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The future of livestock in Kenya; Emerging public health risks in urban and peri-urban areas

The future of livestock in Kenya; Emerging public health risks in urban and peri-urban areas

Kenya’s livestock sector long term transformation in the face of uncertainty

Population growth, urbanization and economic development will extensively transform Kenya’s society and its livestock sector in the next three decades. With the objective to guide policy decisions for a sustainable future, the government of Kenya and the FAO have joined forces to discuss the possible long-term development trajectories of the livestock sector and the associated opportunities and challenges for society, such as poverty reduction, increased food security, environmental degradation and food-borne diseases. One issue, currently at the margin of the policy debate, emerged during the discussion: the increased relevance of urban and peri-urban livestock operations and value chains, and the associated systemic risk of emerging zoonotic diseases and livestock-driven antimicrobial resistance.

Public health threats amidst urbanizing livestock value chains

Livestock consumption and livestock markets urbanize

Between 2015 and 2050, Kenya’s population will more than double and reach 96 million people. Urban areas will account for about 66 percent of this growth, with about 46 million people living in cities and towns in 2050 vis-à-vis 12.7 million today. Over the same period, meat and milk consumption will increase by about 1.4 and 6.6 million tonnes, respectively, and in 2050 urban consumers will contribute about 60 percent to both total meat and milk consumption, respectively, vis-à-vis 37 and 39 percent today.

 

Year

1000 tonnes

% urban

% rural

2015

MEAT

608

37%

63%

2050

MEAT

1978

60%

40%

Year

1000 tonnes

% urban

% rural

2015

MILK

4732

39%

61%

2050

MILK

11346

60%

40%

 

Livestock production and value chains urbanize

As cities and towns expand, livestock production systems, and more so livestock markets, will be increasingly structured to satisfy the demand for animal sources foods of urban dwellers. In particular, as agribusiness enterprises tend to thrive in peri-urban areas with better infrastructure compared to rural areas, in the next few decades the production of perishable livestock products will tend to move closer to consumption, i.e. in and around urban areas. Already today, livestock density in and around urban areas is as much as high than in rural areas.  

Emerging zoonotic diseases

High density of people and animals in and around cities and towns will create environmental and public health challenges, because of novel and more frequent interactions between humans, livestock and wildlife in a resource-constrained natural environment. An outbreak of an emerging zoonotic disease (EZD) that jumps from animals to humans not only might negatively impact the livestock sector but also result in a high human death toll with broader disruptive impact on society, thereby jeopardizing the entire development trajectory of Kenya. In the worst-case scenario, it might turn into a pandemic, such as COVID-19.

Antimicrobial resistance

Because of the growing risk of EZDs and increased competition to access limited natural resources in densely populated urban and peri-urban areas, livestock producers might be tempted to use antibiotics imprudently, such as for prophylaxis. This, in the medium to long term, will increase the risk of livestock-driven antimicrobial resistance in humans, potentially comprising the country’s ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in prolonged human illness, disability and death.

The way forward: urban and peri-urban livestock sector policies

Urban and peri-urban livestock farming and value chain should become a key component of all livestock-related policies and plans. The government of Kenya and the FAO are supporting a One Health multi-disciplinary multi-stakeholder process at local level to:

 

  • Identify nodes of the urban and peri-urban livestock value chain where actors, by not complying with good practices, contribute to major public health threats;
  • Facilitate a One Health process with frontline public officers and private actors to identify policy reforms that, by supporting the wide adoption of good practices, minimize livestock-driven public health threats in and around urban areas.

The adoption of good practices along the urban and peri-urban livestock value chain to detect, prevent and control public health risks is a precondition for the sustainable development of the livestock sector, and of Kenya’s society as a whole. 

Pastoral community turn to farming for secure livelihoods

Pastoral community turn to farming for secure livelihoods

A Turkana woman weeds sorghum. ©FAO/Luis Tato.

Northern Kenya – Turkana. It is just nine o’clock in the morning and we are sweating by the bucket loads in the sweltering heat. Even in this heat, men, women boys and girls are hard at work to de-silting the canal after heavy rainfall the previous day that had sent sand filling in from upstream.

