Modern farming works in Laikipia

Farmer John Ngure at his farm in Laikipia West on April 5, 2016 / FILE
Farmer John Ngure at his farm in Laikipia West on April 5, 2016 / FILE

Farmers in Laikipia county are multiplying their yields and doubling their profits thanks to conservation agriculture, which is a low-cost farming technique.

Jeniffer Muthoni has a one-acre farm in Kibubung’i location, Laikipia East subcounty, on which she grows maize, black beans and does dairy farming.

Until 2013, Muthoni could only harvest half a bag or one bag of 90kg maize from her one-acre farm. She said, with these yields, she could hardly make ends meet for her family of four children.

“I barely got enough food for my family. I had to rely on dairy farming to sell milk so I could get some money to buy food,” she said.

But since adapting conservation agriculture in 2014, maize production started increasing to two bags and now she harvests between four and six bags of maize.

Muthoni has also reduced labour costs, which would add up to about Sh3,000 monthly.

“With the adoption of conservation agriculture, I am able to prepare my farm through hand ripping and this takes less time compared to the conventional method of farming. Now I have more time to do other income-generating activities,” she said.

Improved soil fertility

Peter Kuria from the African Conservation Tillage Network said conservation agriculture has not only helped farmers increase their harvest, but also soil fertility.

He explained the technology is based on three principles, minimal tillage, permanent soil cover and crop rotation.

“We introduced the farming technique because this is a dry area which is water scarce and prone to soil erosion, hence low production. But through conservation agriculture, farmers can improve soil fertility and enhance production,” Kuria said during a field visit on Friday in Laikipia East subcounty.

Simon Githaiga, a farmer from Mitero in Laikipia county, has also adopted conservation agriculture. He has subdivided his farm into 10 by 10 portions on which he grows maize and beans.

Githaiga harvests about two bags of maize from each and when the season is good, he can still get some yields unlike his neighbours, who are yet to adopt the technology.

“You would rather grow maize in a small potion and get good yields than grow maize in a big farm and get little or no yields at all,” the father of seven said.

Kuria said his organisation has trained more than 2,400 farmers since 2013 with the support of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

Adoption has been slow due to competition from crops and livestock, but we are hoping to reach about 10,000 farmers in Lakipia in partnership with the county government.”

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