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Food Sovereignty

Making farming climate resilient, for food and income security!

“I now feel proud of my work as a farmer and the success I have made this far. My family is not only food and nutritional secure but we are making a living through sale of surplus produce from this farm” says Victoria Mumo. Victoria Mumo hails from Kithendo village in Kithimani Ward, Yatta Sub-county of Machakos County. The climate of Machakos County is semi-arid with erratic and unpredictable bi-modal rainfall pattern. The rainfall ranges between 500mm to 1,300mm annually. Just like many other parts of the country and world, farmers in Yatta have experienced frequent crop failures, water shortages due to weather aberrations which have manifested in different forms such as delayed and untimely rainfall, increase in temperature among others. Victoria’s journey to success began when her group, ‘Muuo wa Canaan’ started working with ICE in 2014 under a project that aimed at building capacity of small holder farmers to adapt to effects of climate change. The project implemented in 2014-2015, embarked on creating awareness among community members on effects of climate change through sensitizing them on unsustainable land use practices; On-farm trainings on agro-ecological farming practices including diversification of farm produce; Providing exposure learning visits and supporting farmers with seeds for livelihood diversification between crops and livestock. Household food security was given priority in view of the uncertainties in production. From the project, Victoria gained interest to change her farming practices in order to improve the productivity of her farm. She said she was happy that her husband supported her desire to improve the productivity of their farm. They started by establishing on farm water harvesting structures and construction of house for rearing poultry in a bid to diversify their farming. Since adoption of the new farming practices and diversifying their farm as trained and advised by trained by ICE Kenya, the family now has managed to use their farm optimally and increased the production and income threefold. Farming has now become full time job for Victoria and her husband who previously worked as a hotelier. In their farm, Victoria and her husband have more than seven crop varieties on their farm including; Cassava, pigeon peas, sweet potatoes, bananas, mangoes, beans, maize and varieties of indigenous vegetables. “When farmers come here, they are surprised that I have been able to grow even crops such as bananas in this dry area”, She proudly says with a lingering smile. In addition, the family has two dairy cows and more than 250 improved kienyeji (local) chicken. The sale of milk, eggs and chicken earns them income to meet their dairy needs before crop harvest. In 2016, ICE started another project in Yatta that aimed at improving economic empowerment of women smallholder farmers in Machakos County. The project has facilitated training of women groups on record keeping, marketing and managing village saving and loaning amongst the group members. Victoria’s group was one of the groups engaged in the project among fourteen women groups in Machakos County. The knowledge and skills enabled Victoria become an entrepreneur farmer hence able to market her produce and earn higher income than before. She is also able to keep records as well as evaluating operation and production in order to determine pricing and marketing. In her village, Victoria is a model farmer who has strived to overcome the detrimental effects of climate change. She now understands well that as the climate changes, farmers need also to change. She understands that resilience is accepting the new reality even if it is less good than the one before. It is about being able to overcome the unexpected by striving to survive. Resilience in the face of adversity. Story by Hannah Kigamba

