Seeing Jackline Cherotich perform in our External Partners Training for was a very touching experience for me. I met Jackie in November, 2019, my second week in the field with Sistema.bio in Kericho County in Kenya.
It was a rainy day, cool weather, tea fields glistening with a deep lush green dotted with specs of trees here and there. What was once the mighty Mau Forest, East Africa’s largest indigenous montane forest, is now reduced to mostly tea monoculture down the entire stretch of land from Kericho town through to Litein, then back again in and around Bomet County. This monoculture is heavily fertilized yearly, and the local people have become dependent on this cash crop even though it brings as little as 14 bob/kilo (aprox 14 cents US dollar). I think about this as we roll into villages where people are growing tea on their land instead of vegetables. Each homestead may have a small kitchen garden, but I am hearing people in the field say that they buy their vegetables on a regular basis to make room for growing tea. It’s become a way of life here. The fields are absolutely gorgeous, yet they tell a long story in history where not all are winning.
This is why I came to Kenya, I remind myself. To educate farmers on the benefits of organic farming through our biofertilizer! Our presentation for clients is focused on finding a need, talking about the solution and closing farmers on the right size system for their farms at an affordable rate, with service, training and monitoring. I can’t wait to start hearing from farmers about how the destruction of the forest has affected their lives, and talk to them about an alternative that saves trees and lives in the process!
Before we reached our first home, Robert swerved just a little too left and the low riding van got stuck in the mud. We have since upgraded a lot of our vehicles with 14” tires because the field is just too adventurous for the 13” wheels to keep up! We jumped out to assist, Jackie sporting her Sistema.bio t-shirt and a nice long fitted skirt. Immediately she was covered in mud from chin to knees as soon as Robert rolled it out of its spot with a spin!
She laughed, and I gasped! Wow, I love this girls’ attitude I thought —she’s got a joy for life!
Jackie said to me, “Jessy, this is just one of the many challenges we face in the field,” as if to reassure me.
I can see the whole team as I am entering the field, they are protective, so very welcoming and warm! Helping me over mud holes, not realizing I am a tractor–driving farm girl that has been walking in mud all my life —but I give them the chance to care for me and appreciate these gestures, and count it as a sign that these are the most conscious, caring, wonderful teammates to be in the field with. I see them doing this with their clients (farmers), the farmer’s children, and even the animals on the farm.
Jackie and I share a great laugh with Robert as he turns around to see what he’s done to Jackie!
Jackie leads with hodi hodi just into the road, as if to greet the entire village neighborhood —and it works! People start sending greetings over the fences, even saying her name!
She is known here and welcome. (And I think to myself, WOW! Jackie is already even going door to door, this is amazing! It’s the best way to market biogas, good job. I feel encouraged to support her in closing a sale that day —if she even needs it, haha).
We see a lady, colorful skirt bending, smiling and welcoming us into the compound as she scrubs clothing in a soapy green basin. Jackie dips her hands in to wash the mud off her face and clothes while she exchanges with a now friend.
We review our mud incident, as everyone could hear but not see, and laugh again.
We state that we are talking to farmers about the challenges of using firewood, charcoal and LP gas, and we are welcomed with chairs.
From there it just gets better and better —on our third cup of chai for the day we collected a deposit from an already interested client who just wanted to upgrade her size to a Sistema 12 (who shared her avocados with us), and got another potential promise to pay from the neighbor, Geoffrey, whose brother showed up to ask if Jackie was there!
Jackie Cherotich is a leading sales agent at Sistema.bio. When we set goals as a team in December, she shared her goal of having a chicken business. She now has over 350 chickens and many many chics! She is now in Junior Area Sales Manager training with 4 other upcoming leaders who are recruiting and training their own team without a salary.
I am grateful to be on a team with Jackie. She embodies being direct and honest because she cares. She also works hard because farmers work hard. I have seen her work full days with headaches and not feeling well, but with a drive for serving people. She is a self–driven leader who brings joy and laughter to our Kericho Team. Excited to see this game changer grow as we learn and share together.