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Tharaka Nithi county is one of the areas that fall under the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL’s). The region is synonymous with crop failure due to erratic rainfall.
A big percentage of farmers in Tharaka, have over time practiced conventional ways of farming majorly due to limited skills. In a bid to intervene, the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) and her development partners, begun Conservation Agriculture project in the county in late 2015.
The first lot of farmers planted in April, 2016 season. Conservation Agriculture (CA) practices which include: minimum tillage, maximum soil cover & crop interactions play a critical role in reducing water run -off, improving water retention, improving soil quality, increasing crop yield.
Peter Muriungi, one of our beneficiaries, hails from Thiiti village of Mukothima ward, Tharaka Nithi County. At the Farmer Field School (FFS), Peter and 18 other farmers were taught Conservation Agriculture principles. Throughout the training, Peter was enthusiastic about the new farming technology. At the end of the training Peter indicated that he couldn’t wait to try out the new technology and experience the benefits.
During that season, the office paid visits to farmers to assess the progress. At the end, we asked Peter about his experience. Here is what he had to say.
“I did minimum tillage using planting basins, applied manure (250mls mixed with a tablespoonful of NPK in each planting hole and planted 2 seeds per hole on a 20m by 20m plot of land. I applied 100% soil cover but planted a pure stand of KCB maize variety. Only a few weeds emerged which I just pulled out. This saved me a lot of time and money that I could have used, had I cultivated the conventional way. I was so marveled by the maize yield from the small plot of land I had set apart. Previously, when I cultivated the same portion of land using conventional farming, I could harvest an average of 50kgs of maize. I was so excited in the cultivation season that has just concluded when I practiced CA principles and the yield improved from 50kgs to 137kgs of maize! This was despite of the inadequate rains in the season.”
Peter is now convinced that conservation agriculture is the way to go for farmers in ASAL areas. “I have believed that this technology can really solve the issue of food insecurity.” He added: “I now have a new dream; I plan to practice Conservation Agriculture in one acre piece of land in the coming season and also desire to host farmers from within and without as they learn from my farm”.