Rural Kenya Shakes up food shortage with new farming techniques
By Phelix Ouma
MAGINA, Homabay – It’s early morning and Duncan Yongo 32, prepares his “jembe”, the local name for farming hoe. Yongo heads to his farm to till the land, now covered in maize stalks and healthy weeds – a clear sign of the potential and vigor that awaits the next phase of farming. He buries the weeds and maize stalk into the soil to allow them to decompose into humus
He is in a jovial mood and whistles as he works. He is excited because he has recently moved from his parents’ homestead, established a new home and embarked on farming through the RDN project.
Meanwhile, Yongo’s wife and children are taking their recent harvest out in open sun to dry it, removing corn kernels and preparing a portion for milling and the rest for storage. “Creating Decent Employment Opportunities Program” (CREDEEP) has been highly beneficial to him and his family. He’s acquired new skills towards successful job creation within the agricultural value chains. These include correct land tilling methods, adapted cultivas, plant population, fertilization, managing weed, insects and disease control, harvesting, marketing and financial services for both quality and quantity options.
Yongo has been able to overcome several farming challenges and technical inequalities such as; setting up goals, access to marketing facilities and production controls.
In Western Kenya, there is a stereotype against use of improved seeds and fertilizers, the fear being that the produce might be unsafe for consumption, while fertilizers does cause soil pollution and compromise soil fertility. A survey conducted in 2010 as part of a push by Kenya’s government and Maseno University to clarify the effects of use of nitrogenous fertilizers and biosolids on farms, has settled these assumptions by concluding that its safer and more rewarding to use improved seeds and fertilizer. This survey has been the premise for Kenya’s new curriculum training, domestic investments, government incentives and price policies ushering in project such as 1-Acre fund, which has partnered with RDN for trainings, incentives and farm credit.
In addition, farmers, in this region lack access and bargain in local markets. This is partly due to their inability to maintain consistent and quality standards as required. But through CREDEEP, these requirements have been addressed, giving local produce a competitive edge against cereals imported from Northern Tanzania and parts of Rift Valley in Kenya. With the efforts of CREDEEP Program Manager, Mr. George Orero and RDN Country Director, Mr. Joshua Ochieng, Magina farmers have had the opportunity to collaborate and bargain for better prices for farm inputs and sale of produce.
“This project has changed my life. I used to get four bags of maize from this farm, this time I got nine bags. After preparing a few bags for storage and future use, I plan to sell three bags and buy more fertilizer and seeds.” Says Yongo.
While Yongo remains an exemplary farmer and an influence among his peers, one Mrs. Felgona Adero is a champion of her own. Unlike Yongo, Mrs Adero focuses mostly on quick short initiatives like farming vegetable, preparing compost and rearing poultry for eggs. She maximizes fertility on her farms by using poultry droppings as manure. Mrs. Adero has particularly upgraded her farm and poultry shed, as a widow of 78 years old and living with her grandchildren, she focuses mostly on commercial farming and any extra for home consumption, while closely sharing income between family and project needs. This has earned her admiration among program farmers.
Yongo and Felgona have both made a once unimaginable change to their livelihoods: They have become an inspiration to community members and a good influence to aspiring farmers. For many RDN beneficiaries, after only eight months in the project, tangible changes in job creation and food security can be observed.
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