Natural Resource Management

Towards restoring Ecological Resilience – A Case study

Ecosystems when faced by disturbances whether naturally or human-induced work towards recovery – this is a show of ecological resilience. The ease with which a particular ecosystem regains its previous or improved status is a measure of this resilience. Where perturbation is of high magnitude, recovery takes place slowly and over a relatively longer period. It is in such a case that human intervention may be needed to aid in recovery. Kivaa Hill in Machakos County, Eastern Kenya, has over the last four decades been degraded by surrounding community members through extraction of timber, fuelwood and medicinal herbs as well as overgrazing. In 2008, the community members approached the Institute for Culture and Ecology to forge joint efforts towards supporting restoration of Kivaa Hill’s ecological integrity. A group of elders came together after the community started partnering with ICE and laid down strategies to employ in aiding restoration of Kivaa Hill, which the community had come to appreciate as a critical watershed. Led by their leader, Mzee (Elder) Munguti Kavivya, the elders mobilized Kivaa community towards reforestation of the hill and also lobbied to have grazing on it banned by the local administrators. Munguti Kavivya and Kivaa Hill are intricately bound together as revealed by a recent visit to the area. After a short briefing at the foothill, Mzee Kavivya strode off up the hill while we followed trying to keep pace with this nonagenarian who was accompanied by a battery of other local elders. A few metres up the hill, Mzee Kavivya stops at a spot which he calls the ‘gate’. He selected plants for us to hold as a sign of peace and warm welcome and then ushered us to some stones to sit on as he readied himself to answer any questions. We were not far from the Ithembo, the sacred site on Kivaa Hill. We asked Mzee Kavivya to tell us his story of Kivaa Hill. He began by saying that before 1949 there was virtually no-one living in Kivaa area. There was abundant wild life and hunters would pass through from time to time. In 1949 his father brought his family to settle in the area. They were among the first settlers. He narrated that in the next three decades many more people continued streaming into the area, some of them seeking jobs at the Seven Folks Hydro-electric power stations being established at that time along River Tana, Kenya’s largest river. The elders who moved to Kivaa brought with them their Kamba traditions. They earmarked Kivaa Hill as a Sacred site and carried out the first sacrificial ritual there in 1964 to cleanse the hill for onward ceremonies owing to the degradation that the hill had suffered. Elders in Kivaa carried out more rituals in the subsequent years up to 1975. During all this time Mzee Kavivya operated like a lone ranger as custodian of Kivaa Hill sacred site. He started the process of mobilizing other elders and these started engaging in dialogues on how to protect and conserve the Hill. They also brought along younger people in what they called intergenerational dialogues. These dialogues culminated in development of eco-cultural calendars and maps as tools to guide in ecological reconstruction which was done in partnership with ICE and with support from the African Biodiversity Network(ABN) among other partners. “Today Kivaa Hill has its owners and is able to protect itself’’ Mzee Kavivya proudly testifies. Mzee Kavivya reiterated that the Hill is now respected and cases of illegal grazing and extraction of materials is minimal. He commends the local chief for the support he gives the elders whenever they arrest illegal grazers. He also appreciates the support from ICE. “If you take your goat or cow there be ready for the consequences’’ Mzee Kavivya declares. Each goat apprehended on the hill attracts a fine of Ksh.500 and Kshs. 1,000 for cows. Today Kivaa Hill is now providing ecosystem services like there before, courtesy of a recent research done by ICE in partnership with selected local community members. Kivaa hill’s hydrologic potential has been restored and streams now flow from the hill traversing the neighbourhoods providing water to the local residents. “Let’s avoid conflict while fetching water as the Owner of this water might be offended and stop it, instead let’s respect the hill where this water comes from”. Mzee Kavivya concludes. Article by Elijah K. Karugia

Blogs Food Sovereignty


Farmers who hold small parcels of land strive to attain high productivity, despite these size of their lands which they have homestead in them too. However, with decreasing land sizes as a result of land subdivision, it is getting more difficult to survive on farming alone. Meru is one of the regions where agricultural land is decreasing day by day as a result of uncontrolled land subdivision. While working with smallholder farmers, ICE has introduced farm planning in her on-farm trainings as a tool for optimal and sustainable farm management. This is helping farmers with small pieces of land to diversify their farming system and thereby increasing their family income. Mrs. Damaris Mwirigi, of Gakumbo village, Ntima West Ward in Meru County is one of beneficiaries of ICE trainings. Her group, Mwingene Group was engaged by ICE in 2014 and today, after exactly two years of engagement, she is a happy farmer as result of the benefits she has reaped. Damaris has changed her entire approach to farming, remarkably, since she started Farm Planning. Her farm is about 1/2 acres, in which she has a dairy cow grows arrow roots, beans, maize, and various vegetables. This mixed farming diversifies her income and reduces risk of failure through diversified risks. Her external food inputs have decreased considerably as most of all her inputs are from the farm. Her farm has become a self-sustaining system where the product, waste and by product of either crops or the cow is an input for the other. “I use organic manure, which gives a good result for soil fertility’’, says Damaris. Damaris is very clear about the benefits of farm planning on her farm and life: “After farm planning I have better results and I am more focused in my work’ she says. However, she admits that in the beginning it was not easy due to intensive labour requirement. At the end of every season, Mrs. Damaris evaluates her farm, to plan for the next season. This includes deciding on what crops to rotate in different plots she has divided on her farm. In addition to the farm planning skills, Damaris has benefited from trainings on preparing compost manure, agro-forestry and diversification of sources of livelihoods. With these skills she no longer relies on external inputs /chemical fertilizers for her farm. The results have been amazing. She has maximized her profit by reducing costs and increasing productivity through diversification and application of best farm plan possible. This has allowed her to farm in an efficient, sustainable and environmentally conscious manner. Damaris a mother of three says she engages her children in the farm. This transfers knowledge on need for diversification, sustainable organic farming and optimal use of land. The children happily enjoy being engaged in the farming activities as they benefit from it as some of their needs (for example education) are paid for using the income earned from the farm. Damaris ends the conversation by saying that many had lost hope in farming due to the small sizes of land, but after the trainings by ICE she is changing the minds of the people one farmer at a time. To her just like the famous words of Brian Brett ‘farming is a profession of hope.\” Also featured in the ICE newsletter issue 8 https://www.icekenya.org/newsletters/

