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Commercial Agroecological farming by smallholder farmers in Bungoma, Kenya

Every household in Bungoma to proactively protect the environment through agro-forestry and be assured of decent consistent income in return

Photo of Engoho Wakoli
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Engoho Kuku Farmer

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

County Government of Bungoma

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 10+ years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Bungoma is a county in western Kenya covering an area of 3,032.2 Km2.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Bungoma is my ancestral home. Here is where all my childhood memories are. I can fondly remember growing up in a land with great forest cover and regular interactions with wild animals from mount Elgon National park. Bungoma is a very fertile area whose backbone has been agriculture for many generations. I grew up when the community had many economic activities to earn a living, feed their families and educate their children. Those agricultural economic sectors like sugarcane, tobacco, coffee and maize farming have now collapsed. Coupled with exploding population growth resulting into subdivision of land into sizes nonviable for maize farming, poverty levels are growing exponentially. Hence their is need for a radical and innovative solution to ensure that the community can self sustain food wise and economically. I have dedicated my life and resources to develop this solution. Since 2005, I have been carrying out Agribusiness experiments. I come up with foolproof agroecological concept that was proved and is now due for expansion. The community leadership is willing and already working not just to restore forest cover but also improve the living standards of the people through this concept. By bringing more stakeholders and supporters the growth and implementation will be quicker, bigger, have more impact and be more sustainable. In collaboration with the county government, we have so far donated more than 17,000 macadamia seedlings. We have a regular radio program through which we have been educating and mobilizing the community to embrace this farming model.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Bungoma is cosmopolitan with many ethnicity living in harmony. Due to intermarriage and most people can speak more than one language. The most populous ethnicity are the Bukusu Community who are referred to as "siyanja barende" (those who love strangers). They are a very ceremonial culture that values marriage, death, male circumcision, initiation to adulthood and visitors. Initiation to adulthood is an important stage in the community. It involves many rites like circumcision, visiting all relatives to invite them. Relatives contribute small tokens like grains, cows and chicken to enable the new initiate start off the journey to adulthood and taking responsibility. The initiates have a lifetime bond of helping each other's family in difficult times and celebrating in happy times. All these ceremonies incorporate protection and respect of the environment (water sources, forests, animals and landscapes). Every aspect of the environment has cultural practices around it. For example, rivers are are revered for providing water to animals; springs for providing water to people; swamps are where circumcision molding happens after which the initiate walks naked to their home, sometimes for many kilometers away; mountains and forests is where initiates form bonds; different families bear allegiance to different animals - My name Wakoli means rabbit; Food holds a special place in this culture. Ugali is the stable food, a cake from corn/maize. The community through government efforts is generally health conscious and in the past, the cases of malnutrition were very low. The malnutrition trend has been on the rise though. This is because of increasing unemployment rates; diminishing land sizes per household; and collapse of the agricultural sector which is the backbone of Bungoma. The sugarcane, maize and coffee sectors collapsed. Due to low levels of education, most people in this community can not start their own professional business and succeed, hence the need to come with a sustainable agribusiness model that requires little capital, skills and time to establish and manage with high long term returns and profitability. The community culture is such that everyone hopes to be able to educate their children; own a home and pay dowry for those with sons.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Due to exponential population growth, the community is faced by rapidly diminishing land sizes per household. Bungoma has a population density of 703.88 people per square kilometer. Factoring in public spaces results in an average of less than 2 acres per household. The annual population growth rate in Bungoma is about 4.3%. Hence it is nonviable to produce the many types of crops like maize, coffee and sugar cane that have traditionally been the backbone of the community's economy. The region has seen tremendous clearing of forest cover for housing and farming in the last 30 years. The result of this has been drying up of wetlands and springs; erratic rain patterns; low productivity due depreciation in soil fertility; water pollution due to erosion; reduced bio-diversity; etc. There is Intensive farming with chemical fertilizers and general use of use of agro-chemicals in farming. This has resulted in poor soil fertility; and serious population decline of bees and other important insects and small animals. The erratic weather patterns like prolonged droughts, floods and Hailstones have made farming of some key crops like beans, vegetables, fruits unsustainable and hence nonviable. Thus there is urgent need to come up with viable commercial farming options for both food and cash crops that can withstand and survive in such unpredictable weather patterns. There is growing trend by youth to migrate to urban centers upon completion of secondary school in search of job opportunities and other income activities. This has resulted in stagnation/regression of the community's economy and loss of cultural values and sense of belonging. Technology is rapidly growing and getting adopted. But the community is only a consumer. Hence there is need for more students to acquire advanced education in technical courses in order for the them to develop custom innovations that will improve the quality of life in the community. That will only be possible if the households can afford to pay for the education. Market access and ability to produce safe food as per required standards and prove it is a challenge. There are good food policies and standards but adherence by farmers and trace-ability is a challenge.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

