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Regenerating Kenya's food basket

Embu County, in the highlands of Kenya, is known as one of the country’s main food baskets. Here, agriculture provides the main source of food, as well as being the backbone of the economy. But a growing population and extreme weather pose a huge threat to the future productivity of the county.

Seventy percent of Embu’s population earn an income from growing crops or keeping livestock. Until recently, the region’s regular rainfall patterns allowed farmers to grow staple foods such as maize, bananas, and beans in abundance. However, the combined pressure of growing demand and changing weather patterns has led to erosion, soil degradation, and over-cropping.

Something needed to be done to help protect livelihoods in Embu, and in turn the food security of the country. Through technical training, Farm Africa’s Regenerative Agriculture project has helped over 10,000 farmers in Embu to reform their agricultural practices, so as to improve soil health and make their businesses more resilient to climate change.

Farm Africa set up 134 demonstration plots so that farmers like Silas could take part in practical training sessions and gain valuable skills in sustainable land management.

Silas (pictured, right), a maize farmer, was encouraged by Farm Africa experts to grow a bigger variety of crops such as spinach and capsicums. Rotating crops can dramatically improve soil fertility, as well as creating an opportunity for farmers to diversify their incomes.

Silas was beaming when he told us: “I recently sold my capsicums for £67! We are also earning a daily income from selling kale and spinach to our neighbours and I’m looking for more buyers to take our surplus vegetables.”

Farmers taking part in the project also learn about grain quality, seasonal marketing strategies and production plans - all of which help to preserve their farms, and their businesses. Motivated by his success, Silas also set up his own irrigation system to ensure that he can continue growing a variety of vegetables, even during dry seasons.

“My wife and I would struggle to make ends meet. We have two school-going children and paying school fees for them became a challenge...our financial situation has now improved, we are able to buy food and take our children through school comfortably.”

Equipped with the skills and knowledge that they have gained through this project the farmers of Embu are not only improving the lives of their own families, they are confident that through regenerative agriculture they can also keep Kenya’s food basket full.

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