When we think “Kenya,” we all think cheetahs and lions, but West Kenya,
Luo country out past Nakuru, is flat agricultural land dotted with small farms that surround cities like Kisii and Kisumu and peter out in the wetlands of Lake Victoria.
Even before Covid, West Kenya was not a big tourist destination, but depended on vegetables sold into the cities.
“Even then life was hard,” says Mercy Ogembo, Warm Heart Biochar Country Manager for Kenya, “because everything is so expensive”.
Biochar, she thinks, has changed all this. Instead of spending much of their small incomes on chemical fertilizers, farmers can make their own biochar.
It not only rejuvenates tired soil. It also increases yields and retains water. Water, she says, is critically important these days because of drought and rising temperatures.
Like Sister Paulet in Malawi and Pastor Waibera in Congo, Mercy has trained her own extension agents who have trained dozens of villages and thousands of farmers to understand climate change, the dangers of smoke, and how to make and use biochar.
As in Malawi and Congo, her farmers do not blindly accept biochar. (They have been promised miracles by lots of visiting experts.) They test it in half a field to see how it compares.
When it out-performs, they embrace it – and let us know! (Like the Malawians, they belong to “Biochar East Africa,” a WhatsApp group managed by Sister Paulet, where trainers (extension agents) post photos and videos of trainings, contracts with headmen and farmer sign in sheets.)
One of the best videos ever posted was posted by Mercy’s high school aged foster daughter that is a poem in praise of biochar!