by Christine Lagat MACHAKOS (Xinhua)
-- Joyce Nduku’s three-acre farm located at the heart
of Kenya’s Machakos county was the hallmark of green shoots on Thursday thanks
to several days of heavy downpour.
The middle-aged mother of eight was
optimistic the much awaited rains would herald a bumper harvest and a quicker
recover from the drought-incurred hunger in a locality renowned for rampant food
Apart from the rain, Nduku and dozens of her peers are also grateful for the
ecologically sensitive farming methods promoted by international and local
conservationists to beat hunger amid climatic stresses.
Speaking to Xinhua at her farm, Nduku pointed at a promising future thanks to
organic farming and inter-cropping that have in the past delivered higher yields
in her farm.
"The experience that I have gained in my 25 years of farming has triggered an
urge to keep on adapting to new ways of producing food, and organic farming
stands out as the most effective shield against hunger in the face of harsh
weather," said Nduku.
She is among thousands of smallholder farmers in Machakos and other semi-arid
Kenyan counties who are engaging in climate-resilient farming practices
championed by Green Peace Africa in conjunction with local partners.
So far, Green Peace Africa and a local conservation lobby, Institute for
Culture and Ecology (ICE) has trained Nduku and her colleagues how to harness
indigenous knowledge and innovations to transform food production in the face of
Joseph Mbuvi, a local agricultural officer, said the number of farmers who
are engaging in climate resilient food production methods has been increasing.
"Farmers have realized droughts are now a recurrent phenomenon and are
practicing agro-forestry, water harvesting and use of organic manure to boost
crop yield," said Mbuvi.
Nduku and her colleagues have heeded the call to realign their farming
methods with changing weather patterns and are not only boasting of surplus
harvests but have also expanded their revenue streams.
Two weeks before the onset of the rain season, the affable farmer planted
maize, beans, green grams and cow peas using compost manure.
The legumes and cereals in Nduku’s well-tended farm are now inches tall and
lush green following adequate rains in her locality since early April.
An ardent fan of mixed cropping, bench terracing and agro-forestry, Nduku was
upbeat the harvest will be abundant to cater for domestic consumption.
"In recent times, I have managed to harvest six bags of maize in a single
acre thanks to use of compost manure and bench terracing that prevents soil
nutrient loss during rains," Nduku told Xinhua.
Other smallholder farmers agreed with Nduku that climate smart agriculture is
not an option but an imperative in the face of recurrent droughts in their
Simon Mwaki, a retired civil servant who has taken up organic farming with
gusto, said that conventional methods of producing food are no longer
sustainable due to unreliable rainfall, declining soil fertility and high cost
His three-acre farm that is a few meters from Nduku’s is a beautiful
spectacle to watch thanks to inter-cropping of legumes, cereals and fruit trees.
"I have always practiced mixed cropping that guarantees better harvests. The
fruit trees in my farm have created a buffer against scorching heat that usually
destroy crops," said Mwaki.
He also plants maize, beans, green grams and cow peas in his ancestral farm
while a range of fruit trees like oranges and mangoes have provided him with
"It is not surprising to spot green foliage in my farm in February when the
dry season is at its peak. Fruit trees and undergrowth have always retained
moisture content in the farm," Mwaki said.
Conservation lobbies have encouraged Kenyan smallholder to adopt climate
resilient agricultural systems like agro-forestry, zero tillage farming and crop
diversification to achieve food security.
Samuel Wathome, a field officer with Institute for Culture and Ecology
underscored the critical role of organic farming, mixed cropping and bench
terracing to cushion farmers from the ravages of drought.
"We are encouraging farmers to diversify and practice bench terracing that
enhances soil water retention in order to strengthen their resilience to
droughts," said Wathome.
He disclosed that mulching and adequate watering can produce eight
90-kilogram bags of green grams in a one-acre farm.
Margaret Kaloki, a mother of three who has consistently practiced
mixed-cropping and agro-forestry, said they have unleashed multiple benefits
that include soil regeneration and higher yields.
"Feeding my three children has been easy thanks to inter-cropping and organic
farming" said Kaloki.
"I have also dug terraces and shallow wells inside the farm to harness storm
waters and use it for irrigation during the dry spell," she added.