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Farming God’s Way: conservation agriculture and faith contested in Kenya

Authors: Harry Spaling*, The King's University
Topics: Rural Geography, Environment, Africa
Keywords: farming God’s way, conservation agriculture, sustainable farming, Kenya
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Conservation agriculture (CA) is viewed by many as an important development intervention for achieving sustainability outcomes for smallholding farm households in Kenya, including as a livelihood adaptation to climate change and soil degradation. “Farming God’s Way” (FGW) is a variant of CA that also includes a set of religious principles designed to motivate farmers toward sustainability practices on the farm. This research identifies and compares the sustainability claims of CA/FGW made in the literature and by food security program managers in Canada, and smallholding farmers in Kenya, using semi-structured interviews (n=23) and focus groups (n=2). Data are analyzed qualitatively using NVivo software. Sustainability claims among program managers, farmers, and the literature are not always aligned. Biophysical claims such as improved soil moisture and fertility are generally consistent, but social claims about farm labour distribution by gender and the role of religion on adapting FGW at the farm level vary. For example, the program managers’ claim that the religious principles and prescriptive practices of FGW inhibit on-farm adaptation and innovation is refuted by farmer experience in the field including increased yields, and female farmers negate the program managers’ claim that labour for weeding is increased among women practicing FGW. Contested sustainability claims may contribute to food security programming that is misaligned with the needs of farming households.

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