Picks and spades can triple farmers’ yields in Kenyan drylands

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The female farmers of Makueni County in southeastern Kenya rarely expect to triumph over their parched, unpropitious soils. A pick, a spade and a jovial, no-nonsense attitude scarcely seem sufficient for a transition to greener prospects. In addition, the need for cash frequently robs these hardy women of their men’s presence; casual labour in economic hotspots, or other work in livestock and poultry trading, is the norm.
Producing food thus rests on the shoulders of women, many of whom are subsistence farmers or smallholders burdened with increasingly unproductive land. Severe land degradation coupled with drastic changes in climate has meant that many frequently face food shortages. A flash appeal made by the Government of Kenya and humanitarian organisations in July 2017 estimated that in the Kenyan drylands the number of people experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity owing to drought would increase from 2.6 million to 3.5 million by August 2017. Interventions are in abundance but few create an impetus to survive past a project cycle.
In her village of Mutembuku, farmer Veronicah Ngau has been working with government, development and research partners since 2005, and she speaks about the simple farming technique proving effective in staving off food shortages in the country.

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