In synchronized moves, one shovel after another, the Nanyee Irrigation Scheme community fork out the sand.

In 2018, with funds from European Union, Food and Agriculture Organization in partnership with World Food Programme rehabilitated 1.2 kilometers of the irrigation canal. It was a semi-permanent structure, which was a difficult task to de-silt when it rained. Many times the canal walls merged with the silt and had to be re-constructed.

Nanyee Irrigation Scheme is one of the nine irrigation schemes that were started by FAO in 1974, that uses water from Turkwell and Kerio River. The group of 760 farmers were then trained on good agricultural practices, which they implemented on their 230 acres of land.

They planted green grams, cow peas, kales, tomatoes, capsicum, maize and sorghum. They had a 32% increase in productivity after the first phase of trainings and implementation. That first season, each farmer waked away with a minimum of 50-60 kilos of sorghum.

“For a long time we had believed that no food can grow here in Turkana. But with the irrigation schemes, we have been able to grow highly nutritive food that is resilient to the hot climate here, earn an income, as well as have a surplus to sustain us for some time,” said Moses Tiyan, the chairperson of Nanyee Irrigation Scheme.

Turkana County has 51 irrigation schemes, and Nanyee was the only scheme with good crop productivity. Some of the green grammes harvested were sold in Lodwar, and the sorghum surplus was sold to the pastoralists who live 50 kilometers away.

The exceptional success of this irrigation scheme is attributed to the use of Trainer of Farmers who taught and kept close tabs of the farmer progress, as well as well-coordinated management of the canal by the community appointed officials.

“Our attitude towards farming and irrigation has completely changed. Before the training by FAO, we used to let cattle graze within the irrigation scheme. We now know there is money to be made, as well as sufficient and diverse foods to be grown.  We still love our cattle and feed them on stalks post-harvest,” adds the chairperson.

Irrigation proves dryland can produce

Irrigation proves dryland can produce

Riziki Sinzobakwira waters her crops. ©FAO/Luis Tato.

At exactly 0600hrs, the sun begins to peak from the east, its yellow rays reflected over the 30,000 cubic meters water pan. Riziki Sinzobakwira walks with a determined gait, holding two watering cans. She has several plots of land to water before it gets uncomfortably hot.

Riziki, born of Burundian and Congolese parents, fled from war-torn Congo and settled in Kalobeyei, Turkana in 2016. In 2017, she became one of the 150 refugee community who started farming in small plots of land near the water pan. This was a trial project executed in partnership with World Food Programme (WFP), with funds from the European Union. WFP engineers designed the water pan, which receives water from Esikiriayit - a seasonal stream.

An additional 150 host community members were trained alongside the refugees, and each one given four plots of 200x100 to farm different types of crops that they could eat to supplement the traditional foods of milk and eggs as well as the food rations given respectively. 

Initially, the 300 members planted onions, tomatoes, cowpeas and pumpkin. Traditionally, Turkana community are not farmers. But when we trained them, and with everyday interaction with the refugee community from different countries, more crops were introduced. Now they also grow okra, sorghum, collard greens, sweet potatoes, water melon, amaranth, egg plant, spinach, as well as capsicum.

Riziki has become a proficient farmer, making Ksh 3,500 per week from selling her vegetable surplus. Three quarter of the total 300 plot owners are women, and Riziki has become the go to ‘farmhand’ when one has just had a baby.

“Before I was uprooted from my country by the unfortunate turn of events in my country, I was a farmer. Now I feel very comfortable here. My five children and husband have access to good organic food and I make decent money to live by. I like it here,” said Riziki.

Everyday, the gates to the water pan and the vegetable plots is opened at 0600-1000hrs, and 1600-1800hrs. The community have learned how to manage themselves, and handle emerging disputes amicably.

This joint farming initiative has also fostered understanding and peaceful co-existence between the refugee and host community. The vegetables grown are fully organic and they use organic pesticides like neem leaves, ash, as well as intercropping to keep pests at bay.

