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Kenyan farmers unite in the face of drought

Nzoka with other members of his farming group Nzoka with other members of his farming group
Nzoka Kathanda is chairman of the Mwingi community-based farmers group and is one of many local farmers struggling to earn a living from the land in Mwingi, a remote, semi-arid region of Kitui County, Kenya. The recent rains in Kitui were poor, making it extremely tough for farmers like Nzoka to grow enough to make ends meet.  

Galvanised by the problems facing his community, Nzoka, a 47-year-old married father of three, set up the farmers group in the hope that together he and his fellow farmers would be able to get the help they desperately need.

“We started the group because we want farming to be a business. For some time we have been growing crops that have not done well so we have come together to work out what will grow successfully in this climate.”

The local farmers in Mwingi are reliant on good rainfall, and when the last rains failed, farmers lost up to 80 per cent of their harvest. Many water sources have dried up and some people are having to walk up to 20 kilometres to collect water. And much of the water that is available is poor quality, with a high salt content, making it unsuitable for either drinking or agricultural use.

As well as water scarcity, farmers are losing their crops to pests and diseases, with most local farmers unable to earn the income they need to afford pesticides, fungicides and preservatives to protect and preserve their produce.

To help farmers address these challenges, Farm Africa has been working with the Mwingi farmers group and seven others in the area. Nzoka is one of over 100 farmers being trained in farming techniques to conserve water and soil.  They are also being given access to high-quality seeds, which are more resistant to pests and diseases, and are supported to access markets where they can sell their harvests for a better price.

All this will help Nzoka and his fellow farmers become more resilient to climate shocks and increase the amount they can produce, so that they can earn a bigger income and support their families. And, as Nzoka says, with the right business knowledge, the farmers’ group can take charge of their futures:

“It comes as a relief that [Farm Africa] are helping us to get the information we need on sustainable agriculture because it means we will know much more about farming as a business. It is important that we get training that can impact on our livelihoods. Empowerment is vital so we can break away from the donor dependency syndrome. The training we will receive will empower us to become independent so that when Farm Africa exits we will be able to continue improving.”

Find out more about how we're encouraging farmers in Kitui to grow drought-tolerant crops that will give them the best chance of a good harvest, even in dry conditions.