There is need to enable the community farm crops suitable for small-scale farmers with high returns at low cost with little level of skills required. The exploding population will be disastrous to sustain in future hence every household needs to have a guaranteed. Those away in urban centers working should be able to make full use of their land resources back at home in Bungoma not just to earn good income but also to protect the environment and enhance the communal cooperation culture as was the case traditionally. We settled on macadamia as the most viable crop for agroecological farming in Bungoma. This was after wide consultation with many different stakeholders and practical experimentation for more than 15 years. The macadamia will be inter-cropped with traditional plants like Sweet potato, fodder grasses, fruits and medicinal plants to boost bio diversity. Domestic animals like chicken, ducks, goats, sheep, pig and cattle will be allowed to free range in the orchard. We shall use platform to help farmers and ensure that they produce quality traceable food and connect them to market. This system will enable every agribusiness stakeholder (farmer, extension support provider, input supplier, food logistics, food buyers, value addition institutions, researchers, policy makers, government, trainers, etc) work in harmony and have convenient access to each other and or any other resources necessary to ensure food safety and food security in Bungoma and Kenya at large. Bungoma experiences a lot of rainfall and regularly, there are cases of heavy hailstones that damage crops. hence there is need to develop a food system that is well adapted for such occurrences. We have so far planted more than 1300 macadamia seedlings on our private land. We plan to increase the land size to 60 acres by 2022 and hopefully acquire 450 more acres by 2025. We plan to contract at least 450 schools each planting about 200 stems. We also intent to mobilize at least 4500 smallholder households to plant at least 60,000 stems of macadamia by 2025. Schools will be used as training and aggregation centers. This will bring back the communal working system. Public Schools will able to generate revenues internally to help the bright vulnerable students. Macadamia is a long term crop with rapidly growing global demand. The community will be full of sustainable and profitable agroecological farms. Th environment will be full of life as it was in the days past. The rivers will flow clean free of chemicals and pollution resulting from human activity. The community will be economically empowered living together harmoniously and embracing practices that protect the water sources, forests, landscapes and the environment at large. Other regions like Trans-Nzoia will supply the food crops nonviable for Bungoma. Bungoma will supply nuts, sweet potatoes and essential oils to Kenya and the rest of the world. An acre of macadamia generates at least USD 8,000 per year.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The use of trees in agriculture to for economic gain to farmers and environmental protection goals is one of the most sustainable future foods systems. This has been proved by the many efforts already being done by different stakeholders like farmers, governments, and research and training institutions to provide the evidence for the multiple benefits of Agroecological farming. The Kenyan government has for many years been actively involved in high-level policy engagements to develop guiding documents, policies, frameworks, laws and regulations. Many other stakeholders have done tremendous work in participatory design and management of farm trials; building the capacity of agricultural and forestry extension services, combining separate knowledge for mutual benefit; and creating methods for designing, measuring, monitoring and evaluating carbon, water, systems and landscapes. The Engoho Agroecological farming project will directly contribute towards achievement of many key sustainable development goals like: SDG1- elimination of poverty; SDG 2- Elimination of hunger; SDG 3- enhancing good health and wellbeing; SDG 6 – improving availability of clean water and sanitation; SDG 8 – Ensuring everyone in the community has decent income and economic growth; SDG 11 Making cities and communities sustainable; SDG 13- climate action; and SDG 15- life on land. The project will also indirectly contribute through implementation approaches to SDGs 4 - quality education; SDG 5 gender equality; SDG 10 - reduced inequalities; SDG 16- peace, justice and strong institutions; and SDG 17- partnerships for the goals). Impact has been felt all over the planet, particularly, in recent times with increased awareness of the need to build resilience to climate change, which is seeing governments, non-governmental organizations and farmers demanding enhanced knowledge to expand the scale of agroforestry for food security and climate resilience.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Vsion from 2020 to 2050 The local community has embraced this idea and the ladership is spearheding by public sensitization. they have ;aready donated many fruit and macadamia seedlings we carry out regular farmer training on our farm and in mdia both online, radio, print and TV. the response is overwhelming and we have over 400 farmers on the waiting list ready to practise agroecological farming Today, the community has more knowledge, technology, social intelligence, and human capacity than ever before.These can be harnessed to create a food system that nourishes everyone, grows the communal economy,and nurtures a thriving environment. This farming model model has already earned us recognition both in Bungoma, nationally and even internationally. It is an inspiration that many youth are seeking to be part of to secure their future. We successfully tsted and proved the feasibility of this program. The given estimated incomes and output are very conservative. The potantial impact is very much higher. Development of Sweet potato flour, Essential oils and value added macadamia products was through research and wide consultation with the community, local leadership, youth self help groups, farmers, well established research institutions (KALRO, KIRDI) and policy stakeholders (Bungoma county government, KEBS,) and many other stakeholders

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Facebook


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mat Jones

Hi Engoho Wakoli, I found it very interesting to read your submission. Your description of the local culture and the role of food is very evocative. I look forward to seeing how your vision evolves to build upon this rich cultural heritage.

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