Stories tagged: Kenya

World Refugee Day: Building Resilience Through Farming in Kenya

On World Refugee Day, Allan Ochieng Odera, Resilience Coordinator for Danish Refugee Council (DRC), tells Farming First about DRC’s farming initiative in Kakuma camp, Kenya.

In north-west Kenya, 48-year-old Mariam from Somalia proudly tends her vegetable plot. Thanks to farming opportunities provided by an initiative at Kakuma refugee camp, she can now provide her family with fresh meals every day, as well as get money from the sales of vegetables to buy other household goods.

Mariam is not alone. On June 20, World Refugee Day will bring awareness around the world to themillions of people fleeing from conflict and suffering. The Kakuma refugee camp is just one of thousands of camps around the world that try and provide refugees with a new start after being uprooted from their homes.

Kakuma will mark its 26th birthday this year, and the beginning of its establishment as an important shelter for the south Sudanese fleeing from civil war. It has since become a base for hundreds from various parts of sub-Saharan Africa, currently hosting at least 185,589 refugees, providing shelter, food, medication and protection.

Before the Danish Refugee Council’s Community Floods Resilience Programme (COFREP) was started in Kakuma, Mariam had to wait for a monthly ration which rarely provided the required amount needed to feed her whole family. The DRC-led initiative, is run in partnership with LOKADO and Norwegian Refugee Council, and has received funding from the Global Resilience Partnership.

Responding to the challenge

Kakuma is situated in Turkana, which as one of Kenya’s largest counties, home to around 855,399 residents over a land mass of 77,000 km2. The entire country ranges in condition from semi-arid to very arid, and due to a combination of recurrent bouts of flooding and droughts, coupled with a weak economy, many living in Turkana live in acute poverty and hunger. In Kakuma, food shortage is a regular worry and funding levels for food distribution have been reduced over the years. The Kenyan government’s attempts at resolving food insecurity through piecemeal food distribution is only successful as a temporary patch to a large-scale challenge.

Given Turkana’s minimal rainfall, techniques to harvest and conserve water for farming are essential, and this has been one of the major focuses of DRC’s work. DRC uses techniques which can be scaled out, such as the use of earth dams, earth works, and other unique designs that can harvest water and nutrients for plant growth, whilst also minimizing excess water absorption.

These technologies mean that flood water can be harvested for micro-irrigation during the dry season to grow high-value crops such as tomatoes and onions, increasing the incomes of refugees and host farmers. Appropriate farming methods are also taught to the farmers and refugees in order to maximise their yields. Drought-tolerant crops are prioritized, such as sorghum, cowpeas, pumpkins and watermelons.

Trees have also been planted to improve the nitrogen balance of the crops and provide shade. This has also helped to control soil erosion through breaking wind and keeping the soil firm. Farmers are also trained to manage pests through applying an integrated approach to their farming; growing different crops together to create interdependence, trapping and repelling pests that cause harm to the crops.

Measuring the impact

The life-changing COFREP initiative involves 400 farmers, 120 refugees, and 280 hosts, who are trained through a combination of on-site demonstrations and trial-by-error, learning from our mistakes and streamlining the project for the future. COFREP uses farmer-to-farmer training in groups of 30, and the skills learned through these training sessions can prove to be vital for creating longer-term job prospects for the farmers.

Aside from the professional aspects, the project has also helped diversify nutrition sources for the refugees and the farmers. In addition to the staple diet of meat, all the participants now have greater access to vegetables.

DRC has learned that there is huge potential for the refugees and the host community to be self-reliant in food if appropriate technologies of water harvesting and improved farming techniques are adapted and taught as everyday skills. The farming activities are also of an invaluable social benefit, creating peaceful co-existence between the host and the refugees. Not only does this improve their livelihoods, it will help them overturn the challenge of devastating drought and flash floods that cause disasters in to a food production opportunity, and build resilience to future uncertainty.

 

Learn more about DRC’s project in Kenya by visiting their website.

 

Farmers Need Long-Term and Short-Term Solutions to Combat Fall Armyworm in Kenya

Fall Armyworm has arrived in Kenya to stay, but while the government develops a long-term strategy, farmers need ready and accessible solutions now.

From a distance, Wycliffe Ngoda’s two acres of shiny green maize crops look healthy and lush. But the tell-tale holes in the leaves and debris on the stems give away an increasingly dangerous secret hidden in more and more maize fields across Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa. The rampant Fall Armyworm caterpillar is once again threatening harvests across the continent for a second year.

The pest, which arrived in Africa from the Americas in 2016, affected around 50,000 hectares of maize in Kenya alone last year, costing 25 per cent of the crop, according to government officials.

