Embu County, Kenya

Challenges · Biodiversity · Livelihoods

Landscape Profile

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Consolata Nyaga, a smallholder farmer on the slopes of Mt Kenya, in the district of Embu, prepares her maize plot for planting. She does this all by hand using a hoe, and it is hard work. Her farm, or “garden”, consists of a hectare and a quarter of land, and includes milk cows, coffee, bananas, and beans. However, the most important crop is the half hectare of improved maize she grows every season.

"Let me tell you, if you eat potatoes and cabbages and eat rice, you cannot have energy to dig,” she says. “Yes, maize has got very big energy. You see somebody like myself after 56 years cannot dig unless you eat something good!”

The maize variety Nyaga grows feeds her and gives her the cash to put her 10 children through school. It is based on material from CIMMYT and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), which have been working in collaboration to provide farmers with new improved varieties. These varieties are more drought-tolerant and insect resistant, give higher yields under proper management, and are quality protein maize (QPM), meaning they have enhanced levels of essential amino acids. CIMMYT and KARI work with organizations on the ground to demonstrate the advantages of these varieties. Nyaga and the community group of which she is the treasurer have been quick to adopt the improved materials; her neighbors are also curious about the new maize, and come to field days on her farm to learn about it.

Photo credit: CIMMYT.

For more information, see CIMMYT's October 2006 e-news story "No Maize, No Food," available online at: http://www.cimmyt.org/newsletter/82-2006/257-no-maize-no-food.

Embu County, Kenya

Approximate size (hectares)





Tropical Wet & Dry

Production Systems

Coffee, Cotton, Livestock, Tea


Embu County is located in the humid highland slopes of Mt. Kenya. The main agricultural activities include growing cash crops such as tea, coffee, cotton, and macadamia nuts, as well as livestock rearing and food production for subsistence purposes. Embu is home to many groups of stakeholders that have been collaborating within the landscape on issues of poverty, land fragmentation, market development, environmental degradation, water use, climate change, and human-wildlife conflict. These groups include Water Users Associations (WRUAs) and Community Forest Associations (CFAs), among others.

Embu is also one of the sites for the World Agroforestry Centre’s Strengthening Rural Institutions (SRI) Project, which builds the capacity of smallholder farmer groups through a participatory process.

Photo courtesy of CIMMYT.

Major Successes


Strengthening Rural Institutions (SRI)

The Strengthening Rural Institutions (SRI) Project, supported by the World Agroforestry Centre, undertook various capacity development activities in the sites. These included leadership training, strategic business planning, horticulture and value addition training, goat rearing training, tree nursery establishment and management, animal feed preservation and training, and market analysis. The SRI Project then collaborated with EcoAgriculture Partners to facilitate a policy dialogue process in Embu, at both sub-county and county levels. The sub-county level meeting involved a consultation with the stakeholders from the sub-county who represented a variety of stakeholder groups including farmers, government officials, private sector, focal development areas and community based organizations. The county level consultative meeting was held with officials from the county level of government. Officials deliberated on the prioritized issues identified by the sub-county representatives. During the policy dialogue process, it was found that there was no platform in Embu to assist in implementation and discussion of policies that could affect Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) issues. Therefore stakeholders decided to form a platform in Embu (AMUKA) whose main aim is to be the focal point in ILM issues and also to manage sustainable livelihood initiatives for its members. The steering committee, which consists of government representatives (both county and national), NGO representatives, farmers and local level leaders, has also been converted a platform for stakeholders where ILM issues and policies affecting farmers are discussed.

Working Together

Kamiu Kavanga Group

There are number of coalitions and partnerships in Embu. For example, Kamiu Kavanga group is a coalition of individual members in Kamiu village as well as community groups within the area. The coalition has a clearly defined mandate.

Other coalitions are also present, such as the Water Users associations (WRUA), which is mandated to manage and conserve river basins and develop, monitor and evaluate water implementation plan, and Community Forest Association (CFA), which is responsible for conservation of the forests through community forest management plans. CFA and WRUA membership is comprised of user groups, individual farmers and tea factories around the area.

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