We help families diversify their farms and learn to grow new crops by providing workshops, starter seeds and seedlings, and on-farm extension visits.
Staple crops maize, beans, and leafy vegetables are often the only things grown by families who enter our programs. This limited set of produce is not ideal for family nutrition or income generation, but farmers in the rural areas where we work lack the exposure and knowledge needed to make their harvests healthier and more profitable. We address this by helping farmers see and learn about new crops and new techniques that have proven successful elsewhere in Kenya. Our agriculture staff encourage families to grow a wider and healthier variety of indigenous crops, and also give them ten types of fruit tree seedlings and several starter seed packets so they can try growing new things like carrots or butternut squash. Through these methods, supported by regular on-farm visits, we are able to assist families as they diversity their farms and increase their incomes.
Our farm staff work with nutritionists to run an agriculture education program that helps families grow food for a balanced, healthy diet. In turn, through better nutrition, children have the chance to develop healthy bodies and keen minds.
Evidence of vitamin deficiencies and malnutrion is sadly common among children from the families in our programs. Our agriculture staff are advised by nutritionists to run a program that allows parents and guardians to understand and implement farm plans for better family health. From poor eyesight due to lack of Vitamin A, to weak immune systems from lack of Vitamin C, our staff and consulting professionals in Kenya have helped shape an agriculture program that targets specific nutritional needs and helps families find a sustainable solution by growing food for a better diet. Our agriculture staff pay particular attention and spend extra time to give guidance to families affected by HIV/AIDS, Sickel Cell Disease, and other conditions that urgently require a consistenty nutritious and balanced diet.
We help youth and adults engage in agriculture for income as well as subsistence. Through exposure to and education about new crops, markets, and methods, families are able to grow higher-value farm goods and sustainably raise their incomes.
It is very common for struggling families to focus on only growing their staple food maize, and then sell most of their fresh harvest to get badly-needed funds, only to buy back maize at higher prices later in the year. Our agriculture education programs assist youth and family guardians to see a bigger picture and grow more valubale, higher-value produce. They are also inspired and instructed on how to raise and sell chickens, pigs, fish, and livestock. After people complete our farm income-training initiatives, we offer them start-up capital to get new farm businesses going, as well as education on and connections to microfinance institutions that can help them grow their ventures in the future.
The depleted nature of soils in western Kenya makes an instant switch to organic agriculture impossible, which is why our farm programs teach both organic and conventional farming techniques side-by-side. We also emphasize tree-planting to improve soils, reduce erosion, and produce income.
All of the farm lessons taught by our staff have an emphasis on “sustainable intensification,” which means yielding more while inputting (and spending) less. Our agriculture staff teach about composting, nitrogen-fixation, and biological pest control, and they instruct on full-circle concepts borrowed from permaculture. This is taught alongside best practices in the use of conventional fertilizers and disease controls. Our staff also help farmers understand the nutritional needs of animals like chickens, pigs, and fish, guiding them to purchase the correct feeds, while at the same time helping them develop more environmentally sustainable and cost-effective alternatives like red worms and hydroponic fodder. Our tree-planting efforts promote agroforestry, which means growing trees within a farm. We give out nitrogen-fixing tree seedlings sourced from local nurseries owned by families we support, and we give grafted fruit seedlings sourced from reputable local distributors. Tree-planting helps families improve soil fertility, control erosion, and generate a meaningful and sustainable source of future income.