FMNR is transforming mindsets and lives in Kenya
July 22, 2022
By Hellen Owuor, Communications Officer, World Vision Kenya
What was once highly degraded land with deep gullies, as Joyce Wanyama describes it, is now a beautiful green parcel of land filled with crops, trees and pasture. Joyce comes from Keiyo South, Elgeyo Marakwet County in Kenya, a county where livelihoods often fall threat to climate variations that lead to drought, floods or landslides.
At a glance, you can’t miss spotting her ever tender grin. She is a hardworking and innovative farmer who doesn’t fear getting her hands dirty.
Joyce harvesting forage for her livestock. Ⓒ World Vision Photo/Hellen Owuor.
“I have a passion for farming. So when my family relocated here, I cleared all the vegetation including trees from our farmland with the hope of growing crops which didn’t do well at the time. Now I know that I damaged the land instead,” Joyce regrettably says.
This is where Joyce’s life also took a turn for the better. Due to the destruction caused on her land, she was selected to be among other lead farmers who would implement the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) approach on their farmlands.
“During a community baraza in 2017, the chief nominated me because he felt that it was high time I learnt about conserving the environment. Indeed, it was a blessing to get this opportunity,” Joyce recalls.
World Vision through the Central Rift Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration Scale-Up Project (CRIFSUP) trained selected lead farmers on FMNR, a low-cost approach of restoring tree cover that has proved to improve the lives of vulnerable communities socially, economically and environmentally. A population of over 33,000 (men, women and children) were reached in Kenya across the counties of Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nakuru by the end of Phase I of the CRIFSUP project in 2021.
After the FMNR trainings, Joyce taught her husband on the same and requested for a piece of land to practice the approach.
Joyce prunes a tree on her farmland. She uses the pruned branches as firewood. Ⓒ World Vision Photo/Hellen Owuor.
“At first, my husband was reluctant and sarcastically asked whether we would survive on eating trees. However, after taking time to understand the benefits FMNR could have, even his mindset changed and that’s why we are here today,” she adds.
Now Joyce enjoys the fruits of the tree-filled farm that was once barren land. She seldom buys vegetables or cereals from the market because she says their farm produces all they may need. The farm partitions contain crops such as groundnuts, beans, pigeon peas, cassava, traditional vegetables and sorghum just to mention a few. To ensure her family gets a balanced diet, she also grows fruit trees such as mangoes, pawpaws and oranges.
Joyce, her husband, Edward and their granddaughter, Blessing under the shade of a mango tree. Blessing loves eating mangoes. Ⓒ World Vision Photo/Hellen Owuor.
The excitement that fills her face when she talks about the transformation witnessed in their homestead is heartwarming.
“We were taught how to prune trees and manage indigenous trees to encourage natural regeneration. Thanks to these trees, the soil is more fertile therefore we have healthy crops and increased yields. We produce enough for our consumption and for sale,” Joyce mentions.
Joyce grows a variety of crops ranging from pigeon peas, beans, sorghum, bananas and groundnuts. Ⓒ World Vision Photo/Hellen Owuor.
The family also acknowledges how strong winds that used to destroy house roofs are now a thing of the past thanks to trees that act as wind breakers. Apart from providing shade, these indigenous acacia trees are also a source of food for their livestock.
A goat feeding on the leaves of an Acacia tree at Joyce’s homstead. The Acacia tree provides shade, food and medicine for livestock. Ⓒ World Vision Photo/Hellen Owuor.
In 2022, Elgeyo Marakwet County as some other counties in Kenya experienced a long period of unexpected drought that led to food shortage and death of livestock. At this time Joyce was better prepared to handle the effects of the drought compared to some of her neighbors who had not practiced FMNR.
“For over 4 months, we didn’t see a drop of rain. It was a struggle for many. However, it was a different story in our homestead as we were cushioned thanks to FMNR. I had dried and stored the surplus fodder for my livestock in preparation for such times. Also, since World Vision taught us about planting drought resistant crops, at least my family had something to eat,” Joyce says.
Joyce and Edward preparing hay for storage in the company of Festus Chirchir, the CRIFSUP Project Manager. Ⓒ World Vision Photo/Hellen Owuor.
“It’s been 6 years now since I began practicing FMNR and for a fact, our lives have been transformed as a result of the practice. We are now aware of the important role trees play in our lives. We have constant supply of food and pasture. Our livestock are healthier. There’s firewood. We get to eat a balanced diet thus less hospital visits,” Joyce states.
According to Joyce, implementing FMNR on their farmland together with her husband has improved their relationship. She says that they share ideas, work together in the farm and make decisions that benefit their farmland. When their children visit, they enjoy family moments, seated on grass under the shade as they relish the fresh air and beauty of what their homestead has come to be thanks to FMNR.
Joyce and Edward enjoy working together in the farm. This has improved their relationship as a couple. Ⓒ World Vision Photo/Hellen Owuor.
This is one story among many others of farmers who have implemented and benefitted from FMNR in an area largely affected by drought, floods and landslides. The approach has proved to be among the ways of reducing the impact of climate change. Through FMNR we can reverse land degradation, increase tree cover, improve soil fertility thereby increasing crop yields that will provide food security for families in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands in Kenya.