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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Unlocking agricultural potential in drylands: enhancing efficient utilization of soil moisture for improved smallholder farm productivity in ASALs of Kenya

PI: Mary Baaru (Kenyatta University)
U.S. Partner: Ethan Allen (Pacific Resources for Education and Learning)
Project Dates: August 2013 to July 2016
Kenya Partnership Picture A
A planning meeting bringing together many different stakeholders in the PEER project (Photo courtesy Dr. Baaru)
The amount of land devoted to agricultural uses has been reduced as a result of rising population and associated growing demands for land resources. This has resulted in increased exploitation of drylands. In view of this situation, utilization of the resource base in drylands areas can no longer proceed on a "business as usual” basis. This PEER Science project aims to address issues of water scarcity, deforestation, insufficient extension services, and lack of appropriate cropping systems in Kenya. Beyond its research components, the project also includes capacity-building activities designed for farmers in drylands areas. Groups of farmers will be trained on how to implement soil and water conservation measures and will be given kits to assist them in putting these measures in place, first on the farms of group members and later on non-member farms.
Trained farmers will fill in the gap left by the shrinking extension service and ensure that information passed from farmer to farmer is reliable. The research to be carried out under the project will also provide in-depth understanding on moisture distribution and soil properties, as well as optimal cropping systems to utilize moisture for maximum land productivity. The project should result in improved landscapes on conserved farms, leading to reduced land and water degradation. Food security will be enhanced due to improved land productivity. Farmers will also be economically empowered and obtain improved living standards from increased sales of crops and livestock products.
Summary of Recent Activities
Project work began in October 2013 with a meeting between the project team, the sub-county director of agriculture, soil and water extension staff, ward extension staff, and the area chief. The purpose was to discuss the project objective and to agree on the modalities of site selection. The team then met with community groups to select farms for implementation of water and soil conservation methods. The project adopted a group approach in selecting farms for the experiment. Community groups selected farms, which allowed members of the groups to own the process, allowing them an upper hand with regard to management and future adoption of conservation methods and technology. Land preparation of selected farms took place, and at the same time, students were recruited to expand the research team. Once land conservation efforts began, the project manager was tasked with assessing project progress.
Future plans include a community training session, targeting community groups in places where experimental sites were selected. The management of project plots will continue, along with training of the farmers to maintain their land. Data collection from soil and plants will commence, as well as laboratory analysis.
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