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
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
Results from Dr. Baaru’s test plots during the 2014 long rains showed a good performance compared to the 2013 short rainy season. At the time of her last report in late October 2014, observations from the field showed good yields in the project sites compared to the regular farmers’ fields, a situation attributable to the technology used. The local farmers testified that they had never seen such a harvest from the same piece of land. They said that for the first time the harvest could carry them through to the next season harvest, showing that the technology could actually increase food security. Some farmers are even offering to lend more land to the project after seeing the prospects of reaping more benefits. Preparations for the 2014 short rains have already been completed and will be followed by early planting to capture any rain that falls. Both MSc. and PhD students have developed and presented their research proposals for the coming season.
One difficulty Dr. Baaru has confronted on the project revolves around poverty levels in the project area, which pose a great challenge to crop yield data. Considering that the project plots are doing far better than the farmers’ regular plots, farmers harvest from the project plots for their daily needs, which means the project may not get accurate data. During the last season, all the beans had been harvested by the time the project team went on site. In the coming season, Dr. Baaru and her team plan to give the farmers additional inputs for planting on their own plots so they can wait for the project crop to mature for harvesting.
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