Before this trial, it was believed that Turkana could not produce any food due to inadequate rainfall. The success has triggered action towards activating the second phase; to set up green houses. This will not only ensure access to food security and nutrition for the host and refugee community, it will also guarantee a source of income for them and subsequently improve their livelihoods.

Prosopis Juliflora - from an environmental menace to the center of peaceful co-existence

Prosopis Juliflora - from an environmental menace to the center of peaceful co-existence

Stuffing charcoal into nylon bags for sale. ©FAO/Luis Tato.

49 years ago, Prosopis juliflora was introduced in Northern Kenya with the great promise of increasing the forest cover in this Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) area. Part of the justification was its resilience, fast growth rate as well as its uses for fodder and honey production. The ASAL region needed shade and windbreakers, and the tree could also be used for firewood and building poles.

No sooner had it been introduced than it started to colonize the grazing lands, farmlands and rangelands. It blocked roads, footpaths and irrigation canals; it encroached human settlement and made a home on the river banks and water points.

Because the pods are sugary and attractive to the animals, there was a surge in death of goats from indigestion, as well as from tooth decay. Prosopis Juliflora had become a menace to the pastoral community.

It is in Tana River, Turkana and Baringo counties, as well as Taita Taveta, Malindi, Samburu, Isiolo, Mandera, Marsabit, Wajir, Kajiado and Migori Counties. Some of the important wetlands already invaded or with high potential of invasion include River Tana Delta, (Tana River County) Lorian Swamp (Isiolo/Garissa Counties) Lengurruahanga swamp (Kajiado). {Source: www.environment.go.ke}

FAO did a study in Baringo, Kenya, on how to make use of this invasive species. It was realized that this tree would be excellent for charcoal making, and it would be a great way of bridging relations between the refugee community in Turkana and the host community.

UNHCR gives the 180,000 refugees 10 kilos of firewood, per person per month, and this has not been enough to sustain them adequately - being only a third of the fuel requirement. Charcoal is therefore an excellent option to meet this demand.

Legally, refugees are not allowed to go collecting firewood, and to cover this deficit, the refugees sometimes traded their food rations for a heap of wood fuel, and also spent eleven percent of their monthly stipend to buy this precious commodity. 

The study further revealed that there’s a need for 87,600 metric tonnes of firewood in Turkana alone, and 23,595 bags of charcoal was sold yearly, respectively.

It was then that FAO, with funding from the European Union, resorted to teach the host community, the Turkana, on how to harvest Prosopis Juliflora, locally known as Etirai, and make charcoal using kilns. Initially, the concern was that charcoal making would pose a danger to the Acacia species that is also found in this area, but FAO learned that Turkana community traditionally does not cut it down as it is a very important source of feed for their goats.

The Morungole Charcoal Group, led by Peter Palal was provided with three kilns. The 31 members learned how to select Etirai that was on the banks of Tarach River, which is very dense.

“These kilns produces less smoke. After it has been tightly fitted with dried pieces of wood, and the spaces sealed shut with mud, only one person can do the monitoring of the process. It is very efficient,” said Mr. Palal.

The backbreaking work of chopping down the trees, cutting them into smaller poles and fitting them carefully into the kiln, has had a great impact on the group. They are situated seven kilometers from Kakuma, Turkana, and this has allowed them easy and quick access to the refugee market.

When the three kilns are all operational, it takes three to four days to make charcoal, and each kiln produces about 10 bags (please verify). The price per 50kg bag at the point of production is Ksh 300, and once it gets to the market, it doubles up to Ksh 600.

In one month, the group can make a minimum of 300 bags, which at the point of production fetches them Ksh 90,000, and at the market Ksh 180,000. From this income, the group members have been able to meet the school requirements for their children, pay for healthcare, as well as buy dry food and vegetables from the market to supplement their normal pastoral foods of milk and meat.

Morungole Charcoal group is made up of both men and women of all ages. This joint effort is divided among them. The manual work of cutting down the trees and chopping them further into smaller pieces to be placed into the kiln, as well as transporting the sacks to the market. The women monitor the process of the charcoal burning in the kiln, and are also the ones who sell the charcoal in the markets.

