Agroecology in Kenya: fighting water pollution while securing food production
About 75% of Kenyans earn all or part of their income from the agriculture sector which accounts for 33% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, agricultural productivity has stagnated in recent years. Various factors have contributed to low agricultural productivity, including an overall decline in soil fertility because of the continuous removal of nutrients by crops; poor farming practices; land degradation and overuse/misuse of synthetic fertilizers that acidify the soil. The solution against these problems is: agroecology.
Agroecology as a solution against water pollution
Violet Matiru from MCDI Kenya (Millennium Community Development Initiatives) explains that "chemicals that are known to be hazardous and critized heavily by many, are still legal in Kenya". These chemicals are problematic because they are "often being used next to rivers and other water sources, polluting those and making them dangerous for different water users."
Information is key
Violet adds that in the effort to create awareness among users, a consortium of Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Kenya, MCDI and Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) is organising sessions for farmers to inform them about the potential health issues these chemicals can cause, and what alternatives are available that can considerably reduce pollution risks. Farmers have been and will continue to be trained to use organic alternatives like the creation of compost, use of cattle manure and biological pest control (e.g. using "companion plants" next to crops that help keep away pests). Violet describes that "in the short term, farmers find it easier to use chemicals and when they change to organic production, their yields are likely to decrease in the beginning. But this project focuses on the long run and is meant to support farmers in transitioning to more environmentally sound production methods." The organisations are also supporting the farmers to establish organic farmers markets and shops.
What is agroecology?
Production methods like those described by Violet are also known as agroecology. It is a collective term used for agricultural practices that aim to reconcile agriculture and local communities with natural processes for the common benefit of nature and livelihoods. Agroecological practices provide a sustainable solution for family farms. This is done by trying to practise several elements which make agroecology effective. Some important elements are, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, diversification to ensure food security and nutrition, while protecting and enhancing natural resources. Furthermore it's important to share knowledge which can be co-created through participatory processes, as agricultural innovations can then respond better to local challenges. Another element is recycling, which means agricultural production with lower economic and environmental costs. These elements, amongst others, allow family farms to diversify their diet, increase food security and sell surplus products on the local market. At the same time, it enables them to apply better water and soil management practices, maintain biodiversity and increase resilience to climate change.
The difference between agroecology and non organic agriculture
Agroecology has shown to be unique in having a transformative vision, one that stresses the importance of inclusivity, equality and independence on all levels. Unlike climate-smart agriculture for example, agroecology has clearly stated what it does and does not stand for while challenging the power imbalances that currently exist within our food systems. Hence, it is an approach that aims to tackle the structural causes that hamper transformative change.
In Kenya, Both ENDS's partners ICE,-MCDI and PELUM work together to implement activities aimed at enhancing the communities' capacities in sustainable natural resource management, agroecology and water governance.
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Agroecology is a diverse set of agricultural practices, a field of science and a social movement. It aims to transform food systems towards greater ecological sustainability, social justice, and resilience. Both ENDS and CSO-partners around the world support farmers and pastoralists practising agroecology, both on the ground and in gathering political and financial support.
Inclusive ways to sustainable and healthy food for all
All around the world small-scale farmers are using sustainable and inclusive methods to produce food. Working together with nature and each other, they provide their families and communities with sufficient and healthy food. But their production methods are under pressure from large-scale agriculture and the globally dominant system of industrial food production. Together with our partners, Both ENDS is trying to turn the tide in favour of sustainable, local practices that are mostly known as 'agro-ecological' or 'nature-inclusive'. Why are we focusing on these methods? Agro-ecological practices are climate-proof and inclusive and increase the opportunities for communities around the world to produce their food sustainably.
News / 19 August 2021
Violet Matiru: “Communities around colonial Ruiru I Dam still struggle”
After many years of advocating for strong environmental policies at international platforms such as the UN, Kenyan Violet Matiru asked herself: "How does all this lobbying trickle down to our communities? How does this help our mothers who are still struggling with fetching water and cooking on wood stoves?" This is when she and her colleagues founded MCDI Kenya (Millennium Community Development Initiatives) and started to work with local communities. We talked to her about the historical and current power imbalance in water governance and her efforts to improve water governance in the Athi River basin, that runs all the way from upstream of Nairobi, through the city, into the Indian Ocean.
Finance for agroecology
The lion's share of public budgets for climate, agriculture and development still goes to conventional agroindustrial projects that contribute to the current climate, food and biodiversity crises. Both ENDS and our partners are calling for a transition to agroecological practices that are people- and environment-friendly.
Blog / 12 October 2022
Op-ed in Trouw: "Give more money to local sustainable food producers in developing countries"
The Dutch government and Dutch businesses spend a lot of money on food production in developing countries. But, according to Karin van Boxtel, policy officer at Both ENDS, far too little of that money finds its way to sustainable, nature-inclusive producers.