Food Sovereignty

Eunice Ngoki, the Queen of Arrow Roots

At Ngurumo village, Ntakira Location, Meru, she is known as queen of arrow-roots. Eunice Ngoki is a member of Meru Jitegemee group. After training on agro-ecological farming and need to revive indigenous seed and crops, Eunice decided to specialise on arrow-roots among other crops that had disappeared in the community. It was a time that many believed arrow roots could only be grown along river banks, but this was not the case for Eunice. With time, recognition of indigenous and traditional crops increased hence demand for these lost seeds rose. Eunice decided to specialise on production of arrowroot seeds in her community. Arrow roots have not only been part of her family diet but a source of income too. With a small portion of land (60 by 100m), Eunice makes approximately KES 1,600 ($20) a week from her farm. This inspired her to grow other varieties of indigenous and traditional crops and vegetables surrounding her house in a small portion of land. “Der Mensch ist, waseribt”.-A man is what he eats. This phrase could not be truer if you have not met Eunice. She has managed to feed herself and her family with a variety of nutritious foods from her farm. At her age, she is still looking very hearty than most women of her generation. She has endured the test of time, What is her secret? Indigenous foods! Through the programme, the socio-economic status of women in Meru has improved as a result of having enough and diverse foods to feed their families. This is because women are more affected than men by hunger and malnutrition. Therefore, in this international year of family farming, there is need to promote farming methods that are sustainable in terms of cost production (soil fertility) and easier to replicate. There should also be effective policies in place to enhance recognition and protection of variety of indigenous and traditional crops to reduce over reliance of fewer crops for food. This would go along in achieving MDG1 “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”. Story by: Hannah Kigamba

