Category: Sustainable Ag

A Man and His Fish

September 29, 2016 by Angela Vincent


You’ve heard the story of the man and the fish: you can either give him food or teach him how to catch it. One is a temporary fix. The other has long-lasting effects. A short walk from one of our Children’s Homes we have a farm. On this 20-acre piece of land, we have a three-acre banana plantation, a five-acre timber forest, six acres of grazing for cattle and sheep, an acre of fishponds, and another five acres of food production. From this farm, not only will we be able to source food to the Children’s Home, but we will also generate profits to help locally sustain the ministry efforts.

The farm itself is already acting an agri-business model for the region. Farmers visit to learn what we are doing and how we have both designed and strategized the farm. The local community itself is greatly benefiting from our efforts as villagers are observing and slowly implementing our techniques and approaches to diversified production and income schedules. The 14 full time workers are not only learning new skills and gaining valuable experience, but our weekly Bible studies and discipleship meetings are equipping them with the living Gospel that will impact and bless their families.

The story of two of these workers is particularly encouraging. Before joining us, they spent their days looking for local and unskilled labor, earning just enough to get drunk off cheap malt liquor every evening. They were a frustration to their families and a black eye to the community. We invited them to work at the farm as casual day laborers knowing they would work hard to make their earnings.

In the beginning, they continued to drink. As much as we did not like it, it never affected their job performance. But after three to four months of working every day, listening to the weekly Bible studies and participating in discipleship meetings, their parents visited the farm. They asked our manager, Isaac, what we were doing to their boys. They described the transformation they have seen—instead of drinking and creating problems, the boys wake up early, go to work, return home in the evenings, take showers, eat dinner, and go to bed. They are too tired for anything else, even drinking. In fact, each week they leave money on the table to assist with school fees for their younger siblings.

These young men are becoming upstanding family and community members. And just like the man with the fish, we have equipped these young men with knowledge, skills, and a deeper application of the Word of God, creating long lasting effects.

It’s through your support and partnership that communities and homes are experiencing these transformations. Thank you for working alongside us as we seek to empower lives!

Jim Caya
Director of International Implementation 
Empowering Lives International

Reaching Farmers in Rwanda

December 21, 2015 by Diana Coombs

Text and photos by Isaac Ruto, ELI Kenya staff

01 - Enock during visit with dairy goat farmer who went from 1 to 3 goats in a year

Enock Bizimana and Joan Louise are Extension Training coordinators in Rwanda. They completed their training on sustainable agriculture and community development In Kenya under Empowering Lives’ International Extension Training program in July of this year.

01 - Training farmers in Rwanda

The two coordinators have been training local farmers in Rwanda on sustainable agriculture, local chickens, dairy goats, dairy cows, kitchen gardens, ELITE grain storage bags (a chemical-free way of storing and protecting grains from pests), pig keeping, coffee farming and climbing beans. They have trained 37 pastors and 27 government officers for three months on sustainable agriculture.

Through ELI’s Extension Training program, we have been able train over 300 farmers to date in Rwanda. A one-year training program on sustainable agriculture is already underway there and will go through July 2016.

Depth to Breadth: Learning and Lifting Others Up

September 18, 2015 by Diana Coombs

SACDP Raphael

Photo and text by Dan Masengeli, ELI Kenya

Raphael Ovesi is a former student of Empowering Lives’ Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Program (SACDP) from 2011 to 2012. He comes from a family of eight siblings, plus his father and mother. He came to know the Kipkaren River Training and Development Center through his sister Lilian, also a former SACDP student of class 2010 to 2011, who spoke to him about how someone is empowered socially, religiously and economically if he joins the institution.

In 2011, he joined the institution as one of the students. From the beginning, he displayed the qualities of working hard both in class and in the field. Against this backdrop of empowerment and success at the institution, it was amazing to discover how he used to raise fees to fund his education to ease the burden from his parents, who were educating his younger siblings. Raphael decided to help shoulder the burden of school fees by doing manual jobs like weeding people’s farms; harvesting and shelling maize; and feeding people’s livestock during school holidays. Despite the challenge of fees, he managed to graduate from SACDP in 2012.

