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Why Kenya should embrace conservation agriculture farming

By Pascal Kaumbutho | Jul 13th 2020 | 3 min read
By Pascal Kaumbutho | July 13th 2020

Farmers across Kenya should embrace new agricultural techniques in a bid to avoid losses as a result of climate change as well as to address issues of food security affecting various countries.

Kenya just like the rest of the African continent is losing its farmland productivity at a higher rate.

The country’s current agricultural development plans project a Food Security pillar that can only be achieved if Conservation Agriculture (CA) is aggressively adopted by farmers of all sizes. Indeed, farming the CA way has a new dimension in a period of Climate Change, calling for Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA).

In today’s modern and mechanized farming, it is possible to plant crops without turning the soil. As a country we need to  embrace a concerted efforts approach  among all stakeholders in the public and private sector to give more attention to research and knowledge sharing on how to incorporate technology in farming and variety of crops to invest in.

There is need for sustained innovation in areas like drought resistant varieties of seeds, environment friendly farming practices and better post-harvest management to reduce on losses. Dissemination of information to farmers across the country is also key in the implementation  of climate proofing agricultural value chains.

Every year we are losing unforgivable volumes of fertile top soils that favour crop and livestock farming, to erosion, not only in sloppy, but all agricultural lands. Hard pans developed by hoe and mouldboard farming of the past cause flooding and erosion, to the detriment of sustainable farming practice and food security.

Land is quickly becoming desert, or simply unable to withstand healthy cropping. The resulting behavior is one of shift cultivation and farmers wanting to farm on higher altitude lands, if not in forested areas like Mau and others of Kenya’s water-harvesting Hills.  

By practicing CA means farmers fitting themselves in landscapes and learning ways of increasing soil health and productivity per unit of land (sustainable intensification), other than putting more land under production, as a way of increasing overall produce volumes available at harvest time.

Farming the CA way means creating soil structures that prevent soil erosion where there is slope. It means planting trees to protect soils and creating clever tree-crop and livestock-crop mixes that keep the soil healthy, so that it can sustainably feed plants and animals alike.

This means leaving soil covered and previous crop harvested in a way that its roots enhance on-location (in-situ) rainwater harvesting, encouraging more percolation than runoff. Soils that are covered with mulch or cover crops, retain heathy soil fauna and pH, environments good for carbon sequestration and good for converting fertilizers and manure to forms palatable by the crops.   

In the rural areas we farmers who are aging and lonely while the youth are unwilling to take-on farming as a livelihood or as a business, some of them migrating to towns and cities in search for non-existent jobs.

Farm productivity has fallen to levels that can hardly feed the population. Agro-processing factories running at a paltry, 10 per cent of built capacity.

Conservation Agriculture (CA) is environment friendly and promotes farming in harmony with nature. Where a plough, several harrows and a planter are needed for establishing a crop, a single CA Direct Seeder (on un-ploughed land) needs only a fraction of the labour and machine power required, hence huge savings in getting the planting done.

The CA practices lead to up-to 4 times the produce volumes from the same land. With farming made easier and inputs per tonne of yields achieved easier, farming will attract youth and help meet the dream of sustained food security in Kenya.

The other thing is that farmers should also join  cooperative societies given that working in groups can increase their bargaining power and order inputs in bulk therefore, lowering their expenditures besides increasing their chances of accessing markets at better prices
Dr Pascal Kaumbutho, Managing Director,Agrimech Africa Limited

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