African Activists for Climate Justice

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Using Climate-smart Agriculture to build farmer’s Resilience

Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the lives of most Kenyans with close to 70 percent of the population – mainly women – relying on it. Yet Kenya’s agricultural potential has been low with productivity reported to be on a gradual decline, affecting families, particularly in the rural areas According to the Kenyan Government a total of 1.3 million Kenyans are affected by drought. All hope is however not lost. Despite minimal rainfall, farmers in Meru County are defying the harsh weather conditions by farming alternative and drought tolerant crops. 

African Activists for the climate justice program through the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance are supporting small-scale women farmers to grow more food and earn more from their crops by adopting conservation agriculture and linking the farmers to the market

Sorghum: what is it and how is it helping Kenyan farmers?

Roda Munyoki is 43 years old and a member of the Kiolo Maendelo Group in Kilili in Meru County, in the Eastern region of Kenya. Her ward lies in a semi-arid region where rainfall averages 150mm to 800mm annually with high temperatures during hot seasons.

More recently, she has started planting sorghum, a grass species cultivated for its grain – used for consumption. 

“Before we started planting, we put in practice what we learnt. It is important to rotate the crops and to keep some of the crop residues on the soil to retain the moisture and protect the soil. These new ways of working our land have improved our farming, and we now have a much better harvest,” says Roda

“Through the training, we were introduced to the sorghum, seeds,” shared Ms. Makena, the group’s cchair lady “Before, we grew maize and beans, our staple food, that didn’t do well during dry sessions. PACJA trained us on the economics of agribusiness and the importance of planting marketable and drought-tolerant crops”.

PACJA under the African Activists for Climate Justice (AACJ) project, is helping farmers across eight counties to have better harvests by training them to use conservation agriculture in the context of good agronomic management practices, including planting drought-tolerant crops and adapted varieties, using certified seeds, planting on time, applying fertilizers correctly, and improving post-harvest storage. 

Farmers who planted maize during the drought season are expecting lower yields as compared to those who planted drought-tolerant crops. In a one-hectare maize farm, for instance, farmers are expecting one, 90 Kg bag of maize, whereas, from a one-hectare farm of sorghum, Shadrack is expecting more than eight 90 Kg bags of sorghum.

To date, more than 8,000 farmers are applying conservation agriculture. AACJ project aims to work with county governments to expand the use of conservation agriculture practices

Linking women farmers to markets

PACJA is also training women farmers to have better access to information and markets so that they can sell their crops for a better price and become more self-sufficient.

PACJA has adapted various iterations of the “aggregator model” in increasing the production and marketing of sorghum among smallholder farmer groups in Meru. The aim was to address barriers and bottlenecks along agri-based value chains.  The project used the whole value chain  approach to increase production and productivity as well as to link smallholders to markets for surplus produce.  Smallholder farmers were organized into development and commercially focused smallholder production and marketing groups. Today, PACJA aims to mobilize 2o,000 smallholder farmers to receive support through the value chain from sector service providers in other counties.

“I have planted sorghum, beans, maize, and peanuts on a leased farm. In the previous season, I planted one acre of sorghum but this season I have increased it to two acres because it brings me better earnings. Because of the contract, we have with the buyer, I can budget and plan how to use my money. Many farmers can now build better houses, and some bought Toggen goats, which is a worthwhile investment as these goats give a lot of milk. We call them the ‘dairy goats’,” explains Roda.

Roda and her group now fetch close to 4 dollars per kilo of sorghum. They deduct a small percentage for transport and logistics costs, but the price remains competitive as local prices were below $3 in the past.

Working in a group ensures that they can supply bigger volumes of sorghum, and share overhead costs as a group. They also support each other and can learn from one another. As a result, the group keeps growing – from 36 members during the last season to 43.

Although many farmers are still reliant on maize, Kenya’s leading cash crop, maize production has been dropping due to more frequent droughts, and an increasing number of farmers are seeing the benefits of growing other crops such as sorghum

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