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Africa: GROW BIOINTENSIVE® Programs Spread Food Security
Click a tab below to read about the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agricultural Center of Kenya and Ecology Action's International Partners in Africa, see photo galleries from Kenya and South Africa and read inspiring stories of success from the region!
- GROW BIO Kenya
in YES! Magazine
- Manor House/
- Kilili Self-
The GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agricultural Center of Kenya Helps Train the Next Generation of Farmers
In Kenya, hunger and poverty are endemic: a majority of Kenyans experience chronic hunger, and farmers are often unable to afford inputs for their farms. Fortunately, Ecology Action and our African partner organizations (Manor House Agricultural Centre, Kilili Self-Help Project and GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agricultural Center of Kenya) are working to provide solutions by teaching small farmers simple, adaptable, low-cost GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming techniques to grow more food, increase soil fertility, reduce resource use, and create sustainable, quality livelihoods...
G-BIACK: A story of hope and success.
Samuel Nderitu and his wife Peris Wanjiru are both graduates of the 2-Year Biointensive Training Program at Manor House Agricultural Centre* in Kenya, sponsored by the Kilili Self-Help Project*. They are experts in Biointensive agriculture; Samuel's focus is on community development and Peris is trained in community health development, including HIV/AIDS prevention. Their project, the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Center of Kenya (G-BIACK)* is located in Thika, Kenya, an area in the middle of a six-year drought, with high HIV/AIDS rate.
G-BIACK demonstrates, trains and promotes GROW BIOINTENSIVE agricultural techniques among the small scale farmers in Central, Eastern, and Nairobi Provinces of Kenya. As a result of the their efforts, an inspirational ripple effect is being created as farmers around the region learn to grow more food, build soil fertility, conserve resources and create community food security. G-BIACK is the subject of a recent article in YES! Magazine, (In Kenya, Farmers Grow Their Own Way by Heather Day and Travis English) and is a great example of how Ecology Action's GROW BIOINTENSIVE method is being used around the world. The following is excerpted from the YES! Article:
Refugees from Kenya's recent political violence, Peris and Samuel chose to relocate to Thika, where they felt their work could have the most impact in addressing the area's difficult living conditions. GBIACK focuses on working with the most vulnerable populations: widows, orphans, and those who are poor, HIV positive, or living with AIDS. Their beautiful training center includes a demonstration farm, community library, seed bank, and classroom. In addition to training farmers in agroecological farming methods, they teach animal husbandry, beekeeping, and water conservation. They also started a program for girls to learn tailoring, allowing them to earn the income necessary to attend school. All of this is on a shoestring budget.
During the height of the drought, the GBIACK farm was one of very few in the area still able to produce food, proof to many that their methods are more resilient than those that rely on chemicals and “improved” seeds.
Samuel explains, “To assist my poor brothers and sisters who are languishing in poverty due to lack of knowledge, I teach them how to fish, so that they may continue fishing the rest of their lives. I believe that…many people will be able to feed themselves using the Biointensive techniques.”
GBIACK’s primary aim is to provide training in the communities surrounding Thika. Most often, farmers reach out to them after seeing the results of their trainings in neighbors’ fields. To broaden the impact of trainings, Peris and Samuel choose to work with farmers…who take leadership within their communities and teach others how to farm without chemicals. In this way, they have been able to train thousands of farmers in just a couple of years of operation.
"We didn’t know that farming can be done without spending so much money," one farmer from the Lifwa Women's Group in Bikeke, Kenya wrote in a letter to Kilili Self-Help, a U.S. group that helps raise funds for GBIACK. "We have always thought that without money we cannot do farming. We have found out that we can make our own fertilizers and also grow our own seeds."
Recently, Ecology Action received the following letter and pictures from Samuel:
“Dear Friends and partners,
This year's World Food Day Thika District was celebrated at the G-BIACK centre. The day was attended by, among others, the District commisioner, the district agricultural officer, Chiefs and many other governmental heads. G-BIACK was voted as the best NGO of the year in Thika district. We believe that this came because of our dedication towards fighting hunger and poverty.
