Simple Steps To Help Kenyan Farmers Adapt to the Effects of Climate Change

WFP is promoting farming methods across Kenya’s drylands to help families better cope with the effects of a changing climate. Farmers who initially had difficulties putting food on the table are now producing more than they need – with some harvesting a marketable surplus.

In Lango Baya village, 45 kilometres west of Malindi town in Kilifi County, the vast majority of people rely on agriculture to earn a living.  Crops are mostly rain-fed although a few people living close to the Galana River irrigate their crop.

“I earn around 1,000 Kenyan shillings (almost US$10) from the sale of vegetables every week,” said Kadzo Kazungu, a 32 year-old mother of five, whose family is completely reliant on farming for their food.

She was among the first people to join the World Food Programme’s asset creation activities in Kilifi back in 2009.  The asset creation activities focus on teaching farmers simple dry land farming methods to improve their production.  This includes irrigation, rainwater harvesting for crop and livestock production, pasture production, rehabilitation of degraded land, and increased production of drought-tolerant and high value cash crops. Currently, WFP is working with more than 800,000 people in over 1,500 communities spread across 15 counties of Kenya.   

Humble beginning

 “I’m very grateful to the WFP and Kenya Red Cross for giving us the opportunity to learn new farming methods that use very little water. We’ve received many trainings through the government’s agricultural officers,” explained Kadzo. “Before I could barely harvest enough to feed my family. Now I am selling the extra produce, all my children are going to school and we have enough to eat. I’m ready to leave the project and give somebody else the opportunity to benefit,” she said proudly.

Kadzo and her husband have saved enough money to buy a water pump. They pump water to their three quarter-acre piece of land where they grow maize, tomatoes, kale and eggplant. The couple makes some extra cash charging other farmers a fee for the use of the water pump.

Climate smart agriculture

In Msumarini, 30 kilometres north of Malindi, WFP is showcasing dryland farming methods that optimize the use of water by reducing the rate of evaporation and seepage such as zai pits, sunken beds, multi-storey gardens, and farm ponds. Farmers are also being shown how to make compost manure as a natural fertiliser

 “These farming methods are simple and easy to replicate,” said Fredrick Merie, a Programme Associate with WFP. “We are extremely encouraged to see families taking up the technologies and doing it in their individual farms.”

Not near a river? Not a problem

Farms in Msumarini are dependent on rain water. Using the different farm technologies and with quick maturing and drought tolerant crops, families are now producing enough for their food needs. Stalks from the harvest are either used as fodder or for producing compost manure, ensuring that the soil remains fertile.   

“Getting milk in my house was like a dream. On most days, my family would have only one meal a day and that would be at the expense of a tree as I was notorious for burning charcoal,” explained Abel Ndurya Menza, the Secretary of the Msumarini farmers’ group. “But that has all changed. Here, we are assured of some harvest even during the dry seasons.”

The group has used proceeds from the farm to buy galla goats, known for their milk and meat.

In it for the long term

WFP’s asset creation activities are based on an incentive providing food rations or cash in return for the hours worked on communal farms, such as demonstration plots.  However, most farmers are not participating in asset creation for the stipend.

“The benefits we get from this farm are far beyond the cash or food incentive,” said Abel Ndurya Menza. “This knowledge has transformed our attitude towards agriculture. We never thought that farming was possible in this parched region,” he added.