Benson Maira was faced with a problem.  And as a subsistence farmer in Zambia, his resources for a solution were limited.  He grew just enough to feed his family.  Every so often, he’d take some of what little they had down to the market.  It was flooded with other families trying to do the same, making the prices of the produce dismal.  This was in deep contrast to the dry season, when farmers couldn’t rely on the rain for food production, and the food supply was next to nothing.  

Food production is seasonal in most of Africa, but the community’s need for it is constant - driving down prices for farmers during the rainy season, and putting produce in rare supply during the dry season.

For Benson, the seasonality of his crops was a brutal problem.  It made the dinner table for his family unstable and his income nearly non-existent. But how could he fix it? Control the rain?

His best fields lay on a slope uphill from the local stream, which made digging an irrigation system to his crops impossible - gravity wouldn’t allow it.  But to be in the 94% of African agriculture that is entirely dependent on the rain is self-defeating.

On one of his days down at the market, Benson came across a demonstration that would change the course of his life.  It was a simple device that made a world of difference: an irrigation pump.  With the pump alone, he’d be able gain stability in his crop production.

But that’s not all.

Behind the Pump

That demonstration in the market didn’t happen by chance.  Well, not entirely.  A few years ago, a happenstance meeting of two adventurous souls in Liberia, West Africa set in motion events that led Benson to that market.  The meeting may have been coincidence, but the work that followed was never left up to chance.

Becky Straw and Jody Launders founded The Adventure Project, with a focus on creating sustainable jobs and economies in developing nations.  In economic empowerment lied the key to lifting communities from poverty to prosperity.  

“We give people the tools, education and resources to become an entrepreneur, so they can serve their own communities with improved health, decreased hunger, a safer environment and clean water.”

They’ve focused their efforts in a number of areas, spanning from well mechanics to health care professionals.  But what brought Benson to the market that day was their work in farming.  Partnering with Kickstart International, they’ve subsidized a product and program that turns the lives of Kenyan farmers around.  And for farmers who once started as subsistence farmers as Benson did, this is a path to becoming a profitable entrepreneur - selling produce to an average of 77 community members, effectively lifting themselves from poverty to middle class in a single harvest. Food on the table is no longer an issue.  The kids can go to school.  Not with a handout, but a carefully crafted system to bring sustainable economic growth to the region.

At the Market

Back at the market, Benson learned of the power of these irrigation pumps - turning his best fields into his most profitable ones.  This was the beginning of a life-changing journey for him.  For his family.  As he looked around to the others that had gathered, he recognized his life wasn’t the only one that was about to take a drastic turn for the better.

In a year, they’d be fully trained, equipped farmers - with an income 1,000% higher than what was in their pockets that day.  They stood there in, absorbing every ounce of information the demonstrator had in him.  

It was time to get to work.