Growing traditional crops: growing reputation

A long-established Women’s Group profits from producing African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs)

Assisted by Small Grants Initiative funding, piloted by Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and supported by the Nutrition in City Ecosystems (NICE) project, a number of enterprising food producers in the region of Busia County, Kenya, are finding deserved success

A visit from an agricultural extension officer to their community was the starting point for one of the Amkeni Musoma Women’s Group’s latest ventures – organic farming and the production of African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs). The officer was in Matayos Busibwabo in Busia County, Kenya, to talk about opportunities provided by the Small Grants Initiative – a scheme piloted by SFSA with support from the Nutrition in City Ecosystems (NICE) Project towards the end of 2022 – to focus on increasing poultry production and ALVs among five groups in Bungoma and Busia Counties.

According to Loise Wanjala, the chair of Amkeni Musoma, the group had begun in the 1990s as a merry-go-round and table-banking venture, providing opportunities for women to explore various income-generating activities.

“We have never lacked food or a market to sell our green vegetables,” says Loise. But, with the additional funding of KSh 150,000 which the scheme has provided, the group is now able to increase production and expand their range of customers: “Here at Musoma Village we have been providing vegetables to our community and now everyone can access nutritious meals.”

Loise went on to explain how the NICE project team introduced the group to the “staggered” method of planting. This is a way of spreading out the planting of vegetables so that they can be produced throughout the year, using irrigation during dry spells. “We now have a continuous surplus of fresh local vegetables,” she says.

Along with training in good agricultural practices, including pest management and the use of mulching to conserve water-use, the group was provided with ALV seeds such as black nightshade, spider plant, and the amaranth plant. Like many farmers in the region, the group have encountered familiar difficulties: “Our key challenges have been climate and heavy rains,” says Loise. “Some of the seeds did not perform well due to changes in climate and weather patterns.” She adds that poor roads and lack of adequate transport have sometimes made accessing markets a challenge and that the group hope to use irrigation methods to combat the threat of drought.

However, despite the challenges, the Amkeni Musoma Women’s Group have managed to extend their cumulative land under production to one hectare and anticipate further opportunities for income generation with continued support from the initiative through training and access to seed. Importantly, with the high rate of youth unemployment an ongoing concern in Kenya and its cities, the group provides a chance for young people in rural areas to find work on both the farms and (with more than 30 per cent of ALVs consumed in Busia County coming from this locality) in the transport sector.