He continued to believe in God, whom he came to know here at the Training Center, and was blessed with a job at Nebert Ventures in Kipkaren as a farm manager. Upon visiting him on the farm, I discovered that he was in charge of crop and vegetable production and marketing. With the gifting of being a good mobilizer and a skilled farmer, he has managed to attract customers from the surrounding local community, schools and nearby market. On average, he supplies a total of 200 kilograms of vegetables a week with 10 different customers visiting the farm every day, each making an order of between 50 to 100 Kenyan shillings (approximately 48 to 95 cents). This translates into enormous economic transformation for both the company and himself. This economic transformation is seen through him where he is supporting his young brother by paying fees for Kisii University in Eldoret, where his young brother is pursuing a degree in education.

Also from the little savings from his monthly salary of 8,000 Kenyan shillings ($76.11), he has managed to start a mini bakery to make mandazi (doughnuts) with the knowledge acquired from the center taught by the late Theresa Ngetich Bett. The business is at infant stage but doing well in the nearby Kipkaren market. He has employed three youths to assist with the production process, and he believes one day, he is going to have a full time bakery as well as be able to go back to school to further his education.

Raphael said, “God had a purpose of placing me in the hands of training center, which transformed my life and made me believe in myself.”

Bringing Change to the Kerio Valley

June 13, 2015 by Diana Coombs

Chep - booths

Last week, Empowering Lives International participated in an agricultural fair in the Kerio Valley, Kenya. The event featured both nonprofit and government organizations—such as USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture—who have invested in the communities in the valley. Approximately 300 to 400 people (including students, community-based groups and farmer-based organizations) attended the event, which featured trainings, demonstrations, speakers and booths.

The event covered topics ranging from food security, environmental awareness and income generation—all of which are especially relevant for the Kerio Valley, where residents struggle with fruit crop loss, soil erosion, alcoholism and illicit brewing for income. It also served to encourage people to be lifelong learners and to implement best practices at their own farms.

Chep - Teimuge

ELI staff were on hand to share the vision of Empowering Lives and about current projects and ministries such as vetiver propagation, ELITE grain storage bags, life skills training and rehabilitation of alcoholics and brewers. One reformed alcoholic who went through ELI’s Kenya Anti-Alcohol program several years ago, Samuel, was also in attendance and shared his testimony of recovery.

Attendees were encouraged to see what efforts were being taken to offer help and transformation to the Kerio Valley. Empowering Lives has been highly active in this region of Kenya, facilitating the first steps for many people toward a life of self-sustainability and dignity through our outreaches and trainings.

Along the way, partnerships have been forged with other organizations and with the Kenyan government. A number of these connections have been made through ELI’s income generating activities with the sales and distribution of ELITE bags.

The bags garnered excitement for being a chemical-free solution to long-term grain storage. Many bags were sold at the event, while people also expressed intent to purchase later this year during harvest time and asked where they could purchase them locally. With a demo bag of clean maize from October 2014, attendees were able to see the value of storing their grains in ELITE bags—not only for healthier food for their own families, but also for saving to sell later at higher prices to earn more income.

The event provided a prime opportunity to create awareness about the ELITE bags, the uses for vetiver (soil erosion prevention, grass thatching, essential oils and feed for animals) and to communicate the work of ELI. We are excited to see what doors will open for our ministry in the Kerio Valley in the future.

David Lee, Professional Volunteer

March 31, 2014 by Diana Coombs
David with the SACDP students

David with the SACDP students

How do you explain something that you haven’t quite comprehended yet? How do you put into words something you can’t describe? How do you reflect on a place you’ve been to that is difficult to think about because you miss it?

