Kenyan Women’s Community Sustainable Farming (CSF) Project: Cultivation of Mwangani (Cleome gynandra)
We began the project later than expected due to a last minute requirement for U.S. Dept of Agriculture seed permit for Cleome gynandra. We received the permit in June and funds were received in July. Our original plans to use the full 1/2 half acre to farm was reduced to approx 1/4 acre. This decision was based on the late start and relational factors arising from the delay. The initial women who had committed began to become uninterested and untrusting. They were expecting to begin immediately in May, now it was July. Some women resigned during that time period thus we decided to use less land in order to insure success for the remaining committed women. A total of 8 Kenyan Women agreed to start the project.
We began to amend the soil immediately. This involved several stages:
1. Surveying and staking- Use to mark out the area for Farm Project.
2. Tilling- the purpose of tilling was to go deep (18-24 inches) into the soil and bring up debris such as asphalt, cement and misc. metal objects. The complete .5 acre was tilled.
3. Removal of debris –We hand removed debris by walking behind a tractor and putting them in an attached trailer
4. Trenching – Using a backhoe digger, berms and swales were created according to the slope lines for purposes of capturing rain water which retains the moisture thus reducing use of water from spigot.
5. Compost – Compost was brought in to add nutrients to the soil. A skid loader distributed it evenly on the land and the tiller went through again to mix thoroughly along with capturing and removing additional debris.
6. Hand raking/planting – The land was hand raked for preparation of planting.
7. Finally – Planting of seeds July 23, 2010.
8. Compost – more compost will be added this April, 2011.
Jane Nyachae the team supervisor has become a strong leader among the Kenyan women. She is able to organize and direct them according to the project’s requirements. Ms Kackman and Ms Nyachae meet every other week to discuss progress, arising issues, and general information.
Between the months of August and September, approximately 60 plastic grocery bags [of Cleome gynandra] were harvested (each bag contains approximately 36 oz). The women kept 50 percent of their harvest and sold the remaining to other Kenyan families. Each bag was sold for $25.00. The money earned was used to pay for additional and unexpected expenses not provided by the grant such as cost to purchased seed permit and seeds.
The final harvest day was September 17 and removal of plants for composting and preparing the soil for winter occurred October 18.
Despite the delay in planting and the reduced area of land used, it was a very successful year. Relationships and trust were rebuilt between the Kenyan Women and facilitators of the project Mr. and Ms. Kackman. Interest from other organizations was created such as Valley Natural Foods, The city of Burnsville, Fairview Ridges Hospital, and the Kenyan community in northern Suburbs, Brooklyn Park.
These are the primary areas of results:
1. Amendment of land. Because of the work performed to restore the soil to usability, farming will continue safely and indefinitely. Previous use of this land for a dump is very disheartening. We have not researched the history however it is probable the city or state used it to deposit old road debris when fixing or making new roads.
2. Creating a permaculture system for sustainability – Watching the new trenched area collect rain water thus capturing resources is very exciting. Not only is the dumping into local ponds and lakes reduced but it reduces expenses and requirements of water. We have also applied for curb cut grant with the city. This will channel more water into the farm area again increasing capacity to be sustainable and reduce waste.
3. Building relations with Kenyan Population – It is a common response from the women, “I feel like I am ‘home’”. This vegetable is so much part of their regular diet that it impacts the ability for them to acclimate. Trust continues to grow especially with the team. They make statements of thankfulness and are surprised we take an interest in their families and culture.
4. Growing an indigenous vegetable – We are learning more about their culture in several ways which revolve around the use of the vegetable. To grow this plant in Minnesota is impressive to both the Kenyan community but also to those who find out about the project. Much interest has risen from the local community because of this unusual farm project.
5. Cultural sense of time – The Kenyan women work at a very different pace compared to typical Americans. The take their time, are never in a hurry. This is because it is a social event, they share their lives, talk laugh and use the time to be together. In addition, this vegetable is very labor intensive thus this is part of the heritage from country of origin.
WORK PLAN FOR 2011
We are ready to begin preparing the soil the third week of April. We will bring on more compost to continue with amending the soil.
The lead supervisor, Jane Nyachae, continues to build the team with agriculture information and team building relationships. She went to Kenya with an in-kind partner, Cathy Rose, to teach a group of women who live in Kenya the intensive farming techniques. Ms. Nyachae continues to grow in her knowledge of farming and leadership.
The Kenyan Women’s Team is dedicated and grasp the vision and are very happy to earn income while growing their loved vegetable, Cleome gynandra.
We will organize the women as in 2010. Ms. Nyachae will track their hours and supervise all activity. Ms. Kackman will direct all efforts and communicate through Ms. Nyachae. An initial meeting will take place the third week of May to review the project, guidelines and payment.
All products will be documented, weighed and accounted for. There will be additional planting of other indigenous vegetables inside the permaculture areas thus promoting sustainability through diversity of plants.
Planting will begin the first week of May.
Because of the word-of-mouth spread to the Kenyan community, interest in buying the product is very high. When harvesting begins, families will come to the site to buy the vegetable on harvest days. This is communicated by phone then word of mouth.
We will continue to pay the women an hourly wage until the funds run out. When that time comes an agreement has been made to pay with the product which will be sold.
1. Jane Nyachae, Tom and I were invited to present on September 18 at the annual Valley Natural Foods (a cooperative organization) business meeting. We provided a live plant (roots to leaves), story board, brought photo albums, awards and answered questions to the public. There were approximately 500 people in attendance.
2. Jane Nyachae, Cathy Rose, Tom and I attended and presented at the Farmers Forum at the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference on November 5-6, 2010 in Columbia Missouri. We had a one hour time slot which was used to show our work through pictures using power point. Our scheduled time was 9AM (first one of the day, Friday). Initially there were about 20 however by the end there were about 50 people. Many questions afterward, many exchanges of e-mail.
3. In June, 2010 our web-site went live: www.ioccommunitygarden.org. The project is explained in written form as well as detailed pictures.
4. In August 2010, the community garden participated in the Twin Cities Community Garden Day. Our information booth provided the story board, pictures, and general information to the attending public. Approximately 150 people attended.
5. In September we were awarded the Community Builder of the Year Award from the City of Burnsville, MN. Approximately 100 people attended.
5. In December 2010 we presented to the Kenyan Community Organization in Brooklyn Park, MN. We used the same power point presentation used in the small farm forum. Approximately 25 people attended.
6. Farm teaching brought to Kenyan women in Kenya. Jane Nyachae, Cathy Rose and a team from the University of Minnesota went to Kenya February 23 – March 12. Ms. Nyachae organized 30 women in her hometown community in Kenya to learn farm intensive techniques and agriculture training. They performed demonstration and class room education with goals of impacting the community for sustainable farm techniques.
We will continue to work closely with existing partners: Valley Natural Foods, City of Burnsville, Fairview and Dakota County Public Health. We are in the process of building more partnerships with local businesses and organizations. This year will bring greater exposure and media.
A team consisting of our project lead, Jane Nyachae and Cathy Rose, permaculture specialist, leave for Kenya February 23, 2011. They will bring the techniques in intensive farming to women in Kenya. Approximately 30 women are enrolled in the training that will take place. We will be supporting Jesse Engebretson, (MA, and Doctorial Student with focus on Immigration studies and Ethnobiological Knowledge). He will be doing a cross cultural comparison as well as write a professional journal article and submit for publication.
The previously mentioned outreaches will be repeated this 2011.