Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Common Ground Program & Mini- Ag Center (CGP) in Kenya

Joshua Machinga, Coordinator

For further information, please contact:
Common Ground Program
P.O Box 2487,Kitale, 30200 Kenya
Tel. 011-254-325-44205
Fax. 011-254-325-30177


We share one world, and our lives and future are one as well, inextricably intertwined. Together we must tackle the world's single threat: poverty. Poverty breeds hunger, disease, illiteracy and environmental degradation. It sharpens civil conflicts. It threatens the lives of more than a billion people and the collective future of humankind. How we combat poverty will determine our destiny. We are partners in creation of our fate.

In fighting poverty, the Common Ground Program & Mini- Ag Center (CGP) is improving lives in some of the poorest communities in Kenya. We do so not because it is our interest to invest in our common future, but also it is humane and moral. CGP's most fundamental reason for being is to affirm the dignity of all human beings and protect the natural resources our life support.

Appropriate and Sustainable: These words are both CGP's legacy and CGP's promise. We are committed to helping families find the lasting solutions to poverty, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity through promotion of GROW BIOINTENSIVE food raising methods.

The pages of this document introduce you to the activities of CGP. They outline the case for CGP: Our mission, Our vision and Our promise. And they invite your support.

About CGP

The Common Ground Program is a Kenyan non-governmental community-based organization formally known as the Pilot Follow Up Project founded in 1995.

The organization's mission statement (focus) is to tackle the nation's single threat: poverty. Poverty breeds hunger, disease, illiteracy and environmental degradation. It also sharpens civil conflicts.


The organization ensures that all people have accessed to nutritious affordable and biointensively (organic) grown food while strengthening the community and promoting self-sufficiency. The Common Ground seeks to pursue its focus through the programs that feeds the hungry, educates the public and restores the earth.

Set on 5 acres of land in western Kenya, the organization's training and storage complex includes demonstration garden and food bank facilities that provide a practical model of a functioning Biointensive Agriculture (BIA) system for farmers (mainly women), college trainees, children and members of the local community. The Common Ground enable the poor people in the region to develop and use technologies and methods of BIA which give more control over their lives and which contribute to the sustainable development of their communities.

With BIA methods farmers are able to grow 2-6 times more food per unit area while using a fraction of farm inputs i.e. fertilizers (organic) and water. The organization targets mainly women groups. Most of these groups compose of windows and single mothers.

How the organization works:

CGP focuses its approach at family and community level of livelihood security. This means that every family should have food, health care, a place to live, education, a safe and health environment and ability to participate in decisions affecting their family, community and country.

CGP's programs seek to help poor families obtain this security. For more than seven years, CGP has reached out to people in need around the country. The organization provides effective and efficient solutions to the complex problems faced, reaching out over 2000 families.

The Challenges

In Kenya today, over 54 per cent live in poverty. More than 12 million of them live in "absolute poverty", surviving on less than one dollar per day. They do not have access to basic services that the people in developed nations take for granted: clean water, sanitation, electricity, schooling and health care. In most cases, they lack even a glimmer of hope that they will be able to overcome obstacles to improving their lives.

The spectre of poverty is the greatest threat to humankind's collective future. Its ramifications are diverse and far- reaching, impacting health, the environment, food security and even the potential for national economic growth.

Poverty undermines national security. It pushes families to the edge of economic survival . Every day, families are trapped in a vicious cycle where poverty, lack of education, lack of of earning power, poor nutrition and poor health feed on each other. Additionally threats including the spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases and the occurrence of natural and man-made disasters, plague their daily lives.

In our increasingly interdependent world, this cycle undermines long-term well being. But the good news is that we hold the tools to craft a brighter future for ourselves.

What Would You Do?