A year in Kenya sounded like a long time before I left, but now that I’m back, it sure didn’t  feel very long. How often do you say to yourself, “Wow, where did the year go?” when New Year’s comes around? How often are you scrambling at the close of a year to think of some key moments that define the last 12 months that just flew by? Tell me, how easy is it for you? Well, that’s how I feel, and that’s the truth. (more…)

Special Message from Don Rogers

June 6, 2013 by Angela Vincent

Plant a tree – Empower the future

God has blessed us with a very important opportunity to change not only the environment in a community but to change the futures for needy and suffering lives here in East Africa.  Your care and investment in this project will help in so many ways. The timing is crucial because right now is the rainy season and the absolute best window for us to move into action.

Here is the Problem:  People depend on trees for their main fuel needs in the village.  All cooking is fueled by firewood or charcoal and all construction is done using trees as main posts for roofing, walls, and furniture. Trees are coming down but not being planted. The forests are being destroyed in massive numbers which is having a devastating effect on the environment, animals, weather patterns, and local village economy.  Along with this deforestation there is soil erosion – top soil being washed away which impacts peoples ability to grow food not to mention the dangers of mud slides that this past year killed over a dozen innocent families near the Kerio Valley.
As a growing organization that is reaching more and more people with the message of Christ and key ideas for breaking the cycle of poverty each year – we know that we can reach even MORE if we are able to become increasingly self sustaining financially within the countries where we serve here in Africa.

This project is important to help solve both of these challenges.

We are stepping in faith to plant just over 15,000 trees which in terms of ministry sustainability will bring a net income of over half a million dollars within 8 years from the trees alone.  Then there is the VETIVER GRASS that is being planted between the rows of trees, along the perimeter of the property, and on certain dedicated plots of land. There is the capacity of planting more than 30,000 plants that will multiply by 5,000 % within the first year (One seedling will multiply to become 50). The government and other environmental groups are now recognizing the importance of this special grass for controlling soil erosion (there is no other plant that does this better) and will be looking  to buy the seedlings.  ELI will be on the forefront in the nation in growing vetiver grass seedlings and the positive environmental impact is immeasurable with the added bonus of income from the sales which can reach

This income means that we will be able to reach more than 2,600 MORE families with life changing training every year – year after year or provide full care for more than 50 orphans annually.

The environmental impact is vital and important – The income potential is real and translates to be thousands of changed and empowered lives.

Your gift – given to this project will have a multiplying impact on needy lives and we are grateful for each dollar that is enough to plant and help sustain more than two trees or vetiver grass seedlings.

When Children Change the World- Water of Life Church and Fish Ponds in Tanzania

August 16, 2012 by Angela Vincent

Vicky and I at WOL.

In the Spring, I received an email from the Christian Education Coordinator at Water of Life Church in Fontana. She wanted to know of a project that the kids in the children’s ministry could be learning about and raising money for this summer. I shared with her the need to help fund one of our newest income generating projects, the fish ponds in Tanzania. The Tanzanian government has been a huge advocate in buying the fish that we cultivate in the ponds, which provides jobs for people in the community, and helps fund trainings for needy families in life giving skills!

Fast forward to this weekend, where I went and spoke to the children at Water of Life. (more…)

Summer Cultivate has Arrived

August 9, 2012 by Angela Vincent

Be sure to be on the lookout for our Summer Cultivate magazine. As usual, it’s full of good stories and photos. We’re excited to share it with you!

Church Empowerment

March 19, 2012 by admin

Members of Tebesonik AIC Church learn about double dug beds

On Saturday, March 17th a one day seminar was held at the KK Training Center for 19 farmers from Tebesonik AIC Church. This was a church had previously received some on-site training by SACDP teachers at their village in November and January. Today the farmers came to see and do practically what they had been taught earlier.

The visitors were divided into two groups. The men went to the shamba (farm) to learn how to make vertical gardens, apply double digging techniques,  and how to plant kale, cowpeas, spider plants, and tomatoes. The men also learned how to feed and care for dairy cows and how to construct a chicken house for local chickens and layers.

