Restoring dryland ecosystems through agro ecological and permaculture best practices in Kenya

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Drylands Natural Resources Centre (DNRC) is a farmer cooperative which reaches over 3,000 people. The center mainly works on dryland ecosystem’s restoration through sustainable agricultural and agroforestry practices. Among its results are increased crop yields, improved soil and water resources, and income generation. DNRC also promotes social inclusion, local empowerment and community cohesion through training at DNRC’s demonstration farm.

No Poverty , Eradicate extreme poverty , Build resilience of vulnerable to climate disasters , Climate Action , Strengthen resilience, adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards , Improve learning, capacity on climate change measures , Build capacity for climate change planning, management , Life on Land , Conserve, restore, sustainably use terrestrial, freshwater ecosystems , Promote sustainable forest management, restoration, afforestation , Combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil , Reduce habitat degradation, halt biodiversity loss, extinction

Agricultural productivity has declined in many dryland areas in Kenya due to lighter, more erratic rainfall. This challenge forces farmers to over-exploit their farmland and harvest woodlands that historically stabilized regional soil and water features. Consequently, Kenya is suffering from increased soil’s erosion and depletion, and rivers draught. The result is a vicious cycle of environmental degradation and declining agricultural productivity. Moreover, dryland communities are often isolated, neglected, and poorly understood, with much of the burden falling on women and children.

DNRC delivers an ambitious program of long-term community engagement, in which families restore their land through the application of agricultural and agroforestry best practices. The main results are increased crop yields, soil and water resources improvement, and valuable tree products generation.

To be eligible for the program, farmers must have completed a training program, developed an agroforestry plan with DNRC, and prepared the land to receive saplings. DNRC sells surplus saplings to nearby communities, what helps to provide revenues for DNRC and contribute to regional reforestation. To date, DNRC has planted over 500,000 trees and paid 10 cents for each planted tree.

DNRC’s large-scale impact over the years is evident in the recent expansion of the Katende forest area, adjacent to Mbumbuni. This result was a consequence of decreased Illegal forest logging for timber and firewood, which was popular in the past. Thanks to DNRC’s operations, farmers have now access to woodlots for sustainable production of firewood to preserve forest resources.

DNRC has also shared its learnings with Komaza, a large and fast-growing forestry enterprise in Kenya. It also hosted visits to various research institutions, and worked to best utilize the valuable data DNRC has collected. Moreover, international organizations such as fastenopfer and Troicare Kenya have brought their partner organizations farmers to learn and benchmark their activities with DNRC successful story.

Progress to Date

DNRC is currently working with 600 households (about 3,600 people), organized into community thirteen groups—eleven of which are led by women. DNRC is also working with six schools, with an average of 300 students each, thus reaching a total of 1,800 students. Over the last ten years, the program has grown from 27 households to the current 600 households.

Key DNRC programs and projects include:

·       Tree Nursery: the nursery grew from 5,000 tree seedlings per year to the current 70,000 seedlings each year. So far we have disseminated over 800,000 tree seedlings to farmers and the surrounding six schools. The trees have then been planted in the community. The trees seedlings consist of over 30 different local trees species, which are planted in a food forest set up. The impact of this initiative is evident from the improved microclimates and firewood and green charcoal pruned from the older, more mature trees.

·       Member Training: DNRC staff have been training smallholder farmers and their families in dryland agroforestry and food forests as well as promoting community cohesion, empowerment, and shared learning through regular formal training at the DNRC demonstration farm, focus groups, farm visits and educational programs and open days. These 600 households meet weekly with local neighbors, and have bi-annual gatherings, where members meet, cook, eat, dance and share their experiences to strengthen the community fabric and bring the culture back through music and dances.

·       Rain Water Harvesting: DNRC has installed 90 water cisterns of 10,000 litre capacity in schools and households. They provide clean, secure, and continuously available drinking water to over 1,500 children and their parents. Cisterns are allocated by lottery from households in good standing with DNRC and installed using solidary groups so as to strengthen the sense of community.

·       Income Generation: DNRC employs a cooperative model to process and sell green charcoal and moringa products (a healthful tree-based food supplement) on behalf of its member farmers as a source of income. DNRC also trains its members in business development, including handmade baskets and carvings among the farmers.

·       Food Security: DNRC promotes agro-ecological food production with emphasis on indigenous, nutritious, and local foods.

·       Fostering Culture. DNRC has begun traditional Kamba (the local ethnic group) construction methods to build accommodations for visitors, interns, and volunteers. These spaces will also serve as a venue for recording traditional songs and folktales from the community, and to promote traditional foods, crafts, and lifestyles.

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Drylands Natural Resources Centre (DNRC)

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