How Canadians Can Support Farmers in Kenya
Harambe is the Kiswahili word meaning “Let us pull together”. It emerged as a theme on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank study tour to Kenya that Lori Stewart was part of this summer.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is made up of 15 member church denominations, all pulling together to end hunger in the world. Leaders from seven of those churches traveled to Kenya on a study tour in July as part of the organization’s Good Soil campaign. The goal of the campaign is to increase Canada’s investment in agriculture in developing countries.
The Kenya tour was designed for participants to learn where Canadian aid has already had an impact on improving people’s ability to grow food, and then to become advocates back in Canada. As Phil, a leader in the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada put it, “I can’t sell anything unless I believe in it, but I can advocate for what I understand.”
Traveling to farms and organizations in Kenya helped us understand the needs of farmers in Kenya and what they are doing to address the problems of climate change in a dry place.
Lillian Wambui’s lush green farm in Naivasha is very different from her situation six years ago when her maize crop failed due to low rainfall and disease. Back then she had to rely on food aid to feed her family. Now, as a result of Canadian funding through local partners, Lillian is growing new crops like pigeon peas and passion fruit that don’t need much water. She mulches to keep moisture in the soil and has a plastic liner for the pond she dug to conserve water in the dry season. She is growing enough food to feed her family and has extra to sell. Lillian is proud that she’s moved from handouts to food security.
Lucia Kamau doesn’t have much. She had to flee from her home during political unrest in the 2009 elections. She now rents half an acre to grow maize. That’s not much land and sometimes the crop is poor. But the worst part is when she stores her harvest in traditional grain bags, the weevils (an insect pest) reduce it to dust despite the pesticide she uses to suppress them. This year Lucia is trying a new grain storage bag. Because it is airtight, pests are eliminated and her food supply is preserved. Thanks to funding from Canada, AgResults is providing incentives to suppliers to help smallholder farmers solve their grain storage problems. An effective storage bag is making a big difference for farmers like Lucia, whose maize is in good shape, without pests or holes.
Canada also provides funding to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, which carries out research on sustainable livestock farming methods to improve food security and reduce poverty. When we visited, Dr. Sita Ghimire showed us the Brachiaria grasses (a livestock feed) he is growing in test plots. He is having good success finding climate-smart varieties to improve livestock production. Smallholder farmers rely on goats, cows, or chickens to supplement what they grow. Dr. Ghimire’s research provides a solution to livestock feed in low rainfall conditions.
These visits showed us clearly the benefits of investment in aid for agriculture in developing countries. Canadian funding helped Lucia, Lillian, and Sita find local solutions to growing food in a sustainable way. But in the last six years, Canada’s funding for this kind of work has declined. That’s where advocacy comes in.
Simply defined, advocacy is speaking on behalf of someone or bringing attention to something that needs to be changed. But it is more than that. It’s harambe…pulling together. As Andrew, a United Church leader on the tour put it, “In John 14:16 Jesus promises the Spirit will come as an advocate, standing alongside the disciples.” Advocacy in this sense has an accompaniment or bridging role, helping people find their voice and speak their truth. So I am telling you about Lillian, Lucia, and Sita so that together we can pull together to end hunger in the world. Please join me in advocating for Canada to increase its funding for agriculture projects in developing countries. I saw clearly that it makes a difference.
If you want to let the government know that these types of projects make a real difference, send a postcard asking for more of Canada’s international assistance to go toward agricultural projects. Postcards are available at CCS, in many churches, or join the Foodgrains Bank’s Good Soil Campaign.
Also, read Lori’s article “Farming God’s Way in Kenya” on page 8 & 9 of the September 2016 Rupert’s Land News.