Benter is a 35-year-old woman living in Luanda Village, Kisumu, Kenya. She dropped out of school after reaching level seven of primary school. Her husband died in 1999 after suffering a long illness.
Six years later, Benter became deathly ill. During an admission at the New Nyanza Provincial hospital she was tested for HIV and found to be positive. The future looked bleak for her, a single mother of 6 children: the oldest 18, the youngest only 4, and no visible source of income to speak of. She was shunned by her community; her and her children bore their insults. Her in-laws were cruel to her and threatened to evict her, she lived in abject poverty, and felt totally alone, an outcast because of having HIV.
In 2006 she joined the HIV program at FACES Lumumba in Kisumu. Soon after she enrolled at the clinic, she also became a part of the support group, where she met regularly with other HIV infected people. She was lucky to meet Joseph … they are now a couple.
In March 2007, she and Joseph joined the Shamba Maisha program. Shamba Maisha means “Farm Life” in Swahili. It is an agricultural income-generating program available for Lumumba Patient Support Group members with access to land and a water source. The main goal of the Shamba Maisha program is to enable FACES patients to grow crops for food and sale, thus improving both their nutrition and their economic status. Micro-irrigation hip pumps are provided by Kickstart, one of the company’s innovative technologies. The hip pumps greatly contribute to the success and yield of farming activities.
Benter has taken the lead with the Shamb Maisha program at home, doing nearly all the work when Joseph is at work. Things changed tremendously after Shamba Maisha started; it was a great relief to her and the children. Before, they did not have a single vegetable planted at home. Now they have plenty.
Shamba Maisha helped her overcome stress and helped her re-gain her social status in the community. She now interacts with neighbors who used to shun her. Community members, including former adversaries, are slowly coming back to her. They marvel at how blessed she is due to this pump! Her family eats healthier and she can afford school fees for her younger children, who couldn’t attend school before due to the costs.
Nowadays she can even afford to pay for transport to the FACES clinic; previously she painstakingly walked several hours to get there.
After realizing the garden was the only source of livelihood they could depend on, three of her children started their own gardens. One of them has written a sketch story about how the project has relieved them.
Benter’s plot of land is along the roadside and has attracted people passing by. Many stop, ask questions, and learn from her. Benter is very appreciative of Shamba Maisha – it has brought hope to her life. Her farm has indeed given her a new lease on life.