KALRO/ASAL APRP Project in collaboration with MoAL&F showcase dry land crop technologies for increased food productivity in Kitui County

KALRO/ASAL APRP Project in collaboration with MoAL&F showcase dry land crop technologies for increased food productivity in Kitui County

Reported by Rachael Kisilu and John Ayemba (KALRO-Katumani)
Reviewed by Rahab Muinga, Knowledge and Information (KALRO-HQ)

KALRO-Katumani under its Arid and Semi-Arid Lands - Agricultural Productivity Research Project (ASAL APRP) funded by the European Union (EU), held a farmers’ field day at its sub-Centre in Ithookwe (Kitui County) on 25 January 2017. This was in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MoAL&F). The sub Centre is 3 km from Kitui Town.

The theme of the field day was “Technologies in agriculture for increased productivity, nutrition and income in semi-arid areas”. 

A farmer who has adopted improved green gram technology explains its advantages to other farmers during the field day

Various crop farming technologies were demonstrated. Among them were amaranth, nutrient-rich beans, cassava post-harvest handling, new improved green gram and sorghum, alongside land preparation (soil fertility and water conservation), planting, weeding, crop protection, harvesting, and storage. Value added (processed) products (including the now famous amaranth uji - porridge) from all the crops were sumptuously sampled.

The occasion was attended by 270 people (207 females and 63 males) comprising of farmers, students, the local administration, chemical and seed companies and service providers including the Catholic Diocese  (CARITAS) of Kitui.

The KALRO - Agricultural Mechanisation Research Institute (AMRI) Director guided the Chief Guest (Kitui County Director of Agriculture) through the demonstration plots.

In his speech, the Institute Director, Dr Noah Wawire gave a brief history of AMRI and stated that its main objective is to fabricate machines that would make farming activities less labour-intensive than they currently are. He invited the farmers to identify and participate in modern farming by demanding technologies on improved seed, farming methods and practices from KALRO as demonstrated.

The Chief Guest (left) being introduced to a mechanised technology for harvesting cassava tubers

The KALRO-Katumani Centre Director, Dr Phillip Leley, thanked the farmers, working partners and the County Government for jointly accepting and adopting technologies developed by KALRO/ASAL-APRP. He promised that KALRO will continue to work, closely with farmers to improve agricultural technologies to meet the emerging challenges posed by climate change, market demands and farmers’ own preferences as demanded during various participatory variety selection exercises. He promised continued availability of various improved seed from KALRO Katumani.

The Kitui County Director of Agriculture, Mr. Francis Kitoo, who was the Chief Guest, thanked KALRO-Katumani for sensitising farmers on improved crop varieties and production technologies, including water harvesting, and soil conservation and fertility. He however was concerned at the distant that farmers have to cover from Kitui to get seed and training from Katumani, and requested that this should be availed continuously at the Ithookwe sub-Centre, on the same basis as the Field Day. He encouraged more collaboration between agricultural extension and research towards increasing productivity in ASALs.

All the stakeholders were in agreement on the need to diversify crop preference, with emphasis on early maturing crops. Commercialised farming was encouraged with caution that it should not be interpreted to mean that farmers will sell all the farm produce immediately after harvest. Only the surplus should be sold to recognised institutions to avoid exploitation by middlemen. Farmers were also challenged to exploit the widely available and friendly loaning facilities to be able to buy farm inputs.

The ASAL/APRP National Coordinator, Dr George Keya, gave a brief of the funding modalities from EU, activities and achievements of KALRO/ASAL-APRP. He distinguished the cooperation between farmers, KALRO, the County Government and prayed that it would continue for the project to fully achieve its four result areas of improving food and nutrition security, improving livestock productivity, up-scaling and out-scaling agricultural technologies, and strengthening KALRO capacity for arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs). He encouraged women to play leading roles alongside men.