Stunning Young Farmer Kenyans Should Look Up to

13 mins read

Found this story in the Kenya Star ( By LOISE MACHARIA Sept. 9, 2023) and I just wanted to put it here so we can all read it and pass it on. Just amazing what can be achieved with hard work and good thinking. Kenya can have millions like this if they are helped to get there:

A drive through villages in Nyando, Kisumu County tells a story of communities whose farming is a major economic activity as farms are characterised by maize, sorghum and millet among other crops.

At Agoro East village, Evelyne Okoth, 35, is bee-busy at her farm, tending to her crops and poultry.

Hers is a different kind of farming – from the gate, a portion on the right has sweet potato vines, intercropped with different indigenous maize varieties.

There are also richly-fruited pawpaw trees, vertical gardens on which she has planted different types of vegetables, as well as a section where she practices vermiculture.

Vermiculture is an agro-ecological method of using earth worms in processing vermin-compost and liquid fertiliser, also known as vermin juice.

“I like calling my kind of farming a circular economy where my activities are interdependent,” Evelyne said.

She adds that she uses water from her fish pond to irrigate vegetables, the waste from vegetable is fed to poultry while waste from her cows is recycled to make vermin compost and vermin-juice as liquid fertiliser for the vegetable garden.

As an agro ecological champion, Evelyne is well known in her village and beyond for her passion in conserving traditional food and indigenous seeds.

She is one of the founders of Kabudi-Agoro Community seed bank, which brings together 25 members, all women, who save and exchange various indigenous seeds.

At her farm, she multiplies 67 different varieties of beans including nyayo, long yellow, short yellow, okuondo among others.

She got some of the parent seeds from Rwanda and Uganda while others were locally sourced.

Additionally, Evelyne multiplies 10 varieties of sorghum, some of which she obtained from the National Gene Bank and others from locals, mostly elderly farmers.

Evelyne Okoth displays the warms she uses for vermiculture

I’m also multiplying seeds of five sweet potato varieties, two cassava varieties and seven varieties of indigenous maize,” she said.

Evelyne says she started farming in 2016 and had always wanted to do it in an organised and profitable way that would be used as a model among her neighbours and peers.

Her journey towards agroecological agriculture dates back to 2018 when she first interacted with officials from The Alliance Bioversity and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Having been in farming for two years, Evelyne remembers facing challenges in accessing seeds, particularly the indigenous varieties which are known to be resilient to harsh climate conditions as well as pests and diseases.

I embraced agro ecology and was among farmers trained on seeds production, selection, saving and seed banking,” recalls Evelyne adding that she is reaping the benefits of agro ecology.

From her vegetable garden, she earns about Sh250 daily. In her fish pond, she keeps 1,000 fish at a time and sells after every eight months, at between Sh200-Sh250 each.

At the time of our visit, she had 600 3-day-old chicks, which she would rear for four months and sell at up to Sh1,000 each.

Like many farmers, her main challenge is lack of enough water especially in the wake of climate change and strained rainfall patterns.

Her dream is to one day have an irrigation system to optimise production even during dry seasons.

Her message to the youth is that they should embrace agro ecology as it is a sustainable way of farming that requires minimal capital, yet it yields good income.

Unlike conventional agriculture where one has to invest heavily in synthetic inputs, agro ecology requires use of the available natural resources.

“Young women should embrace agro ecology and be economically independent instead of depending on men for every financial need,” adds Evelyne.

By embracing agro ecology, women who are key in deciding family meals, have higher chances of diversified diets and thus healthier families.

Young women can scale up on agro ecology and bring together communities to embrace the same so that farmers can have diversified production,” Dr Carlo Fadda, the Research Director for Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture at the Alliance said.

He notes that by diversifying production, farmers are able to spread risks and improve their economic aspects through selling surplus produce.

Diversified foods provides different nutrients, thus positively impacting on people’s health,” he adds.

Gloria Otieno, a Genetic Resources and Food Security Policy Specialist at The Alliance says studies have shown that women play a key role in conservation and management of biodiversity.

She says the Alliance has been working with women at Agoro East who have since conserved more than 23 varieties of sorghum, 62 bean varieties and five millet varieties.

Evelyne Okoth in her poultry house.

By conserving these seeds, she notes, the women are playing a major role towards mitigation against risks related to climate change and its effects.

Through Nature-Positive Initiative (Nature+) which is under The Alliance and co-funded by Biovision, Evelyne is among farmers from Kisumu who have been going through training on permaculture.

Permaculture is an art and science for developing sustainable system for human settlement.

The initiative aims to re-imagine, co-create and implement nature-positive solutions-based agri food systems that equitably support food and livelihoods on the ground while ensuring that agriculture is a net positive contributor to nature.

While many youths prefer moving to the cities for white-collar jobs, Nature + Initiative will create numerous opportunities for young people,” says Fadda, who doubles up as the Team Lead for Nature.

The anticipated opportunities will include compost making, value addition, marketing, and transport among others.

Commentary by Adongo:

One reason this story is amazing is that this is what real local food security and fighting climate change look like. Evelyne Okoth is practicing a form of farming called agroecology.

This is the form of farming where the farmers understand the ecosystems such as soil properties, plant-insect interactions, recycling resources, and prioritizing local supply chains. That is the textbook definition of agroecology and Evelyne Okoth in that farm is practicing all that to the letter and the results are just obvious to see.

She is using local resources all over her farm by making her own fertilizers right from the resources in her farm by mixing soil with insects and liquid which produces natural organic fertilizers and it seems to work wonders in her farm.

There is every type of crop and fruits in that farm which includes varieties of maize mostly local, sorghum, millet, five sweet potato varieties, two varieties of cassava, and many other crops. She has all types of pawpaw fruit trees and other fruits on the farm.

She is also has a fish pond to harvest fish and the water from the fish pond is what she uses to water her crops and fruits. Then there is the chicken farm and Evelyne mostly feeds her chicken with products from her farm.

She says she intends to start doing compost work which means all the remains from her plans after harvesting and animal waste are put in big containers and that produces the best natural fertilizer which will complement what she is already doing.

When you look at it, Evelyne and her family do not need to leave their land to go to the groceries to buy expensive food. Everything to eat is right there on the farm. That is food security for you. And she makes money every day when people come to buy chicken, vegetables, fruits, and all the other stuff.

So here right in the village, you got great food, you get money from your products and you are using every inch of your farm every day.

The other big story here is that we can see in this farm a real fight against climate change instead of politicians who plant five trees in fancy clothes, adopt forests, and then go to our forests and cut down 10,000 trees for their personal gain.

It was ironic and hypocritical we had the Africa Climate Summit presided over by President Ruto who just unleashed his rich friends to go to the Kenyan big forests and cut as many trees as they want after Ruto lifted the ban on logging in Kenyan forests. That is some real war against climate change.

Here is Chuka Forest in Mt. Kenya where logging was wiping out everything. They were stopped by the ban and now they are free to go back and wipe out whatever has come up during the ban.

After that the government will keep announcing how many millions of trees they intend to plant while actually doing completely nothing.

Climate change is not about show boat with electric vehicles which most Kenyans cannot afford and do not need.

Fighting climate change is about doing what Evelyne Okoth is doing here by herself working with a group of village farmers and then she also has every food she needs and makes money.

When will the Kenya government start promoting this kind of local agriculture? All the government needs to do is help village farmers establish their own SACCOS, give them basic starting facilities and they will take it from there.

Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

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