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Cultivating Change: How the REALMS Project is Reshaping Farming Practices in Kenya

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Cultivating Change: How the REALMS Project is Reshaping Farming Practices in Kenya
Extract of Gluk’s Technical Research Report presented during the Two-day Policy Brief Workshop in Kisumu

Kenya’s agricultural sector, often regarded as the backbone of the nation’s economy, has
witnessed significant challenges over the years. With over 40% of the population employed in
this sector and a staggering 70% in rural areas, the importance of agriculture cannot be
overstated. The Constitution of Kenya, recognizing the fundamental right to food, places a clear
mandate on prioritizing food safety, security, and nutrition. However, the performance of the
sector, and by extension, the entire economy, is intricately tied to the health of our soils.

In alignment with the pivotal role of soil health in sustaining agriculture, The Netherlands
Development Organization – SNV collaborated with Society of Crop Agribusiness Advisors of
Kenya (SOCAA) and Great Lakes University of Kisumu under the Regenerative Agricultural
Practices for Improved Livelihoods and Markets (REALMS) project. This initiative, supported
by the IKEA Foundation, aims to enhance the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in western
Kenya and Rwanda by promoting the adoption of Regenerative Agricultural practices. These
practices include the application of home-made compost, animal manure, and biological pest
control. Focused on the western part of Kenya, the research initiative sought to assess and
address soil productivity levels—a critical factor in ensuring food security.

The culmination of this technical research was a two-day workshop, aptly named the Policy
Brief Write-up Workshop. The workshop’s primary objective was to disseminate the findings of
the research to all stakeholders and guide them through the process of developing policies based
on these insights.

The workshop revealed alarming trends in soil degradation, which has led to reduced crop
productivity and biodiversity, forcing heavy reliance on chemical inputs with detrimental effects
on human health. It underscored the importance of adopting sustainable farming practices,
emphasizing the use of organic fertilizers over synthetic ones.

The central theme of the workshop was to craft a policy brief that fosters an environment
conducive to the regeneration of depleted soils, promoting soil biodiversity and ensuring
sustainable agriculture. The proposed policy aims to encourage Regenerative Agriculture (RA)
practices among farming communities in target counties, integrate RA technologies into
mainstream government programs, and provide support for small and medium enterprises
engaged in RA through strategic recommendations on tax breaks and business incentives.

Prof. Rewe Thomas DVC, Gluk guiding the Team during the Workshop

Prof. Rewe Thomas, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Great Lakes University of Kisumu,
highlighted the far-reaching benefits of the policy draft. Targeted counties, including Nakuru,
Kericho, Bungoma, Kakamega, and Uasin Gishu, stand to gain significantly. The policy is
anticipated to facilitate budget allocation for RA training, enhance infrastructure for soil
regeneration, build capacity among extension service staff, improve access to RA technologies
for farmers, and contribute to the long-term restoration of soil health.

Scheduled for rollout in December 2023, with evaluation set for January 2024, the policy offers
hope to Kenyan farmers, directly impacting those dependent on agriculture. The research team
recommends the inclusion of RA technologies, particularly bio-fertilizers, in government
distribution programs, potentially facing resistance from chemical fertilizer and pesticide
companies vested in intensive agricultural systems.

As the team persists against potential opposition, the envisioned policy holds the promise of
revitalizing Kenyan soils. It aligns with the nation’s Vision 2030 and Sustainable Development
Goals, reaffirming agriculture’s role as a key economic and social driver. The journey toward
sustainable agriculture in Kenya is gaining momentum, driven by the commitment to secure a
healthier future for our soils and communities.

Gluk and Socaa fraternity pose for a photo after the workshop


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