New climate-smart farming techniques yield instant results in hunger-affected areas

The drought in the Horn of African region has been compounded by climate change, conflict, rising food prices and the COVID-19 pandemic. /CFP Photo
by Peninah Karibe
A vegetable farm in Kenya’s Kilifi County. /CGTN Africa-Peninah Karibe
The Horn of Africa is reeling under drought that has seen farmers lose their livestock and millions of people now affected by hunger. Kenya’s Kilifi County is among the areas hardest hit by drought in the country. Families are struggling to get food, and some people are forced to subsist solely on herbs to survive. However, in the midst of this, a group of farmers there has embarked on a project that’s transforming their lives.
Kavunzoni Village in Kenya’s Kilifi County is in the throes of hunger. The effects of the current drought are evident in every homestead. Bahati Kengacharo steadily stirs her cooking pot. It’s lunchtime, but she’s not preparing any meals for her family. She’s boiling salted water to clean the wound of her injured son. The mother of nine says putting a meal on the table for her family has become a daily struggle.

“I don’t know what we shall eat for dinner. We have already missed lunch. The children came home from school but found nothing to eat. So, they went back hungry. If by evening I’ll have found food then they will eat, or if their father finds food, then we shall have dinner,” Kengacharo says.

In the next house, her neighbour is busy grinding what looks like cassava. But it’s not. It’s the root of a tree that villagers here boil and drink the soup to quell their hunger pangs. The local volunteer health worker says it has no nutritional value and only makes them sick.
“They dig up those roots, boil them and drink its water but it’s not good because after that they get stomach upsets and start to experience diarrhea,” Joseph Gonya, a volunteer health worker said.
For the villagers though, it’s the only choice they have for now if they’re to avoid starving. Most of them have already lost their livestock to the unrelenting drought.
The main economic activity in this village is agriculture, but the villagers say it hasn’t rained for the past two years. Most of the water sources in the area have dried up and with them, so have the livelihoods of the people who live there.  They’ve now been forced to look for other revenue streams to keep going.
Many people here including Bahati and her neighbour burn charcoal to earn a living.
“The only thing there is to do is charcoal burning. We cut down the trees for charcoal. Now there are no more trees left,” Bahati says.
They sell a bag of charcoal for less than three U.S. dollars. That’s barely enough to meet their daily needs. Bahati though has to keep doing this to fend for her family.

However, not all of Kilifi County is reeling from drought. In an area named, Marafa, there are thriving farms as far as the eye can see.  They’re an oasis of hope at a time of desperation and want in Kilifi.

The farmers at one particular location were trained by the aid agency, World Vision, in collaboration with the Kilifi County government on climate-smart agriculture. The aid agency then dug up a borehole and installed a solar-powered pump, ensuring these farmers have crops throughout the year. Their crops are farmed organically. The project is only 6 months old, but it’s already transforming lives.
“One of the members had a malnourished child. When she took the baby to the hospital, the doctor said he needed a balanced diet,” Janet Tichanzera, a farmer in Marafa says. “At the time, the child was only getting cornmeal, but since this project started, the mother got an opportunity to provide the balanced diet that the child needed and now the baby is fine.”
“Our vision is to see farmers get self-sufficient so that families can be food secure and also be able to educate their children”, says Japheth Konde, Agricultural Officer in Kilifi County.
These farmers have demonstrated an example of the rich potential that this drought-stricken county has to become food secure. This is an example of how one, rightly targeted investment in a community can support many lives.