Kenyan farmers reap economic, environmental gains from ABCDs of agroforestry

  • In Kenya’s Rift Valley, rural communities are implementing agroforestry to respond to new challenges brought by climate change.
  • The Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) program trains farmers in agroforestry techniques that increase their resilience and food security in the face of hotter, drier growing conditions.
  • ABCD improves the economic prospects of those who implement it through diverse, year-long harvests and new markets for edible produce and wood products.
  • Agroforestry is also a main facet of Kenya’s goal to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Treaty, since it sequesters a large amount of carbon in woody plants both above and below ground.

KERICHO, Kenya – Less than a decade ago, the hills of Tuiyobei village in Kenya’s Rift Valley were nearly bare, with few trees or shrubs beyond the coffee plantations that yielded very little. The rain was sporadic, temperatures were rising, and crop yields and livelihoods were deteriorating. High deforestation triggered by increasing demand for firewood, lumber and charcoal had degraded the ecosystem.

These factors, plus high erosion rates after rains and chaotic winds, prompted Maureen Selem and five others to form the Toben Gaa self-help group to improve their standard of living through environmental conservation.

Some in this community are descended from the Ogiek people, a group indigenous to the Mau Forest. But they no longer practice the traditional ways of their forefathers, like gathering honey, and instead farm the land, like their neighbors. To improve their food security and nutrition, Selem says the group has embraced trees.

“We came up with a community action plan to plant 50 trees a year per household as access to energy, wind [protection] for the coffee, and improving the village vegetation cover by 10 percent,” the 32-year-old mother of five and Toben Gaa self-help group secretary told Mongabay.

Terminalia brownii trees planted in an ABCD agroforestry system. Photo by Sophie Mbugua for Mongabay

The action plan came as a result of training in the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) approach by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). The group has now grown to 46 members, 22 of them women. ABCD aims to empower communities to develop themselves through the assets they already have access to, along with some minimal support such as the sharing of skills and knowledge.

Today, trees species such as acacias, Casuarina, silky oak (Grevillea robusta), Nile tulip (Markhamia lutea), moringa (Moringa oleifera), agati (Sesbania grandiflora), neem (Azadirachta Indica), Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and mwalambe (Terminalia brownii) are intercropped with coffee, fruit trees such as guavas and tree tomatoes, and crops such as maize, beans, watermelons, papayas and pumpkins. Depending on an individual farmer’s interests, animal fodder such as nippier, Calliandra and Boma Rhodes grasses are also intercropped. Others invest in woodlots for lumber and charcoal. Silky oak is widely planted along farm boundaries, with mwalambe grown in higher areas susceptible to soil erosion.

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This article was originally published on the website of Mongabay

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