The Star Tribune got wind of what we are up to in Hopkins, MN. Read the full article: Appetite grows for local food
I just finished watching the documentary, Symphony of the Soil and have to share it with you. It is both a beautiful and educational film, I recommend to everyone with an interest in farming or the cycles of the natural world. In the film you learn how soil is formed. How it forms from the rocks on the surface of the earth, being weathered into small particles and how soil changes in composition as it gets older and is altered by living organisms.
You get to hear from a number of farmers and ranchers in the video about how they care for their soil. It becomes very clear that agriculture can either degrade or improve the soil and the task ahead of us is to reintegrate people back into the agriculture. People were given the task of serving and preserving the natural world in Genesis 2. We have forgotten our roots in Adam and Eve whose names translated literally mean soil and life respectively. It is time to put away the synthetic fertilizers and genetically engineered seeds to take up agro-ecology and regenerative farming.
The future is wide open to whether we will get back to the natural rhythms or let our most precious resource be destroyed by conventional farming. Get out there, vote with your food $$ and start growing healthy soil.
But first, watch the Symphony of the Soil HERE. Then visit the films website to get involved in the movement.
Conservation Agriculture is a method of farming where the soil is disturbed as little as possible and maintains a permanent soil cover. These techniques increase soil organic matter, maintain soil structure, and increase water-holding properties of the soil, helping to restore soil fertility and its growing abilities. In the semi arid areas of Kenya like Makueni County, the adoption of conservation agriculture practices is vital to the success of the agriculture industry.
The effects of climate change are building with every passing year, there is a “need to focus on increasing vegetation cover, expand carbon sinks and bridge the gap between the dry spells,” (Maina, Newsham & Okoti 2013). Conservation agriculture, especially when coupled with agroforestry can do just that. “In hot and dry tropical climates conventional ploughing, where the soil is turned, contributes strongly to the rapid loss of organic matter, compaction of soil and soil crust formation,” (Mwalley & Rockstrom 2003). In Conservation agriculture, instead of ploughing, the soil is ripped open in lines, leaving the space in between undisturbed. Ripping can be done in dry soil unlike ploughing, which allows farmers to plant before the onset of the rains. This is sometimes the difference between getting a harvest and none at all because in some areas, 25% of the season’s rainfall may fall in the first few rains, (Mwalley & Rockstrom 2003).
Interestingly, the amount of rainfall is not the problem. “The problem is that large volumes of water are lost through surface runoff, soil evaporation… because of a combination of land mismanagement and the intensity of tropical rainfall. On average, 70 – 85 percent of rainfall leaves the farmer’s field without contributing to crop growth,” (Mwalley & Rockstrom 2003). With conservation agriculture and agroforestry, the soil increases its water holding and infiltration abilities while at the same time; the tree canopy reduces the rate of evaporation in the fields.
Geovalue Organics is targeting the need for more “effective stakeholder engagement with processes geared at improving agricultural practices,” (Maina, Newsham & Okoti 2013). Our solutions of conservation agriculture and agroforestry are tested and proven to be beneficial for farmers in semi arid areas. There have been some previous projects that aimed to teach conservation agriculture to farmers, however the rate of adoption remains low. For us, we will not only be teaching climate smart agriculture practices, but also supporting the farmers to get past the challenges of adopting those methods. We are establishing our presence as a long-term partner in the creation of a vibrant agricultural sector in Makueni County.
To read more about what we are doing, check out our Projects page.
Maina, I., Newsham, A., & Okoti, M. (2013). Agriculture and Climate Change in Kenya: Climate Chaos, Policy Dilemmas. Future Agricultures.
Mwalley, J. & Rockstrom, J. (2003). Soil Management in Semi-Arid Savannahs. Leisa Magazine. http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/using-every-drop-of-water/soil-management-in-semi-arid-savannas/at_download/article_pdf
Climate change is increasing the frequency of droughts and floods all over the world. In Kenya it is in the same situation. The country deals with both floods and droughts. Kenya sees a major drought once every 10 years and minor ones every 3 to 4 years (UNEP/GoK 2000). Droughts are often followed by heavy rainfall that leads to more severe floods and soil erosion (Herrero et al. 2010a).
In the semi arid and arid lowlands of Kenya, these weather extremes are even worse. The annual rainfall for the semi arid and arid land arrives in only 3 to 4 months of the year and it is highly variable. Sometimes you will see rain in the distance pouring out of heavy dark rain clouds but by the time it reaches you, there is nothing but a sprinkle left.
Rainfed agriculture is the main source of food production and sustains the livelihoods of rural Kenyans (Washington et al. 2006). The traditional planting methods of tilling the soil multiple times and removing trees from a field are are hindering farmers from increasing production. The bare soil increases the evaporation and soil run off in the fields.
The agricultural sector in Kenya produces roughly 75% of the jobs in the country and climate change poses a serious threat to its success (Washington et al. 2006). The semi arid and arid land has been neglected in agricultural development compared to the highlands, which receive moderate rainfall. The semi arid and arid land is known to have a high degree of poverty and food insecurity (Herrero et al. 2010b). In the article titled “Smart investments in sustainable food production: revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems,” the writers note that this area also has the highest yield gaps for crops, which suggests that with adequate programs to support agriculture, these semi arid areas could significantly increase crop and livestock production (Herrero et al. 2010b).
Geovalue Organics believes the solutions for adapting to climate change in the semi arid and arid areas lies in conservation agriculture and agroforestry. With the combination of the two, plus organic inputs, farmers will be able to counter the negative effects of climate change and sequester carbon. This will allow for an increase in food production in the semi arid and arid lowlands, which equates to increased food security and economic development. Also, with carbon credit certification, international capital will be directed to those farmers currently experiencing some of the worst effects of climate change.
To learn more about our work, check out our Projects page.
Herrero, M., Ringler, C., Van de Steeg, J., Thornton, P., Zhu, T., Bryan, E., Omolo, A., Koo, J., and Notenbaert, A. 2010a. Climate variability and climate change and their impacts on Kenya’s agricultural sector. International Livestock Research Institute.
Herrero, M., Thornton, P.K., Notenbaert, A.M., Wood, S., Msangi, S., Freeman, H.A., Bossio, D., Dixon, J., Peters, M., van de Steeg, J., Lynam, J., Parthasarathy Rao, P., Macmillan, S., Gerard, B., McDermott, J, Seré, C. and Rosegrant, M. 2010b. Smart investments in sustainable food production: revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems. Science 327: 822–825.
UNEP/GoK (United Nations Environment Programme and Government of Kenya). 2000. Devastating Drought in Kenya. Environmental Impacts and Responses. UNEP/GoK. Nairobi, Kenya.
Washington, R., Harrison, M., Conway, D., Black, E., Challinor, A., Grimes, D., Jones, R., Morse, A., Kay, G. and Todd, M. 2006. African climate change: taking the shorter route. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 87: 1355–1366.
Jessica Mutunga is the founder of Geovalue Organics. See writes about her passions of adapting to Climate Change and Sustainable Development.