Potential of Biologically Intensive Agriculture for Feeding People in Kenya: A Case Study of Manor House Agricultural Centre Activities.
Emmanuel Chiwo Omondi Sr.1, Gatua W. Mbugwa2, John Jeavons3, Baldas Murambakania1, Rhoda Nyambori1, Margaret Wamalwa1, Elijah Mulegwa1, Sandra Mardigian4, and John Okomba1. (1) Manor House Agricultural Center, Central Elgon Road, Private Bag, Kitale, Kenya, (2) University of Wyoming, Plant Sciences Department 3354, 1000 E University Avenue, Laramie, WY 82071, (3) Ecology Action, 5798 Ridgewood Road, Willits, AR 95490-9730, (4) Kilili Self Help Project, 260 Marion Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941
Kenya's economy is heavily dependent on agriculture. 75% of Kenyans make their living from farming, producing both for local consumption and for export. Over 85% of Kenyan farmers are small scale. Unfortunately, Kenya's agricultural policies have historically focused on growth objectives at the expense of equity issues and have largely neglected the small farmer in prioritizing agricultural research areas and setting research & development agenda. Despite the fact that the average Kenyan farmer works on a holding of 1.1 hectares and that small-scale farming accounts for 85% of all employment in the agricultural sector, policies have focused on the development of cash crops destined for export. While such policies created a net gain in exports, the benefits have failed to sufficiently “trickle down” to the small-scale farmer. Manor House Agricultural Centre (MHAC) promotes GROW BIOINTENSIVE (GB), a low cost agricultural technology suited to small scale farmers. GB focuses on composting to improve soil fertility, deep soil preparation to enhance growth, mulching to conserve moisture, close spacing to increase productivity and biological pest control to manage plant diseases. The curriculum at MHAC addresses the goals of the United Nations and the World Food Council, which are calling for forms of agriculture that reduce chemical use, conserve and rehabilitate soil, conserve plant genetic and local resources, research and develop organic farming techniques, and produce large amounts of calories from small areas. MHAC was established in 1984 in response to a three year drought that caused severe hunger in many areas of rural Kenya and precipitated the need for new approaches to farming. These concerns were raised in 1981 during a United Nations sponsored conference in Nairobi on “New and Renewable Sources of Energy” as a result of which MHAC was established and registered as a non-profit Trust. Since its inception, MHAC has led the movement in Kenya to increase food security by introducing small-scale farmers to farming practices that make efficient use of their limited resources, require few external inputs, and protect natural resources for future generations. Our training program includes a two-year residential certificate course for Form Four school leavers or equivalent, one - week workshops for farmers and six weeks to three months short courses for community development practitioners. To date, more than 350 students have graduated from the MHAC two-year certificate program. In addition, MHAC has trained over 100,000 rural farmers and developed 25 mini-training centers (MTCs) in village settings to extend these techniques to women's groups and farmers. Organized as community based organizations, the MTC is an approach that empowers farmers to be trainers of other farmers in their localities. Kenyan farmers who have benefited from training in GB are able to improve productivity, generate income, and at the same time improve soil fertility. Examples are given of how GROW BIOINTENSIVE training at MHAC has been disseminated by graduates throughout Kenya to improve food production, nutrition, and income for farmers. In one example, GB training for two people was multiplied through the Integrated Rural Community Empowerment Program (IRCEP) in Kenya to provide basic GB training to over 540 people during a 4-year period. At the beginning of the training, most of these 540 farmers and their families could not grow enough food for three meals a day because of fertilizer and other artificial input costs. In economic terms their family income amounted to less than zero. However, results of an on-farm follow-up survey conducted in the 5th year were dramatic. Farmers using GB techniques were able to provide three nutritious meals per day for their families and generate, on average, $30 per month in income from excess crops sold at market. A travel grant from REAP (www.reapfund.org) has been secured to support transportation to and from the 18 WCSS to participate in symposium 4.2 b “Biologically Intensive Agriculture: An approach to combating hunger for the world's poor".