Regenerative farming at the heart of cooperation of the YMCA and the University of Helsinki
A weather observation device has been installed on the grounds of the Kenyan YMCA college in Limuru. The measurement point is part of the University of Helsinki's wider research, which investigates the effects of the climate crisis and agriculture on, for example, biodiversity, water reserves and soil. The university's research supports the development of a study module on regenerative farming for use by educational institutions in Kenya.
A weather observation device installed on the Kenyan YMCA lands in October 2022 measures rainfall, soil moisture and temperature. The measurement point is one of the University of Helsinki’s six measurement points in Kenya.
“We study the effects of regenerative farming on crop yield, soil carbon sequestration capacity, biodiversity and microbial activity. The research information helps us to develop the most suitable sets of farming methods for Kenya’s many different climate zones and soil,” says Petri Pellikka, Professor, and the Director of Taita Research Station at the University of Helsinki.
“The field work with the weather observation device and the good results obtained from the demonstration plots have already increased the curiosity of the students and staff towards the regenerative farming. Cooperation with the University of Helsinki helps us to develop regenerative farming in practice,” says Henry Kirii, Principal of the Kenya YMCA College of Agriculture and Technology, the KYCAT.
Regenerative farming as part of sustainable food production
Regenerative farming is food production that improves both the growth conditions of the soil and the well-being of the environment. A well-maintained arable land produces crop more reliably and thus increases society’s security of food supply.
The main principles of regenerative farming are year-round plant cover, enabling underground microbial activity, and minimal disturbance of the field structure and microbes.
“Regenerative farming aims to maximise the area of photosynthesis by adding perennial and drought-resistant local grass species among nitrogen-fixing bean species as undercrop of the main crop, for example corn. The purpose of undercrop is to bind moisture, prevent nutrient eroding, and promote soil microbial activity. After harvesting the main crop, undercrop continues to photosynthesise and to sequester carbon into the soil. We get more reliable yields when several crops are planted in the same field. If the harvest of the main crop fails, the harvest of the undercrops may nevertheless be successful,” says Juuso Tuure, Researcher at the University of Helsinki.
The principles of regenerative farming have been introduced in the demonstration plots of the KYCAT educational institution in 2021. The plots are growing corn, leek, beetroot, and different varieties of cabbage, to name a few.
Young people are in the heart of change of the farming culture
In Kenya, work is being done in many sectors to promote sustainable development, one of which is sustainable agriculture and food security. YMCA’s self-sufficient food production training in Kenya meets this need. The KYCAT’s work towards sustainable development and agriculture is supported through the development cooperation program of the YMCA of Finland and Kenya.
“During the next four years, the goal of the KYCAT educational institution is to adopt farming methods based on sustainable development, and eventually, to develop a study module and curriculum. The study module is being developed in co-operation with organisations and educational institutions working on regenerative farming, in both Kenya and Finland. The next step is to strengthen existing networks and build new ones,” says Program Planners Beatrice Thuita from YMCA Kenya and Inka Havanto, from the YMCA Finland.
Inka Havanto, Planning Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org +358 44 796 7960
Beatrice Thuita, National Programs Coordinator, email@example.com, +254 70 892 3924
Youth, Peace and Livelihoods development cooperation program promotes young people’s livelihood opportunities and peace work skills. The program is implemented with YMCA partners in Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Lebanon and Palestine from 2022 to 2025. The program receives its funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.