In August 2018 funding was received from Blue Marmalade Supermarket, Watamu, to rent two acres of land by the Arabuko swamp, on the edge of the forest.
Sammy Safari, FoASF committee member and project manager, planned to use this land to grow crops; offer seeds and cheap produce to the forest adjacent communities and to provide a place for people to learn about permaculture and biodiversity conservation issues.
The land was ploughed and planted with maize, green grams and cowpeas. The green grams and cow peas were planted as cover crops and nitrogen fixers to enrich the soil in humus and to provide nitrogen support to the other crops planted there.
In December 2018, the crops began to produce their first harvest and seeds. Maize and cowpeas were sold for 200/- per two kilograms to the local communities (usually sold for 480/- and 500/- respectively in the local stores). Sales of green gram and cowpea seeds started in January, with some being set aside for replanting during the long rains in March. The seeds were also sold at a lower than retail price, to encourage the forest adjacent people to plant their own food and resist the need to harvest illegally from the forest.
The main challenges included unpredictable rains, pests and disease. The long rains arrived two months late and in June 2019 there was an outbreak of disease which devastated the green grams, maize and moringa crops. Sammy Safari informed and consulted the agricultural extension officers from Msabaha research centre in Gede, who stated that the same problem was being observed this season in the area. He advised that the plot be reploughed to stop the spread.
Green gram and cowpea seedlings were set aside for planting in the short November rains. In September 2019, Sammy Safari personally renewed the lease on the two-acre plot. Heavy rainfall in October/November has left the farms near the Arabuko swamp flooded and so the seedlings have not been planted. Sammy hopes for a more productive 2020.
Thank you to Blue Marmalade for their support and moreover for their recent donation of 10,000/- on a monthly basis.