For over 30 years, Augustine has been growing sorghum and green grams on their 4-acre farm in Tharaka-Nithi County, Kenya, to support his family. Challenges from the impacts of climate change have been affecting agriculture in the region, which has seen reduction in yields for farmers like Augustine.
Using traditional farming methods, his yields were not consistent to meet every day needs. Seed recycling, lack of soil nutrition replenishment, low fertilizer use, persistent weed, and pest infestation are just a few contributors to dwindling yields.
“Over the years we have seen less food growing on our farm. Perhaps this is due to the fact that we are not receiving as much rainfall as we did 30 years ago,” says Stella, Augustine’s wife.
“My husband and I were able to put our six children through school by planting sorghum and green grams. We were also able to start a chicken business as well as grow other crops to sell. But things started to change really fast. The rain wasn’t falling when it was supposed to and when it did it wasn’t as much. So, our crops would fail and many times we would get insects and diseases that we could not manage, so we would lose a lot,” adds Stella.
Stella and Augustine
To change this trend, farmers need to adapt to climate smart agriculture practices. The Climate Resilient Agriculture for Tomorrow (CRAFT) Project, which SNV leads, is supporting this. Funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the five-year market-led project looks at strengthening enterprises through a model that centers around knowledge sharing and learning, technologies, agri-business approaches and methodologies that have proven to be successful, as well as gender equality and opportunities for youth employment.
CRAFT aims to support the increased adoption of climate-smart and ecologically sustainable production methods for farmers like Augustine and Stella to improve productivity. With increasing threats like the rise in temperature and unpredictable rainfall affecting crop yields, the project’s holistic approach is enhancing climate resilience along selected agriculture value chains, one being the green gram value chain.
CRAFT has partnered with SME agribusinesses and Cooperatives such as Igamba ng’ombe Multipurpose Co-op Society (IMCOS), a cooperative in the green gram value chain which aggregates produce from farmers and sells in bulk to SME agri-businesses that deal in green grams. The co-operatives also provide a linkage for farmers like Augustine to agro-dealers, trainings on climate resilient agricultural practices, threshing service providers, and market linkages.
“Late last year my wife and I started working with the team from CRAFT through IMCOS, and we have learnt so much about climate smart agriculture land preparation, the right seed variety to use, and soil testing to inform us how much fertiliser to use. We used to plough our soils and broadcast the seeds during planting but now we use the ripping method which we have learnt is good for water harvesting. We also have access to seeds that are drought-resistant and we can honestly see the difference. The green grams from last season did not look as healthy at this vegetative stage despite not having received the rain we were expecting,” says Augustine.
Augustine with green grams
Godfrey Mwenda, the 25-year-old son of Augustine and Stella agrees. “I have watched my parents work hard on our farm since I was a little boy and I have seen how difficult farming has become for them. The last two years have been the most difficult. We have not seen such a dry long spell and we had no way of knowing how bad it would become. Before, we would harvest about 150kgs to 200kgs of green grams on just half an acre. We barely harvest half of that."
"But this new crop is looking good. It looks fuller and there are barely any pests attacking the leaves and buds. I too have planted green grams but they are not looking as healthy because I used old seeds and I ploughed my land using the traditional method. I will definitely change next season to using climate smart agriculture,” says Godfrey.
So far, IMCOS has trained over 1,123 members. The co-op has recorded an increase of 150 metric tonnes since working with the SNV team under the CRAFT project. Currently they have procured a polisher, destoner and a packaging machine to enhance the business. In addition, these farmers are linked to SME businesses along the green gram value-chain. Topical Ventures has been at the forefront in off-taking produce from aggregator co-operatives like IMCOS, where they provide training to the farmers on good agronomy practices, and once the green grams are ready, they provide a market for these farmers.
Augustine with green grams
In Kitui County, Theophilus Kimanzi also farms green grams and has been doing so for the last five years. Though soils in Kitui County are drastically different in composition from those in Tharaka-Nithi County, farming has been the primary source of income for most households in the region and, like the farmers in Tharaka-Nithi, they have been facing drastic challenges brought on by climate change.
Theophilus is one of these smallholder farmers that the project is working with through its model. “This is the first time I am planting green grams using smart agriculture practices and you can clearly see the difference between my farm and my neighbours’ that have not yet adopted this way of farming. I am also getting my seeds that are certified through the local Agrovet which also works under CRAFT’s model. We have barely received any rainfall this season but with the little we have received, the seeds germinated and we will supplement the shortage of water from the river,” says Theophilus.
The project continues to record improvement on how farmers undertake crop husbandry which is expected to increase yields from farmers and in return provide the needed inputs by agribusinesses along the respective value chains. This, coupled with other techniques such as crop rotation, construction, and use of proper storage and soil conservation is giving farmers a positive outlook and increasing the chances of a food secure future.
“With the increasing need for food security, demand for locally grown food including various grains, such as sorghum and green grams rising in Kenya, actors within agriculture value chains need to adapt and collaborate more efficiently as this will be beneficial for farmers, businesses and the entire country,” says CRAFT’s Kenya Project Manager, Harold Mate.
More information: The Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT), is a five year project, implemented in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda with focus on three pillars; increasing adoption of climate smart practices and technologies amongst farmers and agro-enterprises; increasing investments and business growth in climate smart value chains; and creating enabling environment necessary to ensure large-scale roll-out of market driven climate smart agriculture. The project is passionate about women and youth inclusion as one of the indicators seeks to increase the number of women and youth employed in the private sector. The cross-cutting workstream for gender and youth inclusion emphasizes targeted interventions where needed, to ensure equity and inclusion through a sustainable gender sensitive climate smart service provision.