or business, will depend on the kind of planning we do. For sure a life without a plan is a life out of control. To be sure, it is like a car without a steering wheel. That means you cannot make it go where you want it to go. A person who does not know or is unsure of where he/she is going will wander back and forth, making no progress even on a straight road. So my point is that I have a plan and a vision for helping people help themselves. Justus tells people that just having some idea of what you want to do does not make it a goal. “It becomes a goal when you sit down, think it through, write it down, make a plan on how to achieve it, count the cost, and then set out to work the plan.” Psalms 127:1 says, unless the Lord builds the house, it’s builders labor in vain; unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stands guard in vain. “This means that when we separate God from our goals and dreams, we fail and miss the meaning of life.”
As we look to the future, Justus also emphasizes the importance of helping young people get an education including life skills and vocational training. Lack of education is a factor for many people who feel they are trapped in poverty. The annual income of a poor family may be less than the cost of sending one of their children to secondary school. Justus is planning to conduct food security workshops for secondary school agriculture teachers. Training the teachers will allow them to pass the training on to their students. Food and water are basic. As we work to help people have access to clean water and increase their ability to produce their own food, we will see a change in their attitude and help them move away from “poverty mentally sickness”.
3508 UNIVERSITY AVENUE, URBANA, IL 61802