This year, the losses could be as high as 50 per cent, threatening Kenya’s food security and farmers’ economic security in a country where the average annual consumption of maize surpasses 100kg per person. Continue reading

Why Increasing Smallholder Resilience Starts with Soils

By Julian Galindo, Senior Project Manager; Jean-Pierre Rennaud, General Delegate & Cofounder and Nishal Ramdoo, Director of Communications at Livelihoods Fund. 

When we talk about natural disasters, we immediately think of cyclones, floods and droughts. Without a doubt, climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of these hazards. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Farmers are already suffering from the insidious effects of climate change on a daily basis: longer dry seasons, degraded soils, and a loss of biodiversity. In addition to these natural disasters, farmers also contend with disasters directly triggered by human activities like deforestation, loss of soil fertility and soil erosion. Soil degradation is a silent disaster jeopardizing our future, but the good news is that efficient solutions do exist. Continue reading

Agricultural Businesses Are the Key to “Decent Work” in Rural Communities

Decent agricultural work can be a vehicle for economic growth. Kristin Williams, Communications Manager at Root Capital, tells Farming First how investments can empower smallholder farmers.

Farming is hard work. This is especially true on the world’s 500 million smallholder farms, which rely almost entirely on informal family labor. There, farmers rise before the sun, and toil in plots of land just large enough to grow food for the table and perhaps one or two crops for sale. Sudden shockslike drought, flood, or diseasecan wipe out the fruits of their labor in an instant. If they’re lucky, they can get their crops to a nearby market; once there, they have little recourse if buyers refuse to give a fair price.

Billions of people make their living in this difficult way. And it’s no coincidence that they comprise much of the world’s extreme poor, surviving on less than $2 per day. But the connection between farming and poverty is not a foregone conclusion. Yes, farming is hard work; but with targeted investments it can also be “decent work.”

Continue reading

#FillTheGap! Scaling up equality in Kenya

This is the seventh post of Farming First’s #FillTheGap campaign to highlight the gender gap facing rural women working in agriculture.

When Beatrice Gichuru’s husband passed away around three years ago, she lost not only her partner but her also provider and guardian. Like many Kenyan women, Beatrice had relied upon her husband to provide the land she farmed.

But in becoming a self-sufficient widow, Beatrice overcame the tragedy as well as the gender gap that means only one per cent of Kenyan women own land and access less than 10 per cent of available credit.

Continue reading

Digital Loan Process Transforming Smallholder Access to Credit in Kenya

By Jessica Joye, Communications Director at Fintrac.

In Kenya, smallholder farmers lack access to financial services and face high barriers accessing commercial banks and community lending institutions. These institutions rarely approve loans to smallholders or have a slow turnaround time for approval, preventing farmers from getting capital when they need it in the agricultural cycle. Smallholder farmers not only face the improbability of loan approvals, but, even if approved, they often encounter hidden fees on top of already-high interest rates. To overcome these challenges, Fintrac’s Partnering for Innovation program is working with Musoni, a Kenyan microfinance institution, to pioneer and commercialize a digital model specifically targeted toward smallholders.

Musoni developed a model to reach high volumes of remote smallholder customers with an agriculture-specific “Kilimo Booster” loan. Village-based loan agents meet directly with farmers to discuss their credit needs and, using a cash flow software developed by the Grameen Foundation, can wirelessly submit farmers’ loan applications on the spot. Farmers don’t have to worry about traveling long distances to a bank or completing complicated applications requiring extensive documentation.

At many Kenyan banks, customers usually need personal or family connections in order to schedule appointments, making it difficult to inquire about loan or repayment details. In contrast, Musoni customers can receive immediate attention via walk-in appointments for any issue. Unlike many traditional Kenyan banks, Musoni wants to see its customers grow, and building personal relationships helps Musoni determine if and when customers are able to increase their loan amount or transition into other types of credit offerings. Although its interest rates are on the higher side, Musoni does not charge any hidden fees and customers have been willing to pay the higher rates in exchange for this personal attention.

Once a Kilimo Booster loan is approved, it is deposited into the customer’s mobile money account within 72 hours, ensuring farmers have timely access to the finance they need during specific times in the agricultural cycle. Musoni’s software also tracks customer information, including repayment information and changes in income, to make loan processing more efficient.

This client-focused approach benefits both customers and Musoni, which profits from reduced time needed to complete each application. Musoni also offers customers a mobile platform from which they can receive payment reminders and obtain other information about their loans, reducing the need to make visits to physical banking locations.

Michael Chege, a Kenyan farmer, also points out that “Musoni is flexible in case of disaster and willing to work with farmers to get payments in.”

In just 18 months, Musoni disbursed more than $6.4 million in loans to rural smallholders, proving its high-touch, efficient approach is gaining traction in the market. Musoni has built a reputation of valuing its customers, building relationships, and successfully applying digital technology to the smallholder market. By paying a relatively high interest rate, smallholder customers prove they place a premium on easy processes, personal and trustworthy customer service, and transparency.