30 smallholder farmers have kicked off a four day road trip that will engage county leaders and Kenyans on the ideal agricultural system that they envision for Kenya and the continent, exhibit produce, share knowledge and share seeds to their counterparts. The farmers from Kiambu, Meru, Machakos and Makueni will make stops in Machakos, Makueni and Nairobi counties with a clear message ahead of World Food Day:
“We, as farmers and consumers from around Kenya, call upon the Government of Kenya and International aid donors to listen to our demands, to move away from conventional agriculture and support ecological farming. Conventional agriculture has failed us and will continue to do so as climate change worsens….” reads in part a demand letter written by Kenyan smallholder farmers to the local governments of Kenya and International Aid Donors in Kenya.
The farmers say they have decided to support each other because they have not received sufficient support from authorities and donors. Instead a lot of support has gone into industrial agriculture – a fatally flawed agricultural model that places farmers in a cycle of debt as well as reliance on harmful and expensive chemicals and seeds.
Benefits of ecological farming
With support from The Kenya Biodiversity Coalition (KBioC), Greenpeace Africa, The Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN), the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) and The Kenya Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (KSSF), the farmers will use this resilience journey to showcase and prove the benefits of ecological farming.
Ecological farming not only supports local farmer’s livelihoods, it also, “enhances their economic empowerment and is conscious of environmental stability and builds community resilience to adverse effects of climate change,” says Martin Muriuki, Executive Director, Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE).
The farmers are sure that the solution to address hunger in Kenya lies within the country’s borders. With the right support, they can feed Kenyans with healthy, nutritious food that is grown ecologically. Ecological farming is not a new practice; it combines local farmers’ knowledge with the most recent scientific knowledge to create new technologies and practices that increase yields without negatively impacting the environment and some of our smallholder farmers are already practising it by building on the traditional agriculture methods based on local landraces and knowledge.
“The farmers’ appeal comes at a very critical time, the current food system is broken, the environment is damaged and the current industrial agricultural model has left thousands hungry and dependant on technologies that are unable to withstand weather shocks and lined the pockets of a few corporates,” states Greenpeace Africa’s senior Food for Life campaign manager, Nokutula Mhene.
Fight climate change
The effects of climate change are starting to bite; the Kenya meteorological services have warned that La Niña is near meaning that many parts of Kenya will experience depressed rains in 2016. There is an urgent need to support smallholder family farmers to practice ecological farming through access to irrigation and access to affordable organic inputs and protection of local farmers against middlemen exploitation. The future, states Anne Maina from KBioC, “is in practicing agroecology and not synthetic chemical driven farming.”
Ecological farming is a bouquet of techniques to produce environmentally-sustainable and healthy food for local people. It is a proven “agricultural production method that has at its core resilience, equitability, food sovereignty, and environmental sustainability. We call upon Governments and Donors to put in place mechanisms that allow for a paradigm shift towards ecological farming,” says Greenpeace Africa’s Executive Director, Njeri Kabeberi.
At the end of the journey, the farmers will hand over a letter to International aid agencies in Nairobi. The letter will outline priority areas in the agricultural sector that agencies should invest into.