Permaculture for Sustainable Communities in Kenya has provided this report after receiving a Permafund grant of $2,000 to promote local food that is more climate-friendly and less energy-consuming to improve food security and support a vibrant, resilient community.
The project was implemented in the Matungu District in Western Kenya for period of a year. It was to help the marginalised communities to grow their own healthy food during the COVID-19 crisis as a powerful way to reclaim communities and change the dynamics so that people would have wealth and power to combat hunger and the COVID-19 pandemic.
As background, Permaculture for Sustainable Communities reports that it’s estimated that 42% of Kenya’s GDP is derived from natural resource related sectors such as agriculture and forestry. These sectors are highly sensitive to climate change, a fact that makes rural based economies highly vulnerable. In the agriculture sector for example, smallholder farmers are the backbone of the economy, generating about 70% of their agricultural production while also being the custodians of precious agro-ecosystems. Conversely, land, water resource base and populations whose livelihoods and food security are dependent on such resources have been subjected to the vagaries of land degradation, deforestation and the declining productivity of croplands. This has undermined the sustainability of food systems and productivity of natural landscapes.
To address these challenges, the Permaculture for Sustainable Communities project focuses on the development of regenerative farming to rebuild healthy community gardens as a nature-based solution for addressing ecosystem degradation and build climate change resilience.
It is therefore a practical intervention that serves as an entry point adaptation strategy to improve the productivity, efficiency, profitability and fairness of production from the landscape while also establishing an approach that builds rural land restoration. In essence, the ecosystem-based adaptation approach will ultimately reduce environmental impact of production while addressing food insecurity. To ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced and managed for the benefit of present and future generations, the project focuses on building healthy soils.
The long-term goal of developing sustainable food systems is considered a high priority for Permaculture for Sustainable Communities.
Activities carried out included the training of farmers in permaculture practices and skills, the distribution of farm seeds and tools plus monitoring the project and evaluation of the outcomes.
Project achievements: Through the intensive training of 50 farmers in organic farming, synthetic fertilisers are now not used in their farms. Building and maintaining a rich, living soil through the addition of organic matter is a priority for the farmers as the solution for sustainable healthy soil for healthy food production.
The community’s farmers have knowledge in planting and then tilling in cover crops, which help protect the soil from erosion off-season and provides additional organic matter. They have learned about non- tilling and digging in of nitrogen-fixing cover crops, such as mucana or thithony whihc also adds nitrogen to the soil. Cover crops are commonly planted before or after the cash crop season or in conjunction with crop rotation and can also be planted between the rows of some crops, such as tree fruits.
The farmers have been in trained in pest control. They can make organic pesticides that are derived from naturally occurring sources. These include living organisms such as the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, which is used to control caterpillar pests, or plant derivatives such as neem, alvora and peepe leaves.
Organic pest control integrates biological, cultural, and genetic controls to minimise pest damage. Biological control utilises the natural enemies of pests, such as predatory insects (e.g., ladybugs) or parasitoids (e.g. certain wasps) to attack insect pests. Pest cycles can be disrupted with cultural controls with crop rotation the most widely used.
When local varieties of crops disappear, this can compromise food sovereignty and the ability of a community to access culturally appropriate food at a fair price. The region’s farmers are turning to traditional planting of numerous crop varieties that are resistant to specific pests and are diseases to restore food sovereignty in the community.
Finally, because of a permaculture practices and knowledge the farmers have harvested plentiful green vegetables for home consumption. Two farmers have established herb gardens. Beans, maize, soya beans and potatoes have been harvested, making the region a food security hub.
The project has benefited 50 farmers directly and benefit 350 directly.
From the project outcomes lessons have been learned.
There are multiple benefits from teaching farmers about building healthy soil by making organic fertiliser, including green manures, designing and adding swales into gardens to increase soil water content, growing native seeds, improving soil pH to benefit plant growth, increasing the availability of P and K and increasing microbial activity.
Learning together with community members has led to improved problem solving and more effective work strategies.
Through the supply of seeds and farm tools farmers worked harder to rebuild acidic gardens into organic food producing farm systems that have produced food security for many beneficiaries.
Working in groups helped many farmers learn how to establish herb gardens both for human medicine and for insect repellent.
The community working together helped permaculture knowledge reach more people in regions where many need this education.
Long droughts are making certain crops to fail.
More encouragement needed for local climate- resistant crops to be grown.
Support needed for the community to adapt to setting up small home gardens irrigated by water harvesting. A shortage of tanks to capture water from rooftops is an issue.
The shortage of farm seeds and tools to equip more farmers is a problem. For example in one village you may find that only one home has a wheelbarrow.
There is a high demand among farmers for training in permaculture practices and the establishment of working farm models. Financial support is needed to replicate the project in order to reach more people.
Donations to Permafund are supporting community organisations like Permaculture for Sustainable Communities around the world. Contributions of $2.00 of more are tax deductible in Australia and can be made here.