Kenya: Under the Scorching Sun Kenyan Farmers Find New Ways to Beat Climate Change

Kontiang — Rural Kenyans are forging a path toward a more sustainable future and protecting their lives and livelihoods from climate change through regenerative agriculture, nurturing hope for their communities and the environment.

In the tranquil village of Kotiang, perched on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya’s lakeside region, Yvonne Atieno, a dedicated mother in her early thirties, tends to her fish pond under the relentless equatorial sun. Her young daughter eagerly joins her mother in this nurturing endeavor. Yvonne, a certified accountant by profession, reflects on how her decision to embrace regenerative farming has not only enriched her life but also imparted invaluable life lessons.

“In this pursuit, unlike traditional employment, I harbor no anxieties about retirement,” she shares. “It is profoundly rewarding, especially when I rise early each morning to witness the flourishing of my African vegetables.”

Yvonne’s unwavering commitment is palpable as she meticulously nurtures her thriving crops under the scorching sun.

In the face of the climate crisis, rural Kenyans like Yvonne are forging a path toward a more sustainable future through regenerative agriculture, nurturing hope for their communities and the environment.

“Initially, I cultivated a passion for it. While agriculture might not be the typical job that youth aspire to these days, it is incredibly rewarding. Witnessing the flourishing plants every morning is a tangible and fulfilling experience,” says Atieno, her grin revealing the joy of satisfaction through farming.

Atieno, much like numerous young smallholder farmers across the African continent, is embracing regenerative agriculture to enhance diversified revenue streams.

According to a 2022 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) titled “Regenerative Agriculture: An opportunity for businesses and society to restore degraded land in Africa,” the adoption of regenerative agriculture has the potential to generate approximately five million jobs by 2040 in Africa. Additionally, it aims to boost revenue and ensure food security for smallholder farmers.

Atieno, a recipient of vermiculture training, practices a sustainable farming technique that involves utilizing locally available farm waste to cultivate red Italian worms. These worms are instrumental in producing vermijuice, a nutrient-rich liquid that serves as an effective foliar fertilizer.

Vermiculture provides a low-tech, sustainable, and circular alternative to synthetic fertilizers by utilizing organic waste to generate a nutrient-rich liquid known as worm juice or vermi juice.

Atieno and her husband attempted rabbit farming, utilizing rabbit urine as a liquid fertilizer. Unfortunately, their rabbits succumbed to diseases, leading to the end of their venture.

“We had to switch to vermi juice as a substitute for rabbit urine. The ratio we use is lower than that of synthetic fertilizers. Diluting one liter of vermi juice with 10 to 20 liters of water proves cost-effective and environmentally friendly,” explains Atieno as she uproots weeds from her conical vegetable garden.

Mark Ogada Doyo, a father of four, allows his fingers to wiggle through kitchen waste in a half-cut plastic container, where tiny red worms squirm and intertwine–a routine he performs every morning before cutting cattle grass. Along the lower edge of the slanted container, four jerry cans are filled with brownish liquid.

After completing his eighth-grade exams, Ogada encountered financial constraints and chose to venture into farming, inspired by his father, who held roles as both a farmer and a veterinary officer.

Challenged by the impact of extreme weather, which resulted in water scarcity, Ogada, like many local farmers, transitioned to raising crossbred cattle. However, they now grapple with the high cost of acquiring crop waste from local markets to use as cattle feed.

“Managing my two cows requires a daily expenditure ranging from Ksh. 1,200 (about USD 7.38) to Ksh. 1,800 (about USD 11), with each bag priced at Ksh. 400 (about USD 2.46),” narrates Ogado.

“Unfortunately, most vegetables in our area are cultivated using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, negatively impacting the quality of the milk produced, making it unsuitable for human consumption,” he adds, as he skillfully feeds freshly chopped Napier and Steveir forage.

To address these issues, Ogada dedicated two and a half acres to cultivating Napier and Steveir grass. He now has a surplus, selling five to six bags of Napier grass daily to the local community at prices ranging between Ksh. 350 (about USD 2.15) and 400 (about USD 2.46) per bag.

“My plans involve expanding the Napier grass cultivation to cover an extensive area, aiming for a range between 10 and 20 acres,” he shared in an interview with IPS.

Atieno and Ogada, along with numerous young farmers in the counties of Kisumu and Homa Bay in Kenya’s lakeside region, have benefited from a five-year project called Transforming Rural Economies and Youth Livelihoods (TREYL). This project, funded by the IKEA Foundation and implemented by Practical Action, aims to enhance the economic prospects of rural communities and the livelihoods of youth in the region.

Enhancing the sustainability of agriculture as a profession holds the potential to mitigate elevated unemployment rates in rural regions, foster family cohesion, offer communities access to healthier food options, and stimulate the local economy.

Akinyi Walender, Africa Director at Practical Action, emphasizes the importance of embracing regenerative agriculture. She asserts that this approach has the potential to empower a new generation of farmers, enabling them to redefine their narrative and make a positive impact on both their destinies and the prosperity of their local communities.

In the realm of regenerative agriculture, Walender underscores its response to the demand for safe, nutritious food. While challenges persist, she advocates for efforts to improve access to markets, finance, and knowledge, emphasizing the ongoing need for investments in initiatives supporting regenerative agriculture for lasting impacts.

Sustainable organic pest management

Ogada has adopted eco-friendly practices, utilizing companion planting with coriander and Mexican marigold since 2021 to naturally repel pests from capsicum and kales, eliminating the need for synthetic pesticides. With a self-sufficient farm generating Ksh. 2,000 (about USD 12.23) daily, Ogado diversifies with 60 pawpaw fruit stems, sold at prices ranging between Ksh. 50 and 90 each.

“Twenty-one days after transplanting capsicum, I incorporate coriander as a natural repellent. In line with my method for kales, I integrate Mexican marigolds as a deterrent against aphids,” Ogada explains. He further notes that since 2021, he hasn’t visited an agro-vet shop to purchase synthetic pesticides.

In Ng’ura village, Homa Bay County, 27-year-old Boniface Otieno successfully grows tomatoes without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, despite challenges posed by hippos invading farms along the shores of Lake Victoria.

“Farming demands determination, hope, and patience. Organic farming, in contrast to relying on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, has proven more economically viable with reduced expenditure,” shares Otieno, a former medical microbiologist who transitioned from formal employment to pursue farming.

Otieno owns a residential plot and raises sheep, dairy cows, and poultry, funded by the success of his tomato farming venture. To counter aphid issues caused by integrating onions, he devised a solution by blending onions into a spray applied to the tomatoes.

IPS UN Bureau Report

Note: This feature is published with the support of Open Society Foundations.

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