The Mama Ada Foundation operates a simple farm program. Quite basically, the Mama Ada Advisory Council in Kenya oversees local committees that name farmers to receive seeds and fertilizer. These farmers, often mothers and grandmothers raising children alone, are given assistance to plant their small fields to grow food to feed their families. You might recall Esther, pictured here. We have told you of her gratitude for being able to harvest a crop and feed her grandchildren.
However, Esther and these other farmers near Mama Ada’s farm continue to struggle despite this gift of seeds. Some farmers have not been able to achieve a yield that provides food for the full year. Observers have noted that the soil is becoming depleted in the area. Many farmers are not rotating crops and their equipment is old and primitive. Weather conditions have become increasingly unpredictable for farmers who are heavily dependent on rain-fed crops.
For some time, our organization has had the long-term goal to design a more comprehensive and sustainable model of agriculture with our partners in Kenya. Now, we express enormous appreciation to our friends at Syngenta for bringing us much closer to this goal. As the recipient of the Good Growth Plan Contest grand prize, we have the opportunity to design and bring a team of agriculture experts to Mama Ada and her farm neighbors.
These experts will walk the fields and meet with farmers and the Mama Ada Advisory Council. In the process, they will identify the constraints, challenges and risks as perceived by the farmers and as observed in the field by their interdisciplinary team of experienced rural and agricultural development specialists. The identified constraints may be agronomic and technical but also economic-financial, social-cultural and environmental.
At the end of this two-week time together, Mama Ada, the farmers and the Mama Ada Advisory Council, along with the agriculture experts, will sit down together. They will discuss specific recommendations for alleviating or removing significant yield-reducing constraints. Examples might include ways to control maize (corn) disease; to raise soil fertility in feasible and sustainable ways; to reduce damage caused by insects; and to provide irrigation to the area, or other ways to provide optimal water to the crops.
“ For some time, our organization has had the long-term goal to design a more comprehensive and sustainable model of agriculture with our partners in Kenya.” - Julie Keller
There are two members who have already joined this developing agriculture team (anticipated to be a total of five members). Steve Clarke will be the team lead. He is an independent consultant who has worked for entities such as the University of Minnesota, Millenium Challenge Corporation and Land O’ Lakes; in short, we are humbled by his commitment to design this team and “to make it happen.” Steve has also recruited Lewis Kamiri to join the team. Lewis was born in Kenya and raised on a farm near Nairobi, where he spent his childhood. He then received his upper education in the United States where he has since based his career in agriculture. Lewis is now an independent consultant and has participated in projects in Africa, so brings a wealth of knowledge to the team.
Steve and Lewis have designed a village questionnaire that is currently being completed by several local committees in Kenya, including Mama Ada’s community of Ziwa. As well, they are working to recruit three additional members, who will likely be from Kenya, or at least Africa. Over the next several months, we will be telling you more about this new team and our upcoming trip, anticipated to be during the upcoming summer.
Through this grant, Syngenta has given hope to many people in Kenya by saying “yes” to our dream of working with partners to create greater food security – certainly a most basic human need and right. And so, we say asante sana (or thank you!).- Julie Keller