Gardening for the Long Term

Watching the presentation about tree seedlings and reforestation.

SIA SBF Coordinators watch a presentation about tree seedlings and reforestation.

Spring is in the air all over the USA this week! To celebrate the rain and the warmer temperatures, I am reposting this discussion of agro-forestry from last April on Spirit in Action’s blog.


Our international partners working in Kenya have long recognized the value of agroecology. This type of farming system, also called bio-intensive agriculture, uses techniques that help to replenish the nutrients in the soil and uses minimal amounts of chemical fertilizers and other inputs to grow vegetables and fruits. Agroecology methods bring greater crop yields while using much less space, water and energy, than conventional, high input methods.

In Africa there is great hope for the widespread embrace of agroecology technologies, especially because it benefits “small farmers who must be able to farm in ways that are less expensive and more productive.”

“But, [agro-ecology] benefits all of us,” says a NY Times op-ed, quoting a UN Human Rights Council Report, “because it decelerates global warming and ecological destruction.”

The UN Report shows that “small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods” including compost, double digging, and relying on beneficial plants, animals, and insects for pest management. Indeed, Olivier De Schutter, author of the UN report, said that “Malawi is now implementing agro-ecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton/hectare to 2-3 tons/hectare.”

Agroforestry training in Kenya

Samuel Teimuge talks to a group about agroforestry to combat deforestation in Kenya.

Samuel Teimuge, who worked with SIA to start his Ukweli Training Center many years ago, teaches bio-intensive methods and has seen how they can increase production while having a minimal affect on the environment. He also leads workshops to help reforestation efforts in the Rift Valley. Trees are important for slowing erosion on the steep slopes.

Mark Bittman from the NY Times urges us to consider agriculture from a global perspective, understanding food as a human right and sustainable agriculture as a high-priority for the world.

In addition to supporting bio-intensive agriculture training in Kenya, it is just as important to support small-scale farmers here in the US, like these young farmers in Oregon.

Do you use bio-intensive methods in your own garden or farm? Share your stories in the comments section!


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4 Comments on "Gardening for the Long Term"

  • Dennis Johnson says

    Beautiful photos. They’re inspiring me as Marsha and I start a new vegetable and flower garden here in California.

  • Ferdinand says

    Thanks for highlighting agroforestry issues.We have a small training garden in Emuhaya Western Kenya and use a combination of Bio Intensive practices and agroforestry.Farmers are adopting the holistic approach with good results.During the dry seasons they harvest some fuelwood and there is always something to harvest in the garden.
    Some farmers are also reaching others with this gardening skills.Currently we have 5 community gardens where farmers reach out to their neighbourhoods.
    Many thanks for the beatiful green photos.

  • admin says

    5 community gardens! You are doing good work, Ferdinand! Thank you for teaching and encouraging people about sustainable farming.

  • Ferdinand says

    Most welcome.Will keep sharing our experiences and progress in the communities.Was with Margaret of CFORD yesterday in a workshop and shared lots of development notes.

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