My name is Samuel Kangethe, born 42 years ago in a small village in Central Kenya, raised by peasant farmer parents. When not in school my 7 siblings and I helped tend the crops on my parents’ less than one acre farm where the produce was enough to feed our family of 9, have some to share with neighbors and friends, and keep indigenous seeds for the upcoming season plantings. Food was in abundance, but not anymore. Now, owing to unsustainable farming practices and introduction of synthetic chemical, the same piece of land cannot produce any more due to soil depletion and climate change. This among other problems faced by my community made me pursue a career in sustainable agriculture to learn how we can heal our soils and combat climate change.
For the past 10 years I have been an organic farmer and trainer in Kenya, and in 2016 MESA sponsored me to attend a 8 month stewardship at Ecology Action- Golden Rule Research farm in Willits, CA. I had an in-depth and hands on experience on Grow Bio-intensive agriculture, which is an organic agricultural system that focuses on achieving maximum yields from a minimum area of land, while simultaneously increasing biodiversity and sustaining the fertility of the soil. The goal of the method is long term sustainability on a closed system basis. It’s particularly effective for backyard gardeners and smallholder farmers in developing countries, and also has been used successfully on small-scale commercial farms. The training was vital and important to me as the skills I gained were so relevant to my farming community where I currently live with my family in Kajiado County, (a couple of miles south of Kenyan Capital Nairobi). After completion of my stewardship I returned back to my community where I started a sustainable Grow-Bio-intensive farm project and taught my community on how to grow more healthy food with less inputs, and promote environmental awareness.
During my community work I realized most smallholder organic farmers are struggling to market their organic produce and that prompted me to seek more knowledge and skills on how to successfully market organic and natural foods and thanks to MESA NLP program I was able to be connected with my current host Natural Grocery Company where I’m learning more about organic produce sales, marketing, distribution, purchasing and advanced training in sustainable supply chain management. This will be a game changer as the skills learnt will help market our farm products for our project sustainability as well as organic produce for our farmers, connecting them to better markets in Nairobi city and its environs for economic empowerment and improved livelihood of our farming communities! I also had the opportunity to enroll in an introductory course on agroecology, urban gardening and other development skills. The AFFP course covers understanding the intersections of environmental justice, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture food raising systems as we tackle the challenges and effects of climate change, food toxins, habitat loss and pollution on the earth.
Through my MESA training and experiences I have been able to build a learning network of farmers, environmentalists, educators, and all advocates committed to create a more just food system across the world. Through my farm project which I was able to start after completing my stewardship at John Jevons center, I have managed to train more than 1000 farmers in my community on how to grow healthy food in their farms, improve soil fertility and environmental awareness through tree planting and city cleanup exercises. My future plans are to improve our farm project, train more farmers, start organic produce retail marketing as we work towards achieving our project mission which is to empower small scale farmers with sustainable, environment-friendly and Grow Biointensive-Sustainable farming methods and practices, leading to healthy and improved livelihoods and more resilient communities.
I would like to thank MESA for all the glorious opportunities to empower me and my community with the right skills to grow healthy food and I encourage anyone who wants to be a future changemaker in our communities, has passion on learning more on sustainable food raising systems, environmental justice, food sovereignty and more so creating networks with food and leaders across the world to apply both MESA stewardship and AFFP programs. It’s a real game changer in the sustainable food production system. Asante sana MESA for the wonderful and amazing work you do for the most needy communities in the world.