Building capacity in Laikipia County
Published on: June 1, 2022
Two years ago, the Laikipia Permaculture Centre Trust (LPCT) and reNature started setting up a Model Farm and a Model School in the semi-arid South-East of Laikipia County, Kenya. The project focuses on regenerating smallholder farmland that has suffered from years of overgrazing, deforestation and the impacts of climate change. The project aims at reinvigorating soils and fostering climate resilient farmer livelihoods. This is an update.
Climate change demands flexibility and resilience
Last year has been extremely challenging from an environmental perspective. The year started with very dry conditions, which led to the loss of tree seedlings planted the first year. The rains were erratic and highly variable, which greatly affected the tree planting schedules. Along with incidences of very dry weather in June and September, the drought continues with rains greatly anticipated. This variability in weather led to downscaling of the tree planting target to save seedlings for a later date.
Despite the challenges, farmers demonstrated resilience by putting in place measures to promote tree survival. Some fenced off tree seedlings using acacia branches to keep livestock away. Others resorted to scheduled watering, including use of bottle irrigation techniques. Mulching was effective for most of the seedlings in keeping moisture in the soil.
The road to capacity
The reporting year running from April 2021 to April 2022 was very eventful. Major activities to build capacity include:
- Recruitment of the second batch of farmers
- Operationalization of the agroforestry model school
- Tree nursery establishment and management
- Planting of tree seedlings
- Training sessions for farmers
- Monitoring and evaluation of project activities
The bulk of farmers are women
Women organized in groups form the bulk of farmers, representing 68.87%. The target communities are mainly involved in traditional pastoralism and small-scale rain fed and irrigation crop farming. The community is diverse, ethnically composed of indigenous Maasai, Turkana and Somali living harmoniously. Each of the ethnic communities speak their own languages and practices their cultures independently.
Multi-ethnical groups are visiting the Model School.
The Model School was fully operationalized during the period, welcoming farmers from multiple ethnical groups for training as well as harvesting of some annuals. The school receives visitors who are eager to learn the various techniques and methodologies employed at the Model Farm plot.
The visitors were mainly farmers, as well as other stakeholders from various sectors including agriculture, education, civil society and public service. The first harvest for annuals took place at the Model School, including mainly vegetables, cereals and some herbs.
Various training sessions were offered to the community to build their capacity in regenerative agroforestry. Notably, the project organized a second round of the lead farmers forum. The forum was designed as a follow-up to a session that had taken place in 2020, with the intention of collecting feedback from farmers, getting their input on the project progress and incorporating indigenous knowledge into the project implementation.
No capacity without a nursery
The agroforestry tree nursery produced high quality planting materials for the project. Around 6.000 assorted seedlings out of which, 3.500 seedlings were distributed to the farmers.
Partners for local engagement
The project recognizes the role of networking and partnerships in carrying out community development. In this regard, several stakeholders were involved in the project execution as follows:
- Institute for Peace and Development (IPSIA) Farming The Future Project is an independent organization implementing a three-year project with Laikipia Permaculture Centre Trust. During the period under review, the organization collaborated with the project in promoting the establishment of Moringa oleifera, Aloe secudiflora and other assorted agroforestry species.
- Climate Resilience Solutions (CRESS Project) works in partnership with LPCT to facilitate access to water through rainwater harvesting using the construction of sand dams. The sand dams act as natural reservoirs whilst also addressing soil erosion.
- Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM): PELUM is a membership organization involved in promoting agro-ecological practices within the country. LPCT is an active member of the organization.
- Two public schools located near the project participated in tree planting activities. The pupils received training and seedlings to plant in their respective schools. The project facilitated these activities to inspire a generational change in participating pupils.