Last year Nature Kenya, with funding from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK Aid), initiated a program that sought to improve livelihoods of six villages, namely - Wema, Hewani, Moa, Walkon, Onkolde and Ozi at the Tana River Delta by at least 30 per cent by March 2013. Crop farming was the main activity targeted in Wema and Hewani villages that are largely inhabited by the Pokomo community.
The main intervention strategy in the two villages was through agricultural training, and the establishment of the Farmers Field School (FFS) was one of the approaches that proved to be very successful. Many farmers have replicated skills learnt at the FFS. Some members Orma and Wardei communities, who are traditionally pastoralists, have even developed a keen interest in crop farming and are now actively engaged in cultivation.
Capital provided by UK Aid was used for purchase of agricultural inputs like certified seeds, land preparation among other things. The funds were also used to establish a community micro-financing facility, whereby farmers and pastoralists could borrow money from their respective co-operative societies.
Hewani villagers opted to grow rice while their Wema counterparts went for maize though some of them also managed to cultivate high value crops such as watermelon, green grams and spinach. Highly motivated by their neighbours’ achievements, the predominantly pastoralist Walkon village started supplying Wema and Hewani farmers with animal manure. Neighboring Orma villages of Bandi, Danisa and Onkolde followed suit and started engaging in irrigation farming, targeting fast growing and high yielding crops such as onions, tomatoes and watermelons.
The sale of manure has provided pastoralist community with an additional source of revenue as well as fostering good co-existence with their neighbours.
Today, Wema village alone has capacity to produce over 200 tonnes of maize and by September 2013 farmers had managed to harvest four tonnes of the crop. One tonne has already been sold to cater for household expenses such as paying of children school fees, medication among others.
In Hewani farmers are mainly growing rice for both subsistence and commercial. The 130 acres currently under cultivation have the capacity to produce about 200 tonnes of rice when harvested. However, unlike maize, rice requires to be milled and Nature Kenya is supporting farmers to purchase a rice-milling machine through a microfinance scheme managed by the Hewani Cooperative Society.
At the Danisa village farmers have harvested over five tonnes of tomatoes and 30 tonnes of watermelons, which were sold to major towns such as Malindi and Mombasa. The crops were grown through irrigation. Villagers have also set aside land for a Community Conserved Area (CCA), in addition to that earmarked for agricultural use and urban development. Hassan Yusuf Guyo, secretary of Danisa Small Scale Farmers Association, says the community decided to plan for their land after awareness created by the government and Nature Kenya on the ongoing Land Use Planning process.
In Bandi village, the community has harvested three tonnes of maize grown through recession flooding.
The Tana River Delta communities are happy with the increased harvests, and highly appreciate the Farmers Field School approach introduced to them by the Nature Kenya.
Farmers in Danisa have requested Nature Kenya to assist them establish a demonstration farm where good farming practices such as use of manure, tree nursery establishment and use of chemicals could be demonstrated for replication in other villages within Tana Delta.
Pastoralists in Walkon and Onkolde villages are being supported to construct two cattle dips. Women from the two villages are also being trained on value addition and marketing of milk products. Milk processing equipment has also been purchased and distributed to the pastoralist communities.
In Ozi focus is on promotion of eco-tourism and bee keeping. However, other additional villages - Hurara, Shirikisho, Kipao and Ziwani in Kipini have also benefited from the beehives bought under the UK Aid and Ecosystem Alliance projects.
In Moa village, two community fishponds have been rehabilitated. The community has also received liners, water pumps, fingerlings and fish feeds.