Farmers allied to One Acre Fund will be given an assortment of personal protective gears to help them fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Kelvin Owino, the fund's Africa Communications Associate said the move is to supplement government’s effort in containing the disease and flatten the curve of infections.
“All our 450,000 farmers across the country will get a kilo of handwashing soap and hand sanitisers. We have also rolled out a sensitisation program on how to prevent the spread of the disease so that they (farmers) can remain healthy and work on their farms to produce food,” said Mr Owino.
He added that they have trained all the field extension officers at the villages to train (sensitise) farmers who have been contracted by One Acre Fund on ways of curbing the spread of the deadly disease.
“The 450,000 farmers are our last line of defence when it comes to food security. As an organisation, we want to ensure the country has enough food after the virus is contained. We are just supplementing what the government is doing to ensure the country is food secure after Covid-19,” said Mr Owino.
Meanwhile, the NGO has started carrying out soil testing at their laboratories both for its contracted and non-contracted farmers to help farmers use the correct fertiliser.
Winnie Akiso, the communications coordinator said the move was arrived at after it was established that majority of smallholder farmers in Western Kenya have a soil pH that is below 5.5, saying the optimum pH for plant growth is 6.5.
Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of a soil.
“Soil acidity could pose a major challenge to agricultural productivity in Kenya and particularly in Western Kenya. Soil pH is a critical driver of toxic elements in the soil as well as plant nutrient availability. The agriculture ministry estimates that around 50 per cent of smallholder farmers in Kenya have soil pH below 5.5,” said Ms Akiso.
She said lime can be used as an alternative measure to reduce soil acidity and is available throughout the country in agro vets.
“As the country works on achieving food security as part of the Big Four Agenda, it is important that farmers are sensitised on the importance of using lime and other means of reducing soil acidity. This could be done through ensuring that farmers have access to soil testing and training on effects of soil acidity,” said Akiso.
Maurice Luvembe, a farmer in Lubao area in Shinyalu Sub County could hardly harvest more than four bags of maize from a half an acre parcel of land. Over the years, Maurice noticed that his crops did not look healthy and mid-season the colour of the leaves turned yellowish. Colour turned green when he started using lime.
“Lime has proved to me that soil gets tired from many years of use. Since I started using lime in 2011, I have been able to increase my harvest from 4 to 9 bags on the same piece of land,” said Maurice.
In 2014, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the national soil report on fertility to inform a policy that would correct deterioration. This report has since undergone a few implementations across different counties.
The government has for the last 3-4 years started a number of initiatives including issuing fertiliser that are less acidic especially NPK fertilizer, encouraging farmers to use organic manure in planting, growth of certain plants that add green manure to the farm.
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