Deforestation rates in Africa are twice the average for the rest of the world. Kenya and Zambia only have about 1-5% of their primary forests remaining, threatening the very environment that people rely on. In the Northeastern region of Kenya, there are additional challenges, with conflict, historical grievances based on land ownership, tribal and faith differences (especially between Christians and Muslims), incoming refugees fleeing conflict in their own countries, and violence from extremist groups. Compounding the suffering is marginalization at the hands of government, with lack of basic infrastructure such as roads, schools, health facilities, clean drinking water, etc.
A CBM food security project in the area began with providing emergency food and water during a time of extreme food shortage and famine. This was followed by training in conservation agriculture that promotes organic methods, use of mulching and other methods to improve the soil, distribution of seeds, tools, water pumps. Demonstration farms encouraged farmers to try and grow a variety of crops, including fruit and vegetables. Projects in other areas of Kenya also encourage farmers to start tree nurseries (to grow, sell and plant more trees). The project is also helping to build good community relations among different tribal groups and faiths (especially between Christian and Muslim).
Meet Odha. He lives all the way over in Kenya. Do you remember where that is? Odha is very proud of his farm, but he didn’t always feel that way. Let’s hear his story.
My wife and I are farmers in an area that is hot and dry. We work hard to try and feed our children. The weather has been getting crazy. Some years we don’t get enough rain and other times too much and the river floods over, destroying all of our crops. It is hard to know what to do. I get so discouraged that I don’t feel like farming anymore. But I don’t know what else to do to provide for my family. I ended up working on a farm owned by someone else to try and provide food for my family. It was not enough. I was sad to see that my children could not go to school. We cut down shrubs to burn and make charcoal so that my wife could go and sell it in the town farther away. We grew desperate to survive. Many times we only had one meal a day. We were so happy to see some church people come and help us. We were a bit surprised because we are a different faith (Muslim) and didn’t expect that they would want to help us. But they said that the only thing that matters is that God loves all people and they want to help us.
First they gave us food because we were near starvation. Then they showed me some techniques to try on my farm to grow food that was more nutritious, and would also give me a bigger crop, enough to feed my family and also to sell at market to earn money. They gave me seeds to grow a variety of food, such as fruit and vegetables. They even helped our village to build a small centre where my children can go for classes. Big changes have happened in our family and in our whole village. Most importantly for me, the difficult challenge of looking to find work on someone else’s farm is over. I now work in my own farm and grow my own food and can provide for my family. We have two meals a day and eat a variety of food for health. May God bless the people who have helped us!