Category Archives: Conservation Agriculture


One of the critical aspects about empowering a community is exposure which will actually convince them that what you are trying to teach them is actually applicable and practical as seen in certain communities in other parts of the country. However, this does not necessarily mean taking a community group for the usual luxurious field excursion. It is supposed to be about experiential learning and more so about sharing of various experiences the different community groups have undergone (in this context) their pursuit and quest for conservation.

Factoring the reality above, A Rocha Kenya has been organizing these forums aiming to empower Community Forest Associations around Arabuko Sokoke Forest and Dakatcha Woodland in Kilifi County and Ngong Hills Forest in Kajiado County. Earlier in the year, these forums have seen the Community Forest Associations from Kilifi County visit Wildlife Works at Kasigau, where they were exposed to the REDD+ Project (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) which involved learning about the carbon credit business including calculating the value of an ecosystem as carbon sinks. In addition they have led the Ngong Metro CFA to visit Arabuko Sokoke Forest to explore the ecosystem. This provided a good experience of the different opportunities offered by the forest. The major highlight being the visit to the elephant hole at Arabuko Sokoke swamp and a boat ride through the Mida creek that exposed the group to the potential of exploring ecotourism opportunities.

Flash forward to November, the forum was set to be held at Ngong Hills Forest, where the Kilifi County CFAs were supposed to visit and share with their counterparts of Ngong Metro CFA. The group from Kilifi consisted of a total of 32 people, eight members from each of the four CFAs which were Gede, Sokoke, Jilore and Dakatcha. Day one saw the group visit Oloolua forest which is one of the three forest blocks of the Ngong hills forest. Here, they were met by members of Oloolua Forest Environmental Participatory Group (OFEP), which is one of the user groups in the Ngong Metro CFA. Oloolua forest is an indigenous forest covering 671ha, gazetted by the Kenyan Government and under the management of Kenya Forest Service. It used to team with a variety of wild animals, however due to human pressure they have since disappeared with only a few spotted sporadically. The core reason for the immense pressure thrusted on the forest can be traced to politics in the 1990s; where 18ha of the forest was licensed to business men and cleared for quarrying, all in the name of gaining political mileage for the Member of Parliament at the time. The un-rehabilitated quarries were left behind characterized by huge depressions which left the forest precariously without any outstanding warning signs. They have posed a great risk not only to animals in the forest but also humans with several deaths and injuries reported.


Despite these challenges all was not lost, the OFEP group committed themselves to restoring the forest into its original form as if heeding to Theodore Roosevelt words, “To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.”  They therefore embarked on replanting trees in the area cleared for quarrying covering 5ha out of the 18ha without any financial assistance from external sources. Surprisingly also those who had devoted themselves to this work were old women who were clocking half a century and beyond having seen it all, which really challenged the group from Kilifi County who consider themselves still young and energetic but had yet to reach such milestones. “These women were working hard to restore the forest for generations to come,” these were words confessed by their Chairman. The main challenges that the Kilifi group learnt their counterparts were facing were inadequate funds, lack of political good will and an ecological challenge in the name of lantana camara an invasive species in the forest which had colonized the cleared areas that were meant for quarrying. Most of the challenges were similar to what the other groups were facing and they motivated each other to continue with their passion for conservation.


The afternoon was scheduled for the group to visit the forest at Karara Field Study Centre which is A Rocha Kenya’s National base in Karen, Nairobi. The forest is intact characterized by many species of trees most of which are of great medicinal value and in addition it is home to various species of birds such as the black cap, thrush nightingale and marsh warbler. The community members were able to find out more about the work of A Rocha Kenya at the Centre such as Farming God’s way, a form of conservation agriculture.

The second day commenced by climbing the picturesque Ngong Hills, polka dotted with wind turbines, and the peak offering a magnificent aerial view of both Nairobi and Kajiado counties with a slight hint of Narok County further in the horizon. It was evident that indeed it is the highest point in Nairobi.


Led by Bedan Leboo an official of the Ngong Metro CFA, the CFA members were taken to the third block; Empakasi Forest or locally known as Kibiko, the second having been the forest on the Ngong Hills. The forest is mostly characterized by plantations of Eucalyptus sp but highly significant to the locals since it was the crushing site for a plane that had carried the late Honorable Prof. George Saitoti who was once Kenya’s Vice president and a tough, vocal legislator who hailed from that region.

