Philippa Wills, Innovation Project Manager at innocent drinks, recently visited some of our projects in Kenya as part of the innocent foundation Scholarship. In addition to visiting Send a Cow projects, Philippa also carried out an exciting research project to look at the success and best practices of banana farmers in Western Kenya.

I recently visited a Send a Cow project in Kagamega Country, western Kenya. This is supported by innocent drinks, which gives 10% of its profits to the innocent foundation to help fund charity partners working in sustainable agricultural projects.

Kagamega was very much off the beaten track, which meant there were few tourists and just local Kenyans living their lives, with most earning a living through farming. The only signs of Western influence were a few football shirts that seemed to be the uniform of every man or child I came across.

One of the first farmers I had the pleasure of meeting was Angelica, a widow with two young sons under ten years old, Bakewell and Emman. She told me that after her husband had died, she was left with nothing and felt hopeless.

Philippa with Angelica and family

Luckily she’d heard about 21 families that Send a Cow was working with in the Aveccha Nyuma group. Once Angelica joined, she learnt how to grow nutritious vegetables and how to manage livestock. After a year of training and preparation, Angelica finally received her very own cow. Now she is able to feed her children vegetables every day and the money she gets from selling excess vegetables and cow milk means she can send her children to school.

What struck me most about Send a Cow’s work is that it covers every aspect of community life. As well as training people to manage their farms, they also provide support on nutrition, hygiene, family planning and gender issues. The people I met wanted more than just a monetary donation - they really wanted to educate themselves across a broad range of disciplines and help each other develop their knowledge.

This is encouraged by Send a Cow’s wonderful ‘pass-it-on principle’ where each farmer agrees to pass on the first female offspring of whatever animal they receive to another farmer. This helps to keep each project sustainable and means knowledge and livestock can reach more communities over time.

Agnus Oloo

I later met some women from the Opendo 3 group (Mother Group) who had provided the Aveccha Nyuma group with their first cows. Mary Were was a member of the Opendo 3 group and also a widow. When her husband died she had nowhere to live and no money.

After months of training she was given a cow that produced up to 20 litres of milk a day. She used half of the money from milk sales to feed her family, while the other half was saved. Over some time, she managed to save enough money to start up her own farm shop. It was so successful she has now opened a second. Mary said that her life has been transformed.

All of the farmers I met had very little of the things we would take for granted in the UK; no running water, no electricity, and in most cases, they lived with their families in small mud huts. Despite having little in the materialistic sense, the farmers have become richer in community spirit and self-worth thanks to Send a Cow’s support.

Angelica and family

What I found particularly extraordinary was the amount parents would sacrifice to send their children to school and ensure a better future for them. One lady I met, Jamela Ramadan, earned 900 dollars a year and she spent 600 of this educating her eldest son.

It was a real privilege to go out to Kagamega County to see first-hand the work that Send a Cow are doing. It is clear that the support they provide is really targeted at the poorest people in the community who have a tremendous desire and determination to improve their family’s livelihoods by working together, and it is clear that this help is really transforming their lives in a very positive way.