Banana Circles offer Financial Stability

Reuben (front) and his brother Simon (rear) prepare the soil for a banana circle.

Reuben (front) and his brother Simon (rear) prepare the soil for a banana circle.

Brothers Simon Njeru and Reuben Ndwiga have been farming their entire lives. They are continuously troubleshooting old problems, learning new techniques, and helping their neighbors. One of the permaculture techniques they use is called a banana circle, a method where banana plants are grown in a circle with a compost pile in the middle. This design is both efficient (saves time and energy) and productive (yields more, healthier bananas!). When Simon and Reuben began explaining the method to neighboring farmers, they wanted to see it and learn it for themselves. They were asked, “Can we see this somewhere nearby?” They answered, “On our farm!” After showing them, they asked. “Will you teach us?” So last month, the brothers facilitated two weekends of seminars for their neighbors on banana circles.

Most people in their community farm on a quarter acre or less of land. They don’t have room to grow enough bananas to turn a profit. Using banana circles, Simon and Reuben have harvested just as many bananas with less than half the amount of banana plants on significantly less land. Banana circles also require much less water, as the hole in the center serves as a basin so the water doesn’t evaporate quickly. This is especially helpful during dry seasons, which helps offer financial stability throughout the year, something most farmers in their area are certainly not used to.

Simon shares with a neighbor the process of adding compost to the pit.

Simon shares with a neighbor the process of adding compost to the pit.

The brothers visited a group of 12 female farmers. They brought the teaching to them, showing them how to implement the technique on their own land. How did the farmers respond? After the first weekend, they asked for a second, with more farmers in attendance. They listened intently without complaint, thankful for the education provided at no cost. They were amazed, saying that people are poor due to the lack of knowledge. They said that they need to do away with the old methods and embrace this one for its benefits.

Since the seminars, Simon and Reuben continue to have opportunities to share more with their neighbors--farming knowledge, rocket stoves, and also themselves. They recognize God working through them to help those in need, and are so happy to do it.