SANGO Diaries, Chapter 28. Preparing for the Short Rains

SANGO-Kenya and Farmers Work Together to Prepare for the Short Rains

At least once a week, my colleague Connie and I talk to Winnie, Evance, and Peter in Kenya. It is always inspiring to hear about the progress the SANGO-Kenya farmers are making. They also share the setbacks the farmers face. As I have written, 2023 has been especially challenging.

One of the farmers in her field, observing the erosion of seedlings and topsoil. Wearing boots, as in this photo, is rare. They’re hot and expensive. But for some farmers, it was the only way they could walk in their fields after the floods.

Every day our team sees the impact that climate change has on the farmers. The combination of more severe drought, followed by floods, followed by drought again has made it even more difficult for the farmers to feed their families.

And while they continue to be inspiring — both our team and the farmers — there is added concern, an added sense of urgency. Winnie recently told us that one of our Lead Farmers told her “My biggest challenge right now is inadequate rainfall that started towards the end of long rains. This has hindered me from cultivating my land and also the vegetables I had in my farm have dried up.”
The impact of climate change on food security is far reaching. The inability to begin cultivation for the short rains because the land is so dry, fewer vegetables from the long rains. This year, because of smaller harvests, many didn’t have enough to preserve or to sell. It’s a double loss: they will have to spend their money to buy vegetables and they won’t earn money from selling any surplus.

SANGO-Kenya has 27 Lead Farmers, each of whom has 5-10 farmers in her group. The Lead Farmers meet at least once per week with every farmer in their groups, make written notes of any issues, then share their observations with the SANGO-Kenya team in weekly meetings.

The response to these challenges, by both the farmers and the team, is to work harder. Our team is developing and providing more training for the farmers and the Lead Farmers, the group heads who are the liaison between our team and the farmers. The Lead Farmers are also working harder, providing both us and the farmers more feedback so that problems are addressed as soon as possible.

Adding Programs to further Strengthen Food Security

We are also developing and implementing new programs to help fill the gaps in food security. This year we began promoting sorghum, which is nutrient rich and can be added to popular foods such as porridge and the ubiquitous ugali (served as a side dish at almost every meal). Sorghum also grows well in the semi-arid climate where SANGO-Kenya works and can be preserved to be consumed post harvest as well as sold at market. Although many farmers’ sorghum crops were originally damaged by floods, working together, most farmers were able to salvage their crops and are enjoying healthy harvests.

The farmers’ children are great help, especially during harvesting. Here they are helping spread the harvested sorghum to dry.

We have also added training in the care and marketing of poultry. Most of the SANGO-Kenya farmers raise poultry, however many do not follow best practices because of the costs. Through training, we explained the cost benefit of vaccinations, which protect the chicks from diseases that can destroy entire flocks; proper housing, to protect the chicks and hens at night from predators; and how to conduct market surveys to assess the best timing and location to sell the adult hens and roosters. Additionally, poultry require little water, making them well-suited for the semi-arid climate where we work.

Most farmers raise poultry, but without proper vaccination and housing, they can die from disease and predators.

Additionally, our agriculture team and other agriculture advisors are making more field visits to help farmers address the problems presented by drought and floods. An important technique for helping to increase production of vegetables even during drought continues to be multi-story gardens. We are encouraging farmers to make as many as they can. They require so much less land and water than ground crops.

Farmers can make multiple multi-story gardens, which don’t require cultivating the land, take up less space, and require less water.

We are constantly working to provide the farmers the knowledge and skills they need to be food and nutrition secure — and self sufficient. But we can’t do it without your help.


SANI KENYA farmers, Winnie, Evance, Peter, Constance, and Kit

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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