The major highlight of the experience sharing forum came in the afternoon when the group was taken to Kerarapon forest, still part of the extensive Ngong Hills Forests which acts as the source of River Sabaki also known as Athi and Galana. The forest, typical of any water tower had a resemblance of a rainforest characterized by chirping birds, tall, broad-leaved and gigantic trees, with small springs at the bottom, supplying water to a river dependent upon by most parts of the coastal areas before it pours its waters into the Indian Ocean. It was breathtaking but no! scratch that, it was wildly exhilarating for the community members from the coast with one Mzee David Chivatsi who lives right at the mouth of river Sabaki delighted at the sight of the springs and who could not contain his excitement evident by how ecstatic and frenzied he became such that he had to call home just to inform his loved ones what he was witnessing.

After such an eventful experience the trip came to an end with the CFAs having been exposed to a whole new world of conservation and how the Ngong Hills Forest is intricately interrelated to the Sabaki River.


On an early Tuesday morning, Kilonzo Masyuko, a farmer and businessman from Chamari village received us with a smile on his face and a Bible in his hand, a trademark of him being a staunch Christian and an assistant pastor. A father of five, Kilonzo educates and feeds his family from farming. We hurriedly get into the car with his 3 year son to see his Farming God’s Way (FGW) crop at his farm some 7kms away.

Kilonzo is one of the many farmers from other parts of the country who have bought large pieces of land, cleared the forest by burning it down and practiced traditional farming. However, Kilonzo is a transformed man as a result of intensive Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) discussions, Farming God’s Way (FGW) and care for creation training. He is now a better farmer who used to burn his land every planting season and grew only maize by broadcasting but now commits his farming to the Lord, mulches his land as much as he can, plants maize, green grams and cassava.


Kilonzo and son on his 2 acre green gram plot

As we reached the farm, we were greeted by long, tall and neat rows of a healthy maize crop. Kilonzo’s smile widened in an ‘I told you’ fashion when he saw our surprised and exited looks. Kilonzo took us through his 7 acres of farmed land and to the half acre of FGW plot beautifully mulched from last season’s Stover. There, we hold hands and blessed his land over prayer, a job well done. He told us rather apologetically that he could not have managed to mulch and fertilize the whole area but he did manage to do the proper spacing for all crops. We squeezed past the rough maize leaves to his 2 acre green gram plot, a dense vegetation of healthy green crop, and later to his new poultry structure he made after a farmers’ visit  to Yatta.


Kilonzo putting mesh on his poultry house

Kilonzo is a beacon of hope, transformation and a model to many who need change of their attitudes and practices. For his hard work and faithfulness, we salute Mr. Kilonzo.


Restoring Dakatcha Woodlands.

A Rocha Kenya continues to empower Dakatcha farmers with farming God`s Way; a form of conservation agriculture whose principles; agroforestry, mulching, zero tillage and crop rotation, boost soil fertility and yield hence discouraging farmers from clearing the forest for new fertile plots. The rich yield, especially cereals, on Farming God`s Way plots has helped relent the rate at which the woodlands were being cleared for charcoal burning and to pave way for pineapple plantations. A Rocha Kenya`s presence in Dakatcha is achieving two important goals simultaneously: transforming the villagers into food secure communities, and conserving the Cynometra forest.


A farmer on his Farming God`s Way plot.

A Rocha Kenya is also training farmers to make compost manure which can be used on vegetable and maize plots. Farmers  also make biopesticides using neem and Lantana camara which are readily available in the area.


Farmers standing next to a compost heap.

Dakatcha Woodland is globally recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA). It is also a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) by the international criteria developed by Birdlife International and Nature Kenya. Conservation International recognises Dakatcha as part of Coastal Forests Global Hotspot. A Rocha Kenya acquired 218 acres of Cynometra forestland (Kirosa Scott Reserve) in Dakatcha for conservation and research projects that we wish to use to create awareness to the local community. We not only seek to forge alternative ways of making ends meet but also demonstrate value and direct benefits of biodiversity conservation to livelihoods security.

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Kirosa Scott Reserve.

