It’s an unusual prevalence to see farms with flourishing wholesome crops in Kenya’s semi-arid Makueni County. However in Kithiani village, Justus Kimeu’s two-acre piece of land stands out from the remaining. After embracing the regenerative agriculture (RA) approach, the 52-year-old farmer is wanting ahead to a bumper harvest of maize as all his neighbours rely their losses following this yr’s failed season.
“I’ve been a farmer for a few years, however I’ve by no means seen such a wholesome crop throughout such a dry season,” Kimeu informed IPS. “All of the highway customers who move by this farm can hardly go away with out stopping to have a second take a look at a crop that has defied the prevailing powerful weather conditions.”
Kimeu is one in all 900 farmers in Kenya’s two dryland counties of Embu and Makueni who’re taking part in a pilot venture to see how RA can be utilized to enhance meals productiveness.
The approach, which is being piloted by the Alliance for a Inexperienced Revolution in Africa (AGRA), is a dynamic and holistic manner of farming that entails all of the principals of permaculture and natural farming, akin to minimal tillage, use of canopy crops, crop rotation, terracing to scale back soil erosion, heavy mulching to maintain the soils moist, use of basins to protect soil moisture and the usage of composted manure to present the topsoil the feel of a virgin fertile arable land.
“The primary concept of this system is definitely to return the topsoil again to its authentic state,” Michael Mutua, an affiliate program officer answerable for RA at AGRA, informed IPS. “As an alternative of feeding the crop, we consider feeding the soil,” he mentioned.
In accordance the Meals Sustainability Index created by Barilla Centre for Meals and Vitamin (BCFN) and the Economist Intelligence Unit, elevated adoption of regenerative farm practices reduces carbon emissions throughout cultivation and sequesters carbon into the soil.
In a proposal of 10 interdisciplinary actions to discovering methods to nourish each folks and the planet post-COVID-19, one of many strategies by BCFN was that the world develop internationally agreed-upon requirements for RA practices and agroecology, in addition to widespread definitions for wholesome and sustainable meals techniques and meals.
BCFN consultants additional acknowledged that regenerative and agroecological agricultural practices have the potential to spice up soil well being, protect water sources and cut back greenhouse fuel emissions.
To popularise the brand new farming approach in Kenya, AGRA collaborated with the 2 county governments of Makueni and Embu, and with the Cereal Growers Affiliation (CGA) to determine lead farmers.
The farmers had been then skilled on RA practices and had been supported to create plots often known as ‘mom demos’.
“A mom demo is definitely a spot for farmers’ sensible classes,” mentioned Mutua. “It consists of 4 plots, the place one plot is finished utilizing all of the advisable RA practices, the second utilizing farming strategies generally used within the space, the third one is through the use of a part of the regenerative agriculture rules, and the fourth one is the management plot, the place the identical crop is planted with none agronomic observe,” he defined.
Every farmer then recruited as much as 100 smallholder farmers from the neighbourhood to show them from the mom demo. As soon as the farmers felt assured, they returned to their very own farms to arrange a child demo, which is a single plot utilizing all of the rules of AR.
“Practically all our farmers are on the child demo stage,” mentioned Mutua. “However a number of daring ones like Kimeu went straight to implementation with out doing a small demo for the training function,” he mentioned.
Based on Kimeu, the teachings on the mom demo stage had been enough, “and doing a child demo for him, would quantity to a wasted season,” he informed IPS.
“Once I determined to implement this system, my farm was naked with out a lot vegetation. So I began by making terraces and after it rained, completely different weeds sprouted. Along with my family members we manually uprooted all of the weeds and left them on the farm to dry and decompose earlier than making small basins during which we had been going to plant the crop,” defined the farmer.
The basins had been then full of natural manure and a few topsoil. And when it rained for the second time, hybrid drought tolerant maize selection seeds had been planted contained in the moist basins and any weed that sprouted was manually uprooted and left to dry and decay on the farm.
“We strive as a lot as doable to keep away from tillage or any type of disturbing the soil for it to regenerate naturally to its authentic type,” Kimeu mentioned, noting that he additionally averted use of typical fertilisers.
Virtually 900 farmers from the 2 counties are anticipated to graduate from the infant demo stage and implement RA throughout the 2021/2022 season. “If effectively carried out, it would greater than double meals safety among the many taking part households,” mentioned Mutua.
Bob Kisyula, the Makueni County Minister of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries, informed IPS: “If our smallholder farmers might embrace these strategies and produce such wholesome crops, then we are going to by no means want alms and meals help even within the hardest seasons.”
Kisyula mentioned that the County Authorities additionally invested in rippers, that are used to make sure that there may be minimal disturbance of the soil as a part of the RA strategy.
In the present day, Kimeu has turn into a task mannequin and a village hero.
“On this quick interval, I’ve been approached by lots of of farmers from my village and different locations who’re in search of to grasp how the approach works,” he mentioned.