40,000 tree seedlings have been planted by this church member!

On previous visits Isaac Mwebei, SACDP Coordinator, visited farmers to teach them about starting tree nurseries. One of the farmers was so inspired that he began with energy; he now has 40,000 tree seedlings! At this training Isaac explained how to maintain the seedlings. The farmers learned horticulture of crops that are grown in the training center such as passion fruit, sweet pepper, and citrus.

As the men were going round, the women learned how to bake. Dorcas and the assistant teacher, Esther, taught the women how to make cakes, doughnuts and bread. This was successful and the women were very happy for they are able to do this by themselves now.

As an expression of the deepening relationship between ELI and the Tebesonik AIC church the visitors extended their love to the ELI Kipkaren Children’s Home by donating a bag of maize. To be empowered seems to always create a desire to empower others. We are thankful for the blessing of such visitors!

By Dorcas Rutto, ELI Kipkaren Training Center

Reaching Out to Communities

March 16, 2012 by admin

Every Friday the SACDP students leave the Kipkaren Training Center and go out into various villages to put their lessons into practice. As they near the completion of their second term of study, the students are eager to share the innovative agricultural practices they’ve learned with local farmers.
On March 16th, six teams from the training center ventured out with different tasks ahead of them. Read on for an idea of all the ways these students are impacting communities with practical skills and encouragement:

Mama Edna's students boil banana shoots before planting to prevent disease

Arusei’s Farm
Madam Edna and five students arrived to complete the banana planting they’d begun on a previous visit. Arusei appreciated the help they’ve given. “I’ve never seen banana suckers inserted in hot water before.” Placing banana suckers in hot water before planting destroys the nematodes that hinder banana production. This team also helped to plant a vegetable garden containing kale and cowpeas which will bring a nice income for Arusei in a few months.

The bee hive is almost ready to be hung among the forest trees

Mama Naomi Gets Bee Hives!

SACDP instructor Nashon and six students assisted Mama Naomi to construct three beehives. These were hung in a forested area where bees like to congregate. Mama Naomi was very thankful for this gift. In the past she has been unable to make changes on her farm because of expensive labor costs. Because the students came as volunteers the bee hives are such a great gift. “This project is going to fetch me more income to cover my house expenses. I look forward to selling lots of honey!”

This chicken house will provide protection and health

Joseph’s Chicken Coop

Five SACDP students, along with their teacher Mr. Dan, arrived at Joseph’s home one final time to complete a local chicken house. This will increase egg production because chickens that are fed in a contained area are healthier than those that range for their food. Joseph is delighted that his hens will also be protected from dogs and cats; in the past he lost many chickens to predators but now his chickens have a good home.

"God's Blanket" is doing a good job of providing seedling with moisture

Vertical Gardens for Joan

Six students arrived at Joan’s small farm to inspect the kale they had planted earlier. The vertical gardens are doing well and look like a healthy crop will be harvested in a few weeks. The maize planted using the “Farming God’s Way” technique has begun to germinate. The terraces prepared for napia grass are ready for planting. Joan said, “Now I can plant maize all year long using Farming God’s Way. As long as I have things to use for mulching to create ‘God’s Blanket’ I can create a cool environment to help the growth of my maize!”

Isaac Rutto's students look over the raised beds

Small Space Farming for Stephen
Mr Isaac Rutto brought his five students to Stephen’s farm to demonstrate the power of vertical gardens. Learning about farming in a small space will help him grow kale with an anticipated BIG harvest. The two vegetable beds that the students had planted in a previous visit are almost ready for harvest. Soon Stephen will be eating cowpeas!

A vertical garden constructed by Madam Teresa's students

Jonah Bett Congratulates Students
Madam Teresa and her five students received lots of congratulations from Jonah Bett for all they’ve done on the farm. Construction of a local chicken house, vertical gardens, establishing a nursery for kale seedlings, and banana pruning have helped greatly. All projects were completed well. This farmer was pleased to learn so many new things that he can apply easily, especially in the dry season.