Not only has the charcoal business been effective in controlling the spread of this invasive species, it has since become the center of a symbiotic relationship between the refugee and the host community, and has opened the gateway for acceptance and peaceful co-relation.

School garden in Turkana changes students’ perception on farming

School garden in Turkana changes students’ perception on farming

A juniour farmer weeding cowpeas leaves. ©FAO/Luis Tato.

It’s 1545hrs at Pokotom Primary School, Turkana. The pupils are sitting in the assembly, and as soon as it ends, the members of the Junior Farmer Field and Livestock Schools (JFFLS) run to the school garden. The cowpeas, amaranth, pumpkin and collard greens are looking very healthy despite the intense sun.

The pupils get busy weeding. On this particular occasion, there’s no need to water the crops because Turkana has just received two days of substantial rainfall. To keep the produce from being dried out by the scorching sun, a section of the crops are grown under shade nets, while the other under the shade of the neem trees.

This is part of the training that the Junior Farmer Field School received from FAO, in partnership with The Reuben Center, and funding from the European Union. Under the patronage of Madam Sarah Terigim, JFFLS’s goal is to make agriculture attractive to young people, promote better nutrition as well as to change the attitude that it is impossible to grow food in Turkana. This was an uphill task, considering that the Turkana people are traditionally pastoralists.

“After a one week training by FAO, I sensitized the teachers and parents on the importance to start a Junior Farmer Field and Livestock School club. I then registered 66 students from class four, five and six,” said Madam Sarah.

Turkana is hot and dry, and access to water for irrigation is a huge challenge. To navigate this problem, Pokotom Primary uses run-off water from the central hand-washing area, which is piped and directed to the school garden.

Since inception in 2018, the school garden has not only imparted on the pupils Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) such as mulching, irrigation, crop rotation and crop diversification, it has also succeeded in creating a new mindset on how important if not profitable farming is.  

“I started in class four, and this club has taught me so much about farming. Before joining JFFLS, I used to think that farming is a lost venture. But after seeing how much vegetable we have been able to grow, how much money we have been able to make from the sale of vegetables, I am now convinced that farming is good,” said Godfrey Lekiru, the prefect of the JFFLS club.

Each member has a plot of land in the school garden where they grow assorted vegetables. Since they started, they have cowpeas, spinach, amaranth, okra, mrenda, moringa, tomatoes, onions and pumpkins.

Part of this training included chicken rearing. FAO introduced improved local breed, and taught JFFS members how best to care for them. From the initial 140 chics, which were a mixture of hens and cocks. 30 of them were issued to the JFFLS members for the improvement of their chicken breed at home.  

The eggs laid were shared among the members who took them home either for consumption or for to add onto their brooder to increase their home chicken flock. Because chicken rearing is a lot of work that starts at as early as 0600hrs, the school hired two farm hands to help the students with this work and allow them to fully participate in their academics.

The community around the school has since gotten wind of the organic produce being grown in the school, and regularly come to purchase. From the last vegetable harvest, each member made Ksh 2000 each from the sale of vegetables. Part of this income that is used to buy seeds for the next planting season.

“We used part of the proceeds from this school garden to help the needy pupils in the boarding section who may be short on school amenities like stationary, school uniform, as well as personal effects. Even I got to repair my uniform,” added the JFFLS club prefect.

However, the JFFLS are grappling with pests on their farm, with caterpillars eating their collard greens as the biggest challenge.

“Everything we grow here is organic, and we use natural methods to keep pests away like using neem leaves and planting marigold. But every so often our Sukuma wiki (Swahili for collard greens) are attacked by caterpillars, and we are yet to find an efficient organic way to deal with these pests,” adds Madam Sarah.

From the success of Pokotom Primary School garden, the teachers have also started a kitchen garden in their staff quarters – complete with a solar dryer for when there’s a vegetable surplus.

