KORE - Knowledge Sharing Platform on Resilience

Implementing conservation agriculture under a sustainable food value chain approach in Kenya

Improving crop yields to increase smallholder farmers’ incomes and boost their resilience to the impacts of climate shocks and stresses
25/09/2019

Eighty percent of the population of Kenya relies on agriculture for its livelihood. Agriculture is the backbone of the Kenyan economy, accounting directly for 26 percent of GDP and 60 percent of total export earnings. However, Kenyan farmers face major challenges, including droughts, floods, land degradation and market constraints.

Land degradation is a serious threat, particularly in medium- to high-potential agricultural areas where steep slopes are being cultivated without adequate soil conservation measures. Conservation agriculture (CA) – a method of resource-saving crop production that has the potential to consistently achieve high yields while preserving soil health and moisture – is being promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) across Kenya to strengthen the resilience of smallholder farmers and develop sustainable food value chains (SFVC).

How does conservation agriculture (CA) contribute towards the development of sustainable food value chains (SFVC) and resilient livelihoods?

CA is a climate-smart farming approach that aims to consistently achieve improved crop yields while:

  • limiting the use of agricultural inputs;
  • improving soil fertility; and
  • conserving water and other natural resources.

Thus, CA safeguards the environment and helps farmers achieve profits in a sustainable manner. Water harvesting methods and production techniques that are part of CA (such as crop rotation and association and the planting of permanent cover crops) drastically reduce soil and environmental degradation and boost farmers’ resilience to droughts and climatic variability.

A sustainable food value chain (SFVC) is defined as:

"The full range of farms and firms and their successive coordinated value-adding activities that produce particular raw agricultural materials and transform them into particular food products that are sold to final consumers and disposed of after use, in a manner that is profitable throughout, has broad-based benefits for society, and does not permanently deplete natural resources."

Training smallholders and agricultural service providers in CA fosters SFVCs by enabling farmers to run their holdings as enterprises, increasing production and income.

The promotion of CA under a SFVC approach involves the examination of the actors in the value chain, as well as their linkages, to improve the uptake of CA practices. Interventions aim to:

  • promote and strengthen farmer cooperatives and help smallholders achieve economies of scale;
  • provide better market information to farmers; and
  • develop market linkages between farmers, processors and traders.

Furthermore, CA helps farmers increase their resilience to climate shocks and stresses by reducing soil erosion and rainfall-runoff. By improving the storage of water in the soil, CA contributes to the creation of buffers against droughts. This is particularly important in regions prone to droughts or extreme rainfall events, which are likely to become more frequent.

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