The intervention area is located in central Kenya within the basin of the Molo river, one of the waterways that arise from the Mau forest. It is the largest mountain rainforest in East Africa and the largest water reserve in Kenya, severely deforested in recent decades. The reduction of the forest caused a sudden climate change, a dramatic reduction in rainfall and the flow of water of the river and a progressive degradation of the territory downstream. This has had serious repercussions on the livelihoods of the population.
The sub-county of Marigat has particularly suffered the consequences of climate change and lack of rain, to which have been added unsustainable livestock and farming practices, which contribute to the degradation of the already extremely fragile territory. The dwindling natural resources available has also triggered a dangerous spiral of violence and instability, causing recurrent cattle raids and conflicts between neighboring populations.
Baringo County, Kenya
The two-year project developed around the improvement of food and nutritional security on three axes: improvement of the productivity of small farmers, diversification of the diet with animal proteins and promotion of income from non-wood forest products.
The project was built on the experiences acquired following a previous intervention carried out by Mani Tese and NECOFA in the area.
County of Baringo, sub county of Marigat,
2,000 farmers, 1,300 breeders, 110 fishermen, 300 beekeepers and their families.
- Improvement of the productivity of small farmers.
In this phase, the 15 groups connected to as many demonstration fields were consolidated. They are mainly made up of women and young people and one of the most important results of the project, relating to the transversal gender issue, was to create opportunities for women, usually on the margins, especially in pastoral communities. The first operation was the fencing of the fields, an indispensable operation to save the crops, given the local practice of grazing in the wild. Soil preparation was then carried out, accompanying it with specific training on soil preparation techniques, erosion control with terracing works and the importance of natural fertilizers. In April 2017, the distribution of seeds began in conjunction with the first rains and now the fields are all cultivated.
At the same time, 4 school clubs were supported with the aim of promoting sustainable agriculture and food security from childhood, involving a total of 1,053 primary and secondary school children and teens; 158 of these are directly involved in horticultural activity. Remarkable is the performance of one of these schools, which created with the help of the project’s animators nothing less than a drip irrigation system.
We now come to the supply of seeds and plants to the most vulnerable families. 2,000 kg of seeds were distributed to 500 family groups (on average composed of 6 people), giving preference to families with difficult situations (presence of disabled people, single mothers, HIV-positive people, etc.). Thanks to the presence of silos provided by the project, when harvested, part of the seeds could be stored to be replanted the following year. The remarkable variety of seeds proposed is one of the keys to producing the change in traditional forms of cultivation, going beyond monoculture, enriching the diet and promoting indigenous and drought-resistant varieties.
In order to combine food security, increased income and environmental protection, 9,000 fruit plants (mango, papaya, avocado, passion fruit, banana, various citrus fruits) were distributed to 350 vulnerable families. Similarly, fruit plants were also distributed in the 4 schools mentioned above.
Appropriate culinary training has been developed starting from the new products obtained from the variety of seeds distributed, in order to promote a positive inclusion in the food diets of the local populations.
- Diversification of the diet with animal proteins.
The second area of intervention concerned the increase in protein consumption, which, due to the low level of income, is very scarce. Almost all local families consume animal proteins once or at most twice a week. The project helped to promote three protein sources: fish, dairy goats and pigs, which have less impact on agriculture, the environment and social peace (livestock theft and trespassing) than sheep and cattle raised in the wild. All three of the aforementioned activities have become happily sustainable during the project, as described below.
- Diversification of the diet with animal proteins: fishing.
The sub-county of Marigat develops around Lake Baringo, whose fish is one of the main sources of protein for the inhabitants of the area. Due to climate change, the lake has also undergone heavy alterations, causing a significant reduction in fish stocks.
Currently, the government strategy is to promote aquaculture, or the breeding of fish in confined places, mainly artificial tanks, thus avoiding further eroding the scarce resources of the lake. Since many still live from fishing on the lake, the project has operated on both axes: support for traditional fishing and the transformation of fish, and the promotion of aquaculture.
With regard to traditional fishing and the transformation of fish, training was provided on environmental protection and sustainable management of fishing, on hygiene rules and on food preparation. Various equipment was also supplied and in some cases made: hooks, nets, jackets, tables for drying and washing fish, stoves, cooking surfaces for smoking, etc.
For the implementation of the aquaculture activities, 4 groups of women were identified. The technology chosen was to build raised tanks with a metal structure, measuring m. 4 x 3 x 1 high. 10 tanks were realized. All the 4 groups followed a training course created in collaboration with the local fisheries department. 4,200 Tilapia fry were then provided. Fish-chicken integration has also been successfully tested, which exploits chicken manure to form micro plankton which in turn becomes food for the fish; in this way an increase in the growth rate of the fish was obtained and a saving of 30% on feed.
- Diversification of the diet with animal proteins: dairy goats.
The second animal chosen for the protein supplementation of the diet was the dairy goat. Goat’s milk is a food that is scarce in the area, due to the local varieties of unproductive animals and breeding in the wild. The goat breed chosen produces at least 1 liter of milk a day, even in the dry season, satisfying the needs of a medium-sized family. 10 groups, for a total of 218 women, were trained for this purpose and equipped with 38 goats of this particular breed, which, when crossed with 10 local breed animals, multiplied until almost doubling.
It should also be noted that housing has a particular impact on gender dynamics, because, while the wild state is of male competence, it is specifically female competence, thus rebalancing the balance of power within the family unit.
All this was possible thanks also to the training of the operators and the training of para-veterinarians for the management of animal health.
- Diversification of the diet with animal proteins: pigs.
The third protein form identified was that of swine origin, the demand for which is constantly growing on the local market. During the first year, the project identified two schools as demonstration sites for pig breeding. Training sessions were held with pupils, who with the auxiliary staff of the schools are those who take care of the animals.
The first sales results were so promising that the two schools requested an additional supply of animals (18 to be precise, supplied by a producer who was the subject of a past project by Mani Tese). The schools have also expressed their intention to further expand the facilities in order to house a greater number of animals. Several farmers in the area, visiting the farms, also expressed an interest in experimenting with this type of farming.
- Promotion of income from non-wood forest products: honey.
Baringo County is one of Kenya’s best areas for honey production, but the potential is not being fully exploited due to the low capacity of producers and the lack of adequate equipment and facilities. Production so often fails to reach the minimum standards for market access.
The project has worked in these two years by distributing 100 improved traditional hives, which, thanks to the measures adopted, have shown their best adaptability to the climatic conditions of the place with an increase of 20-30% in productivity.
At the same time, efforts were made to promote an association of beekeepers of approx. 170 members. With them, a refinery was built for the production of honey, equipped with all the necessary precautions to ensure the hygiene standards recommended by the Kenya Bureau of Standards, essential to allow the product to be introduced into the formal trade circuit. The certification has been obtained and is periodically renewed after inspection of the structures.
Honey is sold directly by the Koriema Women’s Association, which puts it into the consumer circuit, packaged in 1 kg and ½ kg jars, or sells it directly to small consumers.
A final figure: in two years the total production of refined honey was 6 tons (equal to about 9 tons of virgin honey collected) with an increase of approx. 200% compared to the conditions prior to the project.
I am Samuele Tini, from Cigliano in the province of Varese. Service for rural communities and development is my way of life. For more than a decade I have been living in Africa. When I finished my studies, I decided not to leave the continent, but instead staying in Mozambique, Tanzania, Guinea Bissau, Sudan and now I am in Kenya. I have worked with Mani Tese for many years, with daily passion to commitment for justice that distinguishes the association. Currently I am the responsible for country Kenya. The major challenge, alongside our local […]