Farming Means Partnership for Young Kenyan Couple
Nancy Ndunu of Murang’a County, Kenya, is pregnant and very close to giving birth.
She doesn’t need to be out in the field beside her husband, Lukas Makau, helping to show off the family’s farm to some visiting reporters. But she wants to. She and Lukas, in their mid-twenties, are a team, and she’s excited to explain what they have accomplished together.
Nancy takes the lead in talking about the farm. Lukas pipes up occasionally, stopping to pull a stray weed or two every few minutes.
Their four-year old son, Damien, tags along, skipping around the farm and chasing chickens.
“Our maize was planted the same day as the neighbour’s maize,” explains Nancy, gesturing to a field across the path where the maize is about half the size as that growing on her field.
The neighbour she is referring to is actually Lukas’s brother. On his field, the maize is not as strong and healthy looking as that on Lukas and Nancy’s field.
The difference between the two plots is that Lukas and Nancy are implementing conservation agriculture techniques they are learning through a project of Canadian Foodgrains Bank member World Renew.
“You can see the benefit,” explains Nancy.
Last growing season was Nancy and Lukas’ first year trying out the new techniques.
Using conservation agriculture—which is characterized by minimizing soil disturbance, covering the soil, and crop rotations and intercropping—they were able to harvest three sacks of 90 kilograms off their small conservation agriculture trial plot.
It was much more than they could grow using conventional agriculture methods.
Although their material resources were few, the couple was selected for the project because they were willing and excited to try new conservation agricultural techniques taught by World Renew’s local partner, Anglican Development Services, which works with individual farmers, providing advice and feedback.
Murang’a County, where Lukas and Nancy live, is very densely populated. Most farmers, including Lukas and Nancy, have only about a half acre of land on which to grow enough crops to feed their families the whole year. The weather is also very unpredictable, making it difficult for farmers to predict when to plant.
For example, this year is the first time in 20 years the seasonal rainfall has begun in November. The rains usually come in January.
To take advantage of the rains, Lukas has spread manure from his livestock and leftover crop residues from previous years over his field. If the rains suddenly stop, the residue will help keep moisture in the soil. It will also act as fertilizer, helping Lukas save money by not having to buy it commercially.
“Through conservation agriculture, the Foodgrains Bank is helping farmers in parts of Africa grow more food more sustainably, improve their soil, and ensure the land is in good condition for future generations,” says Mike Salomons, a technical advisor at the Foodgrains Bank.
In addition to the conservation agriculture training, Nancy also received two chickens so she could start a small business.
“At first, it wasn’t easy,” she says. “I had to sell some of the chickens to buy food for the others.”
Today, Nancy owns 43 chickens. And to make sure the true value of what she’s been able to accomplish has been understood, she proudly adds: “I’ve also sold many of them for when I wanted to buy things for my house.”
For Nancy and Lukas, love, dedication, and hard work are the foundation of their success—that, plus some assistance through the Foodgrains Bank.
Asked if they had anything else they wanted to share, Nancy says simply: “Thank you.”
–Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Officer