Tag Archives: Jatropha

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.

Jatropha shown to fail to deliver almost everywhere worldwide

We have been plugging away for a couple of years now saying how planting huge (in fact any) areas of Jatropha curcas as a biofuel crop is a seriously bad idea for both the environment and the local communities and also the country’s economy. This is particularly in the light of proposed jatropha plantations in Dakatcha (by an Italian company) and Tana River Delta (a Canadian company) which will definitely fail to produce what they claim it will and instead increase poverty levels and environmental degradation.

I have just been sent the following from the Institute of Green Economy (IGREC) which confirms what we have been saying all along:

An article titled “The Extraordinary Collapse of Jatropha as a Global Biofuel” by Dr Promode Kant, Director, Institute of Green Economy, New Delhi and Dr Wu Shuirong, Associate Professor, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing, has just been web-published in the ACS Journal of Environmental Science & Technology.
 
An ambitious Indian biofuel program initiated in 2003 by the Planning Commission of India, envisaging 30% mandatory blending of diesel by 2020, involved raising Jatropha curcus on wastelands across India. In mobilizing millions of lowest income farmers and landless poor with the promise of high returns the powerful Commission may have relied too heavily on the opinion of one of its top functionary who expected an internal rate of return ranging from 19 to 28% even though past experiences firmly indicated otherwise. National planners’ enthusiasm for the species rubbed off easily on Indian research organizations and Universities that depend upon the Planning Commission for funding and many of these institutions themselves became partners in raising and promoting Jatropha plantations. The extreme high profile of the program attracted worldwide attention and it was quickly adopted by China and a large number of Asian and African countries and, by 2008, it had already been planted over 900000 hectares globally and is expected to be planted over 12.8 million ha by 2015.
 
But it has failed to deliver almost everywhere causing distress to millions of small farmers worldwide. It appears to be an extreme case of a well intentioned top down climate mitigation approach undertaken without adequate research, and adopted in good faith by other countries, gone completely awry. As climate mitigation and adaptation activities intensify attracting large investments there is danger of such lapses becoming more frequent unless “due diligence” is institutionalized and appropriate protocols developed to avoid conflict of interest of research organizations. As an immediate step an international body like the FAO may have to intervene to stop further extension of Jatropha in new areas without adequate research inputs.

The article can be accessed from the journal website http://pubs.acs.org/journal/esthag

Our prayer is that the Kenyan government (and indeed governments around the world) will see the truth of what has been a huge error in pushing this crop as a biofuel and put a stop to any further jatropha developments…

British farming industry, G4 Industries, pulls out of the Tana River Delta

Yes, it’s true. Hard to believe in many ways given the feeling of hitting your head against a brick wall when trying to motivate Government to see the long term madness of clear-felling or draining natural wildlife-rich woodland and wetlands to plant 1000s of hectares of crops either for biofuel or for selling to industry in an area where the climate, soils and overall prospect are extremely marginal anyway. Yet it has happened. G4 Industries have pulled out of their plans to put in 28,000ha of oil seed such as castor and sunflower in the southern section of the delta stating reasons as ‘technical reasons with regard to soil types and chemical compounds’ as well as issues with mismanagement of delta resources by local authorities.They also state that calculations of the long-term effect of climate change on the climate of area has led to the risks being too high for sensible investment.

It is very interesting that they state very clearly that poor soil quality and an uncertain climate as some of the main reasons for pulling out. Reading their Environmental Impact Assessment, they state one of the reasons for going ahead with the project is:

“..to gain the benefits of extremely fertile soil areas and a year round growing climate”. (p.5, Annexe A – project feasibility).

Poor soils and a drying climate have been some of the foremost reasons we have been quoting all along as being why none of these large-scale developments in the Tana River Delta (or Dakatcha for that matter) should be allowed to go ahead. It is pretty much 99% certain that they will not succeed and we are thanking God that G4 Industries have ‘seen the light’ and realised the truth of the low quality of farming land and its significance for large scale agriculture.

aeiral view of heart of TRD Aerial view of the heart of the delta – when flooded like this, it is intensely alive with birdlife and fish and other wildlife…

Points go to our partners NatureKenya and RSPB for their lobbying and on-the-ground effort to show where these ideas of large-scale farming are going wrong. Also to the local community members who have stood and shouted that it is wrong what is going on – together with other partners like Tana Dunes Camp who work closely with the community – and in fact have the community where they are based as partners in the company and therefore benefiting directly from every guest that stays at the lodge.

