Having a wider range of crops or income-generating activities reduces the risk of crop failure and food insecurity, and can protect people from falling into poverty.
While farmers are being urged to plant more trees on their farms, many have concerns that trees will compete with their crops for water, nutrients and light, and so reduce their crop yields. Jonathan Muriuki, a scientist from the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, emphasises that farmers need to choose the right species of tree and shrub to plant in the right places. But appropriate tree planting can improve soil fertility and water holding capacity, reduce erosion and boost crop yields. Farmers can also use some nitrogen-fixing species to restore the fertility of fallow land, and planting timber species in woodlots or along farm boundaries provides valuable income.
published: January 2013
In Sinjela, to the east of the Zambian capital Lusaka, felling of trees for charcoal making has left the land bare and farmers in the area are struggling to cope with reduced rainfall. But some, like Moses Moonga, have begun to adopt agroforestry on their farms, planting a variety of trees and shrubs that offer multiple benefits, both to the farmers and to the environment. Moses explains to Friday Phiri about the trees he has planted and the benefits they give, while extension officer Austin Chilala from the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, explains how agroforestry trees can improve soil fertility and provide an extra source of food, as well as poles for building.
published: June 2012
Maasai farmers in Kajiado County to the south of Nairobi, reflect on the changes that have happened to their livelihoods in recent years. In the past they were almost entirely dependent on livestock. Now, while keeping cattle continues to be an important part of their culture, they are also supplementing their food and income by growing crops. They have invested in a range of technologies, including drip irrigation and greenhouses, in order to get maximum yield from small amounts of land. Audrey Wabwire speaks to four farmers and a local extension officer to hear how and why their lives have changed.
published: June 2012
In Kenya’s semi-arid Isinya district, a number of livestock farmers have shifted to irrigated crop production in order to supplement their food and income. With boreholes to tap into groundwater reserves, the farmers are using drip irrigation to grow a range of high value vegetable crops, including tomatoes, potatoes and spinach. Emmanuel Okella meets farmers to find out how successful this change has been, and also speaks to Noah Lusaka of the Arid Lands Information Network, an organisation that provides practical information to help people cope with the increasingly challenging climate.
published: June 2012
In Kenya, the average age of a farmer is 57 years and few young people are interested in making a business in farming. Some farming activities can be more attractive to the young; mushroom farming and beekeeping need less labour than more traditional crops, and can earn good income. But even these may not be attractive enough to pull in many young entrepreneurs. Geoffrey Onditi investigates the challenge that countries like Kenya face in ensuring they have a farming future, which will be so important to food production in the coming years.
published: April 2012
Members of the Tigithi Aloe Group, who live in semi-arid Laikipia, on the leeward side of Mount Kenya, have diversified into growing medicinal plant species, particularly trees. They are working with Desert Edge, a company which trains the farmers in cultivation and sustainable harvesting techniques, and buys their plant products. Through value addition, Desert Edge can pay a good price for the medicinal products, making the trees more valuable as a sustainably harvested resource than as timber or charcoal. Group chairman Simon Wachira and Desert Edge business development manager, Maxwell Lumbasi explain more about how cultivating indigenous medicinal plants can earn income and protect the environment.
published: February 2012
The growing of mushrooms, either for consumption, sale or processing into high value medicinal products, is being promoted in southern Africa by NEPAD. Working in six countries, the SANBio Mushroom project works with farmers, supplying mushroom seed (or ‘spawn’) and training in production and processing methods. In Malawi, farmers have been introduced to commercial production of oyster and button mushrooms, while Namibia is focussing on growing mushrooms for the herbal medicine market. Moses Kwapata of Malawi’s Bunda College, and Cousins Gwanama, coordinator of the NEPAD programme, talk to George Kalungwe about the ongoing work to establish viable mushroom industries in southern Africa by 2015.
published: October 2011
In central Kenya, Bendetta Muoki has borrowed money from her savings group in order to buy seedlings for planting. Another loan has funded a water tank, so that she will not run out of water in the dry months. Innovations such as these are only possible for Bendetta because of the money she saves through the group. Farmers are often encouraged to adapt their farming systems to cope with climate change. Without capital, this is often impossible, but through savings and credit groups they can have more choices.
published: June 2011
Planting a wide diversity of crops, rather than relying on a single staple, is the best way to beat drought and guarantee a varied supply of food throughout the year, according to permaculture practitioners Luwayo Biswick and Kristof Nordin. George Kalungwe visits their Never Ending Food farm on the outskirts of Lilongwe, to learn more about how rural communities are using local plant resources instead of relying on commercial seed, in order to earn income and maximise production from their land in a sustainable way.
published: June 2011
In Gomoa Adzentem in central Ghana, the Tragrimacs company is assisting farmers to cultivate sunflowers on degraded land. Working in groups, the farmers are able to sell their crop back to Tragrimacs, who use the sunflower seeds to produce biodiesel. However, as well as creating income and employment, the sunflower cultivation is also improving the health of the farmers' land, improving their chances of long-term productivity and prosperity. Issah Sulemana, CEO of Tragrimacs, talks to Kofi Adu Domfeh about the wide-ranging environmental, social and economic benefits that have resulted from sunflower cultivation.
published: April 2011
To be notified when new Agfax reports come online, write your email address in the box below.