New Fruits for Livelihoods project launches in Kenya
Thanks to funding from Guernsey Overseas Aid, in April ITF were able to launch an exciting new project with our long-term partners Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation (MKEC).
Based in Embu County, Fruits for Livelihoods is a one-year project which will provide support and training for farmers from vulnerable families to develop an enterprise raising and selling high-value grafted fruit trees. By creating a shared source of income and access to fast-maturing fruit and nut trees, Fruits for Livelihoods aims to improve the security and nutrition of 160 vulnerable families. This project will form a part of the 20 Million Trees for Kenya’s Forests campaign.
Communities in Embu County, on Mount Kenya, are geographically isolated and significantly dependent on farming and other direct land use. 44% of residents are employed in family agriculture, mostly on small land holdings of 2 acres or less. Access to land has a strong effect on vulnerability. Vulnerable families (defined by the project as those with less than 1 acre and either female led or with 6 or more dependents) are forced to balance the risks of low incomes, limited food, and fewer opportunities (for example, children spending less time in education as they are needed to help with tasks at home and on the farm).
“In Embu most of the household’s responsibilities are shouldered by women. Bearing in mind most of them have very scarce sources of income, their small pieces of land must be sustainably used to help them double their income,” says Isaiah Kinoti, a Forest Officer with MKEC. “Fruits for Livelihoods will develop a solid foundation for vulnerable families in terms of long term sources of income.”
Kenya’s climate is favourable for fruit farming, with different regions experiencing weather conditions suited to a variety of fruit types. “Both indigenous and exotic fruit tree species in agroforestry systems can bring significant health, environmental and economic benefits for smallholder farmers, especially in the face of climate change,” says Teresa Gitonga, manager of the Centenary Campaign.
By planting fruit and nut trees, farmers can improve the productivity of their land, but the most affordable seedlings are seed-grown (non-grafted), which are unreliable and can take 5-7 years to produce fruit. In contrast, quality grafted trees may fruit in 2-3 years time – but are more expensive to buy. Community-based self-help groups, with the help of MKEC, will establish four tree nurseries and train beneficiaries to graft their own trees which can be sold for a profit or planted to enhance their own farms. The project will focus on three crops (mango, avocado and macadamia nut) which have high nutritional value and sell for a good price locally. Macadamia nuts, for example, are a dense source of energy and protein and can sell for £1.60/kg to wholesalers. “We are also incorporating local fruit species,” says Isaiah.
ITF have been partnering with Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation (MKEC) since 2011. MKEC is a voluntary organisation working throughout Embu County towards forest restoration and sustainable livelihoods. They currently work with 20 self-help groups, mainly women’s groups, to produce seedlings for forest restoration and for use on farms.
The major aims of Fruits for Livelihoods are:
- Enable four self-help groups to establish enterprises, generating over £12,000 through sale of seedlings.
- Teach members of 160 vulnerable households the skills to produce quality grafted fruit and nut trees.
- Improve diversity and productivity of beneficiaries’ farmland through planting 4400 fruit and nut trees.
- 13200 seedlings to be bought and planted by over 1300 other farming households.
Beyond the life of the project, the income from the four nurseries will cover future running costs, while providing revolving loans to self-help group members to enable them to improve their living conditions. Trees planted on participants’ land will take 2-3 years to mature, when they will produce fruit and increase households’ income. Trees planted on other farms will benefit approximately 1,300 additional households.