The Dakatcha Woodlands are an internationally important Key Biodiversity Area home to globally rare and threatened species of birds and mammals. Furthermore it is marginal land for agriculture being semi-arid and not getting better given a drying climate. A key threat to the Dakatcha forest is clearance for pineapple plantations by non-locals. These require large tracts of land cleared of all vegetation, usually by burning, to plant the pineapples and are highly unsustainable.
To provide community members with an alternative source of income to selling their land for pineapples and that is good for the soil and local biodiversity, A Rocha Kenya is working with three farmer groups in this region, each consisting of about 30 members: Sosoni, Dakatcha and Chambuu.
Sarah Young from AR International after a recent visit writes: “After a 3 hr drive from Watamu we were taken to see the Farming God’s Way (FGW) plot and beehives being managed by the Sosoni Farmers Group. This is the largest group and therefore acts as the demonstration plot for the FGW initiative by A Rocha.
In the plot the farmers grow a variety of vegetables including sweet peppers, sukuma wiki (kale), mchicha (greens), okra, aubergines and African Bird’s-Eye chillies. After introducing ourselves to the group (including me in rusty Swahili), we bought a selection of produce, so the farmers gathered it up and portioned it out for us.
We were then shown around the plot, including the compost pits and nursery areas. It was amazing to see the compost pits being well-used: emptied, reused and the compost making a real difference to the crop productivity”.
Each of the three farmers’ group have been given 10 beehives: 26 donated by the Red Cross and four donated by A Rocha International via Gifts with a Difference. So far, two of these four have been colonised, but the bees are not yet producing any honey. The farmers hope that the other two will also be colonised by the end of the year.
Beekeeping training works best when there are at at least 15 people being trained and when at least two hives are given to each household. We would love more people to buy our beehives through Gifts with a difference.
Each hive costs around Ksh 5,500 (c.£40 / $55); one litre of honey can be sold for about Ksh 1,000 (c.£8 / $10). The additional advantage of having hives is, if the crops fail, the farmers have an alternative source of income.
The Sosoni Farmers Group are gradually expanding the area of land under cultivation. In time, they would also like to purchase a generator, which would allow them to pump water from the adjacent water hole. This single water source currently serves the whole community, including the three farmers groups and is also used as drinking water.
The farmers at Sosoni have been practicing FGW for three years and the difference it makes is already evident. Previously they had to water the crops even three times a day (by hand!). Now, because mulching helps to retain so much moisture, they need water only three times per week. Mulching also reduces weeds and increases the fertility of the soil. Under the traditional system, the crops produced in an average harvest would be sold for about Ksh 3,000 (c. £23). With FGW, this has increased to Ksh 7,000 (about £53). It is very exciting for the A Rocha Kenya team to see the impact of FGW and our prayer and desire to spread this farther across the Dakatcha Woodlands and help local communities feed themselves without the need to sell land for pineapples.