Food security as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.
SASOL strategically positions herself to support SDG Goal 2 which aim to end all forms of hunger by 2030 in the communities we work with in the arid and semi-arid areas by making sure all people especially children – have sufficient and nutritious food all year through promotion of sustainable agriculture.
The key strategies SASOL utilizes for food security are;
- Promotion of Climate Smart Agriculture like conservation Agriculture (CA) and drought tolerant crops for increased productivity and diversification.
- Diversification of livelihoods and market linkages for income generation to enhance access to food commodities.
- Food aid and cash transfers during emergency periods.
The key Climate Smart Agriculture technologies that SASOL promotes are;
Conservation Agriculture (CA) entails 3 principles of minimum soil disturbance, soil cover and crop rotation/association. CA helps to restore the soil, conserve moisture, increase soil fertility, and improve soil health. SASOL has been promoting Conservation Agriculture since 2014.In the 2016 – 2020 project enhancing food security through scaling up conservation agriculture and drought tolerant crops in Kitui County our experience was 30-40 percent increase in food production was reported. In the worst seasons, CA farmers were better of and more resilient than their neighbors practicing conventional farming.
No till, ripping, permanent planting holes/zai pits are the mainly adopted minimum soil disturbance practices in Kitui County. The common cover crops utilized are dolicos lab lab. The main drought tolerant crops promoted are; Green grams, sorghum, millet, pigeon peas and cow peas.
2. Kitchen Gardens
A kitchen garden is a small plot of land in which vegetables (i.e. kale, onions, and tomatoes) are grown for household consumption. This is meant to make use of kitchen waste water which is sieved to remove left over food and involves small irrigation practices by use of water cans or buckets. SASOL advocates for kitchen gardens because it lowers the cost of purchasing vegetables from the market and helps foster a sense of responsibility and achievement in providing fresh vegetables for the family meals.
Most food security projects in the ASAL region focus on increased productivity while ignoring the nutritional aspect. Households may have adequate quantity of food but with compromised quality. A balanced diet is not guaranteed at every meal consumed. Mostly, the meal is carbohydrate based and lack essential vitamins and proteins. Due to the semi-arid nature of the region and unfavorable climatic conditions, vegetables are expensive and majorly imported from neighboring high potential areas. While vegetables may be available readily in the market, poor communities lack capacity to access them regularly as required.
In order to bridge this gap, kitchen gardens play a critical role in providing a steady household vegetable supply. The main vegetables grown are; Amaranths, onions, tomatoes, kales and spinach. In response to Covid-19 effects, SASOL implemented a 6 months kitchen garden project supported by CFGB/MCC. SASOL was able to reach 1,803 households with kitchen gardens growing diversified vegetables. This enabled the farmers to improve on their balanced diet and boost their immunity. It was recorded that farmers were saving ksh.100 to 200 per day which would have gone to purchase of vegetables from the market. The saved money went into buying other essential food commodities and household items like cooking oil and salt.
The designs that SASOL promotes are;
i) Tire gardens – Using a used tire which would otherwise have been thrown. Cut the top of the tire and leave the lower part. Then line the base of the tire with a plastic paper to help hold the soil and water. Fill up the tire with a mixture of soil and manure at the ratio of 1:1 then plant your vegetables. Tire gardens can hold up to 50 plants of vegetables depending on the size of the tire.
ii) Sack garden – It is a vertical garden made from common food storage gunny bags filled with soil and manure in the ratio of 1:1. Vegetables are grown on holes made on the sides of the bag and on the top thus making it a storey garden. A sack garden can hold 50 – 100 plants of vegetables depending on the type and variety.
iii) Other designs include; Shade net gardens, used buckets, bottles and jerricans,
3.VSLA and Table banking
A village saving and loan association (VSLA) is a group of people who meet regularly to save together and take small loans from those savings. The activities of the group run in cycles of one year after which the accumulated savings and loan savings are distributed back to the members. The purpose of a VSLA is to provide simple savings and loan facilities in a community that does nit have easy access to formal financial services.
