By Kiundu Waweru
Major towns in Kenya harbour informal settlements on their fringes that house their workforce. Kaptembwa is such a residence just outside Nakuru town.
Along Kaptembwa’s main street are shops lining both sides. Among these is the Moneke Posho Mill where a lean, dark and jolly man in a white dustcoat is serving clients who trickle in with plastic bags carrying maize.
Others buy the maize at the mill. The man, Nicodemus Juma, has a scar running down his face. Working with him is his “beautiful and loving wife”, and three-year-old child who follows the mother everywhere.
There is a lull of customers during which time Juma relaxes, smiles and says, “Six years ago, I lay on my bed, dying. I was jobless and my wife here too was jobless.”
Juma was ailing from a “mysterious” disease. He fingers the scar for a moment and says when it appeared, he knew something was seriously wrong with him and headed to hospital.
“I was tested for HIV and turned out positive.” Juma thought he had been handed a life sentence and he shut himself from the world. His wife, Maureen Moraa, would later gather courage to go for the test.
She was negative.
In bed, sick and hopeless, Juma thought the end was nigh. Then he heard about a project where people like him nurtured a vegetable garden to give them that so desired nutrition.
Juma decided to join the group and his determination took him to the other side of Nakuru town, and through the gates of the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital.
For a long time, the hospital had an expansive dumping site tucked behind its healing walls.
In 2006, it donated the five-acre dumpsite to a group of peasant women. Under the aegis of APHIAplus with funding from the USAID, the women started working on the dumpsite, and in its stead today is a healthy vegetable garden whose story reads like a fairytale.