Cooking Lesson in KK

March 9, 2012 by admin

Chopping veggies for salads and soups

In preparation for their three month attachment with other institutions, the Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Program (SACDP) students had a day of cooking. Using fruits and vegetables from the demonstration shamba (farm), the students learned how to prepare many different kinds of food. Bread, scones, cakes, pasta, vegetable salads, fruit puddings and soups were all part of the learning taught by Madam Teresa.

Winnie mixes cake batter

This was a nice activity for the students as they will have many opportunities to teach farmers how to use their produce in innovative ways. We hope that this home economics lesson will even assist in generating some income for people in different communities.

Celebrate International Womans Day

March 8, 2012 by Angela Vincent

Rural women constitute one-fourth of the world’s population. They are leaders, decision-makers, producers, workers, entrepreneurs and service providers. Their contributions are vital to the well-being of families and communities, and of local and national economies.

Yet rural women’s rights, contributions and priorities have been largely overlooked. Rural women have also been hard hit by the economic and financial crisis, volatile food prices and export-driven agriculture. They need to be fully engaged in efforts to shape a response to these inter-connected crises and in decision-making at all levels.

Now Is the Time to Act

Rural women are key agents of change. Their leadership and participation are needed to shape responses to development challenges and recent crises.

Women are central to the development of rural areas: they account for a great proportion of the agricultural labour force, produce the majority of food grown, especially in subsistence farming, and perform most of the unpaid care work in rural areas. It is critical that their contributions be recognized and that their voices be heard in decision-making processes at all levels of governments, and within rural organizations.

Consider this story and learn how you can get involved today.

Here are a few photos from our Communications Director, Micah Albert, from over the last 5 years.


South Sudan



South Sudan


Bukavu, DRC

South Sudan


South Sudan

Global Data

70 percent of the developing world’s 1.4 billion extremely poor live in rural areas. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly one-third of these, while South Asia is now home to about half.

In 2010, 925 million people were chronically hungry, of whom 60 percent were women.

Agriculture provides a livelihood for 86 percent of rural women and men, and employment for about 1.3 billion smallholder farmers and landless workers, 43 percent of whom are women.
An estimated two-thirds of the 400 million poor livestock keepers worldwide are women.

The burden of unpaid care work is substantial. Globally there are 884 million people without safe drinking water, 1.6 billion people without reliable sources of energy, 1 billion people who lack access to roads, 2.6 billion people without satisfactory sanitation facilities, and 2.7 billion people who rely on open fires and traditional cooking stoves. Rural women carry most of the unpaid work burden due to lack of infrastructure and services.

In rural areas of the developing world, excluding China, 45 percent of women aged 20–24 were married or in union before the age of 18, compared to 22 percent of urban women.

    Sustainability in Kipkaren

    March 7, 2012 by admin

    ELI’s Kipkaren River Training and Development Center strives to become more self-sustaining. A partnership between the training center manager and the Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Programme (SACDP) Coordinator has sparked a clever idea – hot house tomatoes!

    Isaac & Edward in the training center greenhouse with tomato plants

    The SACDP students have been learning how to erect community greenhouses, as well as different ways to grow vegetables year round, rather than depending solely upon water from the rains. In an effort to also assist the training center, tomatoes seeds were planted in a join effort to benefit the students with practical learning experience, as well as a financial gain for the training center. Village women commonly use tomatoes for most daily meals so selling tomatoes year round in our area is a great economic plan. We salute Edward, the training center manager, and Isaac, the SACDP coordinator for this great partnership idea!

