Audio: Memories of rural Kenya in the 1930s–50s: My mum and I on national radio

Central Kenya landscape

Ever wondered how Africans managed in the olden days?

How did women deliver children at home? What did they feed their babies? And when people fell sick who brought them back to health and with what?

And then when the British colonialists came and tore apart the social structure in Central Kenya, what drove people to nonetheless take up the formal education they brought? (My parents’ families were among the early adopters.)

In May this year, my mum, author of a memoir titled “It’s Never Too Late”, and I were invited to The Books Café, a radio program hosted by Khainga O’Okwemba, on the national broadcaster KBC.

Though I kicked and screamed when Khainga suggested that I should join the program, it turned out OK, and I even enjoyed the chit chat…you have to think on your feet!

Here’s the audio. 1 hour long. And below it the promo clip too – 30 seconds.

 

Margaret Wakarindi Githinji – author of ‘It’s Never Too Late’, a memoir

 

Put Soils First, African Soil Seminar concludes

Group photo. The African Soil Seminar brought together government, UN and NGO officials, researchers, agricultural technology providers and human rights advocates. Photo by IISD

For three days, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) was abuzz with stakeholders concerned about the state and fate of Africa’s soils. Over 150 government, UN and NGO officials, researchers, agricultural technology providers and human rights advocates were attending the first ever African Soils Seminar, 28 – 30 November 2016.

“Soils are the basis of our survival,” said the co-chair Wanjira Mathai, who directs wPOWER Hub and chairs the Green Belt Movement founded by her mother Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai. Read more. . .

In Kenya, farmers see early rewards from adding legumes and trees to their farms

Jane Achieng displays bean varieties at Piny Oyie market at the Suna West site, Kenya. Photo by Danyell Odhiambo/ICRAF
Jane Achieng displays bean varieties at Piny Oyie market at the Suna West site, Kenya. Photo by Danyell Odhiambo/ICRAF

Less than a year after supplying farmers with legume seeds and fertilizer tree seedlings, the Legume CHOICE project team caught up with farmers and traders in Kisii and Migori counties of Kenya. The farmers were already enjoying the benefits and were keen to scale up.

Legume crops like beans and peas (known collectively as pulses when dry) are a versatile and affordable source of protein and other important nutrients. A mainstay of vegetarian diets, legumes play a critical role in meeting the protein needs of people who cannot access animal proteins such as meat and eggs. Read more. . .

While raising crop yields, African thorn tree Faidherbia albida captures large amounts of carbon

A large, old Faidherbia albida tree with a metre-plus diameter stored the equivalent of the CO2 emitted by 8 cars over one year. These useful trees play an important role in carbon sequestration, a critical part of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.

People in many areas of Africa gain numerous benefits from the leaves, branches and trunks of the dryland thorn tree Faidherbia albida. Read more. . .

For more and better-quality food production, take care of pollinators

The evidence is clear: For big gains in crop production, our landscapes must become more hospitable to some of the planet’s littlest creatures— its pollinators.

bee-coffee
Coffee pollination by carpenter bee (Xylocopa sp.). Photo by Dino Martins

Bees, birds, butterflies, moths and some small mammals transfer pollen from flower to flower, causing fruit to set. This environmental service of pollinators is what secures the harvest of a huge proportion of the world’s food production.

At an invited talk at the Nairobi headquarters of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) on 8 January 2016, Kenyan naturalist and entomologist Dino Martins, the Executive Director of the Mpala Research Centre and Chair of the Insect Committee of Nature Kenya, delved into the intimate links between the world’s food security and pollination. Read more. ..

Immense benefits from agroforestry in rural Cameroon

Yaounde — Commercial agriculture has received a major boost and the impact of climate change minimised in Cameroon thanks to the adoption of agroforestry techniques by thousands of farmers.

Seedlings of traditionally important food trees in Louis-Marie Atangana’s home nursery in Nkenlikok, Cameroon. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF
Seedlings of traditionally important food trees in Louis-Marie Atangana’s home nursery in Nkenlikok, Cameroon. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

The World Agroforestry Centre introduced agroforestry methods to rural farmers in the central African country some 20 years ago.

Also known as agro-sylviculture, it a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland. These techniques aim to ensure smallholder households increase their use of trees in agricultural landscapes to improve food security, nutrition, income, health, shelter, social cohesion, energy resources and environmental sustainability. Read more. .

With trees on farms, climate-change mitigation is a co-benefit of broader socioeconomic gains

In a ‘Letter to the Editor’ published in the Guardian Development Blog, Professor Roger Leakey urges a closer look at agroforestry’s potential as a pathway for both mitigating climate change and fighting hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Part of ICRAF's tree domestication and experimentation nursery in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF
Part of ICRAF’s tree domestication and experimentation nursery in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

Leakey, who serves as the vice-chair of the International Tree Foundation, outlines a three-step action plan that involves:

  1. Using simple biological approaches to rehabilitate degraded farm land and improve crop yields;
  2. Planting local, highly favoured, traditionally important food trees to reduce hunger and malnutrition; and
  3. Setting up new cottage industries to process and add value to these products, creating business and job opportunities to further improve household livelihoods. Read more. . .

“It’s time to stop talking and start acting” : Agroecological farming for people and the planet

Back in 2009, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) issued a clarion call for a deep reform of agriculture globally.

“Business as usual is not an option,” the comprehensive, evidence-based global series titled Agriculture at Crossroads, stated boldly.

The IAASTD report urged, among other things, for global agriculture to respect the agroecological principles that had served farmers and nature well since the dawn of farming; practices such as organic farming and agroforestry which supply the nutritional needs of people without harming the natural resource base on which all life depends. Read  more. . .

Why food waste is a concern for tropical forest conservation

Does wasting food lead to the loss of tropical forests?

Sacred wood in Cote d'Ivoire. Photo by Emilie Smith/ICRAF
Sacred wood in Cote d’Ivoire. Photo by Emilie Smith/ICRAF

Though not obvious at first glance, researchers say clear links exist between food loss and wastage, and deforestation. This is because clearing intact forests to produce both commodity crops and subsistence crops is one of the main factors (or drivers) that lead to their depletion, particularly in the tropics and subtropics.

“If food waste is not abated, then the land required to produce food is going to increase, especially in view of a sharply increasing global population,” warned Lalisa Duguma, scientist, Sustainable Landscapes and Integrated Climate Actions, at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins. Lalisa was presenting at a well attended side event of the XIV World Forestry Congress, Durban, 7-11 September 2015. Read more. . .