Subsistence farmers in Africa continue to struggle to survive due to a very dire set of circumstances which is beyond their control. A lack of agricultural extension services by the government, small landholdings, soil erosion, overused and infertile soils, erratic rainfall patterns due to climate change, lack of access to quality seeds, little crop variety, lack of knowledge of effective farming techniques and rudimentary tools have resulted in very low agricultural yields, which leads to food insecurity throughout the year.
Lack of access to clean and safe water also greatly contributes to this desolate situation, which has disastrous effects on the general health and productivity of the population. Especially children are severely affected by malnutrition and stunting, which are at high levels (25 to 32% in the areas where we are active). These adverse conditions affect bodily functions and lead to a vicious cycle of medical, economic and social problems.
SOFDI has developed a holistic approach which counteracts the above-mentioned problems. As a first step toward improving the existing situation, SOFDI gives farmers access to clean water through spring protection (see WATER PROJECTS). This also serves as an entry point into the communities. The second step is to offer farmers free 5-day intensive practical and theoretical training carried out in the farmers’ communities (schools, churches) so that farmers do not have to travel far.
The training covers the following aspects:
- Introduction into Organic Farming /Sustainable Farming
- Introduction into Conservation Agriculture
- Soil and Water Conservation
- Animal Husbandry and Animal Welfare
- Spring Protection, Hygiene and Sanitation
- Family Nutrition
- Soya Bean Production
- Diversity and Cropping Systems
- Organic Top Dressers/ Integrated Pest Management
- Leadership and Group Dynamics
- Farmers Work Plan
After this week of training, farmers have to form farmers groups and establish a demonstration plot under the guidance of SOFD. They are given African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs) as starter seeds for their farms and demonstration plots.
Any further assistance and access to SOFDI projects /services depends on the full uptake, adoption and practice by the farmers groups. Over a period of at least one year, our professional staff and trained lead farmers regularly visit the farmers to monitor progress and to assist them in overcoming challenges. We are always at their disposal.
WE DO NOT “TOUCH AND GO” AS MANY NGOs DO. WE STAY WITH THE FARMERS AND ASSIST THEM FOR AS LONG AS THEY NEED US IN ORDER TO ENSURE A TRULY SUSTAINABLE IMPACT.
CLIMATE SMART AGRICULTURE – COMBATING CLIMATE CHANGE
Here are some of the interventions we include in our trainings to combat and mitigate climate change, which has already disastrous effects on the lives of subsistence farmers in Kenya:
- Established a close collaboration with the Meteorological Service, CDMS, for generation and dissemination of periodic weather forecasts through bulk messages to our lead farmers. They have been trained in the interpretation of the abbreviated message. This helps farmers better plan for unreliable rain patterns.
- Providing general agriculture advisory
- Advocating appropriate technologies like the introduction of Conservation Agriculture.
- Educating on post-harvest handling to limit grain losses.
- Promoting agroforestry to reduce soil erosion, fixing nitrogen in soils, increasing biomass, soil fertility, and water retention.
- Introducing rain water harvesting/irrigation to mitigate effects of erratic weather conditions.
- Offering mobile soil testing facility for optimal input decisions
- Teaching integrated systems, i.e. keeping livestock for resilience during reduced harvests due to changed weather patterns and limited farm land.
- Providing access to improved crops which can better withstand draught and excessive rain.
- Introducing solar drying, promotion of energy-saving cooking devises.
- Encouraging family planning to avoid further fragmentation of family farms and mounting pressure on natural resources.