Lucy Thairu

Lucy Thairu

Founder, The Future Is Hydroponics

In August 1998, I set out from my motherland of Kenya to Botswana in Southern Africa, enroute to Namibia for a potential job with the government.  On arrival at my cousin’s place where I was to sojourn for a while waiting news of the job, things took a different turn and to this day, I have never set foot in Namibia.

That weekend, my cousin’s sister passed away back home and my hostess had to fly to Kenya to bury her sister. I was left to help look after my cousin’s 8 years old niece for a period of two weeks. It is during this time that I met a fellow Kenyan who had come for the daily prayers and on learning I was a computer instructor she told me of a job opening at the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA). The following day, I visited the YWCA and enquired about a computer training job and was hired immediately on a part-time basis. Six months later, i started a 3-year contract as a computer instructor at a local technical college known as Brigades in a village called Tlokweng. I ended up living and working in Botswana for 19 years and 4 months.

During this long stay in Botswana, I worked in various places, including the Kgalagadi district that is home to the Kalahari Desert. The climate in this beloved country is harsh, especially in the Southern and Western regions. Growing perishable foods is a real challenge as the unforgiving heat just wilts away the poor plants. Needless to say, green vegetables and fruits are very expensive and even more so in the Kgalagadi as they are mostly imported all the way from South Africa or the eastern and central parts of the country which is still a long distance away. 

Having lived in Kang and Lehututu villages in the Kgalagadi for five years, I had experienced first-hand what challenges the villagers go through in the quest to eat healthy. While working there, I closely interacted with the villagers as I was also engaged in HIV/Aids counseling. It was very difficult for me when it came to advising on diet to those living positively knowing how very hard it was not only to find these foods and in fresh condition, but when available how expensive and beyond most people’s pockets they were. 

Fresh fruits and vegetables were not easily available and when they arrived at the local store, they would be too expensive for the families most of whom were dependent on just one family member who was working or the government for monthly allowance. For me, it was very painful.  It was hard to see people I had come to love and care for be overcome by the strong medicine they were taking and in most cases; their weakened bodies just give up. 

It is while living in Gaborone, in 2015 that I was introduced to the concept of hydroponic farming. Another Kenyan friend just mentioned it in passing that there was this technology Kenya was promoting and it was bound to change the way farming was done. Having been born and brought up in a farming community, farming was always in my blood. In fact, during my tenure in Tlokweng, I had such a prolific spinach garden in my front yard that attracted people from far. I had enough to eat and sell. I did not fare this well in Kgalagadi however and it is not a wonder that this new concept intrigued me. So, being the IT person that I am, I quickly went to Google to find out more. What I found out was something literary out of this world. At the same time, it excited me given my experiences and understanding the plight of my brothers and sisters in my adopted country of residence.

The idea being promoted by the Kenyan youth, the leading force behind these innovations, I felt, were just what the doctor ordered for the beloved people of Botswana. If this was true, and one could control the conditions for growth of food even in the harshest of climates and successfully have food grow throughout the year not dictated by seasons, then it must be something worth investigating and learning about. This came at a time when the Botswana government was also driving the campaign for eradicating poverty. What a coincidence! I felt the answer was here and it was quite simple really.

So, with gusto, I set out to learn as much as I could online and even made contact with the young guys back home in Kenya who were so willing to share with me all they knew about this farming technology. Many months later and armed with the knowledge thus learned, I set out to put together a proposal for the Botswana government that would point towards a sustainable method of farming that would ensure every citizen was able to have fresh fruit and vegetables on their plate. The proposal was delivered to the Office of the President under which the poverty eradication portfolio fell. Numerous presentations were done. Unfortunately after months of talks and consultations, nothing really came out of it. 

I then decided to make a Facebook page (Hydroponic Farms Botswana) promoting hydroponic farming. The page was a hit with the youth of Botswana. So, with this new evidence, I set out to visit the ministry of youth and sports in 2017. Many visits and presentations later, nothing really came out of this either. However, the Facebook page continues to get LIKES from the young people in Botswana and some reach out to ask for advice, questions and for help.

Unfortunately, since I have relocated back to my country of birth, I have not for the last two years been able to be of much help. In fact I have not posted anything new in almost 3 years on the Facebook page but the young people of Botswana continue to follow and reach out. It is them that have given me the motivation not to give up on this idea of promoting hydroponic farming. 

The constant reaching out and faith of the Botswana youth is what has led to the idea of putting together this blog.  The blog is the place where I hope to share as much information as practically possible with them and others across the continent. Because the blog is more widely accessible, it is my hope it will be of assistance to all of Africa and beyond. Knowledge is power and if our people can be armed with knowledge that will help in feeding their families, then, this blog will have attained its goal. That goal is the empowerment of the people of the continent and others outside it.

Now that I am based back home in Kenya where the real action is, I hope we are able to assist those interested in hydroponic farming in a number of ways, such as: