Wildlife Works uses Multi-Story Farming as a Conservation Method
Wildlife Works is located in Taita Taveta County, Kenya, a hot and dry coastal region where the average annual rainfall is less than 16 inches per year. These arid conditions are very unfriendly for agriculture, and in an rural area where there is no substantial industry and high poverty rates, these communities have to exploit their surrounding natural resources to survive. With just over 400 employees, we are the second largest employer in the area.
Harmful yet income generating activities that many people resort to include cutting down trees for the illegal charcoal industry and poaching wildlife for bush meat and for commercial purposes.
Wildlife Works’ mission is to provide livelihood alternatives to natural resource destruction. In addition to creating jobs, we built greenhouses to rehabilitate and expand the forests and train the community on sustainable subsistence farming.
Wildlife Works has been encouraging the community, including women’s groups, youth groups and schools to plant trees by teaching them intensive organic vegetable and fruit tree farming.
The training programs include skills like:
- how to use drip irrigation to conserve water
- how to use shade nets to minimize water loss
- how to repel large insects
- compost making and its use for soil improvement, as an alternative to commercial fertilizers
- to use non-chemical methods to control insects
- to use multi-story farming to achieve maximize land use and water conservation
Multi-story farming promotes the efficient use of land and water by growing plants vertically, instead of using the conventional horizontal ground farming method.
The method is useful in places:
- where land is scarce or too expensive
- where people want to minimize forest and bush clearing for agricultural land expansion
- that have rocky ground
- where water is scarce
- that have soggy soil
- that use aeroponics or another non-soil growing method
Multi-story Farming Method Advantages
Multi-story farming has many advantages. It conserves forests and other vegetation, as communities cultivate less land than they would with conventional farming methods. They may also be able to reduce already cultivated areas. In addition, less water is required as water flows vertically, irrigating other plants, instead of soaking deep and out of the root zone, as often happens with conventional farming. The polythene net in the multi-story design smothers weeds, therefore, the amount of labor required is reduced. Other than the irrigation system, which is available in Nairobi, all materials are available in the immediate vicinity of the Wildlife Works community vicinity. Furthermore, with an effective fencing system, multi-story farming minimizes human-wildlife conflict by reducing animal territory encroachment.
Impact on Households
Multi-story farming positively impacts households by improving agricultural productivity and increasing income. It improves agricultural productivity by approximately 500 percent. For example, kale yield is approximately 8,000 kg per acre with conventional farming methods, but a multi-story system can yield approximately 40,000 kg per acre.
By yielding more vegetables, a multi-story gardening system can increase household income.
In the near future, Wildlife Works plans to roll out multi-story farming within the community. It will start in areas where Carbon Trust water catchment and reservoirs have been built. It is investigating water conservation irrigation methods efficient enough to enable irrigation at even higher elevations, to further increase land-use efficiency. We also plan to introduce a wider variety of crops and test various growing media other than soil, such as coco, peat and algae.
This progress is not without challenges which including high production costs (because of the need for wildlife fencing), literacy rates, water availability and natural threats to organic plants. Wildlife Works is pushing to combat all of the challenges in order to successfully introduce improved farming methods to the larger community.
We look forward to rolling out this program on a larger scale, bringing more benefits to farming families in the area.