The SMART Initiative

Project Location: Kinyoro, Kenya

The SMART Initiative

Technology continues to advance with an ever increasing pace and the SMART initiative aims to extend these advancements into agroforestry and agriculture.

SMART stands for Sustainable Mobilisation of Agricultural Resource Technologies and is the name of an organisation working with the local communities of Kinyoro close to Mount Elgon in Kenya to empower local farmers through agroforestry, training in soil and water conservation and grazing management. According to the Ugandan Wildlife Authority, Mount Elgon is the ‘oldest and largest solitary volcanic mountain in East Africa.’ Reaching 4,000km², this once reigned as Africa’s highest mountain before erosion reduced its height, but Elgon still has the largest volcanic base in the world with a diameter of more than 80km. Though now extinct, the volcano first erupted 24 million years ago.

Economically and Environmentally Beneficial

SMART uses agro-ecological principles to increase crop production through crop rotation and tree planting. This approach to farming focuses on the needs of the small holder farmers and individual rural communities rather than farming with chemicals and artificial fertiliser which may be environmentally and economically unsuitable.

Utilising farming techniques in line with natural resource management, SMART are implementing soil conservation measures such as digging ditches to prevent erosion, a significant problem on slopes, as well as mulching to protect surface against heavy rain and half-moon holes which stores water in the soil to alleviate drought in dry months. Farmers will also be trained on the disadvantages of burning plant residues and the advantages of composting, removing weeds to prevent fire spreading with the additional creation of firebreaks to protect trees in case of an accidental fire outbreak.

As well as providing low-cost technology, SMART endeavour to make communities self-sufficient by generating income through collectively selling surplus products and by training people in the establishment of seed nurseries and tree planting.

ITF and Partner Involvement

Funded by ITF and partners ANEVAY, a total of 30,000 trees will be planted during the long rains expected in April and May and stored and harvested ready for the dry season. Trees such as Cordia Africana and Prunus Africana will be planted to reforest the area as they thrive during long rains in organically fertilised soil, andCajanis Cajan and Sesbania Sesban which are fast growing and great for providing cover quickly, while Elgon Teak and Croton Macrostachus will be planted to provide a sustainable timber supply, and Avocado and Guava planted for their production of fruit to improve family nutrition.

Through education and training, the Kinyoro communities will protect the Mount Elgon ecosystem for the future, as Jackson Wafula Namianya of SMART explains; ‘this project seeks to address the problems of poverty at the household level, food insecurity, biodiversity loss, climate change and poor management of natural resources by the community.’ Adopting agroforestry techniques will increase forest cover of Mount Elgon, restoring the ecosystem and provide long-term, sustainable natural resources for the local communities reliant on the land for their living.

Tree Profile: The Elgon teak or olive (Olea capensis)

The Elgon teak or olive is a large olive tree with a light crown which makes it an appropriate in agroforestry as it does not interfere with growing crops.The Elgon teak’s wood is also great for timber as it is durable, strong and termite-resistant. 2000 of these trees will be planted as part of the SMART project. It is an important tree as it is not found in many places, mostly limited to Mount Elgon, Kakamega and Nandi and grows well in wet soils.

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