Farmers plant Traditional Leafy Vegetables. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard]

On a mid-morning at Vigulu, Vihiga county, a group of farmers is bee-busy at a common farm. Some are digging terraces while others; especially women are bringing in plant materials including branches and maize stalks- some dry, others still fresh.

One would be forgiven to think that they are working on one farmer’s farm, before rotating to another one. However, they are establishing a common permaculture demo farm from where they shall each establish their own at their farms.

The two-acre model farm will be used to implement a permaculture design earlier established by the farmers in partnership with the CGIAR Nature Positive Solutions Initiative (Nature +), implemented by The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT (The Alliance). 

Farmers prepare site for a demo permaculture farm. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard]

As an initial step, farmers teamed up with a team of experts from The Alliance to establish a model kitchen garden in which they planted diversified Traditional Leafy Vegetables (TLVs) on raised beds.

“We have demonstrated to farmers on how to establish raised beds by first digging top soil and putting it aside, then digging the sub soil and also setting it aside,” explained Nicholas Syano, a permaculture expert working with the program as a consultant.

Afterwards, he added, the terrace is filled with dry and green matter before the sub-soil is returned and the top soil is mixed with manure. The TLVs are then planted in lines, each variety in its own style.

“This experience brings together science from farmers and experts while enhancing permaculture principles in tandem with nature positive agriculture,” said Kyano

Permaculture, he added is guided by three ethics including care of the earth, care of the people and fair share. Its principles include cooperation rather than competition, biodiversity and working with nature as opposed to working against it.

“Having established the kitchen garden in the model farm, farmers will replicate the same in their own individual farms,” said Kyano

Later, the team will work on other aspects of permaculture as outlined in the design including crop farming, fodder, foliage, agroforestry, poultry, apiculture, aquaculture and livestock.

Nature+ is also being implemented in Jimo East and Agoro East, Kisumu county. “Unlike in Vihiga where farmers own small pieces of land, those in Agoro East and Jimo East have more land at their disposal,” said Lillian Aluso, Research Associate at The Alliance. 

Farmers bring in plant materials for use in establishing permaculture farm. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard]

However, she added, the dynamics of land setting and ownership should not be a barrier to permaculture and nature positive agriculture as a whole. She called on farmers to especially embrace this kind of agriculture which works in alignment with nature, adding that this would help in combating climate change and its effects.

“With climate change and its effects, farmers have to adopt technologies that help in building resilience and enhancing maximum productivity while conserving the environment,” said Aluso

Farmers have embraced permaculture saying they hoped to realize more production in their farms for food security and economic empowerment.

“Women are particularly key in determining family meals and a farming approach which encourages diversity will end up enhancing diversified diets and increased sources of income,” said Mildred Ochayo, a farmer.

Another farmer, Solomon Mulange, his counterparts to work in groups as they would enjoy the economies of scale by producing in bulk and marketing jointly.

“Most of us own very tiny pieces of land, and would therefore not manage to produce much. We are however optimistic that through the Nature +, we will work in groups to beef up our production and seek market jointly and sustainably,” said Mulange.

Nature + is working with 50 farmers in Vihiga, 72 in Agoro East and 50 in Jimo East.

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