Over 20 prisoners have benefited from greenhouse farming in Nakuru Women's Prison with the support of Kite Child organisation.
Women behind bars are now able to farm, sell their produce and use the money to support their families back at home.
Esther Nderitu, 52, a robbery with violence convict, said the project has helped her support the daughter she lost touch with in 2000.
The mother of three said when she first heard of the programme, she was excited and joined the group to keep her busy while in prison as she served her sentence.
“I was convicted in 2000 for robbery with violence. Since then, I have never seen my children, but with the help of social workers from Kite Child, I was able to connect with my daughter via video link,” she said.
The greenhouse is giving the women who have volunteered to participate in the project a ray of hope as they are also able to connect with their families via video link.
Nderitu says the programme has helped her live in peace as she serves her sentence, waiting for her son’s home visitation.
Jane Chebet, 56, from Londiani, was arrested in 2013 and charged with the murder of her neighbour. She admitted killing the neighbour after an argument erupted between them at a drinking den and was convicted in 2018 to serve 20 years in prison.
Chebet said that the greenhouse project had enabled her to see her children back at home and send them the money she earns.
She said the programme had enabled her connect with her children and grandchildren, thus reducing the stress she has been having.
“It was therapeutic and exciting seeing my children grow and grandchildren whom I have never met. My grandchildren were shocked to see me and I was able to explain to them that I was in prison hoping to be released in 2032,” she said.
She said she had learnt a lot of skills in prison and changed her attitude on crime and if released, she would apply the knowledge she has acquired to provide for her family.
Esther Wangui, 32, was convicted to serve five years’ imprisonment for being an accomplice in a defilement case in 2018. She said that joining the programme was a great idea as she has earned money which she will use when released.
Verge of forgetting
Wangui left her two children in Solai under the care of her mother. She said that when she was arrested, her son, now 13, was only eight years old and her daughter was five.
With the help of the Kite Child, she was able to remotely bond with her children who were on the verge of forgetting her.
“It is encouraging that after four years, I was able to see my children and my mother. I hope the programme will continue to benefit mothers behind bars,” Wangui said.
Wangui is looking forward to her release in December this year so that she can reunite with her family.
Officer in charge of the women’s prison Mary Muhoro said that Kite Child had supported them in making sure that convicts are able to connect with their families back at home through the greenhouse project.
“Prison is supposed to be a place of rehabilitating offenders. There are many activities involved in this. Agriculture is one of them. The greenhouse farming in Nakuru Women’s Prison is geared at providing food to the children in prison and generating money to help those at home,” Muhoro said.
She said the greenhouse project would provide nutritional food to the children in prison and pregnant prisoners.
The funds from the sale of the produce, she said, would be used to facilitate the visitation of children left behind by their mothers and assist the families of needy prisoners at home.
Chief Magistrate Edna Nyaloti called upon probation officers to take up the project so that petty offenders placed in their care can be equipped with skills.
“We are looking forward to the probation office taking up the project so that petty offenders whom we place on probation can be equipped with skills. This will reduce the number of repeat offenders. It is a crime control model. The women in prison will also get skills. This model, if well managed, will empower the poor and the marginalised,” she said.
She called upon other prisons in the country to replicate the project to reduce the crime.
Director of Kite Child Martha Maina said that the programme had seen 25 inmates remotely interact with their families.
Children and mothers
She said that the project targets children and mothers behind bars in improving their livelihoods.
“First, we started by interviewing the women interested in the programme to get to know about their children at home, and then we virtually connected with them. They would see the progress of their children back at home, and they would parent as they continue serving their sentence,” Ms Maina said.
Rift Valley Regional Prisons Commander Aggrey Onyango said that the project targets children left behind by their mothers. He said children volunteers use the profits from the proceeds from the greenhouse project to facilitate visits to the families of the inmates and bring back a report.
“Agriculture is expected to play an important role in the development of communities where we come from. I am impressed by the efforts the officer in charge has made in realising that good agricultural practices can also be learnt in prison,” Mr Onyango said.
Onyango urged the officer in charge of the prison to make sure that the produce and sale of the products from the project benefit the intended people.