    SACDP Goes into the Community

    February 3, 2012 by admin

    SACDP students assist Mr Jonah in setting up vertical gardens

    The thirty two students enrolled in the Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Programme are making an impact in the local area every Friday. Over the years, each class has focused upon a different part of the greater Kipkaren area. Initially Chebaiywa/Kipkaren was the area of greatest need. Two years ago, Kenya Two was the area of outreach, followed by Murgusi. This year the students are crossing the Kipkaren River each week to assist impoverished families in the village of Ng’enyilel.

    A recent Friday found the teams of students working vigorously on six different farms. “I have received angels on my farm, who have brought huge blessings to me that I’ve never had before,” exclaimed Mr. Jonah. Being on crutches has made it challenging for him to navigate his shamba (farm). The team of students visiting him helped to establish vertical gardens so he can access his sukuma crop more readily.

    Photo of the Day

    February 2, 2012 by editor

    Portrait of one of our successful chicken farmers in Tanzania. (photo: Micah Albert)

    From Learning to Life Saving!

    January 20, 2012 by admin

    Brenda and Jenn look on as students use their wood stretcher during the seminar.

    In January this year, several people from the greater Kipkaren area were trained in CPR and First Aid by Jenn and Brenda, members of the Salem Team. Among those receiving training were the 32 Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Programme students.

    One week after  the  Salem  team left , there was an emergency at the training center. One of the students collapsed and fainted. The SACDP students quickly made a wood stretcher, using the techniques they were taught in the First Aid seminar. Due to their calmness and quick thinking they were able to carry the student to clinic where she received good treatment. Thank you Salem Team for sharing such practical knowledge with our community!

    Sustainability Plans at Kipkaren Children’s Home

    December 21, 2011 by admin
    Children’s Home mango ‘shamba’
    Sustainability is an important concept within our organization. In all areas of empowerment we seek to create pathways where our work can generate resources for continued ministry health. Even at the Children’s Home, where our ministry is more helps oriented, sustainability is important.
    On a recent Saturday afternoon I followed the Kipkaren Children’s Home Director, John Busienei, to look over all the different sustainability plans underway. It was truly exciting to see plans in action and future plans, all with the goal of providing either food for the children or sources of income to purchase some of things needed by the home not covered by donor gifts. (more…)

    Cultivate Winter Issue has been Published

    November 23, 2011 by Angela Vincent

    Check your mailbox this week for our newest edition of Cultivate Magazine – it’s hot off the press. It’s full of great stories, images, writing, and great ways for you to get involved this holiday season and help those that ELI serves in Africa. Click here to see the magazine.

    Chaya to be Grown in South Sudan

    November 11, 2011 by Holly

    Steve Reech, Empowering Lives’ Director of South Sudan, recently visited the Ukweli Training Center in Ilula, Kenya. While touring the demonstration garden, he was introduced to a new vegetable now being grown in Kenya called chaya, a green leafy vegetable that grows from a tree-like stem. Referred to as “tree spinach”, it is believed that it originated in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Chaya grows well in extremely dry areas, offering twice the protein as spinach and ten times as much Vitamin C as an orange. Steve grew more enthusiastic as he continued to learn about this new vegetable, thinking of ways this plant could be used back in his country.  He said, “These chaya plants are so good, because in our area we have no vegetables. People eat fish and meat once a year or once every two years.  A typical meal is millet and water.  I am so glad to have these vegetables, because they can help make our bodies strong.  There are many malnourished children in my area, so the community will benefit greatly from this vegetable. We will start by planting the chaya on the school grounds and in the community.  When community members eat it, they will take some home to grow and feed their families, and their children will gain vital nutrients from it.” Steve left the Ukweli Center with a smile on his face and an arm full of chaya stems. Please pray for Steve as he begins this new journey of planting chaya in South Sudan.

    Photo of the Day

    November 2, 2011 by Angela Vincent

    Yamkindo and Issac Ruto feeding the fish ponds in Tanzania. Not only will these provide ideas for income for locals, but they also help repopulate the fish population in Lake Victoria and provide income generation for ELI as a whole. (photo: Micah Albert)