In the plains of Juja in Kenya, the dry land and harsh terrain appear unsuitable for any farming until you stumble on the Rotary International-funded St Dominic’s Technical and Agriculture Training Institute (TATI), a project the Dominican sisters.
The road to Tati, as it is better known, is dusty and bumpy. But inside the walled fence, the Dominican Sisters have since 2013 rehabilitated the land – and with the help of Rotarians put a showcase institute which trains students on agricultural practices.
The unmistakable Rotary logo adorns the Eastern wing of the administrative block that overlooks the vegetable gardens and the cow sheds.
When it was mooted, the institute was to give AIDS orphans and former Child Soldiers a Chance to get training.
It was out of this dream that 5 Governors from Germany’s District 1950, from 2008 to 2013 made a joint decision to develop, provide the money and oversee a vocational training centre.
“When the 62 Clubs of District 1950 came together, they approached our Club, Rotary Club of Thika, to give the local support which we gladly did,” says Rotary Club of Thika President Jennifer Wanjiru in District 9212.
Rotarians from Thika have made countless trips to inspect this project and see it stand on its own.
Besides the Rotary contribution, the project has also been funded with grants from the Ministry of Cooperation and Development of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Besides drilling a borehole that provides water to the institute and for irrigation, Rotary has also bought some pedigree cows for the institute.
“We sell the milk to the locals and some of it is consumed by the students. We plough back the profits to the institute,” the institute manager tells us during a visit.
With us is the Rotary District 9212 Stewardship chair Jane Otima who gives Rotarians piece of advise on how to manage the project effectively.
“You have to give them professional support at all times so that this project becomes a success,” she says exhibiting pride in the work done so far.
Besides the dairy cows, the institute also has dairy goats and cannot meet the demand of the locals who purchase all the milk.
“This one has a lot of potential,” says the manager.
Rotarian Sam Mwangi of Thika has been the contact person of the project and is glad with what the project has achieved so far.
“It has been a long walk with so many challenges. But we have triumphed over all those,” he says.
The poultry houses are also a show case for the rotary project. With more than 2000 birds in various cages, the Institute has become a distributor of eggs in the neighbourhood.
The newly rehabilitated fish ponds are teaming with tilapia and cat fish, the later put to keep the numbers of tilapia low.
In 8 months’ time, the fish from the 9 ponds will be mature for sale earning the institute money to supplement its income and continue to offer training.
We then hop to the vegetable garden where the crop is ready for harvest. In such a terrain, few could believe that such produce could come from the plains of Juja.
But it has. There are tomatoes too in the once barren field.
Besides agricultural courses, the students here learn tailoring and carpentry and by the time they leave, they all have a future.
And finally, it was all cheers for the Rotarians for a job well done.