We once called our land 'Mathina' – land of problems

Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 16:54

Today we travelled to Kieni, an area north of Nairobi that sits in the basin of Mount Kenya, one of the country’s biggest landmarks.  The region is one of mixed fortune. One side is known as the ‘breadbasket of Kenya’. The other is an area of chapped and rocky earth, where families struggle to make a living farming small herds of livestock and cultivating food crops.  

As with much of Kenya, cyclical droughts here are a common phenomenon. But Francis Njoroge, ActionAid Coordinator explained the situation has become increasingly desperate in recent years. With rains becoming more and more erratic, farmers who have previously made their living and sustained their families from rain-fed agriculture have struggled to adapt. 

But in Kieni, communities are making changes that are helping to increase their resilience to climate change.  ActionAid has been working with farmers here for over five years – supporting them with community-based water and agricultural projects that aim to provide long-lasting solutions to climate challenges.    

Just today one group of local farmers has been digging trenches for water pipes. Soon these will bring water from nearby rivers to individual plots of farmland. 286 households will benefit from irrigated land, where they can grow their own food and provide pasture for their livestock.

In a neighbouring village, 61 year old Gladys Wangui is already benefitting from a similar programme. Gladys became a single parent in 1988 when her husband passed away. Left to bring up their four children (two sons and two daughters), Gladys has always relied on the area of land around her house to feed and provide for her family.  Gladys explains the impact the project has had on her ability to support herself and her sons:  

Before I only grew maize and beans, but now I grow bananas, sweet potatoes, onions, avocados and berries.  I grow enough food to feed myself and have even managed to install electricity in my house.

Gladys’s land is a far cry from the dry farms and stunted crops that belong to some of her neighbours. 

The last homestead we visit belongs to Rose and her husband Jackson. With ActionAid’s support they have dug a small dam which allows them to collect and harvest precious rainfall when it does come. This pond feeds a drip irrigation system which waters plants at the root, ensuring that wastage of this precious resource is kept to a minimum. Like Gladys, Rose and Jackson now have a large plot of productive land to support themselves. Jackson is also a proud member of the local water management committee, which sets irrigation priorities and coordinates community involvement and labour.

The community once used to call this land Mathina – land of problems but not anymore.

In a country where so many people who rely on their land are gripped by the recurring threat of drought, it brings hope to find a community that are coping with the challenges they face. Today we have seen proof that by investing in agriculture, we can support communities to adapt to the changing climate.

As part of ActionAid’s response to the drought in East Africa, we will be investing in these long-term projects which build people’s resilience and ability to respond to failed rains on their own.

Help AA start up more projects which bring long-term solutions to the drought in Kenya.

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