Category Archives: Farming
Including dairy, poultry and bee farming
New Styles of Agriculture in Mwakoma
Farm club members participating in planting trees to conserve the environment
Learning more about Permaculture Farming
Strike impacting Margaret’s University Course
New Styles of Agriculture in Mwakoma
Farm club members participating in planting trees to conserve the environment.
Madam Kelly, First Aid Teacher
Mr George, Wildlife Club Patron.
We have finally started the wildlife club in our school. Currently there is ongoing registration whereby each student is to become a member and with the help of Dr Lucy’s Save the Elephants Team who agreed to sponsor the school for a trip, then each child is to pay 50 Kenyan Shillings.
Until now we were targeting the whole school in order for them to get the park cards, but only approximately 20 have paid so far. So in conjunction to this we were requesting if maybe the foundation could In some way help for the most needy students.
Also today we requested them to come with a seedling each in order for them to plant each a tree and take Care of them daily with the help of the Wildlife Club. To this we shall have a planting session tomorrow.
Learning More about Permaculture Farming
Report taken from a post made to the Elephants and Bees blogsite on December 24, 2017
Kenyan Student, Kennedy Lemaiyan
How about growing food in an organic manner, caring for the environment, sustainably feeding school kids, and equipping local farmers to put more food on their tables?
Kileva Eastfield Primary School permaculture garden was initiated by the Kileva Foundation and the Elephants and Bees Project in late 2015. The farm was initially a research field testing the potential growth of some of the non-palatable crops to elephants.
Later on, after the realization of its potential in food production, the project extended the small farm into growing vegetables, fruits, and even employing two community members (Paul and Jacinta) to work in the farm. The farm has occasionally fed the school kids, especially the young ones in the Kileva kindergarten and at times the entire school. There was a need to come up with plans to feed more mouths more frequently. This required gaining more skills and knowledge into the world of farming.
To gain these skills, The Elephants and Bees Project enabled me to attend a practical permaculture workshop hosted by Barefoot Soulutions at Bruckenhurst hotel in Limuru. The workshop began on 25th November to 1st December 2017. We were a group of fifteen trainees and three instructors (Sven, Mike and Tichafa the permaculture guru from Zimbabwe) – our first class begun where we were divided in to groups of two and told to introduce yourself to your partner and your partner introduces you to the class.
The workshop entailed a lot of lessons and practicals such as: companion cropping, dry land farming, ecological processes, soil regeneration, soil improvement through (compost making, mulching, double digging) erosion control, species selection, Integrated pest management(IPM), home garden designs, natural forest & the conservation zone, various presentations from trainees on before/after maps, plans of action and much more.
We made field trips to various organizations and farms around. We visited ‘care of creation Kenya’ which is a Christian faith based organization in Limuru empowering farmers to grow crops in Gods perspective and highly discourages violent farming. The organization uses two set-ups (Farming Gods Way FGW and Conventional Farming CF). FGW involves mulching the field which comes with other benefits while CF involves normal farming without mulch.
Five different Crops are grown in plots size of 9m by 4.5m for the experiments, FGW plots produce significantly greater yields compared to conventional traditional plots. All the plots are given equal treatments; the same planting date, crop variety, spacing, planting depth, receiving equal amount of external input and rainfall yet all Gods way plots produce higher yield than conventional farming. From previous harvest onion yield from FGW plot was 5 times more than conventional plots onions, maize 3 times more and potatoes 4 times more. When mulching there’s more life in soil, minimal disturbance of soil because mulch prevents weeds, retains water, prevents erosion and holds the soil structure. Crag explained the disadvantages of leaving the ground bare; violent farming and clearing of vegetation cover for inappropriate farming with poor yield. Giving an example of plastic that is dropped at the start of the Tana river and finds its way in to the ocean in 3 days, compared to when it took 3 weeks in previous years, due to dense vegetation cover.
Further experiments were done on the two FGW plots which are covered with mulch and CF plots which are bare and exposed. The first experiment was on water retention; it involved scooping the same amount of soil from both plots in a trough container and pouring in water. The CF soil sample lost water after pouring in one and a half cups of water causing run-off whilST FGW PLOTS retained water up to four and a half times better than CF. Experiments on soil structure and soil erosion were also done and Gods way soil structure was maintained while convention broke up so easily. When examining soil erosion through run-off water samples, the runoff from Gods way soils remained clean while runoff from conventional way soils was very dirty (washed away).
We also visited Mlango farm which is a privately owned farm, a living paradise full of ripe fruits and vegetables of every kind. It is a living Garden of Eden where people go learn, rest and enjoy the peaceful rural environment under the warm African atmosphere.
After various lessons in class and trips it was time to get our hands dirty by going to the field for practicals. We worked in two different groups, tea and coffee, which are both crops that do well in highland areas and are both the pillars of Kenyan agriculture. In our first practical we came up with a mandala permaculture design at Bruckenhurst farm and planted different vegetable crops, cover crops, nitrogen fixing crops and fruits. Our second practical was at Mikes farm, one of our instructors, where we learned about different permaculture designs; mandala, kidney shape, and rectangular beds. We planted lettuce, spinach, onions, coffee plants and various other crops using compost and other organic substances like absorber, enhancer and much more.