Mary Kundu is stricken by ones the nations deadliest scourages: AIDS. Mary's husband died last year from the virus. Mary stays in her bed roomed house with her two daughters, a few chickens and her 0.25 acres of land in Kiminini scheme. She tries works her land, but is often too sick. She's afraid to ask for help from her neighbours since AIDS carries an enormous stigma in the entire region. Mary must weigh how she treat her illines and secure her family's future. In her situation, what choice or combination of choices would you make?

Pretend you are sick from malaria or other disease and seek assistance from neighbours Risk ostracism or eviction and tell your neighbours you have AIDS in the hope that they will take of you and your family Sell you house and belongings to raise money for medicine, and move your family in with another poor family member Eat less food to save money for medicine Give your children to relatives to save money and resources. For now, Mary has chosen to seek assistance from neighbours and church members for "malaria." The family has to cut down on food intake , typically to one meal per day, and has not bought any "luxuries" ( soap and clothing) for some time. Her children do not go to school, as they are needed to work the land. As for the future, Mary has talked to the family members about taking her children. The dilemmas are facing Mary are excruciating. Through CGP, however, interventions are available that can prevent such situations or at least improve the choices people face.

Making Difficult Choices

For thousands of families countrywide, day -to- day life is a difficult-balancing act, with the need for survival pitted against the long-term well being of their children and communities. Each day, families must make wrenching decisions about which basic needs to secure, and which to forego.A failed harvest, a serious illness, a lost job or political upheaval can send a family spiraling over the edge. CGP goal is to change the choices that confront poor families, creating new possibilities in their lives while using local resources found within their reach.

" Hunger is a cause of poverty as well as its symptoms; it is a trap which makes it extremely difficult for a household to help itself". -The World Food Programme

CGP Solutions

Poverty and environmental degradation persists because of a complex web of social, economic, political and environmental factors. While broad-based sustainable development requires good governance,a strong civil society, political stability and appropriete policies, there ia an urgent need for interventions at the most impoverished margins of many families in Kenya. That is where CGP works, using a broad range of approaches that addresses the root causes of poverty and environmental degradation helps families and communities make lasting improvements in their lives.

CGP approach to poverty alleviation and environmental degradation is holistic. We identify the obstacles that families and communities face in their effort to achieve a secure livelihood and design solution to those obstacles that will bring opportunities and hope. These include providing education, improving public health care, promoting GROW BIOINTENSIVE agriculture, environmental conservation activities, providing gleaned food stuffs and strengthening local capacity through partnership and training.

We envision a future where our work is done: Where families and communities are able to shape their future and where poverty has overcome.


Each year, in Kenya,CGP provides hope and opportunity to two thousand families with an average of 8 members each.CGP programs are based on partnerships emphasizing community participation and capacity- building both factors that have proven critical to local onwership and sustainability. CGP programmes leave a lsting legacy in human and social capital.

CGP looks at the big picture of poverty and environmental degradation and combines approaches to attack not just the symptoms but the underlying causes as well. This holistic approach results in diverse innovative solutions, including:

1. Basic and Girl's Education:
Promoting basic education for all, including girls who are often denied the opportunity to go to school. Famillies with garden-based income can afford to send their children to school. The children are healthier and can learn more effectively.

2. Hunger Alleviation:
Poor production on family farms due to exhausted soil is a widerspread cause of hunger and malnutrition. Biointensive techniques have proven to increase food production from two six times.

3. Soil Restoration:
Diminishing soil fertility is an acute problem in Kenya.By growing and composting plants with a high content of carbon and nitrogen, Biointensive farmers restore soil fertility.

4. Water Conservation, Sanitation and Environmental Health:
Helping poor communities build and maintain wells, water systems and latrines with income from Biointensive garden and mini-farms. Also, providing health education to reduce the risk of water borne illnesses.

Biointensive techniques significantly reduce the amount of water needed to nurture crops by building porous, microbe-rich soil which absorbs and retains it. This makes it possible to maintain adequate supplies of food even in drought conditions.

