Conservation Agriculture; and advocacy for Farmers
April 25, 2022
Success Story: Matthew Mutegi
My name is Mathew Mutegi (52), from Irimba village, Nkondi ward and Location, Tharaka Nithi County. I am a lead farmer to Karimi Self Help Group. The land I am settled on and farming is an inheritance from my father. Since 1963, the farming in the area has been dominated by complete ploughing of the land and burning of previous crop residues resulting to decreased soil fertility and low moisture retention. This was the case until the introduction of Conservation Agriculture (CA) project by NCCK. There has been tremendous improvement in the soil fertility and water retention.
Earlier, farming had been ordinary with poor farming methods of land preparation and poor agronomic practices. For example, planting one type of crop, burning of crop residues, less investment in land as a way to prevent soil erosion. These practices among many resulted to decreased agricultural production. Using conventional farming, I had been producing 45kgs of maize per acre. However, in cases of low rainfall, I could harvest 10kgs or even zero due to less moisture retention and soil degradation. This had been a discouraging harvest considering it was in a 1-acre land.
In 2015, I had a story about Conservation Agriculture as a modern agriculture technology utilized in areas with erratic rainfall and with low soil fertility. Though my interest was low until 2019 during the launch of Phase 2 of Conservation Agriculture. The success stories of different farmers who acknowledged and appreciated the accumulation of wealth through CA triggered my interest and the journey of CA started. Right away from the launch of CA phase 2, my first step involved forming the Karimi SHG with 20 members with a purpose of learning and practicing CA. We then called on Onesmus Kithaka and Robert Gikunda (agronomists in NCCK) who trained and demonstrated the CA principles and its benefit. Later on in 2020, our group was recruited officially by the NCCK staff and I was elected as the lead farmer of the group. It was the long awaited dream due to the various opportunities of trainings and follow-ups provided by the NCCK. This marked the time for a tremendous change in sustainable farming and farming as a business.
Our group was taken through trainings on ripping, use of planting basins, zai pits, crop rotation, permanent soil cover and agroforestry as the key principles of CA. When I started ripping, I used a walking tractor and chisel to open the land since the ox-drawn rippers weren’t enough to offer the services. The chisel was effective in opening the hard soil. In the first season of using the ripper, my maize yields increased from 45kgs to 700 kgs per acre.
In this season, I have planted a ratoon gadam sorghum to increase the chances of harvest during this short rainy season. The season has been characterized by late rainfall and early withdrawal of rainfall leading to decreased production. I have also planted brachiaria grass around the soghurm to help with weed control. The branchiaria grass that was supplied to me by NCCK has been a useful method of ‘push and pull’ in controlling Fall armyworm (FAW) in sorghum. The FAW feeds on the grass and by the time it migrates to the sorghum it will have metamorphosed to butterfly from the larval stage, hence, posing less damage to the sorghum. This technology was very educative during a County Field Day that was conducted in my farm.
Due to outstanding the performance during the County Field Day, I have been called upon to do demonstrations on mulching and ripping to neighbouring farmers. I have been selected as trainer of farmers (ToFs), member of county agricultural board and as an ambassador of CA by different organizations and the county government. Through referrals, I have been visited my Marimanti Prisoners, farmers from Kitui and Makueni and other organizations to pass the knowledge of CA.
The NCCK has strengthened the extension service work since the county extension workers are not many. NCCK has agronomists, Conservation Agriculture Lead Farmers (CALFs) and Principal Lead Farmers (PLFs) always in close contact with the farmers. During a meeting with the county government as a member of County Agricultural Board, the partners acknowledged the good work of CA implemented by NCCK and other organizations.
I am very grateful for the services and support offered by NCCK.