The Dakatcha Community Forest Association is one of  the groups that A Rocha Kenya is empowering with training on conservation of the forest ecosystems. The empowerment is evident as Dakatcha CFA has started collaborating with other Dakatcha conservation enthusiasts; Community Conserved Areas (CCA) members to strengthen their advocacy for the restoration of  the woodland.They own a plot of tree nurseries.


Dakatcha CFA members on their plot.


Some of the seedlings on the tree nursery plot.

We have just completed a regeneration study in Kirosa Scott Reserve which involved mapping and documenting various vegetation types, ranging from the easily penetrated woodland and forest to the impassable Cynometra thickets. Height and diameter of trunks and canopy competition index or class (the latter involves the percentage dominance of each tree in terms of crown level in relation to insolation reception) is part of the data that was documented.

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Taking measurements on trees ( above and below).

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The Science and conservation team during the study.

Young Nairobi Farmers.

After several trainings on Farming God’s Way to Farmers and Churches, A Rocha Kenya introduced the technology to school kids but in a language suitable for them. Logos Christian School was the first school to carry out farming God’s way, through their environmental club.
For the period of three months, this young ones interacted with the soil, learnt the process of planting, germination and harvesting, preparation of compost, green tea and organic pesticides.
Wondering why farming god’s way in schools?


We as A Rocha Kenya want to nurture a generation of young people who care for God’s creation, a generation who do not depend on relief aids when there are no rains and a generation that acknowledges and values humanity.

At the onset of the program, with the help of the club’s patron Mrs. Warigia, we set up two demonstration plots (3 meters by 2 meters wide) in the school compound. The kids planted Managu and Dhania (coriander)(Solanum nigrum) in each of the plots, took care of them through watering and looking out for any pest or weed attacks.

In a bid to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We taught them how to make compost with the waste from the school kitchen and the grass form the playground. As well as pesticides from the locally available plants such as the Mexican sunflower and the fish poison bean.


We harvested the crops after the three months elapsed and the fruits were astonishing. They sold vegetables to their parents during their closing Christmas concert making a total of Ksh.5500 which was donated to a single mother ailing from fistula and cervical cancer. 1237350_10152881258733524_3638465728468447067_o
In line with our vision Nature conserved, people transformed, this young ones view of farming was completely changed as most of them at the beginning taught it was an activity for the poor and dirty. We thank God for the success of this program in Logos Christian School and we hope this is received by many more schools for sustainability’s sake

Bounty Harvest

The Kenyan coast is famed for being one of the top tourist destinations in Kenya; it is characterized by a distinctive hot and humid climate. This makes it hot for the better part of the year despite the heavy downpours between April and May and the occasional showers towards the end of the year.

Gede, situated in the coastal region, has poor infertile soils and little rainfall all year round. Thus Farming in this area is practiced on minimal levels as the probability of the crops surviving or obtaining a good harvest is very low.

At our farming God’s way demonstration plot at Gede, which is about 110 metres squared.We are always assured of a good harvest despite the poor rainfall and soil conditions. Wondering how this is possible? This is made possible by incorporating farming God’s way techniques into farming, which are; carrying out mulching, zero tillage, use of compost manure, no burning, good timing and most important of all putting God first.

We planted maize on the 25th March 2014 at a time when the first rainfall showers are experienced around Gede. People around were surprised and asked if the rain was really enough for planting. The shock on their faces cannot be explained when they saw the maize on our demonstration plot had germinated as most of them expected it not to, because of the scarce rainfall.

And when the rains came later on in May, the maize was flourishing as compared to the maize on the nearby farms which had just been planted. We harvested our maize on 19th July 2014 getting about 50kgs.The nearby communities have been visiting us to find out more about this and all we can say is come forth lets farm God’s way.

Gede Farming God’s way plot

When soil (the essential ingredient in any farming enterprise) is in poor health, plants cannot grow to their full potential. Undisturbed by man, soil is usually covered by a canopy of shrubs and trees, by dead and decaying leaves or by a thick mat of grass. Whatever the vegetation, it protects the soil when the rain falls or the wind blows. The leaves and branches of trees and the cushion of grass absorb the force of raindrops, and root systems of plants hold the soil together. Even in drought, the roots of native grasses, which extend several metres into the ground, help tie down the soil and keep it from blowing away.

