This International Women’s Day we wanted to highlight the work of some of the fantastic women involved in our Centenary Campaign, 20 Million Trees for Kenya’s Forests. Women who are transforming landscapes in Kenya, including Agata Wanjovi. The image above was created by Omar Diop and was displayed as part of the Gaia Foundation’s ‘We Feed the World’ exhibition in London.
Agata is a farmer and mother of three from Kathangariri in Kenya. She has a farm of just over 1 acre, here she grows many crops including cabbages, passion fruit, tree tomatoes and coffee. She also keeps animals such as goats and cows for dairy, as well as poultry. She grows several species of tree on her land including Calliandra calothysus, which she uses to feed her livestock.
Agata is part of a women’s group engaged in ITF’s ‘20 Million Trees for Kenya’s Forests’ campaign, which aims to restore degraded parts of Kenya’s highland forests. Since being a part of this project Agata and other women like her in the area have come together to adapt their farming systems to benefit themselves and their environment, as well as to form tree nursery self-help groups, in which they raise indigenous seedlings.
She has shared with us the effects of mass deforestation in her area and the problems local farming communities are now facing as a result of it. She also tells us how agroforestry is now helping her to combat these problems.
Agata has known farming all her life and she has been involved in it for over 40 years, since she started helping her parents on their farm as a child.
Agata’s family were tea and coffee farmers, Agata learnt farming techniques through her family, and she told us that when her parents were farming there were huge harvests of food crops. Since then droughts have become more common, weather patterns have become increasingly unpredictable and soil fertility has declined.
‘In the current situation sometimes there is no harvest at all and we rely on the purchase of food, the little income you get, you have to budget food and education of the children.’
Even with the growing challenges and high costs Agata still sees the benefits of farming. She and her family get good returns from horticulture, fruit farming and milk sales, sometimes she is able to sell 10 litres of milk a day, making 900 Kenyan shillings.
‘I am proud of being a farmer and I love doing it.’
Agata also told us about the benefits of tree planting on her farm. In the early 1970s most of the land in the area was covered by trees, but since then it has been almost completely cleared for farming, as well as illegal activities such as charcoal burning and timber harvesting. The environmental consequences have affected yields and people’s livelihoods. Agata has started to plant beneficial trees on her farm to help with these problems.
‘Agro forestry is beneficial to us in many ways. Since the land is located in steep slopes, I have planted Grevillea together with trees that provide animal fodder (Calliandra for cows) on the contours so I don’t experience issues with soil erosion. I collect the green fallen leaves from trees in my farm to make green manure rather than relying on fertilizer. Calliandra calothyrusus trees provide fodder to my cows too.’
Our centenary campaign ‘20 Million Trees for Kenya’s Forests’ was established in 2016 and aims to plant 20 million trees in and around Kenya’s highland forests and improve the livelihoods of farmers like Agata. Find out more about this project and donate here.