Lead farmer and early adopter of climate-smart agriculture, meet Phoebe Mwangangi of Makueni County, Kenya

Meet Phoebe Mwangangi from Makueni County, Kenya. She is a lead community farmer and an early adopter of climate-smart agriculture as a result of AICCRA's activities with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Kenya.

AICCRA works to scale climate-smart agriculture and climate information services that reach millions of smallholder farmers in Africa. By listening to and learning from the farmers we work with, we can better understand the challenges and opportunities they face and how climate-smart technologies and information can help.  

53-year-old Phoebe Mwangangi comes from the predominantly dryland areas of Makueni County in Eastern Kenya. She practices subsistence integrated farming on a four-acre of arable land used for crop production and a six-acre shrubland that is, for a month in a year, a grazing space after some precipitation.

Phoebe is one of the early adopters and lead farmers in her community, and has embraced climate-smart farming practices disseminated and scaled by the AICCRA project to build resilience for smallholder farmers.

Phoebe has been farming for over 20 years, mostly growing beans, pigeon peas and maize. She keeps a small flock of sheep and one dairy cow. She says the weather has changed significantly during this period, with longer and hotter dry seasons that destroyed her crops every year.

For five consecutive seasons, Kenya’s dryland areas have experienced reduced annual rainfall and more prolonged droughts, adversely affecting rainfed agriculture and diminishing food reserves, pushing an estimated five million Kenyans into famine and starvation.

Over two seasons, AICCRA and the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT with ICRISAT have promoted and scaled a package of CGIAR climate-smart agriculture practices and technologies in Makueni to build climate change resilience among smallholder farmers, especially women. These technologies include improved drought-tolerant crop varieties, climate-smart farm and crop management practices, and rainwater harvesting.

Read more.

In late 2021, together with 24 other women in the area, Phoebe joined the AICCRA project to be trained in climate-smart agriculture practices to help them adapt better to the changing climate.

“We were trained in rainwater harvesting, intercropping with legumes, crop diversification and conservation tilling," she says.

AICCRA also introduced drought-tolerant and early maturing seed varieties for sorghum, pearl millet, pigeon peas, and beans.

Phoebe on her farm in Makueni County, Eastern Kenya

One of the standout varieties introduced by AICCRA that became popular among Phoebe and her peers is the early maturing drought-tolerant and highlight nutritious bean variety called Nyota, developed by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) through the support of the Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA).

According to Phoebe, the bean variety is a new lifeline for farmers who have, over the years, had no hope of harvesting anything meaningful from their farms.

“After maize failed us, it’s not common for us to expect anything from the farm, but suddenly I can feed my family and have some crop left for sale,” she says.

Representing farmers at Africa Climate Summit

Phoebe attended the inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS) in Nairobi earlier this year, where she shared her insights and perspectives on farming, climate change and the impact adopting climate-smart practices has had in her community.

Speaking at an ACS side-event hosted by AICCRA, the East African Farmers Federation and the African Union, Phoebe shared how changes in rainfall patterns over the last several years have made finding water for her farm and livestock more challenging, with resulting effects on her family life and income.

Phoebe also spoke to The Guardian during the Summit and is quoted in an article, saying, “Farming and livestock is our livelihood, so we cannot do without it.” 

Speaking of the efforts made by AICCRA, the International Livestock Research Institute and other key partners to introduce and encourage climate-smart farming practices in her community, Phoebe continued, "This kind of information can change the lives of farmers."

Phoebe was also interviewed in Africa Science News and highlighted how she is farming drought tolerant crops including sorghum, millet and cowpeas through the use of innovative techniques, such as deep tillage, that are fit for her environment and help to hold water in the soil.

“AICCRA has brought innovations to the ground like ploughing, ripping, minimum disturbance of the soil, water harvesting....and as a community leader I have helped extend these AICCRA-led practices into neighboring communities so we can all become more sustainable in food production.” 

From Makueni County to Dubai - the road to COP28

Phoebe's testimony of the impacts of climate change on her farming and family life is one among many. We believe farmers' voices are a critical part of any discussion about climate action in agriculture, and we're privileged to support her in accessing opportunities to contribute to these conversations on a global scale.

In December, Phoebe will join the AICCRA team at COP28 in Dubai for several engagements, sharing on the daily challenges faced by many of Kenya's small-scale farmers and the role that climate-smart agriculture and climate information services can play in building resilience, boosting both food security and livelihoods.

Asked what message she had for world leaders as they converge at COP28, Phoebe said: 

"I urge our leaders as they make policies and decisions on climate change interventions to consider and listen to the voice of the small scale farmers, for they are the worst affected by the results of climate change!"

Phoebe Mwangangi on Citizen TV

Phoebe Mwangangi talks to Kenya's Citizen TV from COP28 in Dubai. Skip to 5 min 10 sec

In the news

Phoebe was featured in The Nation (Kenya edition) in an article "Makueni farmer tilling uniquely hailed at climate conference". Read it here

The AICCRA team will be engaged in a number of side event and speaking engagements during COP28. Follow @CGIARAfrica for the latest information.

All media enquiries should be directed to Rhys Bucknall-Williams, AICCRA's Global Communications and Knowledge Manager.


WhatsApp: +31 619 544 829 

Related content


In the news | AICCRA featured in The Guardian


With new bean varieties, women farmers in Kenya cope with drought


In the news | Climate change: Smallholder Farmers want financial backing


A new vision for scaling climate action in African agriculture: The case for investing in the continent’s regional organizations

River Limpopo (ACS 1), KICC, Nairobi