A lot of things really troubled Simon Nguru, a few short months ago.
As a 40-year-old family man, he literally lived from hand to mouth, for a long time. He broke the sweat of his brow as a welder in his native Tetu, in Nyeri County, and spent whatever he made on his family, he rarely had anything more left. Sometimes he made nothing at all at the end of the day.
Simon was afraid that any form of financial emergency would throw him into a pit, the endless pit of poverty known by many around him. The poverty he had worked very hard at avoiding every day.
He saw poverty, a familiar face around him; that neighbour, that close relative, that old time friend, that struggling neighbour. It was a burden, a burden he knew very well.
Living in a society where men are considered providers and breadwinners, 52% of the men from Tetu, bore the brunt of the poverty, despair and alcoholism he saw and was afraid of.
He thought about how, as a self-employed man, he barely had enough. Most of his neighbours were doing a lot worse. They had all but given up hope, and resorted to third generation alcohol, to numb the pain, and possible, hide from the reality of how bad things really looked.
Tetu has a permanent residents population of slightly more than 80,000 people, by all means overpopulated. And where most of the people had not settled, the land had little use. Because of high soil acidity, little to no subsistence crops, let alone cash crops, can make it.
One day Simon lifted his eyes, the way a man lifts his eye up to the heavens, in search of answers, in need of help. And then he saw a bee fly. An then it dawned on him.
‘If farming on the grounds they called their inheritance had proved to be hard over the years, what if we take it up, literally?’
He did some researching and coupled with the little knowledge in bee farming considered the viability of putting up beehives as a source of employment and livelihood not just for him but for his area. Somehow, he was convinced it could really work. But with meagre resources from his welding business and the financial situation of the region, it felt like it really was going to be much harder and take a longer time to realize the dream. He would need a lot more help if the dream were to be realized. He kept the dream simmering in the back banner.
That was until he saw the Safaricom Ndoto Zetu Wish Fulfillment call for proposals when he felt, this could be a window of opportunity, a chance of a lifetime. He filled in and submitted the application form. Then he continued living life as he knew it, but still hopeful that something would come out of it. If not from the application he made, maybe from the resilience of this big dream.
Soon, however, the Ndoto Zetu team reached out to Simon. Together they mobilized the community for the common purpose of restoring dignity to as many Tetu families as possible, by providing a source of livelihood and meaningful vocation for them.
With an initial injection of Kes. 200,000.00 into the project, Ndoto Zetu Wish Fulfillment has been able to construct 20 beehives and mounted them. The 20 Bee Hives will initially be able to support 10 households, and will further provide opportunities for local farmers to observe and engage on their own as well as greater partnerships.
The community has been trained on beekeeping and what would be needed to make it a long-term poverty-eradicating project.
The project has brought hope back into families, strengthened the community as well as putting a sweet taste in the lives of the men who had to contend with the bitter taste of alcohol, a short while ago.
Only 20 per cent of honey needs are met in Kenya, giving the Tetu beekeeping farmers a stake in a needy, and now growing the industry. Dowry negotiations immediately in the Tetu locality will receive a sweet boost in the arm from the Tetu Bee Farmers. But the greater Kenyan society is set to benefit too, both from honey, and it’s medicinal byproducts.
And now, from the place that gave Kenya the Shujaa Dedan Kimathi, and the Shujaa Professor Wangari Maathai, Simon Nguru rises up as a hero who is not wearing a cap, but a heart of gold and compassion.
Paul Otieno is a Creative Director and Storyteller in Creative Writing, Photography and Film. He and his partner, have 3 girls, a 4-year-old and her two years old twin sisters. He says he is the Father of the Dragons. You can find him on all social media platforms as @Paushinski or find him on his blog, www.paushinski.co.ke