A trip to my Village: an epitome of traditional ecological knowledge

A trip to my village: an epitome of traditional ecological knowledge

This post was submitted to the #NatureForAll Storytelling Festival. It is posted here with the permission of the author.

Written by Sophia Kadima

Based in Kenya, Sophia is a natural resource management officer with an interest in environmental management. Growing up in an agricultural village, she learned many techniques from her childhood at her grandmothers’ farm, including how cow dung was used to store grains This method is not only affordable but also eco-friendly, and could be used to safeguard biodiversity, which is in danger because of increased pollution.

Growing up in the village has always been fun. Talk of free wild fruits, studying behavior of various birds as we listen to their lyrics, the pleasant weather and the vast agriculture that happens in the village. Indeed, my parents store was always full of various types of food. I enjoyed fetching firewood, going to the river to fetch water with my neighbors and chewing sugarcane on our way back. To crown it all, the green beauty of the environment was lovely.

As time went by, there was increase in population since there was plenty of food and also the presence of Mumias Sugar Company brought in a lot of new people in my village. This led to land scarcity and therefore encroachment of the nearby forests set in. The trees were cut down to pave way for homes and agricultural land. These practices increased air and water pollution and loss of biodiversity. The once admired green fields of planted forests began fading away.

I come from a family where my parents are farmers. They depend on farming to meet their daily needs. On the other hand, these farming activities come along with extensive agricultural practices. Farmers in western Kenya need pesticides and fertilizers to increase their yields. The soil PH has also been greatly affected, so, someone needs to invest to correct that challenge. This entails application of either base or acidic fertilizers to the soil. This affects the soil fauna. Some of them use herbicides to keep off weeds in
their farms, later apply pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. All these practices are not friendly to the environment. These chemicals end on land resulting in air and water pollution. During storage, we still apply chemicals to the produce. We consume a lot of chemicals putting our health at risk.

During school holidays, we could visit our grandmother. A stay with her involved a lot of learning. She had unique styles of cooking as well as storing her farm produce. For instance, after maize had been harvested and it was now ready for storing, my grandmother would give each one of us a bucket to go collect cow dung from our neighbors or by the roadside. We would go looking for grazing fields since that was the only place we could get huge chunks of cow dung. It sounded weird b since we were children but with time we learnt what she was doing.

We would then bring her the cow dung and assist her to sun dry for almost a week. Once it dried, we would assist her in burning it and then sieving the dust. The dust was then spread on the maize and the grains were ready for storage. Something funny, the grains were never attacked with weevils. The sequence would go on until she stores all the harvest.

As a kid, I never got to understand why she chose to store her food in cow dung. A culture she passed forward to my parents. As large scale farmers, they were bound to use large quantities of inorganic fertilizers. This tradition knowledge limits them to produce organic foods something I am proud of. Having grown up, I now got to understand traditional ecological knowledge in depth. She was minding our environment as well as cutting costs. It has been many years since she passed away but we still use her knowledge. This has not only reduced costs on us but also reduced us from polluting the environment. I look forward to pass the same knowledge to my children. We need to conserve and protect the environment.

Suppose, this knowledge is tapped and people get to try it and later love it, this will not only reduce pollution but also support biodiversity. A lot of plants are killed through application of herbicides.


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