This ripple effect can also be felt in the homes of the JFFLS members, and the community at large, who are now beginning to embrace kitchen gardens and chicken rearing around their homesteads. 

Nutrition training triggers small business idea

Nutrition training triggers small business idea

Josephine Abuba makes beans samosas ready for sale in Kalobeyei settlement scheme. ©FAO/Luis Tato

Everyday at the crack of dawn, Josephine Abuba wakes up to prepare beans-filled samosas. The 25 year old refugee from South Sudan got this idea after attending a training with FAO conducted with European Union funds on nutrition and how to make the best use of the food stuff available within the settlement, and match them up to meet the daily healthy meal requirements.

She got the idea to make samosas that are filled with beans and other vegetables as a one-stop snack that provides the three foods – carbohydrates, protein and vitamins. At first, she didn’t think that the samosas would be a hit among the refugee community. It was a new idea.

Surprisingly, they became popular in a very short time. There are days, she says, that she runs out and comes back to make more. Each morning she makes a dough from the 1kg packet flour which translates to 50 medium sized pockets which she fills in with the pre-cooked beans and raw vegetables for added flavour.

It is an intense process that requires full concentration.

‘I’m so used to it, it feels like nothing,’ says Josephine, as she deep fries the samosas in readiness for the market.

By 0830hrs, Josephine is already seated at the market waiting for customers. The scotching sun does not deter her, nor the buyers, who are of all ages. In a short time, they are sold out. She makes a monthly profit of Ksh 600.

In addition to pairing available foods in a balanced way, Josephine also learned how to preserve vegetables when there’s a surplus. She loves to dry tomatoes and cowpeas leaves, which she easily gets from the farmers at the water pan, as well as from her kitchen garden.

‘Since I learned how to sundry vegetables, I have a good stick of cowpeas leaves and tomatoes. We sometimes use the tomatoes to cook, and other times, eat it as is. I have a child and feeding him a balanced diet has made him very healthy, with little – if any visit to the doctor,’ said Josephine.

Private extension officers the backbone of rural agriculture

Private extension officers the backbone of rural agriculture

Simon Ndanda (extreme left) showing farmers how to use a conservation agriculture planter. ©FAO/Luis Tato

Residents of Godo village, Mwereni Ward have a popular joke they share among themselves. They call where they live ‘kwa manyani’, which loosely translates to where monkeys live, simply because they feel very detached from the rest of Kwale County. In a nutshell: a forgotten people.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with funds from the European Union, was the first organization to venture into the village, and the community was delighted enough to slash a path to make way for frequent visits. Simon Ndanda is one of the private extension officers who has been the backbone of the farming success of Godo Village.

After his training in 2016 alongside 119 other private extension officers on the farming concept of Conservation Agriculture (CA), Simon started a demonstration plot where he and his two farmer groups – Sagalato and Songa Mbele - would meet every Saturday for training.

‘Before we adopted CA, we used to harvest as low as 90kg of green grams per acre but now, we are averaging 270kgs per acre,’ said Simon.

The two groups, Sagalato and Songa Mbele who have 45 and 25 members each respectively, 60 out of the total 70 have at least 3 acres of pure stand green grams and are expecting to harvest 3 bags of 100kg per acre, totaling to 54,000kg.

Initially, the going price of green grams per kilogramme was Ksh 35, but Simon saw the need to aggregate the farmers’ produce and seek better paying markets. Last year, the two farmer groups harvested 12 bags (of 100kg each), and he was able to find a market willing to purchase at Ksh 100 per kilo.

The Ksh 120,000/- income generated last year allowed the group to be able to meet the Ksh 21,250 per acre needed as input for maize and green grams intercrop (seed, fertilizer, herbicides).

For Simon, the journey thus far has been a labour of love. Each day, he sets out at 0600 and walks for five kilometers to recruits farmers, who then meet at the demonstration farm every Saturday.  

As part of the aggregation exercise, Mr. Ndanda solved the storage problem by taking up an abandoned bar and rehabilitating it to hold the increased bags of harvested green grams that are duly packed in hematic bags. 

