Ruth pats her cow on the head

Ruth Machuma Ndunde

Ruth is a young, enthusiastic woman who exemplifies the plight of vulnerable girls in rural Kenya. At 17 she dropped out of school and was lured into an early marriage. She is now 30 with five children.

"My life was a living hell. I had to literally beg for food. I did the odd manual jobs at times for cruel people who would not pay me. I had no skills or knowledge to produce sufficient food for my family."

Ruth had to buy all the families food and supplies from the market, yet they barely earned $3 a week. Her younger children were repeatedly in hospital for malnutrition and they often only had one meal a day.

"That today my kids look this healthy is God’s miracle."

In 2013, Ruth’s husband Daniel visited a local group funded by Send a Cow during a farmers’ field day. Inspired by what he saw he mobilised their neighbours to form the Eshaiaboko group and they began working with Send a Cow.

Ruth and her family embraced the project and started applying their new skills. They started to compost, improving the soil fertility. They learned of improved hygiene and sanitation and how to use energy saving stoves. They set up a vegetable garden that in just two months made them $1 a day.

Encouraged by their success, Ruth took in two vulnerable children to her home; “they had no parents, food or proper shelter yet God had all of a sudden blessed us with plenty. We had to share.”

"I am mostly proud of being self-reliant"

Through savings Ruth was able to construct a cow shed and received a dairy cow in 2015. Not only does this provide the family with milk to drink and sell, the manure has greatly improved their crop efficiency. Their maize yield has improved from 45kgs a season to 900kgs!

Ruth’s family are now able to eat three nutritious meals a day and have a wide choice of food. Ruth enjoys arrow roots with milky tea and her children love Chapatti.

Ruth says that being a woman in Western Kenya is a sad and difficult life. They experience many problems like abusive marriages, inequality stemming from cultural tradition, hard labour and a lack of empowerment.

"I thank God that such suffering forms my past; with my gifts of knowledge, skills and a dairy cow, I do not see myself drifting into such a horrible life again."