Sustainable Village Resources (SVR) was founded by Caleb Odondi Omolo, native to the Rongo area. Caleb approached PRI-Kenya for a partnership when being trained by PRI-Kenya. Caleb has been through a PDC, Permaculture Teacher Training as well as the Advanced Permaculture Consultant Training with PRI-Kenya. Sustainable Village Resources was set up by Caleb to find sustainable solutions to the challenges faced by his community.
Rongo, in Migori county is blessed with fertile soils and abundant rains but unsustainable agricultural practices has seen an increasing deforestation and soil erosion in the area. The farmers in the area used to make a good income from coffee, but most abandoned their coffee production in favour of sugar production. Despite the good soils and rainfall farmers are struggling to make a living from their sugarcane with volatile markets. The Rongo Coffee Farmers are a group of farmers from all five locations in Rongo who all still have their coffee trees, but who have struggled due to a lack of processing equipment and lack of access to markets and fair prices. PRI-Kenya partnered with Sustainable Village Resources and Rongo Coffee Farmers group to support the farmers in their efforts to create environmentally sustainable livelihoods. Our aim is to see coffee food forests- layered agroforestry systems providing both organic and healthy coffee as well as food crops and other cash crops such as honey. Integrated into the system will also be species that provide essential ecosystem services such as nitrogen fixing trees.
Together with Sustainable Village Resources (SVR) and the Biovision Foundation- Switzerland and SLUSH Fund in North America, we have started the set-up of a central coffee food forest model site, a coffee tree nursery with seedlings appropriate for organic production and a simple processing and storage site.
It starts with the soil – Organic farmers work to develop a deep, rich topsoil by creating mulch out of the coffee cherry pulp. Adding other nitrogen-rich elements to it, they turn it for a full year to create a compost to spread around the base of the trees. This allows the plants to develop a longer root structure, improving moisture content, reducing soil erosion, and resulting in a clean taste. – After just two years of permaculture practice in this region farmers have seen soils come back to life and are seeing coffee trees yielding an average now of 2.4 kg per tree per harvest season. This is attributed to soil building especially by use of compost and improved farming practices such as mulching, cover cropping, inter-cropping with nitrogen fixers i.e. caliandra, lucern, pigeon peas. By again utilizing simple observations, such as that coffee trees grown in shade normally are healthier compared to coffee trees grown on open fields led to another permaculture design in practice. By growing avocado trees next to coffee trees, the shade provided from the avocado improve the yield of the coffee cherries by an estimated 1.5 fold according to farmers! Additionally such cherries were bigger and brighter than those grown in an open field. SVR’s Project Founder- Caleb Omolo stands out and has attracted visitors from all over the world, with a food forest that now boasts over 100 plant species with multi functions and coffee trees integrated.
In the next phase of the project we hope to start training on organic production and permaculture alongside business skills training. PRI Kenya has also successfully created avenues and given access for SVR’s (sustainable) Rongo coffee in Nairobi through PRI Kenya Company LTD and local partner distributor’s Safari Lounge Coffee & Tea Connection – a leading micro roaster in Nairobi. PRI Kenya is also partnered with Fargo Courier for all transporting activities which has made a significant impact giving PRI Kenya partners subsidized rates. Through the partnerships between Safari Lounge & PRI Kenya LTD, we released the first ever organic Christmas Blend, Easter Blend and now a general pack for everyday use that sits at major outlets across Nairobi, including the Duty Free! Farmers are now tapping in to shade grown coffee after seeing the success of recent production taking shape!
The farmers are able to now work toward their financial sustainability and independence through the enterprise development. PRI has also extended their service to provide support in financial management structures so SVR is able to utilize funds effectively.