History of Agricultural Influences and Projects

84When Kenya gained its independence from Britain in 1963 , there were two changes that would mark the economy and growth of Kenya for many generations to come.  One change produced from the colonization of Kenya by European “white-collar” leaders was the devaluation of farming as a profession and the adoption of the belief that the only jobs worth having were desk jobs in an urban area.  The second change grew out of the decision by the newly independent Kenyan government to redistribute the land regained from the British and to give every family a plot of land.  This unique set of influences has played out over the last 50 years, and Straw to Bread now finds itself working in a rural area where 1) virtually all of the orphans and elders have a plot of land; 2) subsistence farming is the main source of food but has been inadequate; 3) there is little expertise or sense of the potential of food production for income; and 4) the activity of farming is not viewed as a valuable and respected activity.  Coming from the U.S., where backyard and community gardens are flourishing and where “shop local” is the trend in buying food, we see great potential here for partnerships to increase the yield, perception of value, and training of local farmers.  The BH community originated in 2001 from a desperate need for food, and there is eagerness from the Kenyans and the Americans to work on new ways of making things better.

In 2009, college students who travelled to Kenya with Straw to Bread planted over 1000 fruit trees at the homes of the orphans and elders of Bethlehem Home. This was done with the intention of providing an additional, nutrient-rich food source to BH farmers who, in many cases, had only been farming maize and other grains.  In spite of a drought soon afterwards, many of those trees survived and, in some instances, were already producing fruits when the team returned in 2010.

The success of this project flowered into a repeat planting effort to replace those trees that withered from the drought. The team also added vegetable gardens in 2010 and 2011.  As of the summer of 2012, we planted the following crops with BH members at their homes:

1. Mango Trees

2. Banana Trees

3. Cassava

4. Avocado Trees

5. Papaya Trees

6. Loquat

7. Passion fruit

8. Pineapple

9. Custard Apple

10. Sweet Potato

11. Sakuma Wiki (a Kenyan Kale variety)

12. Various Local Vegetables

We collected qualitative and quantitative data in May-July 2012 that identified the traditions, practices, and future goals of Bethlehem Home farmers.