Kenyans Reaping Big from Ecological Farming
In response to the five month severe drought which ravaged the Horn of Africa regions, several small scale farmers in Kenya have adopted simple but cost effective measures to grow crops.
Because of poor roads and lack of rainfall, Ecological agriculture is proving to be way for famers in Kyeleni Ward of Matungulu constituency to ensure resilience against changing climate. This has enabled the farmers to grow and harvest a variety of crops including greengrams, soya maize and potatoes.
Besides these food crops, famers here grow cash crops including grafted mangoes and oranges , which fetch about eight bags per acre. At a Farmers Day earlier this week, Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) Kenya Director Martin Muiruki called on governments and financial investors to assist the farmers meet several challenges.
“Farmers here are shifting from commercial to ecological agriculture in order mitigate climate shocks and building resilience. Ecological farming outweighs conventional farming. Because it’s less water intensive and does not use agro-chemicals which pollute water and deplete soils of organic matter,” he explains.
The Matungulu project is a partnership between ICE and Greenpeace Kenya to afford better income per acre in comparison to commercial farming. With ecological farming, farmers use organic compost fertilizer, mainly derived animal waste. Since there is minimum use of chemical pesticides, there is minimal health risk both to crop and farm workers.
Muriuki says the timing and duration of drought and flooding occasioned by climate change make rainfall patterns unpredictable. This is more acute in arid and semi-arid areas of Ukamabani, where ICE has enabled farmers shift to ecological agriculture. ICE local Coordinator Samuel Wathome says through ecological farming, residents have built resilient agricultural systems. This has enabled small scale farmers meet current and future crop needs, especially local stable food crops like maize, pea, beans and soya.
Joseph Kituku Mbuvi, the local agricultural officer says through collaboration with ICE and Greenpeace, they teach famers new techniques in water harvesting, retention and cut off drainage. “ We also teach them kitchen gardening, water harvesting and inter planting of crops adding that local farmers face many challenges including escalating cost of inputs, climate change among other .
Mr. Wathome says through sustainable management of water and soil, local communities are benefiting immensely. The ardent promoter of ecological agriculture says it returns nutrients to the soil through using locally sourced animal manure, intercropping with nitrogen fixing crops like legumes, while at the same time encouraging agroforestry.
“In our group, we teach and practice how to mitigate flooding, which take away nine tons of agricultural soils from one acre of land every raining season. Through mulching and other modern agricultural techniques like Zhai Pit and terracing, we guard our soils from erosion and encourage water penetration and retention for our crops.
Mr Wathome says the project also encourage farmers to store water through indigenous farming methods like cut off drain, retaining ditch and contour planting. The project is backed by Greenpeace, an independent global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.
Submitted by:George Okore