However we can’t rest on our laurels – there are bigger and more serious threats to the delta in the form of Bedford Biofuels still planning to put in 64,000ha of jatropha biofuel and Mumias and Mat International wanting to put in tens of thousands of hectares of sugarcane. But it is encouraging to know that at least a small part of the delta is, for now, safe from immediate destruction. It would be awesome to get in there and do some thorough wildlife studies to see what birds, insects, reptiles, mammals etc really are there – and to put together a plan for turning it into a wilderness zone for tourism – to both provide a sustainable income for the communities that will continue into many years to come whilst at the same time protecting some of Kenya’s last remaining wilderness areas with amazing wildlife.

Tana Red Colobus by Olivier Hamerlynk

The newly discovered population of rare and endangered Red Colobus – in a small forest patch in the heart of the delta which would be threatened by the sugarcane plantations – image taken in 2010 by Olivier Hamerlynk.

 

Strong local reactions against Jatropha threat to Tana River Delta

There has been a facebook profile set up for ‘Tana River County, Kenya’ that has been interesting to read some of the reactions from local people living either in the delta or in town but it being their home where they come from and so still very concerned about it. This is one recent post that I thought would be good to share. She hits the nail on the head with several of her comments:

“Jatropha BIOFUEL Plant in Tana Delta…NO!NO!NO!

one thing for sure is that if it is a 65,000hectres of an agricultural project then the people shall eat directly from the land thanks to the produce, but if we insist on a Biofuel plant apart from killing the Ecosystem.. Truth is:

1. you cannot Eat fuel.

2 it needs further processing which means it need a production plant, that shall need the water from the river in order to process it.

3 after processing the water is spilled back into the river where fishermen,children and cattle heads drink and fish and fetch water for cooking.

4. the dead carcasses of the trees shall be left to rot and also thrown into the river ,after a month you will have a good part of tree part from the 65,000hectares floating monthly down the river.

5 you will still have to buy the petrol in town that is if it is for kenyans but the truth is,…it is for the europeans.we are just a “cheap” production plant like in china because our leaders are easily lured with a sweet.

6 at the end of the day,..you shall not have neither NSWi nor Matholi because the fish shall die of poisoning.

7. We are now back to square one where people shall not even be able to use the river water, meaning more hunger.so we shall even be meandering further down the rivers of poverty,hunger and apart from this….Displacement because of foreign interest.

8.Fact is that, i really don’t have to care about anybody else since i am in “town” as you could have put it. But i care because i am still a daughter of this land and shall fight against any NON-sustainable “projects”.

9.we are already suffering from the consequences of global warming,why damage further.

10.The european communities are going “green” but all its dirty work is done else where like africa,china,india. they only tell you about the basic structure of a project but notice that they don’t give you the details of the whole process which we are not taking into account….until when you finding them breaking every code.am afraid we are making a grave mistake!!

11.Say YES!! to agriculture!! instead…”

…There are also other options to just agriculture as well – such as conserving part of the area for wildlife and using it for sustainable tourism. Afterall this means the land and habitat will be maintained in the way that God created it to be and to act as – i.e. as a ‘sponge’ for the natural flooding that should happen annually thus providing highly rich conditions for breeding fish / birds / amphibians / mammals etc.. as well as a carbon sink and to prevent erosion. The potential for ecotourism there is huge – it just needs the willingness of the government to support it instead of a biofuel project which will destroy the area and increase poverty levels.

Biofuels rightly stirring up a storm in European press

The problem we’re facing with biofuels here in Africa is that it is pretty much 100% driven from Europe and cynics say that it is Westerners trying to relieve a guilty conscience for the carbon emissions they are spewing out by the ton from the huge ecological footprint lifestyle most are living. In other words, people’s lifestyles are highly extravagant in terms of carbon emissions in the West and in order to maintain that lifestyle and feel good about it, they want to use biofuels in the name of reducing the emissions.

