Beryl’s Internet Shop in Luanda, a small town north of Lake Victoria, Kenya, is busy: an employee prepares documents on a computer, prints them out and passes them on to his colleague, who adds a spiral binding for a tidy finish. A few guests check emails; a customer stops by to pick up a bundle of photocopies. In the middle of the hustle and bustle, leaning on a wooden crutch, stands the shop’s young boss. Beryl Atieno Munika has lived with a leg impairment since birth. “Even as a 22-year-old, I hid myself and was so shy that I hardly dared to leave my parents’ house,” she says, and adds with relief and pride: “Today I am independent, I earn my own living and I am no longer dependent on anyone.”
Beryl Munika’s turnaround began in 2012 with a course on Push-Pull, an ecological cultivation method for maize and millet that can produce much higher yields and improve arable soil fertility. It also produces high-quality cattle feed and prevents soil erosion. It was then that the young woman mustered all her courage and signed up for the course. She had seen the advantages of this biological pest control method with her own eyes at an acquaintance’s house and sensed her chance.
After the workshop, however, came the next hurdle: implementing what they had learned. Beryl Munika did not have her own land and first had to ask her parents for some. They were concerned that she would overexert herself and that ultimately they would both have to do a lot of the work. But their daughter did not give up. After tough discussions, she finally received a small field. “My father gave me the worst piece of land,” says the young farmer. But she dug in and worked on the field every day. An icipe project assistant visited and advised her regularly. Her tireless hard work was rewarded.
“My father used to harvest only two to three kilos of maize from this field because of frequent pest infestation,” she says. “For me, the first planting season already yielded a whole 40-kilo bag.” The hardworking farmer has been able to further increase yields since then and now produces about three and a half sacks per season – about 140 kg.
icipe is the International Insect Research Institute in Nairobi and Mbita Point, Kenya, and a long-standing project partner of Biovision, implementing the Push-Pull projects in East Africa, among others.
Portrait of Beryl Atieno Munika, who has found new self-confidence thanks to Push-Pull.
Innovative strength and luck
Beryl Munika was also lucky. She appeared on Swiss television on the programme “Mitenand” in an episode about Biovision, which brought her into contact with someone from Switzerland who enabled her to attend a college in Kakamega Town and start her own business. With her new self-confidence, Ms Munika discovered the entrepreneur in herself and spotted a promising opportunity: opening an internet café. She rented a small space with internet access, bought six second-hand computers and started offering computer lessons for beginners. The lessons and shop were a hit and provided her with a regular income from then on.
Later she moved back near her parents, where she still cultivates her maize field. And she achieved her wish for independence: The young entrepreneur moved the internet café from Kakamega Town to a village outside Luanda, where she rents a house with two rooms. One of them now serves as her flat; in the other, she set up a small general store where she sells things like cosmetics, drinks, maize and other grains, and bread.
A role model for young people
Today, Beryl Atieno Munika is a successful entrepreneur, farmer and proud mother of her three-year-old son, William. With her income, she contributes significantly to the nutrition and livelihood of her parents and her younger siblings. Late last year, the local government also recognized her talent and outstanding strength and selected her as an Ambassador for Youth, and thus a role model. She nevertheless remains modest and looks back with gratitude: “The key to my success is Push-Pull. The people involved in the project were always considerate of me and adapted to my slower pace. This allowed me to find confidence and develop my potential. Push-Pull gave me the courage and belief to be somebody.”