Crop Production Constraints

Arid and Semi-Arid Lands cover about 80% of the country’s total landmass and are characterized by generally hot and dry climate, with low and erratic rainfall. In most arid and semi-arid counties, Evapo-transpiration rates are more than twice the annual rainfall, and drought are common. There is serious land and resource degradation in the ASALs leading to changes in the vegetation composition, structure and densities, decreasing the ability of the ecosystem to support livelihoods and this increases vulnerability of the agro-pastoral communities to adverse effects of climate change. The most prevalent manifestation of land degradation is increased bare ground and declining crop yields. Land degradation is largely driven by inappropriate land use, continuous cultivation without sufficient nutrients replenishment and lack of soil and water conservation measures. Research shows that 50% or more of rainfall is lost by run-off, which translates into poor rainfall-use efficiency for pasture and crop production in the agro-pastoral areas of Kenya. On cropland, soil compaction, surface sealing and low levels of organic matter, leads to low water infiltration rates and high runoff. This is exacerbated by inadequate use of water harvesting technologies and/or application of integrated soil fertility management options in the farming systems. The result is a downward spiral of degradation, with poor soils impacting on agricultural productivity, ecosystem resilience and food security. Increasing climatic variability and lack of knowledge among farmers to cope with unreliable rains have also exacerbated the situation.One way to achieve higher rain water use efficiency is to increase infiltration and water storage in soils using tied ridges that minimizes water losses through runoffresulting in better crop performance and increase yield. To deal with the above challenges, KALRO-Katumani has been working in partnership with other stakeholders to avail technologies and information for natural resource management geared towards increasing agricultural productivity and resilience of the ecosystem. The focus has been on generation and promotion of integrated natural resources (land, water, soils) management technologies for sustainable crops and livestock production, biodiversity conservation and integrated climate change adaptation and mitigation technologies.