Nature’s Changing Technology In Sagalla Village
Text by International Intern, Kat Finck
Sagalla Village has long been a region of small farmers, growing maize and green grams with no fertilizers, synthetic pesticides or under any irrigation, on tiny plots with a jembe, or hoe. Now, anthropogenic climate change, made worse by large-scale agricultural practices, is having devastating effects on these little farms that dot the South Eastern landscape of Kenya.
While large-scale agricultural techniques have become widely accepted and used around the world, small-scale farmers in Sagalla continue to utilize the natural properties that nature has to offer in order to solve some of the most urgent challenges.
Perhaps we can learn a lesson from these farmers and their relationship with the bees and plant species found in and around the land.
Farmers in Sagalla emit far less carbon dioxide than the average global citizen. Their relationship with nature is free of pesticides and destructive synthetic fertilizers, which alter the balance of the soil. Chemical fertilizers, that are widely used in other parts of the world, act as weapons of growth to help achieve maximum productivity in conventional agricultural systems. However, the continuous and indiscriminate utilization of these inorganic compounds stimulate excessive microorganism growth leading to the demise of soil fertility. Furthermore, fertilizers used in conventional agriculture consist of destructive chemicals like methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen, all of which contribute to excessive amounts of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere. This in turn, leads to global warming and inconsistent climatic responses that disproportionately affect small-scale farmers such as those in Sagalla Village.
Farmers in Sagalla have long avoided these unsustainable paths to excess and abundance. Instead, each and every farmer has developed an intimate understanding of the natural relationships that exist in and around their farms. These intricate systems can be utilized to minimize negative environmental impact.
Through the adoption of changing technologies in Sagalla–which involves the utilization of natural properties found in the surrounding plant and pollinator species–farmers are now increasing the productivity of their plots and reducing the presence of invasive pests.
For example, farmers have started to employ a natural bee attractant, that consists of lemon grass, ocimum, propolis and melted wax from the bees themselves, to both increase bee occupancy and reduce pest infestation. The lack of rain, as a result of drought, has caused wadudu, or pests, to colonize beehives, establishing themselves in the dark and safe corridors of the hive frames. Wax moth larvae, long horned beetles, sugar ants and spiders are amongst some of the many deleterious pests found lurking in the dark, causing minimal hive occupation. “Building a strong colony will reduce pests,” Loise, a bee specialist assisting with hive colonization efforts, often says. She has even advised farmers to use ocimum, a plant that smells like basil, as a tool for cleaning out the hives during weekly inspections. And so farmers are heeding her advice and using nature to defeat other aspects of nature, pleasure that exists between such beauty and violence.
Which structures and systems will have power in moments of vulnerability? As parts of the world rush towards technological advancements and synthetic processes that maximize growth, reduce pests, and squelch daily inconveniences, it will be important that we adhere to the advice of farmers and specialists, like Loise, who act as critical researchers and observers of our natural environment. They are the ones who listen to the soft murmurings of place, laden with messages of meaning and resilience.
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