From wood to fruits, farmers harvest benefits of agroforestry

Mary Papa

Mary Papa harvests vegetables intercropped with beneficial trees from her farm in Bungoma County.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Some few kilometres from Kimilili town in Bungoma County, Seeds of Gold team meets Simon Papa and his wife Mary Papa on their farm in Kamashelo village.

The intense crop production on the two-acre farm captures one’s eyes from a distance. The farm hosts beans, maize, bananas, assorted fruits and vegetables.

More conspicuous are the various trees which the couple have planted on the farm, making a man-made forest of a kind.

“We have embraced agroforestry to ensure we maximise on land use and increase avenues of earning,” says Papa.

Mary picks leaves from a black night shade plant under grevillea trees. She has a ready market for the vegetables as she harvests, she says.

Her husband, on the other hand, monitors the progress of an almost-ready climbing beans crop, before checking on passion fruits and bananas.

“These trees are a cash cow. We sell them for wood and get our firewood from them. The trees also shelter the crops from direct sunlight enabling us to harvest food in plenty,” says Papa, who besides grevillea also grows custard apple, sesbania, mango and cypress trees.

Papa does not disclose the income from his farm, but says he is able to comfortably educate his children, provide for the family and has bought a half-acre – all from the proceeds of his agribusiness.

The farmer plants the trees three metres apart. Then under the trees he plants the food crops that include maize, vegetables, climbing beans and normal beans.

Some kilometres away in Gem, Siaya County, Kennedy Otieno, a boda boda rider, doubles up as a champion of agroforestry in the area.

“Seven years ago, this four-acre farm was bare and would lose top soil every rainy season,” recalls Otieno. “I dug terraces and planted a lot of trees to reclaim the land.”

Every time it rains and the terraces fill with soil, Otieno removes it and spreads it across the farm.

“The leaves which fall from the trees and the waste from his two cows I used them as manure on the farm,” says Otieno, who plants avocado, grevillea, mango and casuarina trees alongside food crops like maize, beans, cassava, bananas and sweet potatoes.

Mary Irungu, an advocacy officer at the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (Pelum) Kenya, an organisation that promotes agroforestry practices, says the method diversifies sources of income for farmers as one harvests both trees and food crops.

“Additionally, it enhances soil fertility, food security and mitigates against climate change and its effects. Through this practice, we can reverse the effects of climate change and harvest in plenty,” says Mary.

According to her, it is time farmers adopt sustainable ecological agriculture to maximise on production and conserve the environment.

Juma Muhammed, who heads the Food and Crops Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture says agroforestry helps conserve the environment.

“Trees on the farm provide numerous benefits including fruits, fodder, conservation, wind-breaking, shade and controls soil erosion,” says Muhammed

He calls for creation of awareness on agroforestry, adding that it is everyone’s business to conserve the environment.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.