Manor House Agricultural Centre (MHAC) Hub

Lead Organization:

IDEMS International Community Interest Company

Community of Practice:

East & Southern Africa, Farmer research network (FRN)

Countries:

Kenya

Duration:

8/2019—8/2021

Overview:

Manor House Agricultural Centre (MHAC) in northwest Kenya has long served as a farmer training center for organic agriculture, but had become relatively inactive in recent years. In 2018, an inception grant enabled the start-up social enterprise IDEMS (Innovations in Development Education and the Mathematical Sciences) to initiate an agroecology hub at MHAC. The team held an inception meeting and developed a vision for vibrant community of agroecology practitioners with a physical base at MHAC. The hub intends to link agroecology science, practice, and movement and will be guided by principles, values, and ideas that they hold in common with the CCRP. This alignment is possible in part because the project’s proposed leader, Dr. Beth Medvecky, had previously served as the regional Liaison Scientist for the former Eastern Africa community of practice (CoP) and has long-standing links with MHAC. The inception period enabled the hub project to host a series of capacity strengthening events and to initiate some research activities connected with the CCRP’s regional CoP.

This would be one of three hubs in the combined ESAf CoP; the other two are newly established at universities in Tanzania and Malawi. The university-based hubs are naturally more focused on the science of agroecology and on degree training for a new generation of scientists with an agroecological orientation, while the MHAC hub is more oriented towards practitioners (farmers) and the organizations that support them and advance the agroecology movement. IDEMS currently leads the project, which currently involves three non-Africans with deep roots in the region. During the proposed project phase, the IDEMS team will work to strengthen the local MHAC team’s capacities to assume responsibility for managing the hub in the future.

Grant Aims:

The CCRP endeavors to support smallholder farmers to shift toward more sustainable approaches based on agroecological principles and practices that can collectively be transformative in enhancing systems health. The concept of “AEI hubs” is an emerging strategy to support the capacity strengthening needed to facilitate place-based change. The hub at the MHAC is one of three hubs in development in the ESAf CoP. The proposed work is for a first full funding phase for this hub, following a successful inception period. The agroecology hub at MHAC is advancing toward a vision of an anchor facility to coordinate various training events and to host various research endeavors of relevance to local farming communities and the organizations that support them. MHAC has existed for a long time and is linked with a large network of organizations involved in organic farming, such as the PELUM (Participatory Ecological Land Use Management) network in Kenya. The proposed project would support a renaissance for MHAC, and its hub will stimulate a dynamic regional effort to support AEI.

Outputs and Outcomes:

Outputs:

  • Learning resources relevant to focal AE practices and related concepts
  • Learning cycle reports
  • Documentation of effective versus less effective hub and FRN processes
  • Value creation stories of CoP members
  • Research reports and publications
  • Student blogs/ reflection papers

Outcomes:

  • Relevant and evidence-based information about AE concepts and practices are more widely available and accessed
  • FRN approaches are being adopted by a broader range of hub partners
  • CoP members have the ability to include hub-focal AE practices in their AE repertoire
  • CoP members are more concerned about the evidence base of AE practices
  • Benefits of effective AE practices are manifest on steadily growing numbers of smallholder farms in focal counties
  • Science, practice, and movement partners communicate with one another more effectively and join together to work towards common goals
  • Involvement in hub activities contribute to enhanced effectiveness of its members’ AE efforts
  • Students are inspired to pursue career goals that grow out of their hub experiences
  • Hub leadership becomes regionalized to local partners who have the skills and motivation to provide effective leadership