Strengthening community resilience through agroecology
Accompanying communities and reaffirming their sustainable farming approaches restores confidence, and improves human, soil, animal and environmental health. Through knowledge and experiences sharing, various communities working with the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Kenya continue to improve their farm yields, livelihoods and surroundings. Manei Naanyu, Head of Programmes at PELUM Kenya, narrates.
Menya Ciaku Self-Help Group is based in Thika East Sub-County in Kiambu County. It is targeting small farming communities to enhance their sustainable farming capabilities for improved livelihoods as well as the conservation of bio-cultural diversity. It is a group of 18 members, 13 women and 5 men. The group’s activities are mainly subsistence farming, village saving and loaning activities. Menya Ciaku SHG is just one of the many groups working with over 50 CBOs affiliated to PELUM Kenya, who is accompanying them to strengthen their resilience to the climate crises.
The high vulnerability to climate crises expose communities to malnutrition, starvation, low production from their farming activities to no harvests at all, water scarcity, soil and environmental degradation among other negative effects. Due to inadequate rains, more than 70% of the communities are food-deficient for almost six months in a year. Many people rely on shallow wells for water, which lower significantly or totally dry up during the dry seasons, limiting intensive land use. The population walks long distances in search of water for domestic use and livestock.
PELUM Kenya, in collaboration with Resources Oriented Development Initiatives (RODI) Kenya, supports such communities by establishing agroecological demonstration sites as learning centres for the communities on practices that strengthen their resilience to climate crises. PELUM Kenya hasn’t managed to develop demonstration sites for each community. But, we are continuously looking for resources to give to more communities.
At the beginning of project implementation, PELUM Kenya and RODI engage group members through a participatory planning process in project implementation. These planning meetings are conducted to sensitize the members on the project and the changes it will brings to them. Community engagement and participation is a central pillar. Hence, the following is discussed as part of the planning, in collaboration with the communities: site mapping, layout and placement of elements, fencing of the agroecological site, establishment of vegetable and tree nurseries, installing of various garden technologies, construction and training in water harvesting, poultry and rabbit raring; food preservation and processing including identifying a field day.
PELUM Kenya helps the communities to establish vegetable nurseries with crops such as night shade, spinach, kales and amaranth and climber beans. Discussions around nursery bed preparation, seed spacing and nursery management are regularly held to reaffirm to these communities on the knowledge of sustainable farming for continuous vegetable supply throughout the year.
To widen the approach towards mitigating the impact of the climate crises, we encourage communities to plant gravelia, moringa, passion, pawpaw seedlings. These trees give them fruits, shade, helps in restoring soil fertility among other benefits. We encourage communities to diversify crops for multiple sources of their nutrition, controlling soil erosion, restoring fertility in the soil, controlling pests and diseases. Root crops such as cassava and sweet potatoes perform well and communities plant them for increased food security.
Other capacity building exercises PELUM Kenya engages with the communities are; making of vertical gardens, container gardens, transplanting of seedlings in the established vertical gardens to produce various crops such as kales, spinach, night shade, amaranth, cassava, sweet potatoes etc,. These crops diversify’s families’ nutrition and increase incomes from the sale of the surplus crops. Other areas of tarining are the utilisation of site fence- climbing beans, Passion fruits and Gravelia seedlings planted along the site fence; help these communities to organise community learning field days where they meet, discuss learn from each other and exchange seeds.
As a result of accompanying these communities, at least five members from most communities are now processing various products from their farm produce. There is also reduced post-harvest losses especially when the harvest is high due to traditional preservation approaches they embrace. Many are earning an average monthly income of Kshs 3000 (USD 30) from the sale of surplus produce from crops such as moringa, rosella and lemon grass
Besides accompanying these communities, PELUM-Kenya also restores the confidence of the communities about the bio-cultural activities they engage in and interpret to them how such activities play a significant role in restoring bio-cultural diversity and mitigating the climate crises. They are exposed to various approaches to protecting the different ecosystem services for increased seed and food sovereignty within their practices in growing food. PELUM-Kenya will continue to accompany these communities to restore the ecosystem services and conserve the bio-cultural diversity to promote harmonious living among all the organisms in nature.
PELUM Kenya is ABN’s partner and jointly accompanies the communities to build their resilience to seed and food sovereignty while conserving bio-cultural diversity.