However in so doing, since a vast percentage of biofuels are looking like they’ll be produced in the developing world, it is conveniently ‘out of sight, out of mind’ to the West, and therefore a ‘clean’ fuel.

The facts are it is FAR from the case with studies showing that the production of such biofuels are releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than they would save from being used instead of fuel efficient use of fossil fuels…

At least there is some noise in the Western press about this now and we are praying hard that pressure can be brought on the Western governments to stop this immoral pushing of biofuel production in Africa and other Third World (or Two-thirds World as it is often referred to) countries.

http://www.africanagricultureblog.com/2011/04/ghana-jatropha-biofuel-push-faces.html

EU energy policy could push world’s poor ‘further into poverty’

Controversial fuel crops linked to rising food prices and hunger

Biofuel project stalls as foreign investors go into bankruptcy

Unproven biofuel projects given clearance in unique wetlands and forest areas

News has just come through that the Provincial Commissioner for Coast has apparently ordered that the jatropha plantation project for the Dakatcha Woodlands that has been fought for over two years (see other blogs on this) should “start on Monday” – since “the MP and the local people want it”…

In fact there is a significant proportion of the local population who do not want the project and there is plenty of evidence that the crop will fail to produce an economic output that will improve the livelihoods of the people and not damage the environment.

All this comes in the light of the Minister of the Environment, Michuki, who helicoptered into the site last year September for a public meeting and said that “before he would give any go ahead, if Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd want to implement their project, they must furnish his office with scientific evidence that Jatropha is commercially viable in Dakatcha and that it is not harmful to people and the environment.”

He gave an example of a failed “development project” that took place in Tanzania where the proponent clear felled an indigenous forest to cultivate groundnuts. The project failed because by clearing all trees the proponent eliminated all pollinators.

As it is, the Italian company who is behind this project have yet to even address or speak out in support of the economical viability of the crop even when challenged on it. There has been no scientific / solid evidence given publicly about the actual potential of the crop and all the reports we hear are that it doesn’t work here. I have just spoken a few minutes ago with a farmer from Mpeketoni near Lamu who tells me that jatropha has been tried around his area… and totally failed.

He further asked the County Council of Malindi to develop a multiple land use plan and zone all forested areas for conservation. This was agreed that it should be a collaborative effort including the main stakeholders such as NatureKenya and local community.

As it happened, the zonation map has been produced without any input other than from the County Council and done basically behind closed doors and presenting effectively a fait accompli which only those supporting the jatropha project had any input to. The map was produced in a very ‘jua kali‘ (Swahili for rough and ready, unprofessional) way and pretty much sketched by hand – as you can see from an image of it below:

The larger cross-hatch patterned area is the original area that they wanted to put under jatropha but which thankfully has been turned down – at least for now. I’m sure they’ll push for it in due course. The area they are apparently being ‘given’ to do the project is the smaller bold bordered area. Unlike what the project proponents have been saying, the area takes in a significant portion of the Brachystegia woodland habitat – the habitat that the endemic Clarke’s Weaver, found worldwide only in Dakatcha and Arabuko-Sokoke Forest 20kms to the south.

So it is that we are still fighting local government who are insisting in the light of evidence against the cause that it should in fact go ahead. There has been no word to my knowledge from the Minister of Environment’s office that it should go ahead and it would therefore appear that local government officers are being compromised in order for the project to happen.
WHEN will we have anything happening here by government which really benefits the local people and environment?? Those who read this and who pray – please pray that we can stop this project completely and instead bring alternatives for the people which will make a real difference to them and in doing so protect this amazingly precious part of God’s creation.

Jatropha threating unique Dakatcha woodlands continues

The battle to save the unique Dakatcha Woodlands has been going on for a couple of years almost now. We thought for a while that it had maybe dissipated and gone away, but far from it. Whilst we are rejoicing that we have managed to stop 50,000ha (500 sq kms) of woodland being turned into a plantation of non-productive, desertifying crop, there is still the threat of 5,000ha of prime natural forest, woodland and coastal bush going under the same bleak crop of jatropha.