Through your continued support, we hope to reverse the scenario of food insufficiency to food abundance and we promise to unite against hunger!”
Members of the government (above) and district residents (below)
learn about G-BIACK's program
G-BIACK's Certificate of Recognition for Best NGO of the Year
And he also wrote the following to Ecology Action following the 2010 Seed Heritage Workshop at G-BIACK:
“Hosting an international workshop was a miracle to all of us at G-BIACK. We never thought that G-BIACK would ever host such a workshop. Thank God for Ecology Action for making this possible. We appreciate all of you for being part and parcel of this workshop. Although you are thousands of miles a way, we felt as if you were here at G-BIACK doing the job with us.
…thank you for the confidence that you have in us that you gave out the funds for hosting this workshop… thank you for all the ideas, suggestions and tireless and effective communication…thank you for the backup. You were always there for us.
You people are wonderful!!”
The G-BIACK demonstration garden.
Workshop participants learn about seed saving and seed enclosures.
Learning to build seed screens
People like Samuel and Peris and their G-BIACK program are making a real difference in the lives of thousands of farmers in Kenya. The Kilili Self Help Project has sponsored over 100,000 students like them in Manor House Centre's Biointensive Training Programs.
Manor House Centre and the Kilili Self-Help Project which were instrumental in G-BIACK's creation, are Ecology Action's African partner organizations. Ecology Action’s financial and educational assistance make success stories like this a reality.
We are so thankful for the members and donors whose generosity makes our work possible. You are a force for good in this world, and we’re proud to have you with us!
Please join us today, and help support these important programs that grow hope, opportunity and possibility where it’s most needed!
- For more information about this project, go to the G-BIACK website or the
- Read about Ecology Action's other GROW BIOINTENSIVE partner programs in Africa: Manor House Center and Kilili Self-Help Project
- Read the whole YES! Magazine article about the seed-saving program at G-BIACK
- Click here to see photo galleries of GROW BIOINTENSIVE workshops in Africa.
- Click here for a calendar of GROW BIOINTENSIVE events.
- Click here to subscribe to our e-newsletters.
Manor House Agricultural Centre
and Common Ground Garden Project in Kenya
In the early 1970s, Polly Noyce became acquainted with Ecology Action and its Director, John Jeavons. In 1983 Noyce, on a trip to Kenya, purchased a former boys’ school four hours north of Nairobi and offered it to Ecology Action as a site for a Biointensive training project. Ecology Action’s Board approved the idea, and the Manor House Agricultural Centre was started in 1984, with a two-year program for training high school graduates in Biointensive Agriculture (BIA) and other alternative technology methods. In the early 1990s the Centre started giving one-week workshops in which self-help groups from different communities—mainly women farmers—came to learn BIA. Three-month and six-week workshops are also given on request from staff of other organizations.
In 1994 Emmanuel Omondi from Kenya was a six-month intern at Ecology Action’s Mini-Farm in Willits, California. In 1996, Omondi became Director of Manor House and under his leadership the Centre’s infrastructure, staff team building, programs, outreach and connection with other development organizations have been added or greatly improved. The many successful grants he has written have resulted in needed structural improvements to the old buildings and other physical setup of the school. Other grants have funded an extremely effective outreach program that trains communities to become mini-training centers (MTC). As of 2005, there are 25 MTC, each reaching out to other communities in its area. Omondi has also contacted other NGOs and governmental development organizations that are bringing services to rural people in the same area, in order to help coordinate their programs, work together and avoid duplication of efforts.
Manor House was the first organization in Kenya to teach BIA and as a result over 100,000 people have been trained since 1984 and 100 plus organizations in Kenya are teaching BIA.
