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May 9, 2016 8 Min Read

Conservation Agriculture for better Livelihoods

I am traveling down to Marmanet on Monday morning. An early arrival at Kwanjiku village will enable me to make prior arrangements for our capacity-building training on conservation agriculture. Reaching Kwanjiku around mid-morning, I start the preparations. As a norm of community change agents, I went straight to the Assistant Chief’s office to report the purpose of my visit. I took the shortest time possible to explain to her that Kijani will be conducting training on conservation agriculture and thirty community members are expected to attend. The mobilization process starts right away as Madam Chief Naomi accepts the idea and directs me to several other assistant chiefs in the location to assist me. With the permission of community gatekeepers, I start to make phones calls, meet people within my network, and meet the local forester. My last stop is talking to the Chairman of Community Forest Association.

By evening, before I get back to my hotel room in Nyahururu town, I am overwhelmed with phone calls from all corners of Kwanjiku. Community members are highly interested as they express their desire to be part of the training, but deep down in my heart I am starting to get worried. The number is going to be above thirty people, but I later consoled my heart by saying, “Better a high number than zero attendance”. I am expecting our trainers, Francis Ogembo and Jesse Kilel, and Eric Ogallo, the moderator, and Piere Bertrand who will be taking the video footage of the training to arrive tomorrow. I am going to sleep with an inflated confidence… the training must succeed.

The following day we all assembled on the grounds of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA). Community members came from all corners starting from Kwanjiku, Ngoru, Kaichakun, Gatero and as far as Njefi. All roads leading to the PCEA grounds where the anticipated training is to take place. People of all ages and genders come: men, women, youth, middle age, and old. With the number surpassing the target, our trainers go ahead and start with 40 community members. But confirming my instincts, 30 minutes into the training the venue is fully packed with 65 community members ready to listen, learn, transfer knowledge, and apply skills learned.

Francis Ogembo, one of the Trainers, doing a demonstration on how to plant seeds.
Francis Ogembo, one of the Trainers, doing a demonstration on how to plant seeds.

Day one starts by taking community members through the concepts of conservation agriculture. This takes the centre stage where mulching, crop rotation, manure composting, field or farm preparation, among others, are taught. Our two trainers find it hard to respond to the number of questions coming from over 60 enthusiastic community members. The spirit of learning is really in them and the raising of hands was the only way to show they had burning questions. In the middle of the training one community member shouts to our trainer in Swahili “kwekwe kwekwe kwekwe” meaning “weed weed weed”. We were shocked and thought that we had committed a heinous crime in the training floor, later to realize that he wanted to share his nasty experience of weeds in his farm and he needed much help. People bursted out in laughter. “That was a spice in the training”, one community member commented. Day one ended with a powerful thanksgiving prayer.

Community members getting engaged during the practical training.
Community members getting engaged during the practical training.

The second and last day of the training is dedicated for the practical work. We all assemble in our church venue and go straight to Mr. Haman’s plot, one of the trainee’s piece of land which he had dedicated for demonstration. Our trainers show community members how to prepare land, minimize soil disturbance, make holes for crops and vegetables, top dressing with animal manure, and the making of compost manure, among others. This is the highly interactive part of our training and our trainees are highly involved and participate in the process. This session makes them realize that low yields are a result of inadequate techniques. It is evident that the most ideal method of improving community livelihood at the household level is through embracing conservation agriculture, which involves learning the skills and correctly applying your knowledge.

David Oyaga from Kijani demonstrating his participatory skills.
David Oyaga from Kijani demonstrating his participatory skills.

We later climb the hills of Marmanet to reach our second demonstration plot where Mama Wambui offers her portion of land as a demo plot. Although we reach her home when we are tired and exhausted, our trainers go ahead to demonstrate to the remaining group how to plant and prepare land. I will never forget how our Moderator Erick Ogallo had the energy and passion to get videos of testimonials from the few participants who could speak Swahili, while I was kept busy supplying our trainers with mulch from fallen tree leaves and other agricultural wastes, and community members were focused on learning the practical aspect of the training. We later distribute the training manuals to the farmers, which are to act as a guide and reference book for the farmers. This is well received, and the smiles that are written all over their faces could ascertain this.

It was a happy ending for the successful training we had.
It was a happy ending for the successful training we had.

It was a happy ending due to the warm reception we got from the community members, and the support from both community gatekeepers and stakeholders. Kijani being a youthful organization, we were impressed by the turnout of young people who showed interest and further committed their time to attend our training and implement the model. One great pan-African leader once said, “Communities cannot be developed, they can only develop themselves by participating in development activities.” This is exactly what we witnessed.

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