The small garden occupying about an eighth of an acre is a beautiful sight to look at. On one side of the garden are neat rows of cabbages planted next to a bumper crop of beans inter-planted with maize.
One can tell that the maize was planted recently because at the extreme end of the garden is a more mature crop a few months to harvesting. The fact that there is not a single weed in sight is not what amazes all who come to see Mary’s garden but rather that despite her blindness, she has been able to achieve so much.
Mary is a member of Kamburu Disabled Persons Self-Help Group that seeks to help persons with disabilities improve their lives. For Mary, being blind has not meant the end of the world – if anything; she is now the true embodiment of the adage that disability is truly not inability. “We have come from far,” explains Samuel Mbatia, chair of the group. “We started way back in 2005 as an informal group attempting to bring together people who are visually and physically challenged to see if we can make headway in lifting ourselves out of poverty.” In 2006 the group was registered and to-date has twenty members, three of who are men and the rest women.
The Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) came later and has since then been supporting the group identify and implement small-scale enterprises. “We always wanted to expand the range of activities we were involved in and so when ICE came in, they gave us ideas that looked promising and workable.” One of them was the establishment of a tree nursery of indigenous trees. “We approached our area chief to help us with a piece of land to start-off this idea and he agreed.” This was back in 2007 on a piece of land less than an eighth of an acre. Today the group owns a nursery established on more than a quarter of an acre with seedlings including food crops and fruit trees.
It has now become a demonstration garden where neighbours and people from afar come to learn how to revitalise their soils through ecological farming; revival of indigenous seeds and the knowledge about them and tree planting. “During the month of October, we sold more than seven thousand seedlings,” says Mbatia. Mbatia is very optimistic that the path his group has taken will lead them to greater heights of achievement. Together, and in a small but significant way, they are helping to remove the stigma associated with disability. That they too can be important in nation building is indeed in no doubt.