I have just heard from conservation colleagues with their ear more close to the ground the following:

“I have reliably learnt that the County council of Malindi has submitted a land use plan for Dakatcha which include a 5000ha land for jatropha pilot. This plan was supposed to have been developed in a participatory manner after an adhoc planning team was constituted in the meeting called by Green Africa Foundation in Malindi in Oct 2010. If I can remember well, the planning team constitute of the following

  1. District physical planner Mr Riungu
  2. KFS Zonal manager Mr Orinda
  3. Nature Kenya Site Officer for Dakatcha Mr Dominic Mumbu
  4. A representative of County Council of Malindi (CCM)
  5. A Community member.
Whatever the plan this team was to develop was to be tabled in a stakeholders forum for ownership and final editing. CCM was to facilitate the process as part of the requirement set by Mr Michuki (Minister of the Environment) when he visited Dakatcha in September 2010. This was to be accompanied by a technical report on viability of jatropha.

The district physical planner has been avoiding everyone and did a plan alone with the CCM which before tabling to stakeholders has been forwarded to NEMA for approval of the jatropha pilot. This is dishonesty and conmanship of the highest order by the planner and CCM and everyone must rise and reject this devious scheme in the strongest terms under the sun. NEMA is also reluctant to share the plan with anyone.

Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves for another round of battle for Dakatcha.

Below is a quotation from an email

‘However I do have some further feedback.  I was attending the Ministry Of Environment Multi-sector Forum meeting end of last week, with the PS in the chair.  The Dakatcha/Jatropha issue was raised.  The current Acting DG, NEMA (Geoffrey??, Macharia is on 2 months leave) reported that NEMA had received a land use plan from the County Council and it was indicating a location of 5,000ha for the project.  I requested that NEMA be transparent and share the land use plan with us, as I suspected it was a desk exercise, and would be seriously ‘wanting’.  The issue of local community poverty came up.  I responded that it was very unclear who were the local community in terms of who was speaking on whose behalf.  But I also emphasized that trying to improve local livelihoods was supported by everyone, but we remained totally unconvinced that Jatropha would achieve such improvement. 
 
My suspicion arising from NEMA’s brief is that this fight is far from over.  I think we need to now ask our European partners to investigate the Italian company and lobby within the EU to name and shame this company.
 
I also think that if NEMA grants a licence, this may end up needing legal redress as a breach of the new constitution, etc.
 
And so it continues… We urgently need to do what we can to put pressure on the Italian company in Europe to stop this madness. There really is NO evidence that Jatropha will grow economically here in East Africa and plenty to show that it really does badly. Even 100ha of prime natural habitat going under a crop that will simply allow the soil to dry up and erode whilst eradicating forever habitats holding unique and even endemic species… should not be allowed.

We have been doing surveys in the Dakatcha area over the past year and found a good population of the Endangered Sokoke Scops Owl up there – otherwise thought to be restricted to the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest in Kenya. This is really going to be a continued battle, but one which is worth every step of the way to fight.

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Tana River Delta threats continue

The Tana River Delta is still under significant threat of major destruction by investors and individuals who seem bent on their own short-term interests and not the long-term survival of the delta and its sustainable use. The threat of the 65,000ha jatropha plantations is still very much there though thankfully NEMA have decided to look more seriously into the actual effectiveness of jatropha as an economic plantation crop. This is good because all evidence from East Africa and further afield points very strongly at it being a total disaster for a viable biofuel crop.


Fishermen on the Tana River Delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

There are other threats, however to the Delta including insidious charcoal burning which is creeping into every corner of habitat that has any sort of biodiversity value and degrading sometimes entirely. There are also a number of squatters moving into the southern end of the delta coming from further south where they hear stories of land being offered for dirt cheap, will pay someone – the ‘owner’ – for the land and move on and clear the forest and bush while all the time the ‘owner’ was just someone pretending to be owner making money from people who don’t know better. Meanwhile they then go ahead and slash, burn and destroy precious habitat and kill wildlife.

