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Successful conservation agriculture trials continue in western Kenya

As previously reported, trials of conservation agriculture (CA) have been yielding impressive results in southern Ethiopia. However, these positive changes are not restricted to this area; farmers in neighboring Kenya have also been reaping the benefits of adopting the new technologies of minimal tillage, application of herbicide, intercropping with desmodium and retention of crop residue. In just their third crop under CA practices, farmers in western Kenya are reporting more grain yield with less fertilizer use, and reduced labor requirements.

Since last year, the Sustainable intensification of maize-legume cropping systems for food security in eastern and southern Africa (SIMLESA) initiative has been conducting on-farm trials for maize and bean production in western Kenya. SIMLESA is being implemented by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), with technical support from CIMMYT and financial assistance from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Christine Okola is one of the 25 members of the Liganwa Farmers Group participating in the trials. From a plot of 0.1ha, she used to harvest a maximum of one 90kg bag of maize per crop season; now, with CA practices, she harvests five bags of maize and one bag of beans from the same piece of land. John Achieng, KARI agronomist and SIMLESA Project Team Leader for western Kenya, estimates that it is possible for a farmer to harvest up to 4500kg of maize and 500kg of beans from 1ha using CA practices – a tenfold increase on the current averages. He attributes the increases to improved organic soil matter and the use of improved seed varieties. The maize used (DUMA 41) is a high-yielding and early maturing hybrid variety, whilst the bean (KK8) is resistant to bean root rot.

Like in Ethiopia, a farmers’ field day to demonstrate CA was also held in Siaya, western Kenya, with an attendance of over 1000 people. Boaz Cherutich, Siaya District Commissioner took this opportunity to thank CIMMYT and KARI for introducing CA to the region, and the Australian Government for providing financial support to the SIMLESA initiative.