SANGO Diaries chapter 12. OUR 70 FARMERS ARE PLANTING!

So much is happening with SANGO-Kenya! We have recruited more than 50 new farmers to join us, provided nutrition and agriculture training, provided a hands-on demonstration and made sure all the farms are properly prepared.

Dom and one of last year’s farmers demonstrate how to properly prepare the soil.

In only our second year, we now have more than 70 women farmers in SANGO-Kenya – a dramatic increase from the 19 we had last year! Now, 70 women – and their families – will soon begin eating more nutritious African traditional vegetables, thus improving their nutrition, food, and economic security.

Climate change and COVID have made our work all the more important. The rains are late this year – climate change has made the rains even more unpredictable than in the past, making it harder for farmers to gauge when to plant and increasing the threat of food insecurity. According to a recent report from the Climate Hazards Center at University of California, Santa Barbara, late onset of seasonal rains is a predictor of drought, which adversely impacts crop yields and significantly contributes to food insecurity.

COVID also continues to make it harder for mothers to feed their families.
Kenya is entering another lockdown, meaning access to foods and markets will again be curtailed, and jobs may again be lost.

This season, SANGO-Kenya is promoting three African traditional green leafy vegetables. This period is known as the long rains — they extend from approximately mid-March through June. All three vegetables – African nightshade, cowpeas (similar to our black-eyed peas, but Kenyans consume both leaves and peas), and crotalaria (commonly called slender leaf), are rich in nutrients and can grow in the sandy soils and arid climate that characterize Seme, the sub-county where we work.

Over the past month, Fredrick, SANGO-Kenya’s nutrition advisor, Winnie, our Field Officer and also a nutritionist, and Dominick, our agriculture advisor and trainer, provided the farmers in-class training in nutrition and sustainable farming for the three crops. Last week, Dominick gave one last training before planting, leading a hands-on demonstration showing the farmers how to till the soil, properly distance seeds to maximize each crop’s yield, how to mix manure with the seeds to ensure healthy plants, and how to water the freshly planted seeds. Later, he will also train them how to harvest the vegetables so they can save the seeds for next year.

We are so heartened that all the farmers who completed training last year have returned and are helping train new farmers in the program. These enthusiastic graduates reported that last year, once harvesting began, they and their families ate more nutritious green leafy vegetables. Their families also saved money because they consumed more from their own farms instead of having to purchase them at market. Some even made money by selling surplus vegetables at market. In addition, many saved their seeds from last year, giving them more to plant this year. We were very excited when they agreed that they do not need to receive seeds from SANGO-Kenya next year – meeting an important objective, the sustainability of our programs without continued support!

Though later than last year, the rains are now starting. Hopefully, they will be steady so that the seeds will take root and flourish, providing the 70 SANGO-Kenya farmers and their families nutritious vegetables through the period of long rains – until the end of June. If they replant their harvested seeds, they can even continue to get vegetables through August!

Farmers work together to prepare the nursery where African Nightshade seeds germinate before being transplanted to larger fields.

I cannot close without giving special thanks to Dominick, Fredrick, and Winnie. Because of COVID, Constance and I were so concerned about how to even continue the program this year. But their commitment, dedication, determination, and hard work have not only kept SANGO-Kenya going, but have expanded and strengthened the program in ways we could never have imagined even three months ago.

Erokamano!

Kit and Constance

kit@SANGO-Kenya.org

cgewa@gmu.edu

Your generosity has made all of SANGO-Kenya’s programs possible. Your tax-deductible donation today will help SANGO-Kenya continue to recruit, train, and support more farmers so they can improve their nutrition, food, and economic security for themselves and their families. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution. Thank you.

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