For every water security and food security project, SASOL uses an integrated approach which involves direct service provision, skills development and VSLA component. The VSLA component is a supplementally support service for enabling local communities meet immediate basic financial needs like, purchase of inputs and seeds, medical care, and educational materials. The communities that we target are the poor and vulnerable who have no collateral or linkage to commercial financial institutions. The VSLA and table banking are acceptable group regulated initiatives that mainly depend on communal and ethical values. Currently SASOL is working with 50 VSLA groups whose operating capital range from ksh.20,000 to 200,000. These groups are mainly composed of 20-50 members with 75% being women. With Covid-19 pandemic, VSLAs have become a critical household coping mechanism for survival. Covid-19 has contributed to loss of economic opportunities and with the guidelines on limited movement, household finances have been constrained thus increasing the vulnerability of the effects of the pandemic. The modal doesn’t require collateral as security for the loan but the group use communal and ethical control systems to mitigate against default.
4. Farmer associations and market linkages
The agricultural sector is the backbone of the Kenyan economy contributing approximately 33% of the gross domestic product (GDP)
The agriculture sector plays a vital role in the rural economy of the arid and semi-arid regions in Kenya and employs more than 70% of the rural population. However, according to KIHBS, poverty rates are markedly higher in rural areas at 40% with close to 80% in the arid and semi-arid regions, Kitui County included. Therefore, it’s evident that even though agriculture is the mainstay in the rural areas, the same areas are worst hit by poverty.
It is a commitment by SASOL to strengthen and improve the performance of small-scale farmers and enable the engagement of the poorest and most vulnerable in this process as a condition for achieving growth and recovery. Rural agriculture is conducted in an haphazard, disorganized and isolated manner without proper coordination thus exposing each individual farmer to more vulnerabilities. It is a commitment of SASOL to organize farmers into associations either as self help groups, co-operatives and commodity organizations in order to provide extension, input, marketing and educational services.
Organized farmers get empowered and take charge of their growth and development. For SASOL empowering farmers is an act of helping communities to build, develop, and increase their power through cooperation, sharing and working together. The power in empowerment comes from releasing the latent energy hidden in community and building collective actions for the common good. SASOL assists the farmers to understand and develop the structures, by- laws, rules and roles which will help them to plan, implement and monitor their performance. They also learn skills in conflict resolution, negotiation and persuasive communication. SASOL currently works with 50 farmer associations at different stages of development with formal and informal status.
The key benefits that the groups have accrued are;
- Training on; Group formation and dynamics, good agronomic practices, and value chain development
- Farmer field schools and on-farm extension services.
- Aggregation and linkage to markets.
- Linkage to input suppliers, non-state actors and government agencies.
- Value addition and linkage to markets.
Most of the small-scale farmers produce for subsistence but occasionally sell out of depressing needs or the surplus. SASOL has been assisting the farmers to shift from mere subsistence agriculture to farming as a business thus the promotion of the farmer cooperative model. In the cooperative model, farmers are taken through the following;
- Pre-cooperative training
- Constitution and by-laws drafting
- Business plans development
- Gross margins computation
- Aggregation and storage
- Value addition
- Linkage to markets
The most successful value chains that 50-farmer groups have been able to benefit from are; green grams, sorghum and improved indigenous chicken.
SASOL’s Conservation Agriculture Pilot Project
Pilot Project Dates: May 5, 2014- May 2015
Potential 3-year Program Dates: June 2015- May 2018
Conservation agriculture is being promoted for its resource saving capacity including maintaining soil fertility, erosion control, reducing desertification and efficient use of scarce water resources; all of which are struggles that Kitui County faces. The ultimate goal for the project is to improve food security for the first 50 farmers in Mbitini/Kisasi ward.read more