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November 2007: International Partners

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Reports from Common Ground Project (CGP), Kenya

Excerpts of reports from Joshua Machinga, Director of CGP, made of activities from January through September, 2007

The Common Ground Project:

  • Trained 36 farmers’ groups on GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming skills and promoted indigenous crops and heritage seeds. The crops included cassava, sweet potatoes, crotalaria, jute, cowpeas, spider herb and amaranth, among others.
  • Established and maintained 450 home tree nurseries and planted more than 500,000 tree seedlings from the community tree nurseries on farmers’ fields.
  • Jointly, with the Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya Seed Company and Vi-Agroforestry held three farmers’ field days, which were attended by a total of 35,791 people (farmers and students both from high and primary schools). [This was just in the first 6 months. From July through September another 7,896 people attended 5 field days!]

Community members practiced soil erosion control, which is improving yields on most farms. It was noted that farmers who are not participating in the project activities have started replicating what their colleagues are doing on their farms.
The project strengthened its working relationship with schools with the intention of tackling food insecurity, natural disasters and other ecological and socio-economic problems. Our strategies included agricultural and conservation education, action and capacity building on entrepreneurship. The interventions included school gardens and tree nurseries, afforestation and poultry keeping. This is intended to showcase the concept of a ‘self-sufficient school’ for eventual adoption or replication in other schools countywide.
CGP organized training across the province for the school’s Young Farmers and Commerce Clubs. CGP reached a total of 27 schools, both primary and secondary. The schools’ gardens are dotted with kales, cabbage, onion, pepper, cereals, nuts and trees.
In addition to the school project, CGP continued training communities on food production using GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming skills. Over 13,000 food gardens were established both in Kenya and Uganda. Most were producing more vegetables than they needed, and the surplus was sold to generate some income. Some members have used their income to pay school fees for their children in secondary school.
For any project to have an impact on the community, community members must be identified with it. CGP, through Participatory Rural Appraisal, involved the community from the beginning and developed a Plan of Action. Community members, through their groups, manage the ongoing projects and therefore own it. CGP staff only provides technical support.

The following have been noted as a result of the CGP project:

  • Changes in quantity and quality of farm produce. Many of the vegetables are now produced in the kitchen gardens using organic methods, hence improved quality.
  • Changes in crop diversity. This has been the major role of the program to address food security, and this has been adequately achieved from the comments received from the farmers.
  • Changes in the level of  synthetic inputs. In the participating groups this is now almost to zero. The majority have turned to organic methods of farming.
  • Changes in the amount of income generated by trained farmers. They are now happy to have spare income to spend on necessities other than food.
  • Improved seed production and storage of surplus food.

Joshua reports on one of the 5 field days held in the summer:
            The guests of honor at this field day were the District Agricultural Officer and the Area Senior Chief. They were taken around by the Divisional Agricultural Officer to see for themselves what was happening. They were surprised to see the demo-site and the number of compost piles and how the crops were doing. The District Agricultural Officer thought we had used chemical fertilizer and pesticides in our application but was flabbergasted when he was informed we had only used locally available resources.
            After the people had assembled, the Divisional Agricultural Officer took to the podium to introduce the guests. The District Commissioner started by commending what CGP had done, using only local resources, compared to other stakeholders. “I am surprised to see a simple double-dug bed of 100 square feet giving more yields of up to Kshs. 800 within three months in the field of kales.” The Area Senior Chief was surprised when he noticed how healthy the crops were, and the numbers of stems of most crops per unit of area compared to crops grown using chemicals and the recommended spacing by the Ministry of Agriculture. He advised farmers to visit Common Ground Project for more advice on GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming skills.



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