Fairtrade Premium, affirms a worker’s dreams

Challenging childhood

Born of a peasant mother, Esther Ngina Njuguna’s story is of rags to riches and one that affirms the adage, ‘hard work pays.’ As Esther recounts, every election year in Kenya since the 1990s, her family has known no peace having grown in one of the volatile regions in the country – Molo Town. Abject poverty as well as living a rat race, always escaping the avaricious police officers, has all been a characteristic of her growing life.

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Esther Ngina – left sharing her story to attendees of the Africa Fairtrade Convention 2016 in Nairobi

Esther’s mum, a potato farmer, diligent in all she does, could unfortunately not make ends meet from the meagre earnings in her potato farming business.

Pressure to provide for her young ones was apparent; she then decided to venture into illegal beer brewing business having heard that it is a little more lucrative. She kicked off the business but unfortunately, this business had its loose ends. She always had to maintain agility of the roving police officers.

For several months, she would go unscathed when the police officers came hunting down as she, together with her young ones, had mastered the art of hiding. Esther and her siblings would always alert their mum when danger was looming.

The hide and seek would soon see an end when Esther’s mother was arraigned in court, charged with illegal brewing business.

On the court day, Esther and her siblings made an appearance in their school uniforms. The sight was desperate and on explaining herself, the court ruled to the defence of Esther’s mum. It was very clear that abject poverty had led to such desperate measures.

The situation birthed some relentless attitude towards success in Esther. She felt there was more to life than what they were going through.
Back in her school in Njoro Girls Secondary School, she had to take care of cows during school holidays to afford her school fees. The same continued until she cleared her high school education. On completion of high school, she had fees arrears, which hindered her from getting her certificate.

Solution – Gets employed in a Fairtrade Farm

The lack of this certificate made it difficult for her to secure a basic job. She embarked on a word of mouth, asking anyone who cared to listen to link her up with any job. She was so determined to lead a successful life that would be different from her mother’s.

Esther then went and shared her woes with her paternal aunt who took her in as a babysitter. The aunt did not get wind of all what happened throughout Esther’s childhood since her mum had separated with her dad at infancy.
She could not settle for less and her fervency kept her spreading the word to all and sundry of her desire for employment. By sheer luck, lady- luck came smiling her way and she got a job at Oserian Development Company Ltd.

Oserian is a Fairtrade certified flower farm located in Naivasha, Kenya. She joined the company as a general worker responsible for grading roses and she was earning USD40.

She honed her skill in grading and became very fast which eventually translated to more bonuses. Her skill did not go unnoticed and she was promoted to a Quality Assurance Officer. During the process, she got pregnant and as a nursing mother, she appreciated Fairtrade even more. She says, “my child would be vaccinated at Oserian, they had baby care services all organised making life comfortable for working mums. They even had a crèche where I would leave my baby and work comfortably.”

While still working at Oserian, Esther applied for a bursary that was being sponsored by Fairtrade Premium. Luckily, she was considered and immediately she enrolled for a Diploma course in Marketing.

After seven solid years working in Oserian and having graduated with a Diploma in Marketing, Esther felt that she needed further growth. She felt that with her astronomical growth up the ranks of her career trajectory, it was time to move on and seek other challenging opportunities.

She eventually got a job which earned her some marketing experience for some years then later decided to start her own firm that deals with exports of fresh produce all over the world. She has employed 50 packers.

Looking back in nostalgia, Esther says, “I would want to emphasize that Fairtrade went a long way to support me. Were it not for Premiums, I would not have gotten where I am. Now I am able to work with the less privileged in society including peasant farmers like my mother.”

Message to Fairtrade buyers

In conclusion, Esther chuckles and has this to say to the buyers “I am a true story, it is happening; I was supported, through the bursary and funds that came from the Fairtrade Premium. I am able to manage the business I am in right now. I am busy growing and exporting vegetables from Kenya to various parts of the globe. I wish all the buyers continue choosing Fairtrade, it is not a hoax, just take that bold step, every single bit you do in terms of buying is coming back towards doing the right thing. Buy, do your best, rest assured that you are supporting someone. Thank you.”