We caught up with Dr. Faith Muniale, an agriprenuer and an alumnus of Wageningen University. In this interview she talks passionately about her work in conservation agriculture, the role of stakeholder collaboration and community participation in natural resource management and her Study in Holland experience.
NAAK: Tell us about your professional background and what you studied in The Netherlands.
Faith Muniale: My name is Faith Muniale, I am currently based in Nakuru county. I went for studies at University of Wageningen for a short course titled “Competing claims on natural resources”. The course was very interesting because it combined practical and theoretical know how for natural resources managers. I still remember some of the ideas generated during that class for example, management of cross boundary resources like rivers, lakes and forests which do not necessarily follow the administrative boundaries. This remains a challenge in Kenya especially in this devolution dispensation. Stakeholder collaboration and community participation are among approaches to address this issue. I used to work for ERMIS Africa, a few years ago I took a break to take a PhD program which I just competed.
NAAK: Any examples of success stories to demonstrate the importance of Stakeholder collaboration and community participation
Faith Muniale: When Forest Act Kenya 2005 was enacted, community participation in forest management was stamped. However, the implementation guidelines were yet to be developed, and the real take off started in 2010. Wading my way through, I supported communities living near forests in Mau, Mt. Elgon and Mt. Kenya regions to form legally recognized community entities and develop joint forest management plant per forest reserve. The policy allowed for communities to jointly plan with Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and propose and implement interventions programmes outside the forest, literally where the people live. The intervention programmes helped to ease pressure on the forest resources and at the same time improve the livelihoods of the community members. This process required collaboration with all the stakeholders that affect or are affected by the forest resource. The participatory process was very rigorous to allow the community to own the process and the developed plans.
NAAK: What are you working on currently?
Faith Muniale: I am in the process of developing a project with Africa Conservation Tillage Network and ACIAR. The project will focus on mechanization for small and medium scale farmers with intention to promote conservation agriculture in a crop and livestock mixed farming system. The project covers East Africa region.
NAAK: How can Kenyan farmers develop appropriate approaches, methods and tools for scaling up and conserving agriculture?
Faith Muniale: The farmers in Kenya particularly the small-scale farmers are commonly responsive to technological innovations and approaches that tag production improvement and reduce the risk of it. Some farming communities have evolved localized practices through trial and error, but most of the authentic approaches, methods and tools are developed through research. However, their adoption hardly lives a full cycle nor scales out enough to cause the desired impact in food security. There is need for adaptive leadership in agriculture sector generally whereby research should be followed by policy and structural adjustments to support small scale farmers. This will result successful adoption of such innovation to improve the production levels, reduce drudgery and risks associated with production as well as the entire value chain. Conservation agriculture is one such innovation that improves food production, the environment and farmers’ livelihood. Its adoption however is still very low. For example, of all the land under conservation agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya has 3% and Tanzania 2% only. Besides knowledge and awareness creation among farmers, policy adjustments are necessary to provide for extension services to walk the farmers down the path until the system is established. At the onset of adopting such innovations, farmers need input and technical support. Adaptive leadership in agriculture sector will significantly improve food security.
NAAK: Why should someone consider applying to go study in The Netherlands?
Faith Muniale: The quality of education in Holland is very high. The short course I took was extremely rich in content. The approach and method of teaching is very innovative and practical. Which makes it easier for learners to understand and relate with the content at a personal and practically applicable level. To add onto this, the learning is incorporated with travel which makes it diverse. We had field trips both to the jungle and to the cities.
Besides the technical subject learning, there was opportunity to learn the Dutch culture too. I remember the pancake hotel in the outskirts of the city where the host narrated the history of the pancake eating culture of the Dutch
NAAK: What motivates you daily?
Faith Muniale: I am self-motivated and result oriented. I wake up every day thinking about how I can improve the livelihoods of local rural communities.
I draw my strength from God and my family that has been very supportive.
NAAK: Did you enjoy being in The Netherlands?
Faith Muniale: Besides the rich technical learning, it was great to see The Hague especially since that was the time the International Criminal Court (ICC) was handling a Kenyan case, I made friends from the course and have maintained an enriching network. Many thanks to the Orange Knowledge program (OKP).
NAAK: What is your key message?
Faith Muniale: I am proud to be part of the Kenyan alumni chapter and readily available to contribute my valuable skills to propel my country forward.