A Rocha Kenya farming God’s way project in Gede is a unique farming method that entirely revolves around incorporating trees into farming, use of mulch and composite manure. In this demonstration plot, Mango (Mangifera indica) is grown together with maize (Zea mays) and bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) crops. One may wonder, why incorporate mango trees into a farm? Mango is tolerant of a wide range of conditions from hot and humid to cool and dry and the fruits have a high nutritional value

The trees are useful for shade, timber, as a support for climbing plants , improving soil fertility (by providing mulch from the leaves falling off the trees) ,attracting a host of insects such as bees which are beneficial to farming and are also a good source of medicine.

And as an organization that works to care for God’s creation we encourage each and every person to step up; bring forth hope- Farm God’s way!


Ecosystem based God’s Farming?

Human activities have changed the character and quality of our soils over time. We have destroyed protective vegetation cover and have kept soil bare for long periods of time as we have actively added chemicals to the soil. All these activities have impaired and even destroyed the ability of the soil to carry out its essential functions.

So what do we do? How do we care for the soil? How do we care for it to benefit our neighbors as well?

What is ecosystem based God’s Farming? This involves incorporating biodiversity conservation into farming.

Recently a group from Kingdom Farmers Organization visited us for two day training on ecosystem based God’s Farming. During the training these farmers got to learn how planting different species of trees and shrubs such as Tephrosia vogelli, Faidherbia Albida and Tithonia diversifolia helps in farming. Benefits include but are not limited to pest control, improving soil fertility, attracting a host of insects which are beneficial to farming without forgetting that trees and shrubs give us timber and fodder for animals.




In the afternoon of the second day we had a walk on the nature trails. It was like a competition for knowledge on local medicine. Some farmers gave Raphael who was facilitating a run for his money in not only identifying medicinal plants but explaining their preparations and dosages. From Erythrina abyssinica,Warbugia ugandensis, Milletia dura, Prunus africanus, all trees seemed to have a medicinal value. Doesn’t God love Africa? It was great to learn ways in which some trees control crop pests from termites to aphids and mealy bugs. It was also amazing to see the connection between that and the birds. The farmers were thrilled to learn how birds are beneficial to their farming with some even predicting the rainy season.

In the final evaluation of the training, it was great to hear farmers begin talking things like ecosystem services, biological pest control, maintenance of soil structure and fertility, nutrient cycling and hydrological services all as benefits that they get from nature. It was quite emotional to get some of the farmers ‘confessing’ how they had mistreated nature hence the poor yields they were getting from their farms.



Lessons for making green manure seemed very interesting.


One of the farmers summed up what he had gotten from the training as “ I now have a new desire to have a farm or garden full of bees, sun birds ,butterflies together with enough food for my family” So just like Adam let’s take care of God’s creation.Genesis 2:15 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and too keep it.




Dakatcha Livelihood Project

Question is; why God even in farming?  Where is the connection?

Crop farming is the principal economic activity in Coastal Kenya; especially for inhabitants found further mainland. However practices such as slash and burn, poor soil management techniques coupled with severe deforestation has led to lots of erosion and depletion of nutrients with studies showing that on average, 150 tones of soil per hectare per year is lost through erosion leading to great loss of livelihood for the already poor communities.

We cannot blame the communities for these statistics but rather on the urge and pressure to produce enough to fend for themselves and their relatively large families. But what if we stopped pressuring the soil to produce more for us and instead incorporate the Lord in our farming? What if we took a proactive role in caring for creation alongside farming?


It is worth noting that God is the first farmer and that Biblical principles are very relevant in the way we handle our natural resources especially land. The book of Hosea 4:6: my people perish because of lack of knowledge. With this in mind; A Rocha Kenya in partnership with Anglican Development Services (ADS) set up a livelihood project in Dakatcha, Kilifi County in Coastal Kenya. The principal aim of this project is to improve livelihood and care for creation among the inhabitants of this area.


The project will see the community trained on more efficient and sustainable farming techniques ‘Farming God’ Way’ to increase their farm produce and reduce their reliance on the natural resources for survival. Care for creation seminars for churches will also be conducted; where congregations will be encouraged to take up caring for the creation as a role given to us by God. Environmental education for schools is also lined up to create early awareness to students about environmental conservation, complementing the Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Eco-tourism Scheme (ASSETS).

