Kenya’s smallholder farmers in the race against climate change


By adopting agroforestry and improved farming practices, a community in western Kenya has increased their income and improved their standard of living. They are now training other farmers to do the same.

Small farms make up most of the remote village of Siwot in Kericho County. Part of the Greater Western Region of Kenya, most farmers grow maize, beans and vegetables for subsistence, and coffee and sugar cane as cash crops. And like many communities in western Kenya and the Nyando River Basin in particular, they are aware of the potential impact that climate change will have on their lives and those of their children.

For years, farmers’ efforts in small-scale farming have produced few meaningful results. But that did not stop the community from having a collective vision of its prosperity: it wanted to improve its standard of living, educate its children, engage in farming as a business and add value to the crops of annuity to increase his income. What they lacked was the knowledge to get there. So in 2008, some 46 men and women from the village came together to form the Toben Gaa self-help group with the express purpose of achieving prosperity for themselves and their community.

The approach

Since 2009, the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) has been implementing a project aimed at enabling communities in the Nyando watershed to mitigate the impact of climate change challenges, by improving their adaptive capacities. These projects help maintain and even improve their livelihoods and general well-being.

According to scientists from the World Agroforestry Center, on-farm forestry, or the intentional use of trees in the cropping system, has been shown to be effective in mitigating and adapting to climate risks. Given the sometimes complicated processes of rural transformation, a new approach to promoting agroforestry, asset-based community development, was adopted in 2011.

Asset-based community development, or ABCD, teaches participants to understand and appreciate the value of their assets and to use their various natural, physical, human, social, cultural and financial assets to improve their livelihoods. The ABCD approach was implemented in collaboration with the Coady International Institute, a pioneer in the development of teaching communities. The project was supported by the Comart Foundation.

As part of the ABCD approach, ICRAF has supported community groups, including the Toben Gaa Self Help Group, with technical training on specific agroforestry and agricultural practices. The groups identified activities that could improve their livelihoods through their community action planning exercise.

ICRAF and the Coady Institute have developed three tools for use in the project. They include a community-led value chain analysis, the Household and Commodity Leaky Bucket and the Commodity Ledger. The value chain analysis tool describes all the activities and people involved in agricultural production, from farm to consumer. The Leaky Bucket helps Group members understand resource inflows and outflows – primarily money – and the flow of resources within the local or household economy. The Commodity Ledger tracks expenses throughout the agricultural cycle, from planting to weeding to harvesting, while also accounting for revenue from sales. This allows farmers to plan both their purchases and the time to sell their products. Making better-informed decisions strengthens and secures ownership on the part of farmers.

Over the years, members of the Toben Gaa Self Help Group have acquired skills and knowledge in leadership, local resource mobilization and self-assessment, skills that have helped them manage their community group effectively. They acquired important skills in agroforestry, coffee and horticulture, dairy farming, poultry farming and agricultural management. Some members have been trained as trainers in agroforestry and good agricultural practices and are now training farmers from different villages.


The group has successfully engaged in climate-smart agricultural practices in an autonomous and innovative way. Their work has greened the immediate neighborhood and achieved 10% tree cover in their area. They also changed land use to more inclusive and sustainable farming systems and methods. These advances have, in turn, improved the nutrition and livelihoods of community members by providing alternative sources of food and income, particularly by growing fruit and other multipurpose trees. Individual members established tree nurseries. Every household now has enough firewood for domestic use.

Members have also increased their agricultural production and sales and improved their access to financial resources through savings and credit associations. The wider community, inspired by the group’s success, now looks to them to teach improved farming practices to raise their standard of living.

The impact for group members has been as varied as their needs.

“My wife has a vegetable garden and sells the surplus on the local market. We can pay school fees for our children,” says David Sang, who now has a thriving agroforestry practice on his three-acre farm, with fruit trees and 200 Grevillea trees that provide shade and act as a hedgerow. wind to protect its 1,500 coffee trees. His farm now generates income through fruits, vegetables, coffee and milk. “Our environment has changed thanks to the trees we have grown on our farms.

Rusi Cheruiyot now has a nursery on her farm, where she and her husband grow coffee, papaya, mango, passion fruit and Grevillea seedlings to sell. Together they planted 400 trees. “As a mother, I feel good and have no worries. My son was the first in this village to go to university. He is now a role model in our community,” she says. I have achieved a lot with the resources I have, my standard of living has improved and I even built a house with the proceeds of my products.


Members of the Toben Gaa Self Help Group served as farmer trainers during the final phase of the project, “Accelerating the Adoption of Agroforestry in Western Kenya (Triple A)”. Their newly acquired skills not only helped other groups of smallholder farmers improve their own practices, but farmers not part of any formal group also visited their farms to learn.

“I realized that a woman can work and teach others,” says Esther Ruto, who decided to join the group to educate her eight children. “Before, I was herding cattle. In the training I received, I learned to take care of my cattle. I am now a farmer trainer. I sell firewood from the prunings of the trees on my farm. Leadership has helped me see new places and accomplish a lot. She is proud that the women trainees are particularly satisfied with her training and like to visit her farm.

The final phase, implemented from January 2015 to mid-2017, used the ABCD approach, combining three different methodologies for community development. These are: general group capacity development trainings to strengthen the institutional capacity of community groups, technical and practical skills in self-selected and context-specific agroforestry and agricultural best practices, and sustainable scaling up of trainings through through farmer-to-farmer extension. The different approaches have been implemented with varying delivery mechanisms and follow unique processes, in accordance with specifically formulated objectives and aware of potential obstacles. Triple A has reached nearly 3,000 smallholder farmers in four localities in the Nyando basin in western Kenya.

Learn more about the Accelerating the Adoption of Agroforestry project


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