When we arrived at Jane Manjiku’s farm in Kambiti, Kenya, she invited us to take a bit of soil in our hands and join her in prayer, giving thanks for God’s goodness on her land.
Since 2014, Jane has seen dramatic changes on her three-quarter-of-an-acre farm. Her yields have increased enough that her family went from being hungry for about three months of the year to eating their fill, as well as selling enough food to pay for school fees and finance a small business.
Jane believes this is a result of a vision God gave members of her community about a new way of farming called “farming God’s way.” The group listened to staff from Anglican Development Service, a partner of Canadian Foodgrains Bank member World Renew, talk about the method and decided together to try this new conservation approach to agriculture. They hoped it would help them consistently grow more food and prevent the hunger months they were used to. And she says it has made a difference: “I’m happy to do the work I’ve been taught because I see the results.”
This area of Kenya gets two seasons of rainfall, but climate change means the rains are not reliable or plentiful enough. Farming sustainably in the dry Makuyu region requires finding ways to retain moisture in the soil between rains. Jane’s farm is on a gentle slope, with her house at the top of the rise. Before she had training in farming God’s way, rain and waste water from her home would run over the fields below the house, eroding the soil as it disappeared downhill.
In order to harvest that water, she built a ditch between her house and the field so that water could collect there and slowly percolate through the soil in her field. She also mulched the field with dry grass so the soil stays cooler, there’s less evaporation, and the weeds are suppressed. “We farm with love,” Jane says. “We don’t get tired like we used to because we don’t have to work so hard.”
When our tour from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank visited in July, Jane had her field divided into three sections. One third had maize that she’d planted when it rained in April, six feet tall and drying in the field. She planted the other parts of the field with beans at that time, which she harvested in June.
Normally, she’d wait until the fall rains to plant a new crop of maize, but Jane noticed that the soil was still moist, so she decided — as an experiment — to plant part of the available land with a new crop of maize. When the neighbours saw her planting maize so late, they laughed. Nobody plants in the dry season. But they aren’t laughing now; they see the tall, green stalks forming cobs, even though it hasn’t rained since May.
Jane’s improved yields are a result of diversifying her crops, including fruit trees, rotating plants to replenish nitrogen in the soil, alternating rows of maize and beans, adding hedges to keep out wandering livestock, and mulching to hold moisture in the soil. She expects to harvest 180 kg of maize from one-third of her field compared to the 135 kg of maize she was producing on the whole plot before. She’s already harvested 32 kg of beans and can expect more maize from her experimental field.
Jane is feeding her family. And with the extra money from selling surplus crops, she’s been able to rent a small café to supplement her income. It’s also become a good place to tell her neighbours about Farming God’s Way. Jane is grateful: “We thank God for this direction for farming.”
Lori Stewart was part of a Canadian Foodgrains Bank Study Tour to Kenya in August as part of the Good Soil Campaign. Good Soil, supported by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, is a way you can advocate for increased Canadian international aid for small scale agriculture. Send a postcard to Prime Minister Trudeau telling him you care about this issue. Postcards may be ordered by e-mailing PWRDF: [email protected]. Learn more at http://foodgrainsbank.ca/campaigns/good-soil/