An enabling policy environment on agroecology in Kenya
The adoption of agroecological practices contribute to SDG 2 while offering solutions to food insecurity in Africa. Hannah Kigamba, from the Institute of Culture and Ecology (ICE), narrates how the livelihoods of communities living in Lari Sub-County in Kiambu County have transformed through the adoption of agroecological approaches. Kiambu County could also be the first county in Kenya to ratify an agroecology policy if the last stages of the draft policy for the county runs as planned.
The 12-year journey of the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) in Kamburu Ward in Kiambu County is a tale of resilience and gradual growth. Promotion of agroecological practices for community food sovereignty, protection of natural sacred sites, ecosystem services and promotion of healthy biodiversity initiatives to enhance communities’ resilience are some of the approaches ICE has been working to mainstream in the farming practices of 400 farmers living in the Lari Sub-County of Kiambu County.
Poverty-stricken but with an insatiable willingness to change their situation, farmers in this region have adopted agroecological practices such as agroforestry, mixed crop farming, soil management/health, rearing of animals like goats, sheep, cows and poultry that provide manure for use on their farms. As a result, families are experiencing improved nutrition from the diversified crops they grow. Income streams have increased for the families from the sale of the surplus farm produce. Soil health increased leading to better yields. And since family incomes improved, there has been a rise in peaceful coexistence. As a result, more members of the communities are adopting agroecological farming practices.
Yet in order for these initiatives to be sustained, ICE has identified the need for policy influence to entrench agroecology practices in the agricultural budget so that there are funds to support mass take up of these sustainable farming methods. An enabling agroecological policy environment would allow farmers to enjoy soft loans to boost their farming activities, self-employment, and particularly important, to enable the youths to enjoy financial freedom and live decent lives.
Collaboration to develop an agroecology policy framework
ABN has joined the Multi-stakeholder platform of Kiambu county, various ministries affiliated to agriculture, civil society organizations, private sector, County Assembly and other stakeholders, in partnering with ICE to lobby for the formulation of an agroecological policy framework for Kiambu County. Joseph Kamau, the County Executive Committee of Agriculture in the Kiambu County currently has the draft copy of the policy for further discussions with other relevant authorities.
More than 200 farmers participated in the discussions and public participation forums to further understand and engage the officers from the county on the proposed agroecology policy. ICE has also trained 20 officials of Kiambu County, including the Extension Officers, to increase the understanding of the agroecological issues and identify salient points in the successful formulation of the policy.
Conventional farming is a deterrent to meeting SDG 2 on Zero Hunger since micro-organisms in the soil and other elements of the ecosystem are killed by the chemical fertilizers and sprays used each season. Farmers fear hybrid seeds brought by multinationals that influence their food system. These and GMO seeds cannot be reused and are not resilient but interfere with the indigenous seeds that are saved for use in subsequent seasons. They are, however, confident about the indigenous seeds that are resilient and can give them food sovereignty.
Gains of the agroecological practices
An integrated approach to addressing challenges facing communities is essential at the beginning of a journey, providing clarity and a strategy to address such challenges by all the stakeholders. When stakeholders, women, men, people living with disabilities and youths come together with a unity of purpose to speak about issues affecting them and suggest solutions, this is certain to lead to growth since such solutions are by the people for the people.
This work, started by the ICE in partnership with ABN team is beginning to yield great results for the communities in Lari Sub-County in Kiambu County. Through the concerted efforts of like-minded stakeholders and receptive communities, the dry regions of Lari Sub-County have started changing from dry grass and trees to many areas of green, where training in and adoption of agroecological practices has taken place and applied in the farming systems. The nutritional needs of the families have started to reduce. Soil fertility is also much improved since all the manure and farm residues remain on the farms. The living standards of communities living in the Lari Sub-County is thus improving overall. For a lasting solution to water scarcity, proper water governance in the region requires a comprehensive water governance strategy. The aim is to address this once the agroecology policy framework is in place.