A woman tends to vegetables in a bio-intensive garden in northern Kenya, which is run by CIFORD to grow food for people with HIV/AIDS.
Our international partners working in Kenya have long recognized the value of agro-ecology. This type of farming system, also called bio-intensive agriculture, uses techniques that help to replenish the nutrients in the soil and uses minimal amounts of chemical fertilizers and other inputs to grow vegetables and fruits. Agro-ecology methods bring greater crop yields while using much less space, water and energy, than conventional, high input methods.
In Africa there is great hope for the widespread embrace of agro-ecology technologies, especially because it benefits “small farmers who must be able to farm in ways that are less expensive and more productive.”
The UN Report shows that “small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods” including compost, double digging, and relying on beneficial plants, animals, and insects for pest management. Indeed, Olivier De Schutter, author of the UN report, said that “Malawi is now implementing agro-ecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton/hectare to 2-3 tons/hectare.”
A group learns about agroforestry to combat deforestation in Kenya.
Samuel Teimuge, who worked with SIA to start his Ukweli Training Center many years ago, teaches bio-intensive methods and has seen how they can increase production while having a minimal affect on the environment. He also leads workshops to help reforestation efforts in the Rift Valley. Trees are important for slowing erosion on the steep slopes.
Mark Bittman from the NY Times urges us to consider agriculture from a global perspective, understanding food as a human right and sustainable agriculture as a high-priority for the world.
In addition to supporting bio-intensive agriculture training in Kenya, it is just as important to support small-scale farmers here in the US, like these young farmers in Oregon.
Do you use bio-intensive methods in your own garden or farm? Share your stories in the comments section!