Augustine Nzai Kavoi is a 38-year-old farmer who has overcome the barriers of poverty to find success through irrigated farming, by utilizing water from the Kyamuisu sand dam project. Kavoi is now considered a role model in his community and has been hosting a number of farmers, development agencies, and even government officials on his farm, which he hopes to later turn into a demonstration farm.

Augustine Nzai Kavoi, a father and farmer, is an incredibly optimistic man.

When our partners, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), went to meet him on his farm, he was busy clearing a piece of his land for further crop planting. His vegetable seedlings were ready for transplanting and the rains were coming. Time is of the essence as he needs to beat the onset of the rains. It is the best way to shield his fragile seedlings from mildew and other fungal diseases that thrive in the warm and humid weather of the rainy season.

Life had not always been this way for Kavoi. When he graduated from university a few years previously, he had very different dreams. He had plans to get himself a job in the city, get married, and start a family there. But that was not to be. After years of job hunting, he found himself in a far-off land of Kimama, in the interiors of Kajiado County, doing menial jobs and struggling to survive. Though he was glad to find a means of putting food on the table, he says he was not a happy man.

"I never had imagined myself as a farm hand. Not with a university diploma to my name" he explains.

Feeling unfulfilled with the prospects this life offered, the then 35-year-old chose to take another shot at job searching. But having not saved much from his previous job, his stay in the city was unfortunately brief. So, the dejected father of one travelled back home with the hopes of somehow making it in the village.

Augustine Kavoi on his farm - Southeast Kenya“I came home with no idea how life would turn out. But as though God was waiting for me to arrive, the miracle of the sand dam happened.”

Augustine Nzai Kavoi, Kyamuisu self-help group member, southeast Kenya.

Kavoi explains that life would have been incredibly difficult were it not for the irrigated farming which is now his main source of livelihood.

“My whole life depends on this piece of land and the water from the sand dam. It is here that I grow my entire livelihood, as rainfall is often erratic and undependable. I really thank God for this sand dam" he continues, explaining that through his farming, he has not only broken free from poverty but also found respect and self-actualization. (To hear from some Excellent volunteers about the experience of working on this dam, click here)

"Right now, I am not just the nobody I considered myself to be a few years back. I have the respect of the local people, as well as government officials. Indeed, I have been hosting quite a number of visits from near and far, by people who come to learn more about the potential of irrigated farming and the hope that sand dams are bringing to the dry land communities" Kavoi adds. He has even established a vegetable nursery nearby with seeds gifted to him by the ministry of agriculture, as a token of appreciation for allowing them to visit his farm and learn from him.

When asked whether he desires to find formal employment as before, Kavoi laughs it off hysterically. "Right now employment is not something that crosses my mind. As you can see, I just harvested tomatoes that gave me a profit of about 200,000 Kenyan Shillings (KSH) from this small piece of land. I also had green maize that I grew by irrigation and other vegetables. In total, I made about 300,000 KSH, provided employment for five young men, and had more than enough food for my family. Indeed, we forgot about hunger and poverty. We now have enough to eat ourselves and donate to the needy. Last week, for instance, I donated four 90kg bags of maize which I had grown through irrigated farming."

"I am proud to be a farmer and a role model. I'm also in great doubt that I would ever find a job that would pay me the kind of money that I am making, whilst also allowing me to be a source of help and inspiration to my community."

Augustine Nzai Kavoi, Kyamuisu self-help group member, southeast Kenya.

Kavoi shares that his dream is now to turn his home into a model farm and later to go into the agrochemicals business. (To hear more about how the Kyamuisu sand dam is helping communities plan their futures, click here)

"Since I already have training and experience in agriculture, an agrochemicals shop will be a good fit for my retirement plan. I will also have earned respect for both my crops and livestock keeping, as even now I have ventured into improved dairy animal farming” he concludes.

When asked what his greatest source of satisfaction is, Kavoi says that he is happy to know that his young daughter, Agatha Mueni, will not have to worry about a lack of food or water. "I know she will have a good life, and that means everything to me".

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