Farmers seek solutions amid climate change crisis

By XIE SONGXIN and EDITH MUTETHYA in Makueni, Kenya | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-11-07 07:22
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Farmers are trained to dig a Zai pit at Makongeni village in September. XIE SONGXIN/CHINA DAILY

At Makongeni village, farmers struggled to hide their excitement as Mwangangi instructed them on digging Zai pits. The farmers, who are members of the Aimi me Bidii Self Help Group, promised to prepare at least 20 pits before the upcoming rainy season.

The group, which is headed by Petronilla Ngunga, wife of Richard Ngunga, has 75 members and wants to raise the number to 100.

"We aim to ensure that every family in the village is self-reliant in terms of harvesting enough food for consumption. We are located within a town, and as our farms are small, we want to maximize yields," said Petronilla Ngunga, who retired last year as a teacher.

Despite having the advantage of a borehole on her land, and engaging in irrigated agriculture, she is committed to encouraging her neighbors to farm — even giving them space to plant on her land. "I like to help people, and want to see them improve their livelihoods," she said.

After attending a training session on digging Zai pits, Kambua Andrew, a smallholder farmer from Manyani village, and mother of nine, was enthused by the idea. She paid one of her neighbors the equivalent of $13.47 to help dig the pits on her small piece of land.

"I hope that by using this innovative farming method, I will be able to harvest enough food to see my family through the forthcoming rainy season," she said.

Last season, she only managed to harvest 20 kilograms of cowpeas on her small farm, while maize and bean crops dried up due to inadequate rainfall.

Farmers are also being encouraged to harvest surface runoff by investing in farm ponds and reservoirs to water their livestock and grow vegetables during the dry season. Surface runoff is the water flow that occurs when soil is saturated, and excess water from rain, meltwater or other sources flows over the land.

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