Exerpt from World Vision magazine 

landscapeyatta world vision

In August 2013, World Vision staff invited 51 Mbuyuni villagers to travel by bus eight hours north to Yatta, Kenya, for training. Only four of the villagers had ever been out of the country. As they left Mbuyuni, they burst into song.

“When we were driving, we passed an area with big trees,” says Martha Melame, 33. The bus became abuzz with dialogue: “If we had those big trees, we would have cut them down for charcoal.” There was livestock—but it wasn’t roaming freely. “We saw cows in a pen,” she says. “They weren’t eating the neighbor’s grass. They looked good, compared to our cows.”

Chickens in Yatta were kept in chicken coops—a novel idea. “We don’t keep our chickens in a coop, and the eagles take them away,” Martha says.

Then they saw the water pans. About five years ago, Bishop Titus Masika of the Anglican Church of Kenya convinced the people of Yatta that if they dug water pans, they could capture rain and create a consistent water supply for their crops. Tim had heard about the Bishop’s work.

“Yatta just blows your socks off,” says Tim. “This was a community that could not afford to buy a matchbox. People would wake up in the morning, look for where the smoke was rising, and walk to borrow a bit of coal from whoever had fire.”

Today, Yatta’s dry land is fruitful, but Bishop Masika’s initiative transformed more than the land. He also began challenging old mindsets and encouraging people to believe they had potential.

The Mbuyuni farmers returned from Yatta with a new vision, and they began digging up a storm—120 water pans are underway. As in Makindube, they are forming small, powerful groups—27 so far—that will help them grow and sell their vegetables, save for their children’s future, and support one another. Their work has inspired their neighbors to dig their own pans. One mother of seven even began digging a water pan with her bare hands.

Similar scenes of transformation will play out all over Tanzania and across Africa as World Vision rolls out Securing Africa’s Future in rural contexts in East, West, and Southern Africa to help families cope with poverty, drought, and external shocks.

Aloisi and his family are constructing a giant water pan—perhaps the biggest in the area.

“My children will have a better life,” says Aloisi, “They will not have a life by bahatisha,” the Swahili word for luck.

“My father loves this project,” says daughter Jenipha, 15. “The extra money we get will be used to buy more seeds and to pay for our education. My father won’t have to sell a cow now.”

For Aloisi’s wife, Naini, good crops will no longer come through luck. “Now I am assured that if I plant, even with no rain, I will water my beans until they come up,” she says. “This is the first time I’ve felt this in all of my life.” Now empowered, Naini heads one of the community’s savings groups.

Aloisi, a committed Roman Catholic, is reverent when speaking about the turn of events in Mbuyuni. “Myself and the community received this training as salvation,” he says.

Frida transformed

teaching-children yatta world visionAloisi’s neighbor, Frida Peter, 34, trained in Yatta as well. Once that bus pulled back into Mbuyuni village, she quickly convinced her husband that digging a water pan was a worthwhile project.

“Who will help us?” he asked her. “Is there assistance we can be given?” Frida responded: “No. It is you. You will be taught to do it. If possible, you’ll get some tools. It is time to quit being dependent. It is time to just do it.” Frida’s husband started digging.

Frida then took on the chicken problem, reaching out to her neighbors. “I told them, ‘Why do you keep your chickens roaming around? If we put them together and take care of them, we can grow even more.’” She gathered a group of six women and two men and they built a chicken coop—everyone bringing what they had. The coop is a patchwork of chicken wires and mismatched wood, but it is solid and will hold plenty of hens. Now the group is saving money to buy chickens.


In Yatta, Frida learned one-acre farming techniques—dividing land into one-acre plots and farming crops for use at home and for profit. Each crop ripens at a different time, so farmers always have a harvest. She’ll grow onions, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, maize, and lablab beans to sell. Soon the family will harvest vegetables they’ve never eaten. “I want to try something called salad,” says daughter Belinda, 12.

Frida is driven, but she begins every day in the quiet of the morning in prayer. “I pray for the day,” she says. “For the blessings of the Lord. To lead me. To guide me. To protect me.”

Because of Securing Africa’s Future, people like Frida know that even in a place with little rain, a culture of dependence, and social mores that hold back progress, anything is possible through planning, persistence, and prayer—when you know you are God’s beloved.

—Mercy Kimaro, Lena Renju, and Pamela Shao of World Vision in Tanzania contributed to this story.



One thought on “THE ROAD TO YATTA

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