Institutional Development

Strategic Partnerships to Fight Effects of Climate Change

The first thing that strikes any visitor to the Thiiti Mothers group as odd is that there are men in the group! “The group was founded in 1989 by mothers who were then agitating against female genital mutilation but later they decided to strategically include us in the group to increase their lobbying power and voice,” Hassan Kiragu, a group member, explains. The group is made up of 20 members, 5 of who are men. “We had an opportunity through the ICE and RIDEP partnership to go on an exposure tour where we learnt about rain water harvesting as a way of overcoming the effects of climate change,” says Hassan. “Before we received start-up chicken for our poultry project, we were first trained on their management including disease identification, especially New Castle Disease. We can operate incubators and brooders, we are conversant with the selection of eggs for incubation, we know what to look for in a good egg and we can formulate our own feed using local material,” he adds. The group has received additional training on composting, the establishment of kitchen gardens, grafting and the use of Zai Pits. “In fact 90% of our members are using Zai Pits in their farms. The farmers have also been able to diversify into other crops such as Ndengu (green grams) and Mwere (Millet) as they also engage in their own research to identify and focus on those varieties that do well in the area,” he says. Others are keeping poultry and rabbits and farming vegetables and fruits. “We are grateful to the ICE/RIDEP partnership for all the support they have given us this far and we want to assure them that even though some of the technologies might seem labour intensive and costly like the Zai Pits, we know they are ultimately worth every effort we invest in them,” Hassan indicates. “We hope development partners can now consider providing us with a long-term solution to the problem of water scarcity, especially now that we are diversifying into other ventures such as fruit farming. We are forced to walk long distances in search of water and even then it is not enough for all our needs because the vessels we use can only do so much,” Hassan laments. The farmers, through their own local research, have realised that some tree varieties introduced such as Mikimas (Gravellia) are susceptible to Muthwa (termites) attacks. “This tree has a lot of promise if only we can get a solution to the termite menace,” adds Murithi, another group member. “We have also discovered that the most suitable tree for our rocky terrain is the Mwarubaini (neem tree) which is doing quite well around here,” adds Reverend Patrick Mwiti of Kamatungu Methodist Church. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the survival rate of most trees we have planted through the ECOREC project,” Rev Patrick adds. He estimates that 65% of the trees have survived in the community despite the generally rocky terrain of the area. Chief John Muchiri from Marimanti location believes most of these challenges can be overcome through strategic partnerships. “It is difficult to achieve much in isolation, but through partnerships like the one we have, we can overcome most of the climate change challenges. We have, for instance, just finished sensitising the community through our ‘Nyumba Kumi’ campaign on an upcoming activity aimed at planting trees on the riparian of river Kathita which will rejuvenate the river and the environment around,” Chief Muchiri adds. Reverend Mwiti, who is also the school chaplain, agrees with this. He has had a strong working relationship with RIDEP for the last 2 years partly because of the church’s passion for uplifting the standards of local people but also because he has a personal interest in conservation work. “In 2014 we managed to plant over 2000 trees in our local schools in Marimanti location,” he adds. Reverend Mwiti, who is also the school chaplain, agrees with this. He has had a strong working relationship with RIDEP for the last 2 years partly because of the church’s passion for uplifting the standards of local people but also because he has a personal interest in conservation work. The church has recently invested in a poultry project which was inspired by poultry training under Enhancing Communities Resilience to Effects of Climate Change (ECoReC) project . The initiative looks set to be a model for farmers keen to keep chicken as a business. Rev. Patrick says the challenges the church faces are very similar to the ones farmers are facing. “Our main problem is water scarcity. “Our farmers have not yet fully embraced the concept of trees conservation even though most are aware that cutting down trees creates environmental problems,” he observes. Trees are a source of quick cash when they are sold as timber or firewood. When faced with a financial dilemma in the household, cutting down trees offers a quick fix. “I believe if all stakeholders including the farmers, church, government and partners like ICE and RIDEP put their minds together a workable solution can be found,” he adds. Going forward Rev. Patrick hopes that the project can scale up its activities in Kamatungu to cover a bigger area, “and if possible include a component of water,” he recommends. “There is need for more training to emphasise the need for farmers to revert back to their indigenous food crops like millet and green grams which seem to do well in this harsh weather”. Members of Maendeleo B Chicken group have already taken a bold step towards solving the water problem – they have dug and constructed their own water pan. Within a period of seven months after the completion of the pan, the transformation is remarkable. “We have been able to diversify our farming activities into vegetable farming, bee keeping and tree planting,” says Cathreen Kabiru Mwinzi, a group member. Their cost of living has also received a reprieve because they are now spending less on things like soap since

Advocacy & Networking

Farmers are the New Voice of Conservation

Cathreen Kareaikwa is what you may call a typical African entrepreneur driven by both a passion to serve her community and the desire to turn up a profit. She is the outgoing coordinator of the Tharaka Nithi Environmental Change Network (TECNet), a conservation advocacy network whose existence has been facilitated by ICE as part of its strategy to build and strengthen local institutions to champion the conservation cause in Tharaka Nithi County going forward. TECNet, like MaYaMa in Machakos is the vehicle farmers are using to articulate their concerns regarding the conservation of their environment, water and agriculture. The network draws its membership from over 22 community groups working in the county. Besides being a TECNet coordinator, Cathreen is a farmer with a passion for value addition. “I do dried vegetables, make handicrafts like baskets, bracelets, necklaces and so on,” she adds. Cathreen also does leather tanning whose end product she uses to make works of leather. Last year Kareaikwa’s tree nursery had over 7,000 seedlings. “I came to learn about ICE through the RIDEP when I was invited to a seminar on advocacy and the environment,” she explains. In Tharaka Nithi county ICE is working through the Rural Initiatives Development Programme (RIDEP Kenya), a local partner, to implement similar activities to those it is directly undertaking in Machakos. “RIDEP is our implementing partner in Tharaka Nithi County. But above all, we are both like-minded change agents advocating for safeguarding Tharaka’s fragile ecosystem and so working together is a strategic decision we have made to create more synergy in our efforts,” elaborates Martin Muriuki, Programme Officer of ICE. Since making this connection with ICE, Cathleen has been involved in a number of advocacy activities through TECNet including organising and leading a major tree planting campaign on Mashujaa Day that saw over 2,000 trees planted in different places in the locality including in churches, schools and government offices. “Through the advocacy skills we have acquired from ICE’s training, we are now able to engage our county leaders including our local Member of County Assembly (MCA) on environmental issues such as the uncontrolled cutting down of trees. We are able to dialogue with them for the enactment or enforcement of existing laws to curb the same,” Cathleen adds. Some of the training Cathleen has received that she is already putting to use includes the organising and execution of public activities such as mobilising the community to participate in mass tree planting. She has also honed her skills in negotiation. “As a result of our collective voice as TECNet, the farmers are receiving recognition as a strong voice that needs to be heard,” she brags. TECNet is in fact in the process of acquiring custody of Gikingo Hill from the county government. Gikingo Hill is an important source of the region’s rich biodiversity which is now threatened by extinction as a result of years of overuse by the community. The hill is also a major tourist attraction in the area. “Our main work, once the transfer process is concluded, will be to reforest the hill and thereafter manage access,” she says. This will be similar to what the Akamba Customs Group in Kivaa is doing reinstating the sacred Kivaa hill to its former glory. Still in its formative stage, TECNet is already showing great promise as a voice for pro-conservation in the region. “We just need to work hard to strengthen TECNet so it can continuously become an effective vehicle for advocacy in environmental conservation,” Cathleen recommends.

