In the arid and semi-arid regions of Kajiado County, a quiet agricultural revolution is taking root, urging women, farmers, and pastoralists to embrace indigenous vegetable farming as a sustainable alternative livelihood.

The push for cultivating African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs) is not only a means of diversifying income sources but also a response to the challenges posed by climate change affecting these regions.

Kajiado County, traditionally known for its reliance on pastoralism, is now breaking new ground by encouraging the cultivation of indigenous vegetables.

The County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Livestock, Fisheries & Irrigation in Kajiado Jacktone Achola emphasises the importance of this shift, particularly in the face of changing climatic conditions in ASAL.

The need to move away from overreliance on livestock becomes apparent as climate change continues to impact the availability of grazing land and water resources.

Pauline Kariuki from Rural Women Network says Indigenous vegetables, commonly referred to as African Leafy Vegetables, have gained popularity due to their exceptional nutritional value.

Varieties such as African Nightshade (managu), amaranthus (terere), spider plant (saget), and slender leaf (mitoo) are becoming staples in Kenyan diets.

Ms Kariuki says the push to mainstream these vegetables in Kajiado County is driven by initiatives targeting women’s groups, aiming not only to improve overall nutrition but also to provide alternative livelihoods.

The recent presentation of a draft Africa Leafy Vegetable Value Chain 5-year strategy by the Rural Women Network shed light on the challenges faced by counties in fully embracing indigenous vegetable farming.

County officials with a representative of Rural Women Network during the hand over of a draft report on African Leafy Vegetables. Image:BDA.
County officials with a representative of Rural Women Network during the hand over of a draft report on African Leafy Vegetables. Image:BDA.

Issues such as the availability of quality seeds, capacity building for farmers, and post-production holding storage were highlighted. Kajiado County, at the forefront of this initiative, aims to address these challenges through the integration of the strategy into its agricultural policies.

The strategy has been prepared by the Rural Women Network, an umbrella body that caters to the welfare of women and youth in Kajiado County.

Once fully ratified, the strategy promises to empower women’s groups at the grassroots level of ASAL communities.

With increased access to quality seeds and proper training, these groups can scale up production and successfully diversify into crop agriculture.

This shift not only enhances food security but also contributes to the resilience of communities in the face of climate change.

The emphasis on indigenous vegetables goes beyond economic and nutritional benefits; it also aligns with sustainable agriculture practices. Indigenous vegetables are well-adapted to local climates and require fewer inputs, making them resilient in the face of unpredictable weather patterns.

By promoting the cultivation of these crops, Kajiado County is taking a step towards building a more sustainable and climate-resilient agricultural sector.

As women, farmers, and pastoralists in Kajiado County embrace the cultivation of indigenous vegetables, they are not only securing alternative livelihoods but also contributing to a more sustainable and climate-resilient future.

The shift towards diversified agriculture not only mitigates the impact of climate change but also fosters a sense of empowerment and self-reliance among communities in the ASAL regions.

With each leafy vegetable cultivated, Kajiado County is sowing the seeds of a more resilient and sustainable future for its people.