COMMON GROUND PROJECT
Joshua Machinga, from Kenya, was a six-month
intern at Ecology Action’s Mini-Farm in 1995 after graduating
from the Manor House Agricultural Centre’s two-year Biointensive
Agriculture certificate program. After spending some years as an
extension officer for Manor House, Joshua branched out on his own
and started the Common Ground Project (formerly called the Pilot
Follow-Up Project). The project started by initiating compost utilization
trials with two farmers, and also by training two other farmers
to grow 40-bed units for diet, compost and income. Throughout the
years, Joshua and his colleagues have taught farmers’groups
(a good percentage of them women) the basics of GROW BIOINTENSIVE,
not only in western Kenya, but also in Uganda. In recent years he
received a grant to start an affiliated project in Teso, an arid
area of western Kenya near Uganda.
Joshua and his wife Zipporah have also started a school for pre-school and primary-age children. One of its missions is to re-connect children with the Earth and to help them understand the importance of growing food with Biointensive. This is because in Kenya farming is looked down on and digging is regarded as a punishment. The school received a grant in 2004 for fifth-grade students to teach Biointensive to a women’s group composed mainly of widows and also to help start gardens for families impacted by AIDS.
* Manor House Centre, the Common Ground Project, G-BIACK and the Kilili Self-Help Project are Ecology Action's African partner organizations. Ecology Action’s financial and educational assistance make success stories like this possible.
The Kilili Self-Help Project
The Kilili Self Help Project is one of Ecology Action's partner organizations supporting the work of trained and certified Kenyan community workers who teach farmers the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method of organic farming and soil fertility management.
Kilili Self Help Project supports graduates of Manor House Agricultural Centre in western Kenya in their work with farmers.
Sandra Mardigian, director of Kilili Self Help Project, had lived in Kenya in the mid-80s and had many friends around the country. Back in the US in 1989, she raised money to send a group of primary school teachers from Kilili Village in Machakos, Kenya, to Manor House Agricultural Centre (MHAC) for a week-long training workshop in practical Biointensive methods. Returning to Kenya the following year, Sandra found that the teachers and their students had beautiful, prospering Biointensive gardens at the schools, the families were involved, and the project was a huge success.
Based on these results, Kilili Self Help Project began to raise funds to sponsor other Kenyans to take the same program at MHAC. For several years, core groups of farmers from one location traveled to MHAC for a week of training and returned home to practice the Biointensive method and train other farmers in their area.
Meanwhile, the number of highly qualified graduates of MHAC’s two-year program was increasing each year. Since there are very few paying opportunities for these young professionals, Kilili Self Help Project began supporting their work with farmers. Eventually, grants became almost entirely dedicated to helping MHAC graduates with expenses for programs they initiate themselves, and this has become the primary mission of Kilili Self Help Project. The organization also provides financial-hardship scholarships for recommended students enrolled in MHAC’s two-year program each year.
In 2005, with support from Kilili Self-Help Project, MHAC graduates trained more than 10,000 farmers in six-day workshops. The cost: less than $6 per farmer!
Currently, through the generosity of Kilili donors, more than 116,000 families are using simple, ecological methods to achieve food security and economic self-reliance. Highly productive GROW BIOINTENSIVE gardens provide extra crops to sell. Family health improves. Soil is enriched. Children can go to school, often for the first time. The average cost of training for each farmer is US $3.50
Manor House Centre, the Common Ground Project, G-BIACK and the Kilili Self-Help Project are Ecology Action's African partner organizations. Ecology Action’s financial and educational assistance make success stories like this possible.
For more information about these projects, go to the
Kilili Self-Help Project Website.
GROW BIOINTENSIVE Africa: A Photo Gallery
Kitale, Kenya Gallery: GROW BIOINTENSIVE Workshop and Pan-African Symposium
August 5-16, 2007
Click here or on the image above to view the Kenya Gallery.
A new window will open to display the images.
5-Day GROW BIOINTENSIVE Workshop
September 16-20, 2009
Click here or on the image above to view the South African Workshop Gallery.
A new window will open to display the images, which were taken by participants at the workshop.