Ahead of the August elections, farmers from Machakos will today start a movement, to reclaim their food systems from the clutches of big agribusiness, middlemen and from the lure of agrochemicals. The movement, rooted in agro-ecology, aims to create awareness among farmers and farming communities about the benefits of ecological farming and 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’s about Kenya, its farmers and its children and I want to make sure that we stand strong as a nation when it comes to food security”, said 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. The movement is farmer led and supported by environmental organisations. Greenpeace Africa along with the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) – a local NGO which does extension work among farming communities in the region.
“In many regions local governments are failing farmers by pushing industrial agriculture. Smallholder farmers need to investment in ecological farming which is able to withstand a changing climate. Government needs to be more proactive in planning and implementation in both the long and short term. Kenyans need to make an informed choice of leaders who will adopt policies that will focus and support ecological agriculture”said Martin Muriuki, ICE Director.
Greenpeace Africa and ICE will be supporting multiple farmer workshops in Machakos in the month of June culminating in a policy dialogue in July.
“Kenya has pretty much every stakeholder imaginable talking to policymakers and political leaders and looking to swing the course of agriculture. But the voices of the most important stakeholder- 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.
Urban consumers have mobilised themselves to support the local farmers. 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”.