The Soil is the Boss, so I Protect it: Lucia’s Transformative Journey with Regenerative Agriculture

By AGRA Content Hub

Lucia Marimu, who hails from the Gatithiini village of Kenya’s Tharaka Nithi County, struggled to make a meaningful income from her farming enterprise to comfortably raise her son, Titus, and her ageing parents. 

Never employed, and losing her husband just as Titus was born in 1995 Lucia focused her energies on green-gram farming, but her venture consistently disappointed as she failed to make enough harvests each season to cater for her bills. 

She was handed a lifeline in 2021, when AGRA partnered with Farm Africa and the Cereal Growers Association to recruit and train Village Based Advisors (VBAs) in her region. The recruitment was part of the Strengthening Regenerative Agriculture in Kenya (STRAK), a project funded by the IKEA Foundation, and intended at driving economic transformation in arid regions amidst the devastating effects of climate change. 

Regenerative agriculture is an eco-friendly approach to food and farming that focuses on topsoil regeneration, biodiversity increase, water cycle improvement, and ecosystem services enhancement. It involves various sustainable techniques, such as recycling farm waste, adding external compost, and adopting practices like permaculture and no-till methods. This approach aims to increase resilience to climate change while promoting the health and vitality of farm soil.

In Lucia’s words, “the soil is the boss, so I protect it. I ensure it retains its fertility and it provides for me.”

In Tharaka Nithi County the STRAK project aims to reach over 20,000 smallholder farmers through VBAs, among them Lucia, who was trained on modern agricultural practices, including proper crop selection and cultivation for the best market outcomes and the best regenerative agriculture practices for soil recovery. 

For Lucia, her transition to a VBA was a change-point in her life, as in two short years, she had begun to witness the results of her work, including a thriving farm that has today allowed her to earn enough to educate her son through college, build a three-bedroom stone-walled house and equip it with sufficient water supply through the installation of a huge water tank. 

Titus, her son, having witnessed the transformation that agriculture can bring to a family, also moved back home after graduating, and is now keen on becoming a successful farmer.  

“I am very passionate about farming, but I didn’t know what to do until Farm Africa recruited me. I previously attend trainings, but my yields were minimal. After Farm Africa and AGRA training, my yields have improved immensely,” said Lucia.

“For example,” she adds, “I used to harvest three bags of green grams before I became a VBA, but today, I harvest seven from the same size of land.” 

Lucia, practices intercropping, planting pumpkins, bananas, sorghum and millet alongside her green grams. She also rears milk goats, chicken and cows.  

“This year, I started a kitchen garden to grow vegetables, onions and tomatoes for home consumption. I am now able to feed my small family,” she said.

She has also recruited over 200 smallholder farmers to date, many of whom have gone on to transform their lives in similar ways as her.

When we visited her, Lucia had baked a millet cake, a product that she regularly prepares for sale on market days. Some of the farmers she has trained and supported as a VBA also joined the meeting, where they gave unique testimonies of their transformation.