Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have pockets of food insecurity. These can appear and develop for many reasons. And in some cases, simple nature-based solutions can make a significant difference to people’s lives.
Vihiga County, western Kenya—one of the most densely populated of the country’s 47 counties with an average household farm size of 0.4 hectares—is characterized by a high rate of population growth and dwindling farm sizes, and a land that is increasingly becoming uneconomical for farming. Pressure on land has led to a decline in food production and an increase in poverty. As a result, people are now moving into Kakamega rainforest in search of land for farming and settlement, causing severe destruction to the forest ecosystem.
To tackle these problems, the county government of Vihiga, in February 2017, decided to prioritize the commercialization of African indigenous vegetables to boost farmers’ incomes. Some 2,500 farmers have been recruited, in an exercise started in June 2018 to increase production of these vegetables.
Initial challenges included lack of quality seeds and training in best agronomic practices for sustainable, quality production.
However, things have been looking up since early 2018 when the initiative attracted technical and financial support from a Global Environment Facility-funded project, Scaling up Sustainable Land Management and Agro-Biodiversity Conservation to Reduce Environmental Degradation in Small Scale Agriculture in Western Kenya. The project—implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and executed by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization—runs until July 2022 and aims to set small-scale agriculture on the path to much greater sustainability, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change describes sustainable land management as: “the stewardship and use of land resources, including soils, water, animals and plants, to meet changing human needs, while simultaneously ensuring the long-term productive potential of these resources and the maintenance of their environmental functions”.
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