Kenyan Farmers Excited to Give Back

Monday, February 8, 2016

Kenyan Farmers Excited to Give Back

Farmers in Foodgrains Bank agriculture training program able to provide bulk of donations for grain drive to support drought-affected neighbours

In Kenya, it’s an important cultural tradition to give to those in need.Piah

But for many farmers in Embu county, in the central part of Kenya, a combination of poor soils, lack of agricultural training, and unreliable rainfall meant that many farmers were unable to help their neighbours as much as they would like. Some were left reliant on outside help several months a year.

Piah Wanjagi is one of those people.

The 86-year old widow, who cares for four of her orphaned grandchildren, has been farming since 1947.

“I’ve been farming since the day I got married,” she says.

Piah currently farms four acres, growing things like maize, beans, and cowpeas. The farm has done fine for the most part, but things are still tight. Income from the farm allows her to send her grandchildren to school. But as she grows older, working the land is becoming increasingly difficult.

That’s why she was eager to take part in a conservation agriculture program offered by Canadian Foodgrains Bank member Canadian Baptist Ministries to help her improve her farm’s yield, at the same time ensuring she can pass good quality land on to her grandchildren.

The increased yields meant that when Nguni Ukembaa, a village about 40 kilometres away from Embu, suffered from a severe drought this past growing season, Piah could respond.

“It’s written in the Bible that the Lord will come into your home, but that person who comes into your home won’t look like Jesus,” says Piah of how she donated four kilograms of beans and six kilograms of maize from her yields through her church to people in that village who were going hungry. “And if you chase that person away, you will have chased away Jesus,” she adds.

Piah learned about conservation agriculture—which is characterized by minimizing soil disturbance, permanently covering the soil, and crop rotations and intercropping—through a program implemented by CBM’s local partner, African Christian Church and Schools (ACC&S). ACC&S is also the church of which Piah is a member.

Henry Mwangi is the project coordinator. After an appeal from the moderator of ACC&S was issued to churches for people in Nguni Ukembaa, he also appealed to farmers during a farmer training session.

“The moment I came and made the appeal, they gave,” he said. “Of the three tonnes that the community brought to Nguni Ukembaa, 75 percent was donated by farmers involved in the conservation agriculture program.”

“It was a joy to people to give as they’d been given.”

It also helps restore a sense of dignity to many in the community, says Mwangi.

He says that after many years of struggling to make ends meet and continually receiving outside help, “Some communities begin to believe they have nothing to give. But when they were able to give of what they had this past year, it brought them pride.”

Piah is also proud that conservation agriculture has enabled her to be able to give.

“There were years where I couldn’t harvest,” she says. “I received from others at that time. Now I get to give back.

—Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Officer