In Africa, CBM currently runs 4 food security projects which target about 3,000 farmers in partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2), Rwanda (1) and Kenya (1).

In May 2016, I had an opportunity to visit farmers in Muku area, Walungu Territory, South Kivu Province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Embu project in Kenya. The Muku project has been there for the last 17 months since its inception in January 2015.

The Muku area has extremely steep slopes and is susceptible to soil erosion where tonnes of valuable soil are lost every year. With every ounce of soil that is lost during the rainy season, soil nutrients and organic matter are carried away. As a result of many years of poor farming practices, the soil is depleted and crop yields are below average. Before the farmers plant their crop, the project encourages them to put up strips of leguminous trees/shrubs (hedgerows) across their land at specific intervals to prevent the soil erosion.

Mukunzo is a lady farmer and a community leader in Muku who has set a good example to others and has seen many benefits from this agroforestry activity. Her soil has been kept intact and no erosion is taking place in areas where hedgerows have been established. The project has trained 400 beneficiary farmers on the nursery preparation, planting space as well as the different species that are useful to the area.

Figure 1: Mukunzo from Muku project beside her Tephrosia hedgerow. She makes her natural pesticide from the Tephrosia leaves.

The hedgerow trees are useful as fodder for domestic animals, they can be used as natural pesticide, and their leaves can be pruned and applied as mulch. Hedgerow trees fertilize through nitrogen fixation in the soil for use by the plants in the following season. Many farmers have accessed their tree seedlings from the demonstration farms, others have household tree nurseries while a few have opted to plant the trees directly in their farms. The trees that are mostly planted include Sesbania, Tephrosia, and Tithonia and Calliandra species.

Figure 2: Mukunzo harvesting her mulched potatoes.
The Tephrosia hedgerow behind her has helped to conserve soil and water for increased potato yields.

About Ruth Munyao

Ruth serves with CBM as Senior Food Security Specialist in Africa, with specific reference to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan.