Agroecology: The Game Changer for Agro-pastoralists in Isiolo County

Lilian Ipayo and James Rutubo are Agro-pastoralists from Burat Isiolo County. When they first heard about agroecology, they were skeptical about it. They considered the practice a foreign thing that could not be successful in their locality, considering it is categorized as ASAL (Arid and Semi-Arid Lands). The ASALs comprise up to 89% of the country and approximately 38% of Kenya’s Population.

Lilian Ipayo at her banana farm in Burat

After a series of sessions with trainers, they were convinced and decided to try it, and since then, they have never regretted it. Through Agroecology, they have produced food for domestic consumption, and the surplus is sold for an income.

What is Agroecology?

Agroecology is a whole-systems approach to food, feed, and fiber production that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions rather than using inputs with adverse effects. It combines tradition, innovation, and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and good quality of life for all involved. Inherent in this definition is the idea that sustainability must be extended globally and indefinitely in time and to all living organisms, including humans.

Lilian Ipayo never imagined she could be a serious farmer; her life revolved around pastoralism, and she depended on it with her husband and family, but with climate change, often, her livestock would perish. Her engagement with ActionAid turned her life around.

“I came to learn about Agroecology through ActionAid. I had never imagined that I would ever grow anything in this area, considering it is dry, but when we got educated, my Husband and I decided to try it. Initially, it seemed impossible, but the plants we had grown grew with time. I am a proud farmer; I grow bananas and sweet potatoes for domestic use, and the surplus we sell for an income.” Lilian Ipayo, Agro-pastoralist from Burat.

Lilian Ipayo at her Sweet Potato farm in Burat

She indicated that her income from selling the surplus had enabled her to invest in Village Savings and Loaning Associations (VSLA). Through these associations, they pool resources together through savings. They then use the savings to lend to each other or engage in income–generating initiatives. Profits from such industries are then plowed back into the association or shared among members as dividends.

“I invest the profit from selling bananas and sweet potatoes in my local women association (VSLA). Through the association, I got funds which I invested in a cloth-selling business. In the same association, I can withdraw part of my savings at the end of the year and pay school fees for my children.” Lilian Ipayo, Agro-pastoralist from Burat.

The same sentiments are shared by James Rutubo, who likes to be referred to as an agroecology champion. He has practiced agroecology for two years. During these two years, he has witnessed a transformation in his life and that of his family.

James Rutubo at his sweet potato farm in Burat, Isiolo County

“I no longer depend on livestock alone for food and an income; I grow several varieties of sweet potatoes which I sell for an income. I have also taken it as an initiative to educate my fellow community members. The only challenge we get is water rationing for irrigation by the authorities due to the existing drought, but the little we get, we try to use it, and so far, our plants haven’t dried up” James Rutubo, Agroecology Champion

ActionAid International Kenya, through the Sustainable Agroecology Models of Production for ASAL of Kenya (SAMPAK) project, is improving food and nutrition for women and other vulnerable groups in Isiolo County through agroecology and other climate-resilient agriculture techniques like soil and water conservation. The project targets 7,800 agro-pastoralists and 15,900 pastoralists.

The project is funded by Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), ActionAid Italy and ActionAid International Kenya as lead; other partners include Merti Integrated Development Program (MID-P), Cesvi Foundation onlus

Author: Ezra Kiriago (Communications Coordinator, ActionAid Kenya) 




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