Addressing the issues of climate change, indigenous knowledge and seed diversity
The aim of this project is to strengthen indigenous climate change strategies with an emphasis on enhancing seed diversity in the Kenyan areas of Lari, an intensive farming area in Central Province and Yatta, a drier farming area in Eastern Province.
Activities of the project included intergenerational dialogues on climate change and adaptive strategies based on indigenous knowledge and associated eco-spiritual features such as sacred sites. It supports community-based research on local seeds and identifies where seeds occur and develops strategy for their access and re-introduction. The project enhances traditional agro-ecological farming practices and documents methodology for publication and sharing as a coping mechanism for climate change.
Elders’ dialogue sessions were conducted in Lari, Masinga and Yatta, and brought together a total of 575 male elders. The dialogues were centred on the role of local governance and elders in guiding communities in how to create resilience against climate change using indigenous knowledge of their territory and also how to develop themselves using local resources.
The elders linked the prevailing climate challenges to cultural changes that have occurred over time, specifically the loss of spiritual dimension to livelihoods. Now they have brought back traditional rituals and are protecting 10 local forests and sacred sites.
In Lari, the elders agreed to revive and strengthen the local institution of elder-hood (Council of Elders) to guide themselves on the traditional responsibilities of men so as to be better stewards of their households. A key outcome of the dialogues was the rediscovery of the role of elders in ensuring household food security. In a span of one year, these elders have planted various indigenous crops on their farms and some have started harvesting. Testimony by wives of the elders involved in the process confirmed this.
ICE has been working with two groups of physically disabled persons. ICE conducted training for these groups on how to access seeds from various sources, how to manage their tree nurseries and how to nurture seedlings after planting on the farms. A total of 119 people were trained in these skills. During the project period, the groups raised 21,427 tree seedlings out of which 10,643 were indigenous species. The trees were planted on farms and compounds of public institutions including schools and churches.
ICE is also involving women in activities to address the climate challenge. During this project period, ICE conducted 4 meetings for women to discuss the relationship between climate change, loss of local seeds and the knowledge-base of women about climate issues and seeds. Through this process, a total of 15 species of vegetables have been rediscovered in Lari and are now being used locally by some of the most progressive women in the groups. The women have now organized themselves and formed community research groups which are documenting this knowledge for local learning.
During the dialogues with both men and women, it was indicated that a key problem people are experiencing today is reduced farm outputs and diseases. ICE organized trainings on organic farming which rejuvenates the soil, household water harvesting and composting. These skills have been replicated on farms of over 120 farmers and follow-up reports indicate that more farmers are adopting the skills.
The inter-generational process which ICE is implementing is targeting elders and youth. Many young people in Nairobi have not interacted adequately with rural Kenya and ICE is giving them an opportunity. ICE supported an experiential learning visit for students of Maina Wanjigi secondary school from Nairobi to places around Mt. Kenya. From this experience, the students initiated a tree nursery in their school compound, which is supplying seedlings for planting on their compound and issuing other to neighbouring schools. They have reached out to 4 other schools in Nairobi. Records of trees planted on the school compounds are kept by the students and lead teachers.
The most surprising outcome of this project was the overwhelming response by all people (men, women and youth). We were not expecting the sudden change of attitude where men would get our message and decide almost spontaneously to go back to their farms to assist their wives in producing food for the households. When ICE started working with elders, the crucial dimension of spirituality in sustainable livelihoods had not been considered. We learnt that for local people to address local livelihoods and climate change, they have to go back to the sacred sites and make them potent again through rituals, which are important in maintaining eco-social balance. ICE is now working with elders on an eco-spirituality project.