Interviews with farmers in Kenya:
the positive vibes

Peter interviewing farmers in Kenya

I am back in Belgium for a few days to work on the post-production of the video interviews we shot in Kenya two weeks ago.

We had a team of three: Bart -the cameraman who also does the video post production-, Jan -the radio reporter from the VRT who did a series on climate change and myself. Plus a local NGO contact and two drivers.

The goal of the interviews, which will also be done in West-Africa and several Asian countries, is to take a snapshot how the farmers in different countries experience the changing weather patterns, and how they adapt to them, or even mitigate the climate changes they anticipate.

Peter interviewing farmers in Kenya

Every farmer we spoke to highlighted their dependency on the rains, and the more erratic rain patterns nowadays. They also battled with high prices for the seeds and fertilizers which, paired with a lower price for their produce, resulted in a deflated income.

A combination of past inefficient farming techniques and the introduction of foreign seeds and aggressive pesticides often depleted the soil and caused the introduction of new pests which needed even more chemicals.

It was interesting talking to the older farmers, and their stories how things gradually changed. "Twenty years ago", said sixty years old Andrew, who also used to be a teacher, "Twenty years ago, we planted seeds without fertilizers. We had no pesticides. And yet, we had a high yield. We could use the seeds from our harvest for the next year's crop. Water was available everywhere. Forests were dense and plentyfil. But now, you will not yield any crop without pesticides and artificial fertilizers. We have to use hybrid seeds which are more drought resistant. The seeds from the hybrid plants themselves are worthless, so we have to buy new ones every year."
But he said so in a "tone of fact", not as a complaint. It was a statement.

And still they all cope: Some change the crops they grow or the type of seeds they use. Others resort to small-scale irrigation, mulching -covering the seedlings with clover-, or conservation farming... They brought up creative ideas on how to avoid erosion, conserve the manure from running off the fields and collectively advocated on planting more trees both for the fruits, the timber, and... the carbon credits.

Cameraman Bart

Each interview lasted about three hours during which we took ample time to get the farmers at ease, even though each of them was quite outspoken and not camera-shy at all. Each had a story to tell. Not only about their farming, but also about their families, how the men went off to work in the cities, and the women are left to the farming. How all too often, the grandparents are left with their orphaned grandchildren, as if a whole productive generation was decimated.

Jan Gerits in Kenya

Still, each and everyone of them smiled. There was more laughter than complaints in the air. Each had taken an active role in determining their destiny, even though they had far less control over "life" than anyone in more developed countries...

I left one week of Kenya feeling respectful for each of the people we met, whose lives briefly crossed mine. And at this moment, I am trying to put that respect into the videos we are producing.

Ruth, Cheleste, Emily, Edward, Julia, Anastacia, Margaret,.. you will soon get copies of the pictures and the finished videos. As promised!

PS: Some of the output of these interviews is reflected in short blogposts. The first one is already out on the CCAFS blog.

First two pictures courtesy Jan Gerits.


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