‘When I started, the concept of CA it was frowned upon by the community. After the first harvest, the farmers’ incomes have been increasing every year. Now children are always in school with their fees fully paid, there’s enough food for everyone and most of all, the land is preserved,’ said Simon.

Mariamu Mlongo and Loise Ega of Sagalato group echoes Simon’s sentiments.

‘Initially, we used to get very little income from our plots of land, and the energy used to till it was immense. Farming was a really dirty job. Now, we get slightly dirty, use very little energy and get a very good harvest. With our intercrop of green grammes, cow peas and maize, we not only have our source of income secured, but we also have nutritious food for our families.’

So happy are the residents of Godo village with the farming concept of Conservation Agriculture that farming is no longer an activity taken up only by women. Husbands are happy, and are now very often seen playing an active role in the planting and harvesting of the crop.

According to the Kenya Bureau of Standards, Agriculture sector is the backbone of Kenya’s economy. It contributes about 25 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is the source of livelihood for most of the rural population.

Simon’s success as a private extension officer in Godo village is an excellent demonstration of how rural farming communities are the inevitable key to food security and reduction of poverty and hunger.

Chicken rearing give Turkana woman a sense of ownership

Chicken rearing give Turkana woman a sense of ownership

Arukudi Erupe feeds her chicken. ©FAO/Luis Tato

Turkana is mainly a pastoral community and the main source of livelihood is rearing goats and cattle. The bigger the herd the richer the man is perceived to be. But this wealth did not trickle down to the woman.

Before a goat is slaughtered, a ritual is performed by the male elders to thank the gods for what they are about to consume. This goat is then roasted with its skin on, known in Turkana language as tope tokon. Loosely translated to mean ‘roast it until it cooks.’

Tope tokon, is an only men affair. They sit in their traditional rest stools in a circle from the eldest to the youngest. At the center is the fire made from firewood collected in the nearby forest, of which the goat is placed directly on top of.  In front of the men is a heap of leaves that act as a table. Almost each man is armed with a circular traditional steel knife to cut meat pieces.

From the ‘kitchen’ to the circle, cooked meat is passed to an older man who cuts his piece and passes it along to the next. Before the meat is roasted, a leg is put aside for the wife of the goat owner, as a token of appreciation for having taken care of the goat.

This is the furthest that a woman has ownership to the goats and cattle that she works hard to take care of. Arukudi Erupe was introduced to chicken rearing in 2016 by FAO. To the people of Turkana, chicken is not traditionally eaten nor reared. FAO, with funds from European Union, therefore had to do extensive training on the nutritive value of chicken and eggs, as well as how to keep them.

Arukudi is an early adopter of chicken rearing, having witnessed the fast pace at which they multiply compared to goats. The improved breed that was introduced by FAO also fetch a good price – Ksh 1000-1200 per mature chicken, and the eggs can also be consumed by her children.

‘I was convinced to start keeping chicken because it was finally something I could fully take ownership of. Traditionally, we take care of goats but we do not own them. If I have a visitor, I cannot decide to slaughter them a goat. But now with chicken, I have full autonomy of decision,’ says Arukudi.

The men do not pay any attention to the chicken. Arukudi’s daughter has also started keeping chicken. To keep the snakes and mongoose at bay, Arukudi uses raised oil barrels introduced by the Norwegian Refugee Council, in partnership with FAO.  She diligently vaccinates her chicken as trained by FAO, and sometimes incorporates indigenous knowledge like the use of neem, aloe vera and chilli to protect against Newcastle disease.

Arukudi, who is 31 years old and has six children, now has a flock of 23 birds, from the initial seven she received from FAO to start her off. She also now uses the chicken droppings to grow kale and amaranth in her kitchen garden. Since the improved breeds introduced by FAO only lay eggs and don’t brood, she has two local breeds for that.

Livestock Farmer Field Schools was a project funded by the European Union to teach the pastoralist community on better livestock management, including the introduction of chicken rearing.

“Since I started keeping chicken, I earn money from the sales, my children eat eggs and we now also have access to vegetables that we use to supplement our diet of traditional meat and milk,’ Arukudi adds.