Participatory Rural Appraisal will be conducted; where members of the community will have an opportunity to personally asses their challenges, strength and opportunities and draw their way forward. This will enable people from Dakatcha which includes five villages; Kirosa, Mulunguni, Boyani, Chamari and Muche kenzi an opportunity to set a suitable development agenda. So far most villages have elected their committee members who will coordinate development plans. Training on ‘Farming God’s Way’ has also started. We pray that the Lord will grant the villagers the right state of mind and heart to participate in this process so that they do not ‘perish’!




Nairobi farmers go ‘God’s way’ in their farms……

Cities over the world are known to be biodiversity deserts. They are synonymous with tall buildings, lots of traffic and a sea of humanity, so is Nairobi. The one amazing thing about Nairobi however, is its ability to combine the hustle and bustle that is characteristic of a rapidly growing city in Africa with rare biodiversity.
Seated in my office at the Karara plot in Nairobi’s Karen, I enjoy this stunning site of a beautiful forest, with a wave of lovely butterflies gracing the flowers, a community of rather friendly monkeys complete a magnificent and quite ecosystem.
On this particular day however, I gladly welcome an interesting visitor; Sarah Young from A Rocha International. She quickly blends in as I lead the team in transplanting a few seedlings; Meru Oak, Ehretia symosa and Margaritaria discoidea in our garden.
We then decide to seize the opportunity, invited farmers from the neighborhood for two days of training on Farming God’s way. It was a wonderful experience sharing with farmers from diverse religious backgrounds; and by this I mean a huge Muslim delegation including the vice-chairman of Supreme Council of Kenya Muslim!

Additionally, we ministered to them on the need to show our love for God’s creation not only in the farm but also in our everyday lives.
Encouraging enough, I have recently been answering lots of phone calls from farmers asking specific clarifications regarding the same, which tells me that people are going ‘God’s way’ in their farms!

Dakatcha Woodlands finally safe from Jatropha biofuel threat

It has been a long haul to try and stop the Jatropha biofuel threat of at first 50,000ha of land being cleared for plantations, then 10,000ha and now finally NEMA have officially stopped the project from going ahead and the Clarke’s Weavers and Sokoke Scops Owls and other endangered wildlife as well as the community members who would have had their lifestyles and societies dramatically changed and poverty increased can breathe a sigh of relief. NatureKenya led the fray and often were very much in the hot seat with threats and even attacks being made on them (and A Rocha Kenya was included in some of these too) by the supporters of the project. NatureKenya deserve a lot of thanks for their effort and there is an excellent write-up by Birdlife about this with further details.

In response to this we are keen to get some further work happening with the Dakatcha communities to help them improve their own incomes and ways of living in that special environment without impacting it too negatively. We are looking at building on the initial efforts we’ve had of introducing “Farming God’s Way” or “Conservation Agriculture” to some of the communities which, for those who have taken the training on board and followed it, has made a huge difference in the outputs from their farms. Below is a shot of Elizabeth in her shamba (farm) who’s husband Katana works for us in Dakatcha and who has really got excited about Farming God’s Way. They have carefully followed the simple method of a) no ploughing, b) use plenty of mulch and c) rotate your crops and as a result their maize (corn) in the last short rains was huge and dense as you can see in the photos.


Elizabeth in her shamba showing how high and dense the maize has got – and beans adjacent to the maize.

Their neighbour’s crop which was planted in the traditional way was a very different picture…:

…there is therefore a lot of hope if we can persuade people to take it up. Unfortunately we’ve heard rumours of a response from community members to assistance the Red Cross is offering people in the form of ‘food for work’ – which is a great programme to have and certainly helps those who are really destitute, but what they have not counted on is that people are apparently purposely not planting maize well so that it fails and so that when the Red Cross team pass by that place they see only poor crops and therefore offer bags of maizemeal in return for digging 2’x2’x2′ holes in which to plant 9 seeds… this method may work in kitchen gardens, but it certainly hasn’t worked in Dakatcha. So whilst the Red Cross programme is designed to help people, in the long run it actually hampers growth and keeps people in a state of poverty. this has meant that very few farmers have kept coming to our training sessions and fewer still are actually implementing it. However we are convinced it is the Way to go and will pursue raising funds to support the project in Dakatcha – donations greatly received. A single 2-day training workshop for 20 farmers costs only $12 per person so do join us in this effort to assist the farmers and communities in Dakatcha.