Advocacy & Networking

Shaping Environmental Conservation Through Networking

Besides the transfer of innovative agricultural farming technologies to farmers, the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) is also involved in building the capacity of local institutions to champion the course of environmental conservation in their localities. In Machakos, it is doing this through the Masinga, Yatta, and Matungulu Advocacy Network (MaYaMa). MaYaMa was established in 2014 to provide a vehicle for collective bargaining by farmer groups from Masinga, Yatta and Matungulu sub-counties that are involved in the conservation of the environment and agriculture. The network is also sensitising farmers in general on the options available to them to combat the challenges of climate change such as water harvesting, enterprise diversification and conservation. The network is ably steered under the chairmanship of Kioko Wathome, a farmer who hails from Matungulu. “With the support ICE is providing the network through Enhancing Community Resilience to effects of Climate change (ECoREC) project, the project has managed to train us on best practices in farming including conservation agriculture, water harvesting and diversification into other enterprises such as vegetable and fruit farming, poultry and rabbit rearing and cattle keeping,” he says. “We are also working closely with relevant government arms to achieve our objectives,” he adds. In less than a year MaYaMa has managed to achieve a lot. “ for instance, we participated in the development of the Machakos Agricultural Development Fund bill where our inputs as representatives of farmers were captured and incorporated in the bill,” he explains. The network is also working closely with Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs) to protect water catchment areas. In Syomboni in Kyeleni ward, MaYaMa undertook a major tree planting campaign to protect the collapsing banks of Athi river. “We planted over 2000 trees along the banks of the river to prevent further collapse during the rainy season. This has been affecting farming activities located near the river hence reducing yields,” he says. MaYaMa is also working to protect springs and other vital sources of water. Through MaYaMa, the community has been sensitised on the need to conserve water through the digging of trenches and water pans. “The farmers can then use this harvested water to do plant kitchen gardens and water their seedlings,” he adds. Judith Kaloki echoes Wathome’s words. Kaloki has been farming for over 8 years. “I grow a variety of indigenous food crops, vegetables and fruits,” she indicates. Besides being a farmer, Kaloki is also a contact person for ICE in Masinga. She holds a certificate in Agriculture from the Meru College of Technology, now a fully-fledged university and is a member of the Mwangaza Group. “Mwangaza group is a member of MaYaMa and currently has 15 members. Kaloki hopes that some of the technologies introduced by ICE will be adopted widely in the sub-counties. “Most farmers have put their newly acquired knowledge to good use however there is still a lot we need to do improve the uptake,” she feels. Groups need to be sensitised more on the long-term benefits of technologies such as Zai Pits considered to be labour-intensive. “This is where MaYaMa can play an important role of sensitisation to spur more adoption,” she adds. Kaloki also feels there is need to find ways of increasing youth participation. Their involvement will spur more youthful enthusiasm which will ensure continuity,” she observes. Farmers in Masinga, Yatta and Matungulu have seen the benefits of the power of numbers. Through networks such as MaYaMa, their voice can be heard even at policy level. They provide a crucial vehicle for collective bargaining which gives power to the local farmers to shape future development agenda in the sub-counties. “There is nothing more powerful than that,” comments Kaloki.

