Ahead of the August elections, farmers from Machakos have embarked on a movement to reclaim their food systems from the clutches of big agribusiness, middlemen as well from the decoy of agrochemicals.
The movement, rooted in agro-ecology, aims to create awareness among farmers and farming communities about the benefits of ecological farming to create adequate support systems for the propagation of ecological farming methods.
Kenya has witnessed two extremely debilitating droughts within a span of less than 6 years, notably in 2011 and 2016. Millions of Kenyans especially farmers, pastoralists and consumers are still reeling from the effects of the current drought.
In this context, ecological farmers, alongside hundreds of their fellow conventional farmers, badly affected by the drought, have decided to take charge in multiple sub-counties in Machakos county, part of the Ukambani region which was worst hit by the drought.
Farmers practicing ecological farming have been far less affected by the effects of the drought, but there are entire villages and regions that have been torn apart.
“I have done reasonably well due to the adoption of ecological farming techniques, but this is not just about me; it is about Kenya, her farmers and children. I want to make sure that we stand strong as a nation when it comes to food security”, said a farmer Janet Mwikya from Matungulu Subcounty in Machakos, who is taking the lead in bringing together farmers.
The movement also envisages engaging extensively with policymakers and political leaders from the region to ensure that sufficient support is provided to sustain ecological farming initiatives. This drive is a farmer led and supported by environmental organizations, Greenpeace Africa along with the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE), a local NGO which does extension work among farming communities in the region.
“Smallholder farmers need to invest more in ecological farming which is viable and adoptive to constant climate change. Government needs to be more proactive in planning and implementation of both long and short term farming methods in order to protect its citizens from food insecurity. Furthermore, Kenyans also need to make an informed choice of leaders who will adopt policies that will focus and support ecological farming,” Martin Muriuki, ICE Director advised.
Greenpeace Africa and ICE will be supporting multiple farmer’s workshops in Machakos in the month of June culminating in a policy dialogue in July.
“Kenya has pretty much every stakeholder possibly talking to policymakers and political leaders to swing the course of agriculture but the voices of the most important stakeholders, the farmers, are often lost in the din. By facilitating the workshops and dialogues, we hope to finally give the farmers a platform that they can own and make themselves heard” said Siddharth Sreenivas, Greenpeace Africa’s food for life Campaigner.
On World environment Day, dozens of Greenpeace volunteers, mainly youth, got together in Nairobi with a strong message to political stakeholders – “Clever Counties Support Ecological Farming”.