Probably the largest threat now to the delta as well is that of plans by the government to build another huge dam on the Tana River upstream – the High Falls Dam – which apparently has been given the go ahead even though to my knowledge noone has seen an EIA for it, nor has there been any stakeholder involvement or consideration of its impact on the delta and its inhabitants, both human and wildlife. Dams seem to be one of the other major curses on our planet, in fact – there’s another I just heard about that the government has also given the go ahead for in prime indigenous forest in western Kenya – Nandi South – where over 1,500ha of pure forest will be flooded in the name of irrigation of land. This, in the light of grand government statements about protecting forest and making every effort to stem the destruction of forest and instead plant trees and increase forest cover!!


A homestead with cattle in the Tana River Delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

NatureKenya continues to do an excellent job in the Tana River Delta and are looking to procure funding to extend further the livelihood improvement projects that they have already started and increase capacity building for communities living in the delta. The Delta Dunes Camp are also doing what they can to support the community and help them to make decisions that will protect and sustain the wilderness of the delta that will attract tourists who can bring income to the communities. One of the local community groups is in fact one of the partners in the Delta Dunes Camp and therefore benefits directly every time a guest visits.


Tourists on a boat trip through the delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

All of these initiatives are only good for the delta and it is our prayer that somehow we can stop the outright destruction of habitat, water courses and livelihoods by the projects like the sugar cane and jatropha, and instead have conservancies set up that are professionally and efficiently operated that can really bring good benefits to the people.


Riverside village, Tana River Delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen


Baby crocodile amongst mangrove breather roots, TRD – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

There is a case in court that the communities have taken action on to try and stop the large destructive projects. As all of these things it is a long slow process and we’re just praying that it will succeed and the delta will be protected.

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Public hearing for jatropha biofuels in Tana River Delta

Last week a public hearing was held for the Candian biofuel company Bedford Biofuels proposed project of planting 64,000 ha of jatropha plantations stretching from the western edge of the Tana River Delta right to the heart of the main delta and its biodiverse rich wetlands. The hearing was held in Tarasaa, a village within the delta itself and near where the plantations are being proposed to be put on community-owned ranches. Stanley and myself attended the hearing to support others who have realised the folly of replacing large areas of indigenous woodland and wetland habitats which are home to a significant population of wildlife including buffalo and elephant with a project which is effectively a desert in terms of biodiversity and water retention, will release more carbon into the atmosphere through the production of the biofuels than will be saved through the use of it, will dry the land out where it’ll be grown in an area where people are already crying out for water – all for a crop which has been shown to fail in production at plantation levels at all attempts through East Africa and many beyond.

  There were a lot of people at the hearing…

There was, however, a very vocal and quite aggro large crowd of people who were pro the project – for the one and simple reason that they have been promised jobs in an area where it is true there are no jobs immediately available. There were dances saying how wonderful Bedford Biofuels are, and speeches waxing lyrical about the positives of the project. It was very very interesting to note how the guy who was translating from English into Swahili for the Canadian manager added a lot of his own words and embellished what was being said by the manager to drive home how positive it was and yet when he translated for me (since I had agreed with NatureKenya that it would be less ‘hot’ if I spoke in English rather than Swahili), he hugely minimised what I was saying such that I had to add some bits in Swahili to fill in what he had left out. If ever there was a mightily biased presentation of one side over another by a translator, this was the prize winner!

The District Commissioner who was in charge of the event handled the crowd and the sense of aggressiveness extremely well

However there were a number of community members who were really concerned about what the project was going to mean to their livelihoods and lifestyle, to their forests – “if our forest is cut down for the jatropha, where will we go to for our building materials and to graze our cattle? What will happen to the water supplies for us in an area that is already dry?”. Key questions which, to be honest, I don’t think were properly addressed nor answered by the Canadians.