News / 27 September 2021
Analog Forestry: sustainable food production with a feminist perspective
In times of ecosystem degradation, deforestation and climate change, rural communities often struggle to make a living in a healthy and autonomous way. One of the solutions to counter their problems is Analog Forestry, a sustainable practice promoted by many of Both ENDS's partners. We spoke to Carolina Sorzano Lopez*, Analog Forestry trainer from Colombia for the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN), and Luz Marina Valle*, a local Analog Forestry promotora in her community of El Jocote in Northern Nicaragua, to explain to us the advantages of Analog Forestry.
News / 17 September 2021
Beyond trees: the importance of Non-Timber Forest Products for communities
About one in every six people, particularly women, directly rely on forests for their lives and livelihoods, especially for food. This shows how important non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and forests are to ensure community resilience. Not only as a source of food, water and income, but also because of their cultural and spiritual meaning.
Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration
In various countries in the Sahel, vast tracts of degraded land have been restored by the local population by nurturing what spontaneously springs from the soil. They do this using a method called 'Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR)'.
Press release / 7 March 2022
New report: investment in agroecology necessary for healthy global food system
A recent study by Profundo for Both ENDS and Oxfam Novib shows that investment in agroecology is necessary for a sustainable and inclusive global food system. Today, some 768 million – one in ten – people suffer from hunger or a severe shortage of food on a daily basis. Conflict, economic stagnation caused by the Corona epidemic, and the climate crisis present an immediate threat to the production of and access to sufficient nutritious food. Agroecology, a form of agriculture that places small-scale farmers, the natural environment and short supply chains at the centre of food production, makes communities in developing countries more resilient and helps them combat hunger. The study concludes however that major donors, including the Netherlands, are so far providing insufficient support for agroecology.
Publication / 11 July 2019
Publication / 7 March 2022
Publication / 22 April 2021
Publication / 8 January 2021
External link / 24 August 2022
A growing movement for agroecology (Annual Report 2021)
Fundamentally changing the current food and agricultural system towards greater ecological sustainability, social justice, and resilience is a top priority for Both ENDS and our partners worldwide. Together, we are contributing to the growing global movement for agroecology. As part of the Wetlands without Borders programme, partners across the La Plata Basin region of South America further expanded the agroecological practices as a key strategy to strengthen livelihoods, fight deforestation, and conserve the region's vitally important wetlands.
News / 29 June 2021
Fighting desertification in the Brazilian Sertão
The farmers in the Sertão do Araripe region in Pernambuco state are smart. The small-scale family farmers know that securing a sustainable livelihood on the rich but vulnerable soils of the Sertão is only possible if they take good care of the environment. That means sound agriculture, making the best of every drop of available water, diligent use of natural fertilisers and pest-control and fighting for laws and policies that stimulate conservation rather than exploitation. The organisation CAATINGA helps the farmers to face the challenging conditions.
Publication / 7 November 2022
A Negotiated Approach for Inclusive Water Governance
A Negotiated Approach envisages the meaningful and long-term participation of communities in all aspects of managing the water and other natural resources on which their lives depend. It seeks to achieve healthy ecosystems and equitable sharing of benefits among all stakeholders within a river basin. This inclusive way of working is an essential precondition for the Transformative Practices that are promoted by Both ENDS and partners.
News / 20 June 2021
Organic wild rooibos in South Africa’s dryland
South Africa is the home of rooibos, an ancient, health giving herbal infusion, discovered thousands of years ago by the KhoiSan, indigenous peoples of the Southern part of Africa. During the last century, rooibos has been increasingly commercialised, mainly by white South African farmers who produce it on a very large scale, causing environmental damage, soil erosion and loss of biodiversity. Fortunately, small-scale, environmentally sound and community-led rooibos cultivation initiatives also exist. Our long-standing South African partner Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) has, for more than two decades, been involved in this type of rooibos cultivation with the communities in the Suid Bokkeveld, in the western part of South Africa. Although it was not always easy, Noel Oettle, senior advisor at EMG, thinks this way of producing is the future.
News / 17 June 2021
Celebrating community led initiatives on World Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought Day
Today is World Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought Day. Such a day is more than needed to get attention for desertification, land degradation and drought that are threatening and hitting hundreds of millions of people in many regions throughout the world. While the causes - such as large-scale agriculture, use of pesticides, water extraction and climate change - are clear and need to be stopped, it is just as important to focus on solutions like restoration and sustainable land use.– in line with World Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought Day's theme for this year: 'Restoration. Land. Recovery. We build back better with healthy land', we will therefore especially focus on inspiring solutions during the next few weeks.
Inclusive Land Governance
Both ENDS works with partners around the world to ensure that land is governed fairly and inclusively and managed sustainably with priority for the rights and interests of local communities.