5. Security:
Improved and increased food supply stabilizes families and villages.

6. Health:
Family health is improved due to better nutrition and the absence of toxic chemicals.

7.Poverty Relief:
Families benefit economically by eliminating costly chemical fertilizer and pesticide inputs, and because Biointensive gardens effectively. Providing gleaned food to victims of natural and manmade disasters including ethnic conflicts, famine and floods, particularly children under 5. Pregnant women and nursing mothers.

8. Small Economic Activity Development:
Providing technical training to poor families to start or expand small business and increase family income

9. Strengthened Community:
Training programs are community -based. Villagers come together for training workshops and subsequently to share experience and exchange ideas. The circle widens as they recruit their neighbors.

10. Population (Family Planning)
Trainers emphasize the connection between farm size and family size. Nature-based farming methods make farmers aware of the " carrying capacity" of their small plots.

Empowerment is Key:

"The technologies and approaches that you and your staff develop and promote offer poor farmers around the country constructive options for improving the management of their land increasing food production and reducing poverty. I witnessed this myself three year ago," remarks Moses Lutalala.

" I was able to stop working away from my farm as a wage labore Mumias Sugat Company in Mumiasi to work full-time tending my one-acre farm. After receiving training in Biointensive practices my wife and I converted our conventionally cultivated farm to one using double-dug beds. This enabled us to produce surplus vegetables for sale in local markets. After nearly a year of work, I stopped working for the Mumias Sugat Company to invest all my time with my wife on our land. The income increased four times what it was as a day laborer and I am a much happier person working for myself. As a result I have trained 530 other families in my Community", concludes Moses.

Even though this is only one example it clearly demonstrates the important impact that these and other alternative agricultural practices can have on the life of the poor farm families

Why Support CGP

Support for programs to combat poverty is a moral and humane imperative. It is also a sound and effective investment in people struggling to improve their lot in life.

Organizations like CGP- independent, flexible, locally responsive-are able to implement

"...... Citizens of donor countries must continue to support aid. The bad news is that just as aid is poised to be its most effective, the volume of aid is declining and is at its lowest level ever." -The World Bank

programs that are effective in reducing poverty and enhance environmental conservation while ensuring the each individual in this and future generation has enough food to eat. Programs that are participatory, education-based, adaptive and work at the grassroots level.Programs that advance both knowledge and economic opportunity, and that leave a lasting legacy in human and social capital. These programs provide tangible improvements in people's lives- whether it is education, clean water, better nutrition or increased agricultural production. They also contribute to strengthening the fabric of families, communities and civil society.

Support of CGP is an investiment in proven solutions to poverty and environ mental conservation. It is an investiment in effective and efficient programs. It is an investiment worthy of your support.

"..........Development assistance can be successfully allocated to responsible governments and nongovernmental organizations that make anti-poverty programs a priority. Aid works. When it's effectively targeted." -The Los Angeles Times

A Partnership in Giving

Each and every dollar given to CGP by generous and committeed donors has forged - and continues to forge-a partnership in giving. A partnership that has helped build CGP into one of the most effective small size orgarnizations in the country. A partnership that has helped bring concrete and lasting change to the lives many thousands of people.

Your support of CGP is a critical catalyst to this work. It is a starting point in a process of self-help that with the hard work of our beneficiaries, will open new opportuinities and improve the lives of families in some of the poorest communities in Kenya.

CGP is honored to be your emissary of good will. In carrying out our mission and yours, we are committted to upholding the highest standards of respect. Integrity commitment and excellence.

Making Changes Happen

"Living in Kenya about ten years ago, I became acutely aware of the suffering of rural people". CGP donor Sandra Mardigian remembers.

"It was obvious that people worked har, knew what they needed and lacked, but had access neither to information nor to money to tackle the problems they faced. Everywhere , people were in need of health facilities, classrooms, adequate water-all the most basic necesseties. Gradually I understood that the farmers were observing that even thier precious soil, thier life support, was degradating and eroding away, and I realized that this was the most tragic and potentially dangerous to all the hardships the people endured."

