SEED SAVERS NETWORK ADOPTS INTER-GENERATIONAL LEARNING

Youths are the drivers of change and have potential to transform the population by igniting the spirit of agro-biodiversity conservation and adoption of ecological agriculture. The future of agriculture lies squarely on them as they will be the next policy makers, agripreneurs, private and public actors in this sector.Therefore,agricultural students graduating from universities and colleges require exposure on ecological agriculture and agro-biodiversity topics to deepen their understanding on the interrelationships between various elements in the ecology for a sustainable agriculture.
Some students from Bukura Agricultural College with their attachment supervisor

They also require interaction with the old farmers to tap traditional knowledge on local seeds on their uses, growth traits and cultural attachment. The old are custodians of the traditional seeds and knowledge but there is a risk of emerging a knowledge gap when they die.As our Kenyan Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and fisheries Willy Bett said recently, on average farmers in Kenya are 60 years old;this is alarming as we have fewer youths in agriculture.  Therefore  there is a dire need to engage the old to transfer their traditional knowledge on seeds to the youths.

Agricultural students should be all rounded by integrating ecological agriculture and agro-biodiversity conservation principles in their work. Learning only conventional agriculture exposes the Kenyan farming communities in danger of getting expert advice sidelining local based solutions.As an organization, we believe in giving the youths an opportunity to learn these key principles.Seed savers Network continues to offer attachment and internship to agricultural students. The students work with the farming communities in their day to day farm activities.This is to enhance inter-generational learning.(EAGLE,2008) defines it as a process through which individuals of all ages acquire skills and knowledge, but also attitude and values from daily experience, from all available resources and from all influences in their own‘ life world.

Seed Savers Network aim at changing the attitude of the students as the foundation of attaining the desired outcome. Students learn on the importance of saving local seeds and are engaged in identifying them in their respective localities. This is organized under experiential learning initiative where students from different Kenyan communities are brought together to share on their different traditional seeds.This is further built by engaging them in agro-biodiversity conservation work through traditional seeds saving working closely with the extension department. They are able to meet various farmers groups where they participate in the training. The students also own the idea and are expected transfer the same back to his/her community. Obtaining  traditional knowledge forms part of the inter-generational learning. Students work with the research department in documentation of traditional knowledge and seeds. This gives them the opportunity during data collection to tap the existing knowledge on local seeds and getting insights on their cultural attachment with the seeds. All this targets cultivating a new culture of appreciation of the rich benefits of conserving traditional crops heritage.

 

our office  library                                                              

The students are also provided with reading materials which are availed at our office library,internet connection for online desktop research and shown films on traditional knowledge and seeds.These resources aim at broadening their understanding on the mentioned two principles under our inter-generational learning programme.On ecological agriculture, the students get opportunity to interact with other students from Tertiary organic institutes like Manor House and Baraka Agricultural College. In addition, our staff has rich knowledge and training on ecological agriculture. The students are trained through our Extension Department where they are guided after the training insetting up a demonstration in our farm.

The practical sessions helps the students to internalize various ecological agriculture elements learnt.These demonstrations has been useful in training farmers,other stakeholders and students during our open days. The students are instrumental during this time as they are expected to explain their demonstration to the visitors.

A student preparing a key hole garden for his demonstration
Therefore, Seed Savers Network recognizes the need to train the youths from tertiary institutions,secondary school(Agriculture and environment clubs) and farmers groups to appreciate the role of agro-biodiversity conservation and ecological agriculture in realizing sustainable agriculture.

Saving Soils through Portable Soil Testing

By Jason Farr, visiting intern from American University, Washington, DC

Soil degradation is a major environmental challenge in Kenya and has a disproportionate impact on small farmers who depend on the soil for their livelihoods. According to Mulinge et al. (2015), 12 million Kenyan’s live on degraded lands and many experience lower agricultural productivity as a result. In fact, between 1981 and 2003 cropland decreased in productivity by 40%. In terms of the economic impact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that about USD 390 million is lost annually due to the degradation of soil and includes unsustainable farming practices, agro-chemical use, and invasive species as among the causes. To help combat soil degradation and to help farmers protect their soil and improve their crops, Seed Savers is now offering soil testing services.

