• He harvests over 20 tonnes of the citrus varieties of fruit every year.
• Lack fo storage, and poor farm gate prices, are discouraging to farmers.
Justus Kimeu’s progress from farming on two acres to seven acres of fruit is thanks to using smart farming techniques to harvest thousands of kilos of fruit.
“I use principles of conservation, such as crop rotation, crop residue retention and minimum tillage to help the soil give its maximum output,” said Kimeu in an interview with the Star.
Justus Kimeu was first introduced to and trained in Conservation Agriculture by Participatory Approaches for Integrated Development (PAFID) during the Kenya Market Trust funded Market Assistance Programme and implemented by PAFID, back in 2012.
The team was working within Makueni, Kitui and Meru among other counties.
Two field officers overseeing the project. They were Eric Kyongo and Lilian Olando.
Kimeu owes his gratitude to Eric, who has held his hand in this journey.
The Netherlands Development Association SNV is also investing in a regional initiative worth Sh4 billion to train farmers on climate-smart agriculture.
Kimeu farms oranges and tangerines alongside other subsistence crops on his farm in Makueni.
He plants different crops every season in order to increase moisture and fix nitrogen in the soil. He has also planted over 1,000 trees around the farm, effectively acting as windbreakers and protecting crops such as maize from strong winds.
“I plant green grams, or maize and beans in between the citrus trees. For weeding, I use a shallow weeder, and when I need to use herbicides to control weeds, I must follow instructions on dosage and timing in order to get the right outcome,” said Kimeu, who has been farming for over a decade now. He does not use the burn, or slash methods of clearing the farm because these are methods that leave the land bare, exposing the soil, he said.
Every season, he harvests over 20 tonnes of the citrus varieties of fruit. For now, the right marketing techniques are needed to avoid poor prices at the farm gate.
According to research scientist at Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security Programme, John Recha, the traditional way of depending on rains to farm needs to change if farmers are to provide food for the masses.
“Due to unpredictable weather patterns, farmers depending on rain-fed agriculture are registering loses and this affects the entire value chain leading to job loses hence poverty,” he said in a recent workshop. He urged farmers to plant the right, certified seeds and go for crops that mature within a short time.
SNV is collaborating with Wageningen University and Research (WUR), the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Agriterra and Rabo partnership in the climate-smart agriculture project. The Climate-Smart Agriculture East Africa project is already underway, being implemented in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The training has helped Kimeu and his fellow farmers come up with a community-based organization, which is now addressing poor prices that they have to sell their fruit at. Their plan is to go the value addition way, to fetch better prices and as well increase the shelf life of the product.