Since 1989 Sandra Mardigian , Sandra is a co-ordinator of Kilili Self help Project has been raising funds to support CGP to carry out training on GROW BIOINTENSIVE food raising method for groups of farmers in Kenya. The project is founded on the belief that none of the other problems of developing nations- poverty, education, family planning, nutrition, health including HIV/AIDS- can be solved by people who do not have adequate food to eat.

" Kilili gives grants to cover expenses like bus fare, bicycles, tools, seeds, training materials and occassionally a small stipend. This support is highly cost-effective since many thousands of farmers have been reached through their efforts.

The total investment per person on a verage is about US$100. It seems safe to say that this small investment is enough to ensure a lifetime of food security for themselves and thier families, and whom they will pass on the knowledge over time. Despite the many difficulties of thier situation, they are inspired, and they are confident that they now have the ability ti ensure the survival of thier families.

And to see the women in Africa and their faces light up because they can feed their children. To be a part of that is wonderful. There's just nothing better in the world."

Your Gift to CGP

CGP is critically dependent on support to relieve suffering and save lives in the midst of crises and to build sustained capacity for self-help. The generosity of our donors is crucial to continuing our tradition of providing hope and opportuinity to poor families in Kenya.

Contributions to CGP may be made for a variety of purposes and in many ways.

Unrestricted Gifts(new approach): Are used wherever the need is greatest, allowing CGP

to respond rapidly to problems such as famine or flooding or to implememt other programs that can address the root causes of poverty and hunger.

Restricted Gifts:Are designated for mutually agreed upon purpose, such as a particular program or icon.

Gifts of Endowment(new approach): Are given with the undestanding that CGP will preserve the corpus or principal of the gift and spend only the income it generates, either wherever the need is greatest or for an agreed upon purpose.

Outright Gifts(new approach): May take the form of cash, marketable or closely held securities, real estate or other personal property.

Planned Gifts(new approach):May take the form off charitable remainder trusts, lead and testamentry trusts, bequests through wills, or others.

For example, a donation of any amount will help to train, more farmers.

US $100 provides a week-long intensive course for one person.
US$ 200 provides on site village training for up to 50 people
US$220 provides education needs for one child per year at Pathfinder Academy.The School is a project of CGP.
US$ 600 sustains the research and demonstration garden and mini-farm.
US$1000 trains a core group from one village for one week at a residential place.
US$ 10 plants 100 trees (includes fruits trees
" Organizations like CGP are one of the reasons why I am optimistic about our future ; why, despite our problems, I'm confident that we will succeed in making our community a better place."

- Loyce Nasiebanda-Chairlady of Buyofu S H Group

How You Can Help

Kenya and its people possess resouces, skills and compassion to creat a place where every family can pursue its aspirations and every individual can live in dignity. But for this to happen, people in wealthy community/nations must make significant investments in the well-being of poor

families and and communities -investments that will yield a more stable, prosperours country for us all. Those resouces must also be channeled so that they reach people most in need in ways that will make a geniune, lasting difference in their lives.

Supporting CGP is a statement of optimism, an endorsement of the belief that humankind

can not only endure, but also overcome. Infact, we have seen this to be true. Over the past

7 years, we have seen hope restored in many places in thousands of hearts.

On behalf of poor families families in Kenya, we invite you to join us.We stand a cusp of change. Believe. Make it happen.

Previous and Current Supporters

Name Kind of Support

Kilili Self Help Project -USA Technical /Finance
Right Sharing World Resources-USA Finance
Bob Brooke -UK Finance
Footsteps of Tearfund -UK Material
Ecology Action-USA Technical and finance
CTA-Netherlands Material
Darien Book Aid Inc-USA Material
Rosavie-Kenya Finance
ADRA-Kenya Technical
The Vetiver Network-USA Technical
Spirit in Action-USA Finance/Technical
HDRA-UK Material/Technical
IIED-UK Finance
Jelly Foundation -USA Finance

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Revised Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture