Semi-Natural Farming as a Sustainable Approach to Farming.
I was seated in the car driving home with my friend when he turned to a third passenger in the car and told her that back in the village, the rains had fallen short. It was very dry to a point even wells didn’t have water forcing people to go far off in search of the precious commodity.
The Lady reiterated how in her village it was the same. However, she said it was to their advantage because, for them, this is the time of maize drying on the farms in readiness for harvesting. She then added that if Kisii was that dry, she comes from Luo Nyanza, then it must be serious.
In the whole discussion, I didn’t weigh in rather I took my time to consider what could be the reason for such unusual developments, especially for areas such as Kisii which has been widely labeled the land of abundance. Whatever the factors I came up with, they all pointed to the farming approach.
Conventional farming has been hailed as revolutionary due to its improved technology and making use of higher inputs to increase productivity. For that reason, it is reported that hunger, the world over, has been able to be reduced substantially.
The only downside with conventional farming is that it is exploitative and leads to ecosystem degradation which contributes to the effects of climate change. Even though hunger has been reduced, we are in such a period in time where food insecurity for rural households and everywhere else is at an all-time high unless things are changed.
To tackle these insecurity issues around food, different approaches are being put in place such as precision farming, organic/biodynamic farming, natural farming, and conservation farming among others.
It is worth noting that China, under its poverty alleviation programs, has employed natural and conservation farming and it has done tremendously well. Cuba leads in terms of organic farming and a visit to the villages shows the wonderful benefits of pure organic farming not only to the environment but also to the health of the people.
The semi-natural land-use technique, though not very different from some of the types of farming listed above, uses the agroforestry land-use system whereby shrubs and trees get intentionally grown along with the crops in the same land unit or piece.
This approach has been realized to be good natural resource management and environmental resilient strategy because it helps with improved soil fertility, natural resource, and biodiversity efficiency as well as the creation of unique microclimates which help cope with the changing climate at the macro level and mitigates it through carbon sequestration.
What has happened with us locally is that go clearing forests and large tracts of land for use in farming. This deforestation exposes the topsoil to erosion and this is one of the greatest problems in the world over with an estimated range of soil erosion being 6-16 tonnes per hectare per year.
It is important to note that soil is considered non-renewable because the formation of an inch of soil takes a long time. So, to mitigate the rapid depletion of this very important resource, agroforestry is to be employed as it helps with the restoration of the degraded land.
It also improves the rate of infiltration, reduces surface runoffs and the root systems of the trees help hold the soil which also reduces the rate of nutrient loss. After harvest, the trees and shrubs help in micro-climate development through lowered soil temperatures, reduced wind speed, and saturation deficits.
Agroforestry helps with enhancing soil fertility through the constant addition of organic matter to the soil due to leaf falls, reduced nutrient leaching, efficient nutrient cycling, and finally as we have pointed out earlier on through reducing soil erosion.
Semi-natural farming which by now you must have realized is agroforestry has a lot of potential to be used as a low-cost method to sequester atmospheric carbon and as such help a great deal in the efforts of climate change mitigation.
Due to the periodical pruning of the shrubs and trees in agroforestry to reduce excessive competition with the crops, some of the pruned materials are used as animal fodder, others are returned to the soil to form manure and others can be used as firewood where sustainable energy options have not been integrated into the ecosystem.
I conclude by saying that agroforestry is one of the best strategies for natural resource management and can help a lot in building resilience towards the effects of climate change. This semi-natural form of farming should be widely encouraged and I believe, we shall achieve sustainability in the field of agriculture as well as matters of climate change which probably explains the situations being experienced in Kisii and the rest of the country even the world at large.
Note: Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon. It is one of the methods of reducing the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide to reduce global climate change.