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.