Manor House Agricultural Centre (MHAC) was established in 1984 in response to a three-year drought that caused severe hunger in many areas of rural Kenya, which precipitated the need for new approaches to farming. These concerns were raised in 1981 during a United Nations conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy. One outcome of the UN conference was the establishment of MHAC as a non-profit Trust dedicated to improving the sustainable well-being of rural small scale farmers. Despite the fact that over 75% of Kenyans make their living from farming, and over 85% of those are small-scale, family farmers on an average holding of 1.1 hectares, policies have focused on the development of cash crops destined for export. Such policies provided a net gain in exports, but today, Kenya imports approximately 80% of its food.
MHAC is an indigenous organization that for over two decades has been at the forefront of helping the neediest Kenyan families to achieve ongoing food security through improved soil fertility and increased farm production, and a modest level of prosperity through marketing of their excess crops. Since its inception, MHAC has been a leader in Kenya in the movement to increase food security by introducing small-scale farmers to farming practices that make efficient use of limited resources, require few, if any, external inputs, and protect natural resources (particularly soil fertility) for future generations.The curriculum at MHAC addresses the goals of the United Nations and the World Food Council, which are calling for forms of agriculture that reduce chemical use, conserve and rehabilitate soil, improve farm productivity, conserve plant genetic resources, research and develop organic farming techniques, use and conserve local resources, and produce large amounts of calories from small areas.
MHAC promotes GROW BIOINTENSIVE, a low cost agricultural technology suited to small-scale farmers developed at Ecology Action in Willits, California. GROW BIOINTENSIVE focuses on composting to improve soil fertility, deep soil preparation to enhance growth, mulching to conserve moisture, close spacing to increase productivity, and biological controls to manage pests and plant diseases.
GROW BIOINTENSIVE aims at growing the most food from the least land. It has been found through our experience of 28 years that this farming method addresses the most urgent needs of family farmers in Kenya, where the size of farms has steadily decreased and soil has deteriorated, water is often severely limited, and farming inputs are beyond the reach of most farmers. Click here for more details about the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method.
In addition, MHAC training programmes provide participants with skills in livestock management, nutrition, appropriate technology, small business management, and agro-forestry.
Mini-Training Centres: In addition, MHAC has developed 40 Mini-Training Centres (MTCs) in village settings to extend these techniques to women's groups and farmers. Organized as community-based organizations, the MTCs are an approach that empowers farmers to be trainers of other farmers in their localities.
MHAC Graduates:MHAC estimates that well over 100 Kenyan NGOs have been started by its graduates to teach GROW BIOINTENSIVE practices and other related technologies aimed at sustainability.
In one example, GROW BIOINTENSIVE training for two MHAC graduates was multiplied through the Integrated Rural Community Empowerment Program (IRCEP) in Kenya to provide basic GROW BIOINTENSIVE training to over 540 people during a 4-year period. At the beginning of the training, most of these 540 farmers and their families could not grow enough food for three meals a day because of fertilizer and other artificial input costs. In economic terms, their family income amounted to less than zero. However, results of an on-farm follow-up survey conducted in the 5th year were dramatic. Farmers using GROW BIOINTENSIVE techniques were able to provide three nutritious meals per day for their families and generate, on average, $30 per month in income from excess crops sold at market.
Meetings, forums and conferences: MHAC is equipped with three meeting halls, sleeping accommodations, and dining for conferences, workshops, and meetings hosted by MHAC and other organizations.