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Farmer field schools refines uptake of climate-smart agriculture in Tana Delta

Ali Dido's chilli farm in Tarasaa, Tana Delta. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]

Except for the simmering temperatures, it is easy to tell Ali Dido’s farm in the vast Odha village in Tarasaa location within Tana River County.

Dido’s vast chilli plantation is a drop of greenery in the area currently ravaged by the ongoing drought. His two-and-a-half-acre chilli farm is part of what is set to revolutionise farming fortunes in the Delta.

Dido is one of the 217 farmers under seven chilli producing groups who have formed production associations targeting the export market once the Green Heart Initiative, a plan to spur growth in Tana Delta, takes shape.

“This is the first time I am planting chilli and is miraculously doing well at the moment when almost everything is drying up. I learned about the new crop in the farmer field school and in a few days, I will start harvesting and supplying it,” Dido said.

Dido is also part of the farmers who have been aggressively implementing the lessons from three farmer field schools within the vast delta under the initiative of mainstreaming climate-smart agriculture.

The aim is to spur growth in the delta in the face of climate change that is already affecting thousands of farmers and pastoralists.

The project implemented by Nature Kenya is supported by European Union’s Community Resilience Building in Livelihood and Disaster Risk Management (REBUILD) project and the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Restoration Initiative project.

In Ngao farmer field school, research on tomatoes is currently taking place. The research aims at getting to know the capacity of farming tomatoes within certain areas of the delta. It also educates farmers on technologies including greenhouses suitable for hotter temperatures and also how they can maintain the crops without using chemicals.

A farmer checks tomatoes at Ngao field school in Tana Delta. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]

“As farmers, we are already learning a lot from this project. We learn how to manage crops under greenhouses and outside the greenhouses. We also access extension services from agronomists and other experts who regularly visit the farmer field school,” Anastacia Nawa, the chairperson of Tana Delta farmers says.

The farmer field school is located within Ngao high school, a move that also gives learners a chance to learn about climate-smart initiatives.

“There have not been any rains within the delta but the farmer field school in Ngao is proof enough that we can plant anything here,” she adds.

While the three farmer field schools, located in Ngao, Hewani, and Kipini aim at having farmers practice sustainable farming in the face of extreme seasons coupled up with droughts and floods.

It also seeks to introduce high-value crops that require little water including sunflower, sim sim, chili, and green grams as well as encourage agribusiness where farmers will also consider supplying the produce to green industrial parks that will be set up within the delta.

Yona Dhulu Makondeni, an official with the Tana Delta Conservation Network said that among other projects the farmer field schools offer include poultry and fish farming. The initiatives aim at covering the 19 locations within the Tana Delta.

“Currently, farmers in the delta have a big challenge with feeds but within the farmer field schools, we are also accessing lessons on producing own feeds. A lot has changed in the delta and as farmers, we have to adapt to the little resources for survival,” Makondeni said.

Tana Delta farmers’ cooperative treasurer Amuma Mkoloto said the farmer field schools linked to the Greenheart initiative are helping farmers address the challenge of lack of market for their produce.

“The farmers are now being empowered and with the availability of market, it gives motivation to the farmers to increase their productivity. Former farming technologies are becoming a challenge and that is why there these farmer field schools came at the right time when a lot is being experienced here,” Mkoloto said.

Under the project, the farmers also get access to free seeds including sim sim, maize, green grams, chili, sunflower among others. Livestock farmers also improve their breeds through the introduction of gala goats, a hardy breed that grows bigger and matures faster.

Nature Kenya director Paul Matiku said the introduction of farmer field schools to cover the 55 villages within the Delta is part of combating the climate change effects while helping farmers improve their yields with the little available resources.

“The reason why we are encouraging farmers to now come up with the cooperatives so that it becomes easier to sell their produce in bulk to the enterprises that are now coming up within the delta,” Matiku said.

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