Soil sampling with staff and farmers
Sampling soil for testing

On May 18, 2017 Seed Savers took part in its first soil testing training with more than a dozen local farmers from around Gilgil. The SoilCares Foundation in partnership with the Rabobank Foundation provided Seed Savers with three state-of-the-art portable soil testing devices from SoilCares, the Dutch company that created the device and provides the soil testing platform. SoilCares sales representative, Jacob Gathuru, spent the afternoon training staff and farmers on the technology and allowing the group to test the soil at a local farm.

The SoilCares testing device was developed to be mobile and easy to use to improve access to this technology for small farmers. It uses infrared light to examine the soil and compare it to thousands of soil samples from the region that have been laboratory tested to determine the soil quality for various crops. After sampling and testing the soil the device is paired with a smartphone through Bluetooth technology.

A SoilCares smartphone application allows the data to be sent to their database to be analyzed. Before sending this information, farmers use the application to select the crops they would like to grow or are growing and how much they hope to yield. After the analysis is done, SoilCares returns a report with information on how suitable the land is for the crops selected and on the kind and quantity of inputs that would best help farmers achieve their desired yields. Seed Savers will then work with the farmers to ensure the use of organic input options and ecological farming practices to meet their needs.

Anne Nderit in a red jacket and brown hat smiling at her farm in Gilgil, Kenya
Anne Nderitu at her farm in Gilgil, Kenya

When Anne Nderit, the farmer whose soil was tested during the training, was asked if she would make use of the soil analysis, she responded, “Of course I will. It was good, informative.” She believes testing the soil was important because it allowed her to know “what organic matter to improve on” to maintain soil health. She thinks this information can help her increase her yield.

Seed Savers staff member, Lydia Nyambura is excited about the service as well. Lydia believes that “This service will help the farmers we work with who have been farming year in and out having soil and production challenges to improve their farming skills.” Through the application of this service and the promotion of organic inputs and ecologically sustainable farming practices Seeds Savers can do its part to combat soil degradation by helping repair the soil of the small farmers it works with.

If you would like to request soil testing services or learn more about Seed Savers and soil testing with SoilCares, please contact Seed Savers at info@seedsaverskenya.org.

Related Resources

Our soil testing  flyer

SoilCares – http://www.soilcares.com/en/

SoilCares Foundation – http://www.soilcaresfoundation.com/en/

Rabobank Foundation and Soil Cares Foundation Partnership – http://www.soilcaresfoundation.com/en/rabobank-foundation.html

Seed Savers Network Spearhead 2000M2 Field in Kenya

Salome Wambui and Peter Maina on their field in Gilgil, Kenya
Salome Wambui and Peter Maina on their field in Gilgil, Kenya

If all arable land in the world (1.4 Billion Ha) was divided with the population(7 Billion) each could get 2000m2. The project target at identifying the amount and diversity of crops that can be grown in this field. Click here to read more about the aim of 2000m2 initiative. In Kenya we are implementing this project with Maina’s Family who are among our farming community network in Gilgil with our key message to the whole world being food sovereignty. Already we have provided this family with seeds to ensure crop diversity in their field as we wait for the project to commence in February 2017. Click here to read more about 2000m2 field in Kenya.

Our first and second blog depicting the current state of the field, the neighboring landscape, family members and the fodder section is online in their website. The project also aims at communicating possible agricultural policies to policy makers in the whole world by showing the outcomes of 2000M2  and the people it can feed.

 

Where do Farmers Get Fruit Tree Seedlings?

With Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Inspector at our avocado nursery
With Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Inspector at our avocado nursery

To many this is a question they rarely ask. All they know is that most of the seeds are bought in agro shops which are supplied by multinational seed companies. Why not fruit trees? What is relevance of community seed systems filling the gap? As an organization is our mission to conserve agro –biodiversity. We work for improved seedlings access by training farmers to establish fruit tree nurseries.