Necessity driving ingenuity in agricultural tools fabrication

Necessity driving ingenuity in agricultural tools fabrication

Janet Chuma welding the tools. ©FAO/Luis Tato

Janet Chuma, Austin Vita Mzee and Peter Kahui have two things in common. They are all farmers who were introduced to the concept of Conservation Agriculture (CA) that was funded by the European Union and taught by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). They quickly moved in to fill the gap of tools needed for this type of farming, which are not readily available in Kenya.

Janet Chuma, her name Chuma coincidentally similar to the Swahili word chuma to mean metal, saw the need to fabricate the tools that she would need to continue training the three groups she was teaching.

In 2016 she made her maiden trip to Nairobi to source for materials, and in partnership with a metal workshop in Kambuu, Makueni County, she got busy trying to figure out how to put together a planter and a shallow weeder, with no prior experience or knowledge in metalwork.

‘When I started, I borrowed the first ox-driven ripper that was used by FAO to teach us, which had been left with the Makueni County extension officer for our collective use. After buying the raw materials from Nairobi, the blacksmith and I went to work, trying to figure out the appropriate measurements and how to join it all together. To date, I still use the original ripper I made in my farm,’ said Janet when the FAO team visited her farm.

Last year, Janet sold 8 pieces of the ox-driven ripper to farmers. Having made 3 planters in 2016 and 2017, she was confident enough that the tools she made are working, and opened herself up for business. She sells each ox-driven ripper at Ksh4,500, which is cheaper than store bought ones (Ksh 6,500), allowing her a profit margin of between Ksh 800-1000 per planter.

Janet is a constant learner. On 4 June 2019 when the FAO team visited her at the workshop, we found her learning how to solder metal pieces together, while working on the 5 orders she had received in a span of 7 days. In addition to the planter, Janet has also made two shallow weeders, which she uses in her 4 acre farm that is fully cultivated under the concept of Conservation Agriculture.

On her farm she grows mangoes, okra, water melon, eggplant, zucchini, pumpkin (different types), black beans (Njahe), sunflower and sorghum, pigeon  peas, as well as feed  for cattle. In addition to this, Janet sells hematic bags to farmers. In 2017 she sold 50 pieces. Last year she sold 1600 pieces making a total profit of Ksh 112,000.

Peter Kahui on the other hand, saw the possibility of mechanizing the Conservation Agriculture tools when he adopted the method of farming in his shamba. Having farmed in Laikipia County for many years before, he already owned an ox-driven harrow.

So when he was first introduced to Conservation Agriculture farming concept in 2005, it was not until 2015 that he fully adopted this method and saw the need to modify the ox-driven planter that FAO had brought in for demonstration to fit into a hand tractor.

‘An ox-driven planter is very expensive to maintain. First, you have to use two bulls. Secondly, one has to feed them, and allow them to rest, making it time consuming and expensive to plant per acre. After the planting season is over, the cows still have to be fed and treated for diseases while waiting for the next season. A tractor is way cheaper to maintain,’ said Peter.

In addition to being a farmer who has adopted CA on his 10 acre farm, Peter says that to use an ox-driven ripper and planter, which he modified to be two in one, will need two animals and will take two days per acre.

However, with the hand tractor, Peter now plants an acre in two hours and is able to do up to 6 acres per day at Ksh 1500 per acre. The seed and fertilizer is provided for by the farmer.

During the just concluded March-April-May rains of 2019, this service provider covered 70 acres, giving him an income of 105,000/- . This is not even half the demand. Peter is well on his way to break even on his hand tractor investment of Ksh 200,000, which he says he is confident he will meet by the end of the October-November-December rainy season.

Meanwhile, Austin Vita Mzee from Taita Taveta County, who is relatively new to the farming concept of CA, was quick to see the gap and realized he is able to fill it.

‘We were first taught about CA last year November, and there are not enough tools to go around. I watched the teaching videos, and looked at the tools drawn on the manuals, and thought that perhaps they were simple enough to make, ‘said Austin.

