Kenya is one of several East African countries where food shortages continue to persist, because of the devastating drought conditions. Statistics from the Kenya Red Cross indicate that almost three million people in Kenya are affected by drought. However, the situation is improving in Busia county, one of the counties in Kenya where ICRISAT has been working with farmers to implement the AVCD program.
Indeed, there is hope growing among farmers and a real potential solution to the situation.
Ms. Rashel Amoit, is one of the beneficiaries of the AVCD program. Before the project, she was barely earning an income from farming. As a result, she had challenges providing for her family of nine. She explains that her situation has since changed, and her life is different.
“When I joined the project through ICRISAT, I was given a 5kg bag of groundnuts to plant by the Matayos sub-county department of agriculture. I planted the groundnuts and harvested a 100 kg bag which I shelled and gave back to ICRISAT the 5kg seed that they had loaned me. They asked me whether I wanted to continue with the seed production, I gladly said, yes. I was selected to be a groundnuts role model farmer,” Rashel explains.
The program has helped over 150,000 farmers replace their water-thirsty crops with drought tolerant crops.
“I used to work as a community health nurse,” she continues. “But I have since left my nursing job to become a farmer. My wish is to promote farming as a source of nutritious food particularly for community members with special nutritional needs, particularly expectant mothers and children. They don’t always have to buy food from the shops.”
The program has been working to develop the whole value chain from ‘farm to fork’. It sought to improve household nutrition by diversifying diets, increasing household incomes aimed at ensuring that farm families have access to nutritious food even in bad seasons.
One of the activities of the project was to educate farmers on crop-specific agronomic practices including water harvesting, intercropping, and conservation farming practices.
“I did not know when to plant, what crops are suitable for my area, the ideal varieties or even how to plant them. This Feed the Future program has helped me alot. Now I know how to plant, what seed varieties to use and when to plant. I now know the crops which are more suitable for dry areas like here. Sorghum and groundnut farming has improved my life greatly. For example, last season, I made aprofit of over $500 within a short period of time. I used this money to dig a bore hole. Now I don’t have to struggle with fetching water from the river anymore.”
Focus on nutrition
The program recognizes that an increase in agricultural productivity and incomes alone, does not result in improved nutrition status. The drought tolerant crops component has activities along the value chain with an objective to achieve both inclusive agriculture growth and improve nutrition status of communities. The team has partnered with county departments of agriculture and health and has reached over 60,000 households with nutrition messages and sensitized the nutritional value and health benefits of drought tolerant crops.
“My family now eats nutritious foods like finger millet, sorghum, groundnuts and green grams,” Rashel says. “With greengrams,I prepare stew to eat with chapati. I also make finger millet mandazi and sorghum porridge for my children. These grains are very smart. My husband and I together with the casual workers take porridge in the morning before going to work. These foods are rich in calcium, zinc and other important nutrients. They are particularly important for expectant mothers, so that their unborn babies can grow to be strong and healthy with strong immunity, ”she adds.
“I am very grateful to ICRISAT and Feed the Future for the education and support. I will continue with farming despite people’s concerns that I may be getting too old for it. My advice to people who want to be successful in farming is to stay focused and dedicated.”