It’s been what could be described as a very “Legs4Africa” journey; rattling along an uneven road in rural Kenya, trying to focus on the wobbling phone in front of me on which I’m trying to sort out customs clearance for a box of prosthetic legs in Benin. But eventually the car slows and I put down my phone in the hope that the box debacle can wait an hour while our host, Rev. Isaiah Muchoki, welcomes us into his home and community parish and plies us full of bread and butter, fresh eggs and tea.
The snacks and the peace of the rural, hilly location of Isaiah’s home are a welcome treat after a long and productive day of discussion between Legs4Africa and the executive board of Global Foundation; the organisation set up by Isaiah to provide emotional support and essential information to people with limb loss in his community in Meru County, Kenya, and the theme of the day – of the week, in fact – is bananas.
Banana plants are a common feature of the lush, verdant landscape of rural Meru, and at the back of Isaiah’s land – if you make it past the two committed guard geese – is a small forest of his own banana plantation, full of both old plants with gnarled roots and young seedlings ready to be replanted, sitting in dappled light from the rich canopy of long green leaves.
This domestic oasis is a demonstration of Global Foundation’s plan for income generation. Isaiah and his members are working on an agribusiness programme to grow and sell bananas, with many of the profits aiming to fund Global Foundation’s other activities, such as providing essential peer counselling and information services to people with limb loss.
Though Kenya is well known for its coffee and tea production – the rolling hills of plantations add to the beauty of the landscape surrounding Mount Kenya – theft by cartels and corruption are leaving Kenya’s small scale farmers vulnerable, exploited, and unable to reap the full rewards of the globally sought-after fruits of their labours. But the team at Global Foundation are confident that banana farming is, for now, safe from these threats and free of cartels looking to exploit farmers. Thanks to the vigilance of local laws against theft, it’s not worth the price of being caught.
Banana farming is also a rewarding venture, with fast growing plants and regular yields, and a booming market in Meru driven by customers from surrounding areas such as Nairobi and Kisumu: the largest and third largest, respectively, cities in Kenya. The nearby market does a bustling trade in bananas from these visitors, with many even driving around the area looking for a banana plantation with which they can do some business.
It’s encouraging to hear the simplicity of this plan which will bear fruit, literally, in just 14 months, and to hear from Global Foundation’s members – most of whom have a disability and will be conducting the farming themselves – the impact that this venture will have on livelihoods and wellbeing, and the longevity and scope of Global Foundation’s essential work. And with a realistic outlook on the empty promises made by self-serving government officials, this group knows that they are their own best chance to lift each other up and show those with limb loss hiding away in their homes that there is life and hope after amputation.