The Inspiring Innovator behind Kenya’s Baraka Farm
Seventeen years ago, Jos Creemers started out as a volunteer on Baraka Farm in Eldoret, Kenya, assigned there through the British government’s Volunteer Services Overseas (VSO). He came to Baraka as the farm manager and quickly took on the task of converting it into a productive and self-sufficient operation that would benefit the Lewa Children’s Home and Kipkeino School. A combination of his first-rate management, relentless dedication, and astute adaptations to conditions on the farm and in the region has helped Jos not only reach those goals, but also turn Baraka Farm into one of the most fruitful and imitated farms in the country.
When Jos arrived in Kenya, Baraka had been organized principally as a simple corn/wheat farm. Nonetheless, the breakup of the regional dairy monopoly in 2001 presented the opportunity for smaller farms like Baraka to expand into that market for the first time in many years, and in typical Dutch fashion, he decided to convert all farm operations to focus on dairy. Today Baraka boasts over 150 dairy cows, providing all the delicious milk and cheese for both the Lewa Children’s Home and the Kipkeino School – with about 90% of output leftover for sale at the market. This is in addition to keeping and raising sheep and beef cows, as well as tending to a vegetable garden, cultivating a budding forestry program and the continuing corn crop, which is also far more than enough to meet all the needs of the children’s home and school.
Still, the challenges are many. From keeping the grazing pastures for the cows well maintained to improving the irrigation system to allow for the farm’s expansion – and of course dealing with the inevitable unpredictability of fluctuating prices and variable weather – Jos always has his work cut out for him. Yet even facing such obstacles, Jos has been able to dexterously guide Baraka through them all, calling on the advice of other experts when necessary, acquiring second-hand machinery to improve efficiency, and sticking to his successful formula even during rough patches.
With about thirty employees, Baraka’s success impacts more than just the lives of the home’s orphans. Its reputation for superb management has led to its – and its manager’s – renown throughout the area. Put in context, Jos’ feat is even more impressive; despite enjoying some of the most fertile soil in the country, lack of expertise and interest in farming among the younger generations has led to underutilization of the region’s natural advantages. Yet with his relentless and apparent determination, around 1,000 farmers and students visit Baraka Farm every year to learn from Jos and observe its operations – a fantastic testament to his dynamic approach to both agricultural and personnel management.
After nearly two decades of service to the Baraka Farm and the children which it feeds and supports, Jos has made an incredible difference in the lives of hundreds of people. He serves as a one-of-a-kind example to both farmers and non-farmers alike, not only providing healthy and plentiful food to orphaned Kenyans and a model of self-sufficiency to a community, but ultimately providing the key ingredient of hope to all of those involved. Bread and Water for Africa® is deeply indebted to him for dedicating his noteworthy skills and inexhaustible energies to the children of Eldoret, Kenya for so many years. As they say in Swahili, Asante sana, Jos.