African cake and Kenyan farm life

The following is a special message from Michael Wafula, Childcare Worldwide’s director in Africa. It is also another post in our 30 Days of Prayer series. Every day in April, we are praying together for an end to hunger, because we know that when believers pray, mountains move. We are sharing a few of the posts here periodically, but it’s not too late to join in the full series. Sign up for daily emails here.

And now, enjoy reading as Michael shares about his experience growing up with limited resources in Kenya:

A man in a gray suit sits in an office chair, looking to the side and laughing. Michael Wafula, Childcare Worldwide's director in Africa.

Growing up in Trans-Nzoia County, in Western Kenya, a place commonly referred to as the "food basket" of our country, gave me an opportunity not only to admire vast maize plantations that dotted the landscape in my village, but also to a certain extent, dislike the work that was associated with farming. 

My parents were among the privileged poor, who had a half acre plot to till and would grow maize annually. Every planting season would be followed by great anticipation of a bountiful harvest. Once the corn was ripe, it would be milled and out of it, our dinner tables would not lack "Ugali," the African corn meal. Some would jokingly call it African cake.

Maize in the granaries and Ugali at the table was the joy of each family. This was the food we all knew and all many could afford. It was served at our lunch and dinner tables daily, except on significant days like Christmas.

For me, the process of bringing this common meal to the table all the way from the point of tilling the land, planting, cultivating, harvesting was what I disliked. We spent all our three school holidays in the year toiling in the farm cultivating the maize. It was hard work, without machines. Everything depended on us working with our little hands and with simple farm tools.

One day, 36 years ago, my sister and I at the age of 9 and 7 respectively, without shoes and with no rain jackets, got rained on on our way home carrying our harvest of maize in sisal bags on our backs. The more it rained, the heavier our loads became. Even the nearby tree that was one kilometer away from our home couldn't shield us enough from the downpour.

We wept, drenched in the rain and the harvest now heavy with wetness and the accompanying hailstones made our journey home excruciatingly long. Later that evening, all of us sat together in the kitchen, around the three-stoned stove that we cooked from, covering our eyes from the smoke that came from the firewood, enjoying the warmth of the fire as we roasted fresh corn in turns, and eating together as a family.

We were a privileged family, because many did not have what we had. During harvest time there were those who would come to the farm after we have left to try and scavenge for some cobs of maize left behind. Sure enough, we never really took away all the maize harvest from the farm, because the poor would always find something to take home for a meal.

The population has since grown, farming is no longer the main economic activity. Education and urbanization has seen people migrate from rural to urban areas in search of white-collar jobs. Still, poverty exists and the urban poor population lives in unemployment. And the toils of the “harvest” – whether in the field or in the crowded cities – are still a challenge.

When I was growing up, rain seasons were almost predictable and reliable, but they are less so today. And in the arid and semi-arid areas of the country, the lack of basics such as food is further worsened by conflict between communities over the limited natural resources.

Today, I ask you to pray for an abundant harvest for my country Kenya, and for other places around the world that are struggling to produce enough food for their people. Pray that many would seek to spare a portion of the harvest for the poor, just as our family was able to do when I was growing up and just as we are instructed in Leviticus.

We see in our verse in Leviticus that God’s heart for the poor is that no one would go hungry. So today, pray boldly for an abundant harvest – both a literal, agricultural harvest, and a figurative economic harvest – that provides for everyone’s needs!

Michael Wafula

30 Days of Prayer is a part of our Every Meal Matters campaign. We are on a mission to provide 48,000 meals for hungry children by the end of April, and are grateful to partner with generous people all over the world to make it happen. It you believe that Every Meal Matters for hungry kids, click here to see how you can help.

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