The Lower Eastern part of Kenya, locally referred to as Ukambani, has over the years been known for perennial droughts and crop failure. In this era of climate change, weather patterns have become most unpredictable and Ukambani is among the regions that have been hardest hit.
Indeed, as has become routine, out of ten seasons of rain, only one season yields enough rainfall to sustain meaningful agriculture in most parts of this region. For this reason, crop failure in the region has become inevitable, leading to high levels of poverty and food insecurity among communities, due to families’ low economic power.
Many families in Ukambani have been recipients of relief food from Kenya Red Cross Society, the Government and other organisations for very many years. Unfortunately, relief food distribution is not sustainable and further, it is a temporary measure that does not empower communities towards food security. It is also demoralising for a family to be reliant on food aid year in, year out.
It is for this reason among others that KRCS decided on a paradigm shift from relief food distribution to disaster risk reduction projects that can empower communities towards food security. The Society is specifically targeting drought resistant crops such as high quality certified maize seeds and cassava, among other crops.
One such project was the distribution of high yielding and drought resistant maize seeds in different locations of Ukambani, including Kaiti Constituency, Makueni County. One proud beneficiary of the project Ms Maria Mwelu, a mother of six, tells her story: “In the past, I used to plant maize on my farm using ordinary seeds. As such, the maize did not grow tall and I always harvested close to nothing. This time around, I received seeds from Kenya Red Cross and decided to give them I try. I want to tell you that I have no regrets and from this single test, I will always be using these certified seeds, “says Maria.
The mother of six says that she is not worried about feeding her children, as was the case in the past. She says that she is assured of availability of food for her family for the next one year. “Look at my farm, the yield speaks for itself; I have already harvested some but I still have more maize on my farm which I hope to finish harvesting soon, “adds a beaming Maria.
Maria says that she did not use any fertilizer on her farm but simply planted at the right time. “I did not plant immediately, I waited for the rains to start and although it did not rain as expected, I still managed to harvest well; this is an implication that these seeds are good,” Maria says, adding that she is very grateful to Kenya Red Cross Society for opening her eyes. She is also calling upon farmers in this region to embrace these seeds and to also plant other drought resistant crops in order to counter the effects of climate change.
“I may not have gone to school, neither can I communicate in English or Kiswahili, but I can tell when it is time to change with the changing times, climate change is real, no one has power over climate, but we must learn to adapt, we must go back to the days of planting drought resistant crops,” concludes Maria.