Skip to main content

Moving Beyond Subsistence

By Practical Action On 11.10.2023 FarmingBlog

Part 3 of our series of blog posts: A past, present and future Shaped By Ingenuity.

Practical Action’s ethos has remained the same since the days of E.F. Schumacher’s influential book. But our approach and our solutions are continually adapting to the ever-changing world.

Farming has huge potential to reduce poverty, boost incomes and create food security for rural communities. Since the beginning of Practical Action, we’ve looked for ways to make farming work better for people and planet.

Donkey Ploughs

In the 1990s, we worked with farmers in Sudan to improve their lives using donkey ploughs. The ploughs were manufactured by local blacksmiths, and the comfortable donkey harness we designed could be made using easily available materials. This simple solution spared women farmers the long, hard labour of working the land by hand, and boosted their crop yields by 500%.


A woman with a small donkey in a beautiful field, half a decade on.

THEN: Donkey ploughs take the hard labour out of farming.

Transforming rural economies

Our Transforming Rural Economies and Youth Livelihoods project is a great example of how our approach to working with farmers has evolved.

In partnership with the IKEA Foundation, we are supporting 6,000 young Kenyans in creating successful farming businesses. With training in planet-friendly, climate resilient farming techniques, the young entrepreneurs are establishing farms where nothing goes to waste.

We also help farmers develop new business skills, build connections with each other and with local markets. Altogether, this creates a thriving, interconnected, local economy that benefits everyone, allows businesses to grow, and creates more employment opportunities.

Martha Anyango is using her new skills to create a successful circular farm and poultry business:

“Before I worked with Practical Action, farming was just a pastime. Now it is an enterprise. Members of my family and neighbours come to me for knowledge.”

NOW: Your support is helping young people create successful farming enterprises.

Both donkey ploughs and regenerative farming help individual families to feed themselves. Today, we’re supporting communities in moving from subsistence farming, to farming as a business. This creates huge potential that spreads far beyond the individuals we work with directly.