The colorfulness of their beads and clothing is what welcomes you to Natoot farm. The women are always smiling and so welcoming. If you are new, you get welcomed with songs and a Masai Shuka (an “African blanket” that protects you from the weather and other elements).
Clothed in our newly gifted clothes, we danced to Masai songs for half a kilometer before reaching our destination.
It was scorching hot, but what followed next made it worth it. After a few kilometers of bare, dry sand and the scorching sun, it was a relief to see so much green. To say that I was amazed by Natoot farm is an understatement; I was rocked to the core. In such a dry area, we were served papaya fresh from the garden and, we enjoyed all this surrounded by lush green vegetation. Who would believe this could happen in dry Lodwar county?
Coming from Uganda, where it is always green, I have taken for granted that food can be grown almost anywhere.
The story of the Natoot farm took me by surprise because it is like a literal oasis in the middle of a desert—a green patch that is giving hope and joy to so many women.
Most of the women on the farm have very challenging and sad stories of luck and loss.
Some have lost their husbands, who were the providers, and have consequently become the head of the family. Others have been abandoned by husbands who have taken on another wife. But their resilience shows how much they are willing to make it work at the farm. They provide for their families and educate their children.
If I had not heard the story of how the water pump got to the farm, I would still take it for granted.
But in a casual conversation, Dotun (the Bright Hope country director in Kenya) gave me such a descriptive story of how much he suffered carrying the water pump all the way from the U.S. to the airport and eventually to Natoot. Through this entire journey, the man had a very serious fever. When I asked why he did what he did, his answer was simple:
“My first time in Turkana was during a drought and famine. I saw that despite all the food we distributed, the need was too big to satisfy. Working with the local church there to establish a farm was the only thing close to sustainable that I could think of…”
Indeed, the farm is doing wonders to sustain lives in Turkana.
Everyone you sit down to talk to has their own story to tell. The biggest driving force is the unity the farm has created among the women; it would be right to say that they are their sister’s keepers. One of them, Elizabeth, had four lines allocated to her to grow food. But because her neighbor was suffering and Elizabeth could not afford to always give her handouts, she surrendered part of her plot to the neighbor, who is now happily growing her own food. Sustainability is what they are all aiming for.
As I interacted with many, I came to grips with the reality that to create an environment where hope for eternity is guaranteed, we must guarantee hope for tomorrow first.
Women testified that before the farm, they had no time to sit and listen to the Word or even go to church, as they were always occupied with the troubles of finding the next meal for their family. Instead, they spent time making fencing mats out of palm leaves for sale; others went looking for trees to cut and burn charcoal.
However, with all their work planned at the farm, women can spare time for the word and church. Under the guidance of a local pastor, they have now started groups through which they share the word and advise each other on how to cater to their families and how to parent their children. I know I will be returning to Natoot soon, hungry for more. It is a place that has caused me to review my life and see whether, with all my privileges, I have given much thought to my Hope for eternity.
Read more by Julius Caeser:
Read more about the exciting transformation taking place at the Natoot farm!