One thing claimed by Bedford Biofuels was that jatropha has been shown to “use less water than other trees”. This, of course, is a perfectly accurate statement – but which species of trees?! It will most certainly be true for eucalyptus and other species that use a lot of water, but was that study carried out looking the species of trees that are found in the Tana River Delta? Given that the report apparently came from South Africa, it is highly unlikely that this is the case. This statement is therefore misleading and inappropriate for this discussion and was clearly a further attempt at giving half-truth information to the community to persuade them jatropha is a good thing when in fact concealing the truth that by planting wide open plantations of small trees, significantly greater quantities of water will be evaporated from the surface of the exposed ground together with that which the jatropha will use than would be lost from the ground when covered in native woodland and bush. Not only that but by clearing all the vegetation it will lead to huge runoff, and in running off you get erosion which leads to rivers being filled with silt which then leads to large deposits of silt in the ocean. This can already be seen from the Sabaki River near Malindi – where erosion upstream from uncontrolled clearance of ground cover for agriculture has caused excessive erosion and as a result the land has extended almost 2kms into the ocean from where it was in the 1970s as well as the once stunnning coral reef of Malindi National Marine Park is now often covered with a layer of muddy silt.

We head out today to do the annual waterbird counts of the Tana River Delta for the 6th successive year – counts which have really proven how hugely important the delta is for waterbirds, both for the region (hosting breeding populations of herons and storks that probably travel and forage as far as Tanzania in the non-breeding season) as well as for Europe and Asia. This is, in fact, and international affair as the destruction of the delta by jatropha and sugar cane will mean that we are impacting bird populations across East Africa, Europe and Asia – they are not just ‘our’ Kenyan birds…

Tarasaa post office – the village where the hearing was held

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“Farming God’s Way” in threatened Dakatcha Woodlands

We’ve been somewhat quiet over Christmas and New Year – getting away and having a much-needed break, though many times this is when developers like to take action because they know that there are fewer people looking. This seems to have been what has happened in Dakatcha with the jatropha project – just before Christmas, new machinery was brought in and activity levels at the Italian jatropha project picked up. The worry is that the project will go ahead at a level which is still unacceptable for a) a crop which has overwhelming evidence that it will fail and only bring problems and greater poverty to the site and b) a site that is globally important for rare and endangered biodiversity.

NatureKenya have continued to do a great job at highlighting what is going on though there hasn’t been much news from them either of late… will have to do some ferreting to find out what’s going on.

However the great news is that the Bountiful Grains Trust based in South Africa but working throughout southern and eastern Africa have decided to continue working with us as A Rocha Kenya on the Farming God’s Way (FGW) work amongst farmers in the Dakatcha area. This is awesome and Pius Mutie has just come back from Dakatcha with our A Rocha Staff member Katana where they’ve done ten days of follow up training with the farmers and church members who have been involved already and anyone else who is keen to learn about it.

The beauty of FGW is that it not only works really well in hugely increasing productivity for farmers who practise it correctly, but it also gives excellent teaching on core life principles based on solid biblical teaching. Katana has been putting the FGW techniques he has learnt into practice and has reaped the benefits – as can be seen in the photos below of his shamba (farm) and the size of the maize / corn he managed to grow last year. For comparison, his neighbours crop is shown which shows how traditional farming techniques really do serious harm to communities still trying to live by them.

Katana in his FGW-farmed maize

Katana’s neighbour’s maize – taken the same time

What is the difference with this form of agriculture? The main principles taught by FGW are that you should do your farming with excellence, do it on time (apparently the main reason there is hunger in Africa – farmers plant late and so miss the full benefit of the rains and thus get under sized crops and sometimes none at all), do it with joy and without wasting anything. Following these and applying them with the core techniques of no ploughing, lots of mulching of dead vegetation on the crops and rotating your crops are the key ingredients to getting a bumper harvest from your fields.

We really hope to spread this news far and wide and get more and more farmers using it so as to not only help them get more from their fields, but also to stop erosion, retain moisture in the soils, reduce the area of land required for farming and thus saving some more indigenous habitats. We hope to introduce FGW with our ASSETS community project around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek and even at the Sabaki River Mouth with the communities there – but that’s a wee way into the future from now.

The recent training has gone pretty well though the turn out wasn’t as high as we’d hoped but there was an enthusiastic reception from those who were there. Our vision is to spread it to as many people as possible and have many of the community being able to feed themselves as well as having food left over to sell and in doing so protecting the forest from further destruction.

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