Conservation Agriculture in Practice

While traveling to Marmanet, I remind myself that an early arrival at Kwanjiku village will enable me to make arrangements for our Kijani* capacity-building training on conservation agriculture. Reaching Kwanjiku around mid-morning, I start the preparations. As a norm of community change agents, I go straight to the Assistant Chief’s office to report the purpose of my visit. Madam Chief Naomi accepts the idea and directs me to several other assistant chiefs in the location to assist me. Now the real work begins.

By evening, I am overwhelmed with phone calls from all corners of Kwanjiku. Community members are highly interested — to the point that I start to get worried. The number could be well above the thirty we had planned for!

The following day, not only do our trainers arrive, but community members start coming from all corners. With the number surpassing the target, we get started as 65 community members are ready to listen, learn, transfer knowledge, and apply the skills.

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Francis Ogembo, one of the Trainers, demonstrating how to plant seeds.

 

 

Day one starts by taking community members through the concepts of conservation agriculture such as mulching, crop rotation, manure composting, and field preparation. Our two trainers find it hard to respond to the many questions. In the middle of the training one community member shouts “kwekwe kwekwe kwekwe” meaning “weed weed weed”. People burst out in laughter. Shocked, we are worried that we had committed a heinous crime in the training floor, later to realize that he wanted to share his nasty experience of weeds in his farm and he needed much help. Day one ends with a powerful thanksgiving prayer.SOA1

The second day is dedicated to practical work. We assemble at Mr. Haman’s plot, one of the trainees who dedicated his land for demonstration. Everyone is involved in learning how to prepare land, minimize soil disturbance, make holes for crops and vegetables, prepare top dressing with animal manure, and make compost manure. Farmers begin to realize that low yields are a result of inadequate techniques.SOA 2

We later climb the hills of Marmanet to reach our second demonstration plot where Mama Wambui offers her portion of land as a demo plot. I keep busy supplying our trainers with mulch from fallen tree leaves and other agricultural wastes (see the photo).

Kijani being a youthful organization, we are impressed by the turnout of young people who committed their time to attend our training and implement the model.

Before leaving, we distribute the training manuals. The vibrant smiles assure us that all has been well received. It was a happy ending.SOA3

A great African leader once said, “Communities cannot be developed; they can only develop themselves by participating in development activities.” This is exactly what we witnessed.

* Kijani is a Springs of Africa project that promotes tree-planting, conservation agriculture and youth empowerment. To learn more about Kijani, visit http://blog.kijani.co/

By David Oyaga

 

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DANIEL’S SEEDS

“Mommy, don’t throw that away,” I heard Daniel shouting after I had tossed a mango pit into the compost bin.

“But I am not throwing it away,” I objected. “I put it into the compost like I’m supposed to.” I was trying to explain that I had done the correct, environmentally-friendly, thing.

“No, I want to keep it. I want you to keep all the seeds from this house,” he declared, showing me a specific bowl in the kitchen. “Put them here.”

“Okay,” I agreed, mostly to stop him from bothering me. But the next day I still threw a mango pit into the compost bin.

This time, after scolding me rigorously, he went through the compost — retrieving every form of pit or seed. “Why are you doing this?” I asked Daniel.

“I want to plant them,” he said, very agitated, as if to say, “Daaa — don’t you know why I want them?”

“Okay,” I agreed again.

The next morning I was cutting a papaya. Of course, I put the seeds into the compost bin.

“Mommy, I TOLD YOU!!” Daniel was not amused.

“Surely not these,” I argued. “You don’t want to plant these, do you?!” He insisted that he did.

At that point I decided that as a responsible mother, I needed to give my 25-year-old son a good lecture. “You know, you can’t just take a seed and then — ‘voila‘ — it becomes a tree. It is not that easy. I mean, I know you want to do a good thing, but that will need a lot of work. You have to get it ready, then plant it, then wait, and even then it will probably never sprout.” I thought I was protecting my naive son from future disappointment. He had nothing to say.

So it continued. I tried to get into the habit of keeping the seeds in the bowl. I complained when they started to get smelly, but Daniel would always collect them anyway and take them outside to the area where he had started a nursery.

Soon after, we had a similar “go round” about used containers. Daniel wanted me to keep containers of every kind: old milk cartons, yoghurt cups, bread bags, honey jars — anything and everything. I grudgingly obliged.

About three months later, Daniel beckoned me. “Mommy, come see.” To be honest, I had not ventured out to the nursery, and it was hidden behind some bushes, not easily noticeable. I could not believe my eyes: about 200 seedlings in assorted containers (yes, old milk cartons, yoghurt cups. . . . not a single one had been wasted)! Others were wrapped in stapled bags made from the used plastic that had been removed from our greenhouse due to wind damage.

Kijani donated 200 tree saplings to Trees for Indigenous Health _ Culture

The pick up carries away 200 seedlings that Kijani donated to Trees For Indigenous Health Culture

“These are avacado,” he explained. Those were the most impressive, standing almost 2 feet high. “These are mangoes, and these are papaya,” he continued. There were also jacaranda, cypress and other varieties planted from seeds he had taken from trees around our home. He had spent almost nothing, except his time, to nurture this impressive nursery.

This is just a taste of the inspiration, vision, determination and entrepreneurship behind KIJANI: Forests for Change. To date, Daniel’s little home-grown nursery has donated nearly 1000 seedlings to organizations and orphanages in Kenya, including Kenya Forest Working Group, Trees for Indigenous Health and Culture (TICAH), Children’s Garden and IDEAS for Kenya. Kijani has over 2000 seedlings at their Marmanet project site growing from these seeds. Planting continues.

I definitely stand corrected — a big “well done!” to Kijani. (And you can be sure that now I save every single seed!)

by Diane Omondi