Institutional Development

Fostering Technology Transfer Through Strategic Partnerships

Anthony Kioko, is the Ward Agricultural Officer (WAO) for Matungulu and Kyeleni wards in Machakos County in the new decentralised government system. In the former system, he would have been the District Agricultural Extension Officer (DAEO). Kioko first heard about the work Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) was doing in Machakos through one of the local forums. “It is in this forum that I realised the work ICE is doing is complimenting mine in many ways,” he says. As a government officer, Kioko is keen on promoting sustainable agricultural practices that do not put too much strain on the natural resources. ICE on the other hand is sensitising communities on the causes and effects of climate change and how to counter them. “We are basically different agents preaching the same message to the same farmers” he adds. That is how he bought into the idea of a partnership with ICE. Since then the relationship between ICE and the county government has realised a number of benefits including running a series of joint training events on appropriate technology transfer to farmers. “We have jointly trained in the areas of water harvesting, enterprise diversification and environmental conservation,” he explains. Through these training, farmers have learnt how to use Zai Pits in their cropping systems, harvest run-off from rain water into retention ditches and conserve the soil using terraces. “Through ICE’s support we have trained them on indigenous poultry keeping and commercial fruit farming as strategies for diversifying their farm enterprises,” he adds. Some of the fruits farmers are growing include passion fruits and grafted mangoes which are mainly for export. Kioko is upbeat about what the future of this partnership holds and he looks to brighter days ahead. “You cannot imagine what a simple technology like a Zai Pit can do to a region when well executed. We can now bank on the assurance of a harvest in an area that is largely synonymous with massive crop failures most of the seasons,” he says. Zai Pits are a technique used in cropping where 6 to 9 crops are planted in a single pit lined with compost manure to enrich the soil. The pits are then moistened with water to prolong the life of the crop in times of water scarcity. A Zai Pit measuring 2 feet in height, depth and width can hold 6 plants while the slightly larger 3-feet pit can accommodate up to 9 plants. Because of the concentrated level of water and nutrients in the pit, yields tend to be significantly higher than in a normal farmed crop. These technologies are proving effective in equipping farmers with the knowledge and skills to make better use of their locally available resources to improve their resilience against the adverse effects of climate change. “Nowadays farmers are no longer watching as run-off from the rains goes to waste. They are channelling this to their farms by digging retention ditches, trenches and in-between terraces that increase soil moisture enabling the crops to survive for longer than others. It has expanded their horizon of thinking by enabling them to venture into non-traditional food crops such as fruits and vegetables because of the availability of water for small-scale irrigation. Angelina Ndunge Munyao, a maize farmer and the chairlady of Kyeni kya Mithini group, who has 41 Zai Pits of her own, bears witness to this partnership. “For starters,” she says, “we are visited more by extension officers attached to the ICE project who come to monitor our progress and give us valuable inputs on our work. In my farm, for instance, I am nowadays visited twice a week,” she says. Ndunge is confident the level of awareness created through ICE’s training in the area will make the community more prepared to face the challenges of climate change more resiliently. “Most group members are now equipped with a range of techniques they can make use of to improve their yields through water harvesting, soil conservation and diversification of agricultural activities in their farms,” she beams. “The results of our good work are speaking for themselves. Heads are beginning to turn in the community as our neighbours flock to our homes to learn the secret of our success,” Ndunge adds smiling. Lawrence Musyoka and Grace Mumbua are two such neighbours who frequent her home. They have been engaged in farming for over two decades now and they know all too well the ups and downs of farming in the semi-arid Machakos. Musyoka began farming in 1996. He owns 2 acres of land where he grows indigenous food crops such as millet, green grams and cow peas. He also tries a hand at maize and beans. Mumbua, on the other hand, is slightly older in this occupation having began in 1994. She grows cow peas, millet, cassava and other indigenous food crops on her two acre piece of land. Both farmers, who are not project beneficiaries, have keenly been observing and admiring their neighbours’ farms from a distance for some time now. “The first time I tried planting my crops in Zai Pits I had very devastating results. I later realised that I had left out manure which is a crucial component in the success of this technology. After Ndunge pointed out the omission, I corrected the mistake in the next planting season and now I have a healthy crop,” beams Mumbua. Musyoka, on the other hand, found some of the water harvesting and soil conservation techniques farmers in the ICE project were using in their farms, such as the use of trenches, quite impressive. “I also liked the knowledge they had on the indigenous seed varieties that were best suited for growing in this area,” he adds. The availability of quality seeds has been a major challenge to farmers in Ukambani as Francisca Mbuli Kitheka, a member of Kithio Kya Mawithyololoko group, points out. ICE, through the project is addressing this challenge by not only promoting early maturing varieties but also sensitising the community on

