Even Though it’s Dry, the Plants Are Green
It’s Friday around 10:00 am, and I’m moving around from one homestead to the other using a motorbike. The roads greet me with dust being blown towards my face by the strong dry winds emanating from Kaichakun hills just above the Marmanet forest. On my way towards these homesteads I am greeted with both men and women who have seen me in this community. I hesitate to respond to their smile and greeting as the strong winds are blowing dust whenever I open my mouth to respond. Oh maybe this is what we call adventure in the community. These words of Wangari Maathai, who was a daughter to a landless peasant farmer and rose to become the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, run in my mind:
One of the reasons why we started to work with these ordinary peasant farmers so as to educate them that, despite the fact that they are poor, it is in their interest to protect the soil that they have, to protect the forest they have, to protect the land that they have, because if they don’t do it, things can be only worse tomorrow for them for them and for their children. Wangari Maathai
We are making a second follow up trip in Marmanet to meet farmers we had trained in conservation agriculture. We are in the community to meet about twenty five farmers who Kijani had trained in past couple of weeks.
As I am meeting these farmers, they welcome me with smiles. I sit either under a tree or under the shadow of their houses created by the sun. As it brightly shines, you might think it decided to have a close fellowship with humans in Marmanet. These farmers narrate with joy the impacts they have seen and experienced after the training they got from Kijani. Full of confidence Dorice recollects her memories; “after the training I prepared a plot where I could practice conservation agriculture. I made compost out of my domestic animals waste I have here in the homestead, I later planted spinach. I made liquid fertilizer from the local plants. My spinach plants are very green because they have mulch and they will be ready in the next two weeks.” I could see gleefulness in her heart through her ageing face and mouth. She smiles gently as she is distracted by one of her cute dogs called Habari (meaning “news”) chasing her small chicken. We all stand up to the rescue of the small, black and white polka dotted chicken running away from the dog now turned to “Habari Mbaya” or “bad news”. We both break out laughing at the extent animals can run whenever they could sense death.
Dorice continues with her story, “I can tell you for sure ‘kijana wangu’ (respectable swahili phrase meaning ‘my son’) this method of farming has alleviated my workload in the farm. I only water my spinach once or twice a week. Also I don’t use chemical pesticide and they look more green and healthy than other plots I have used conventional chemicals. Weeding is not part of my plan now as the mulch has taken care of it. I’m amazed by the training Kijani gave me.” The story of this mama gave me hope to continue working with rural communities. She finishes her story by telling me her plans of selling these spinach to act as an income generating channel for the family.
She then says something that pricks and revitalizes my heart; “even though it’s dry, the plants are green.” This is the true meaning of conservation agriculture. This is a message of hope in the face of the uncertainty of the prevailing weather condition. This message was not only a source of inspiration to her, but it was also to Kijani as an organization. As we are embarking on training smallholder farmers who have little to show, we are applying conservation agriculture as a way of transforming and revitalizing the lives of local rural people in Kenya.