Austin went in search of old vehicle springs and old jembes, and made a ripper, which he tried on his farm to first verify how it works as well as the tools that they had used during demonstration.

He has since sold rippers to 20 farmers, which he sells at Ksh 350, a piece. The old vehicle springs are sold to him at Ksh 200, and from one he can make two to three rippers.

Just like Janet and Peter, Austin has his 2 acre farm under CA, and their motivation is ensure that the farmers fully adopt this methodology and increase their farm’s output per acre, which will ultimately increase their income and ultimately quality of life.

Trainer of Farmers trailblazing in the adoption of Conservation Agriculture

Trainer of Farmers trailblazing in the adoption of Conservation Agriculture

Elizabeth Kaindi with her goats. ©FAO/Luis Tato

Deep in the heart of Kilifi County, the FAO team drive and wade through ankle-deep mud to get to Elizabeth Dama Kahindi’s farm. The long awaited March-April-May rains are finally here, and farmers are abuzz with planting and some weeding activity.

Elizabeth is one of the 280 Trainer of Farmers (TOFs) who were extensively educated on Conservation Agriculture by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2015, and funded by the European Union. The first thing that Elizabeth did after the 6 day training was to put 1 acre of Greengrams using the new method.

That was during the October-November-December rainy season. She harvested 7.5 bags, which she sold in Malindi making a cool Ksh 75,000. This was the first time she made so much money from farming bringing home the life-changing opportunity of farming as well as the possibility of diversifying into cattle and goat farming. Elizabeth spent Ksh 30,000 and 10,000 out of the Ksh 75,000 to buy two Zebu cows and five Small East-African goats respectively.

She fondly named one cow FAO and the other, Kilimo Hifadhi, which is Swahili for Conservation Agriculture. The herd has since grown to 7 cows and 17goats. From this initial bumper harvest in 2016, Elizabeth became confident in the efficacy of the farming method, and went ahead to teach farmers in two groups: Ramada (Community based Livestock early warning system (CBLEWS), (34 members) and Juhudi (31 members).

Even though the farmers have been slow in adopting CA, Elizabeth increased her acreage to 6. 2017 was a drought stricken year, and even though there was little to no rainfall, because she mulched her farm (one of the principles of CA), she was able to make Ksh 35,000 from the little harvest, while her neighbours had a completely failed crop.

At some point in the year she had to share her food stock with her neighbours. In 2018 though, she made Ksh 120,000 from one harvest of greengrams. With these increased earning, Elizabeth bought a Gala- buck goat at Ksh 10,000, which she is using to improve the breed of the goats that she is rearing. ‘I am a single mother with 4 children, and since I started to farm using the principles of CA, my life is very easy and enjoyable.

I have money to take children to school, I am dressing very well, I have plenty of nutritious food to eat, and farming is no longer back breaking work,’ says Elizabeth Dama Kahindi. Of her four children, only one is in Secondary school, whom she can now afford to pay for. Her three elder children are college ready, and she now sees the possibility of her being able to pay their college tuition fees from the proceeds of selling her farm produce.

Fostering head, heart, hands and health in Kenya’s youth

Over 65 percent of the children in Kenya’s Kilifi county have to walk long distances to and from school every day, just one of many obstacles they have to overcome to get an education. This extra burden can make it difficult to convince young people that school is a crucial stepping-stone to a successful future. Absenteeism and high dropout rates are a too-common reality. [...]

FAO’s work on Safe Access to Fuel and Energy in Kenya

In July 2015, FAO carried out a mission to assess the fuel needs and associated risks and challenges faced by women in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) of Kenya. This work was carried through collaboration between the Climate and Environment Division (NRC), the Emergency and Rehabilitation Division (TCE) and the FAO Kenya office. The mission also provided technical support for project OSRO/KEN/501/EC "Strengthening linkages between refugee and host communities in Kakuma to improve incomes and nutrition".

The mission is an example of FAO's work on Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) which is an important part of Strategic Programme 5: Increasing the Resilience of Livelihoods to Threats and Crises.