Food Sovereignty

Kitchen Gardens Providing Food Security and Income

“As a flower blossoms, so shall be my kitchen garden”, those are the words that keeps reminding her to put more effort in what she does. Agnes Wairimu is a member of Nyamutuagaki Women Self Help Group, one of the groups ICE started to work with through Climate Seed, and Knowledge (CSK) project in 2008. Through the project, community members were taken through agro-ecological training and organic farming, ICE also supported the groups with initial seed of crops and livestock to enable them to initiate livelihoods projects to enhance food security. During that time, some people had reservation in adapting the practices, some finding it as an uphill struggle especially in making organic compost manure. Being a wise woman, Agnes saw great opportunity instead of challenges. The need to consume fresh vegetables free of chemicals prompted this woman to start her kitchen garden several years back and ever since, she has nothing to regret. Today she is an inspiration to many. The sight of the green and big leafed vegetables that are eye-catching around this kitchen garden in Kamburu village is what provokes once appetite. Agnes only uses locally available materials and knowledge to carry out organic farming in her garden, what a sight!   It is out of this small kitchen garden that saved the life of her dear daughter, in fact to Agnes her kitchen garden is what she calls her office and her life. “My daughter used to be admitted to hospital due to lack of blood, since we started to consume these indigenous vegetables from this kitchen garden, she has never been admitted again over the problem” heartily mother proudly says.   What pleases the eye more often than not pleases the heart, this is no different in Agnes case. While other farmers fear to invest in such a venture of growing indigenous vegetables through organic farming, Agnes is able to make an income from the sale of these vegetables from her garden to other villagers and also from the two bags supply she makes to Nairobi each week. This brings joy to her heart as she gets to recoup some of the little costs she incurs in her farming and have income to cater for her family needs. As a role model farmer, she has stood out to prove that indeed small scale farmers can feed the world. She has challenged many women in her community that by hard work even small initiatives can deprive them from poverty cycle.   In her remarks, she thanked ICE for the support that has changed her and her family’s life. She is also a beneficiary of climate change adaptation initiative project, whereby thirty women were supported with 2300 litres of water tank each for water harvesting through a joint contribution of ICE and Nyamutuagaki women group.

Natural Resource Management

Sacred Sites Critical to Biodiversity

For millennia, indigenous and local communities around the world have upheld the responsibilities of their great-great grandparents and their ancestors as the Custodians of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories. Sacred Natural Sites are critical places within ecosystems, such as forests, mountains, rivers and sources of water, which exist as a network embedded within a territory. Sacred Natural Sites are also of cultural and spiritual importance, as places where the ancestors’ spirits of the community reside, and are akin to temples or churches where the Custodians carry out ceremonies and rituals. Elders within the community play a vital role in upholding the ecological knowledge and customs practised over generations which maintain the well-being of Sacred Natural Sites, ecosystems, territories and local communities. These customary governance systems recognise Sacred Natural Sites and Territories as places where the laws of Earth can be read, and from which customs, spiritual practices and governance systems are derived to protect the territory as a whole. Therefore, Sacred Natural Sites and Territories are at the heart of ecological, spiritual and cultural practices, and governance systems of indigenous and local communities. Despite their vital importance, Sacred Natural Sites and Territories in Kenya, and across Africa, are faced with increasing threats of destruction from economic and other developments which have also eroded the customary governance systems of their custodial communities. The failure to respect ecosystems, and the Sacred Natural Sites within them, has a direct impact on the lives and well-being of communities of present and future generations of all life. This Report examines whether the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the legal, policy and institutional framework in Kenya recognises and supports, or undermines, the rights and responsibilities of communities to govern and protect their Sacred Natural Sites and Territories, according to their customary governance systems and on their own terms.