In a world where the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent, it can be easy to lose hope. But for Eunice Wambui, a farmer in Kerugoya, Kirinyaga County, hope is something that is never in short supply.
Despite facing the challenges that come with a changing climate, Wambui has refused to let it defeat her, and instead, has found ways to adapt and continue to provide for her family.
Wambui’s woes started a few years ago when a stream next to her farm started to dry up. This was a wake-up call that she needed to do things a little differently.
The reality of climate change had hit closer home and the only source of water for her farm when the rains were not sufficient was no more – she needed to think fast.
“I realised if I continued to operate the way I used to when rains were a sure bet, I would not produce enough food to feed my family. Last year was the worst in my farming career – there is a season we lost the entire maize crop to a hail storm, something we had never witnessed before,” she says.
Wambui, whose main source of livelihood is farming embarked on research on how best to manage her farm in such unpredictable times.
Her less than a two-acre farm, she says, was like a green oasis when rains came at the right time and in the right amounts almost a decade ago.
A section of the farm is dedicated to growing maize for her family’s consumption.
“In a good season before the change in the weather patterns, I used to harvest like five bags which were more than enough for my family. This is hardly the case now,” she adds.
During her research, Wambui came across One Acre Fund, an organisation that seeks to empower small-scale farmers through the provision of affordable farm inputs and information on managing their farms.
Wambui started working with One Acre Fund four years ago and has never looked back. She is now a group leader and in charge of an 18-member group that is disrupting the food value chain not only in Kirinyaga but in neighbouring counties.
“Small-scale farmers have always been a disadvantaged lot. When I came across an organisation that spoke my language, understood my problems, and was ready to offer a solution. I started by enlisting for farm inputs and as they say the rest is history,” notes Wambui.
One Acre Fund has established stores at different shopping centres in the counties where they have members. Farmers can buy or choose to get farm inputs on credit. For one to qualify for the credit, they have to be registered with a group in their locality.
Wambui has now diversified her farm which has more than doubled her income. She farms macadamia, avocadoes, and maize, a tree nursery, and has also kept dairy cows.
Her nursery now has 400,000 seedlings due for distribution to other farmers in March.
According to Karigu Ekumbo, a Communications Specialist at One Acre Fund, the organisation distributed over 15 million tree seedlings to farmers and schools across the country last year. Ms Ekumbo further pointed out that apart from making farm inputs easily accessible, the organisation has established several initiatives to support avocado and macadamia farmers to access a ready market.
“This year, our plan is to process over 4,000 metric tonnes of macadamia nuts. We will also scale our farmer GlobalGAP (food safety) certification programme to 10,000 farmers, up from 1,500 who are certified. This critical certification enables farmers to tap into higher-value markets for their produce. We are also planning to begin initial pilots for market access for French beans, groundnuts, and Irish Potatoes,” she says.
For many small-scale farmers like Wambui who rely on rain to farm, diversification and growing drought-resilient crops might be the best mitigation measure against the effects of climate change.