Bruckenhurst school farm was our last practical session where we came up with a small school garden for the school children. This involved coming up with a farm in-cooperating the five senses (smell, touch, sound, taste and mandala sight) for smell we planted herbs; citronella, marigold, lemon and lavender. Touch; aloe, vetiver grass, touch me not, sage and lambs ear. Taste involved edible crops bananas, passion fruit, cassava and sweet potatoes. Mandala sight; coffee and flowers. Sound; bird feeders and bird bath tubs
Next, we took a tour to Bruckenhurst indigenous forest, which is more than ten years old and a true serving model of a totally ecologically restored forest. Mark Nicholson, the director of plants for life at Bruckenhurst botanical garden, began his work on changing the forest into a totally indigenous forest after a realization of almost empty gaps in the forest, invasive species, loss of indigenous biodiversity and loss of indigenous knowledge. The forest was cleared, invasive species uprooted, exotic species replaced and only indigenous trees were planted including critically endangered species, timber trees, curving trees medicinal trees and much more. Various tree species in the forest include; Croton megalocarpus, Prunus africana, Coddia africana, Wabugia ugadensis and Chrysophyllum ngorungosum. Now the forest is full of life with some wildlife species and birds making a comeback to what was originally their home.
Back in Sagalla plans are under way for the school permaculture. First, we will use mulching to conserve moisture, reduce run-off, avoid weeding, and maintain our soil life. We will use various permaculture techniques such as the use of mandalas for vegetables, key holes on sloppy areas to harvest water, worm farming, companion cropping, and pest control. Through these techniques we are hoping our farm will become a perfect model demonstration site to the local community about crops that can survive in the arid climate of sagalla and have economic and nutritional values. We will also use our permaculture garden as a research field to come up with crops that are non-palatable to elephants. Through all of these things that we have learned, we hope to give a chorus to the win-win solution rhythm.
The work shop was very educational, with awesome trips, delicious meals, nice accommodation, good friends and YES!! Permaculture is the way forward for creating food security with the help of fellow gardeners, living systems and appreciation to the environment. The only reason for human wildlife conflict is because of greed. People are greedy doing things violently, chopping trees for land, violent farming, disrupting the soil, fighting against nature instead of working with nature, resulting to low yields and need for more land. The only solution is PERMACULTURE!!! Get your hands dirty!!!
Many thanks to Barefoot Solutions for such a productive, informative and inspiring week learning all things permaculture – we look forward to producing results in our own shamba at Kileva Eastfield School!
Strike impacting Margaret’s University Course
As many of you may already know, Margaret, our Operations Director in Kenya, is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Education course at the Pwani University in Kilifi (click HERE for more info).
However her studes have been somewhat interrupted by disputes between the teachers’ union and the Kenyan Government. Click HERE for an article highlighting the latest situation in this dispute
Below is a report written back in August by Elephants and Bees International Intern, Brianna Stoyle
Report written by International Intern, Brianna Stoyle
Every Friday, about 25 students from Kileva Primary School, which shares a plot of land with the Elephants and Bees Research Center, gather together for a weekly Farm Club. In April of this year, the permaculture garden at Kileva Primary School underwent an exciting renovation, featuring a new design, outdoor classroom, and new pilot crops, consistent with principles of Conservation Agriculture and permaculture. Finally, on July 21st, the Kileva Farm Club enjoyed some of the fruits of their labor!
The new crops in the Kileva garden were all selected for very specific reasons. Under the principles of Conservation Agriculture and permaculture, limited resources are used with the climate and soil composition of an area in mind to produce as much yield as possible, both efficiently and sustainably. In our area of Sagalla, we believe that by organically planting crops that have high nutritional benefits, are drought resistant, are unpalatable to elephants and attractive to bees, and by taking good care of these crops, both hunger and food insecurity can be addressed simultaneously. At the Kileva permaculture garden, the food grown goes toward boosting the nutrition of school lunches, which currently consist largely of maize and beans.
At Kileva, in order to produce an elephant-friendly, sustainable model of conservation agriculture, we aimed to plant crops that were unpalatable to elephants, palatable to bees, and had a high nutritional yield, while being appropriate for the soil type and arid climate. Among the crops selected were sukuma (kale), spinach, cowpeas, and sugar watermelons.
Watermelons were chosen in particular for their tolerance of both the high temperatures and constant sunshine in the area and the fairly acidic soil that dominates the Kileva garden. Their deep roots are useful in drawing moisture and nutrients up to crops with more shallow roots, and their large leaves act as a cover crop to protect the surrounding soil from direct sun and weed growth. Watermelons are also excellent bee fodder, attracting pollinators to the garden. In addition to all of this, watermelons are also high in numerous vitamins, including vitmin A, C, and B6, as well as finer, antioxidants, lycopene, and beta-carotene. With all of these benefits, it was a no-brainer for our garden!
At our weekly Farm Club session, students learn gardening techniques such as how to make compost, the benefits planting alternative, unpalatable and diversified crops, the nutritional benefits of these crops, and the importance of conservation agriculture as a practice. The students have participated in the planting, watering, weeding, and maintenance of their crops, and have enthusiastically taken real ownership over their garden. About three months after planting, nurtured with the love and care of the students as well as our dedicated garden caretakers, Jacinta and resident permaculture expert Paul, our watermelons were finally ready to harvest! Children gathered in the garden on a beautiful, sunny Friday to pick, slice, and share the fruit. While it was a modest haul, the refreshing treat was enjoyed by all!
All of us at the Kileva Farm Club look towards improving our practices further to produce more successful harvests that will suplement the nutrition of the students’ lunches while modeling a sustainable, organic, elephant-friendly, bee-friendly way of farming.