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Conservation Agriculture in Kenya

Environmental Studies




The purpose of Spaling's research in Kenya is to investigate the contribution of conservation agriculture (CA), and its variant Farming God’s Way (FGW), to sustainable livelihoods in smallholder farming households in the country. 

CA is viewed by many agencies as an important development for improving food security in poor, rural households in low-income countries.

The conservation aspect is characterised by three main agricultural practices: zero or minimum tillage, mulching, and crop rotation. Outcomes and benefits of conservation agriculture include:

  • Soil erosion control and improved soil health (e.g., tilth, moisture, nutrients, macro-organisms),
  • Socio-economic benefits such as household resilience (e.g., drought)
  • Reduced labour requirements, especially for women (e.g., less manual tillage.)

On top of his work in the field of conservation agriculture, Spaling is exploring the variant of CA known as “Farming God’s Way.” On top of the three agronomic practices mentioned above, FGW also includes a set of biblical principles designed to transform a traditional, fatalist view of farming (e.g., I farm because I’m cursed) to one that sees farming as a vocational calling, and producing food as a way of worshiping God and loving one’s neighbour.

Caring for creation’s resources on the farm is central to FGW, and its understanding of sustainability but scholarly research into the contributions of FGW to sustainability, both its principles and practice, has yet to be done.

Additionally, Spaling's research explores how learning occurs and affects social action for sustainability (i.e., the practice of creation-care on the farm.) This is central to his research as learning is a catalyst for transitioning to a more sustainable resource-based livelihood.  


  1. Identify the claims of sustainability (biophysical and social) made by proponents of CA and FGW.
  2. Examine the evidence for these claims from scientific and practitioner (farmer) perspectives.
  3. Describe the role of faith, and faith-based institutions (e.g., churches, NGOs), in farmers’ adoption of FGW.
  4. Consider learning outcomes among farmers and their link to social action for sustainability. Achieving these objectives should contribute knowledge for improving food security and sustainable livelihoods for farming households in Kenya.

Student Researcher

Kendra Vander Kooy


Bachelor of Arts - Environmental Studies, '17

Dr. Harry Spaling

Professor, Geography; Director of Environmental Studies P: 780-465-3500 Ext. 8003
  • PhD, Geography – rural resource analysis, University of Guelph, 1994
  • M.E. Des. Environmental Science, University of Calgary, 1980
  • B.E.S. Environmental Studies & Geography, University of Waterloo, 1977