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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Practising sustainable agriculture

By Lilian Wangui
Farmers Learning Information Point (FLIP) is a programme that has been initiated by SACDEP-Kenya. It brings small-scale farmers involved in sustainable agriculture at a central place to pin-point issues they encounter in their day to day farming activities. The project is implemented in various counties, Laikipia County being one of them. The session is usually held after a fortnight and often overseen by SACDEP official. The Laikipia County FLIP session is facilitated by Mr. Andrew Munguti.

Women constructing a water tank in Laikipia
FLIP session is usually attended by a subset of a larger group which consist of about twenty groups of small-scale farmers inclusive of the young and old. They are mainly taught on the use of renewable energy. Farmers are encouraged to make use of biogas in their households since most of them own at least two cows. They are able to cut the cost they incur when using electricity. Solar energy is an alternative source of energy farmers are enticed to make use of since installation of solar panels is not as expensive as they think.

They also learn how to make compost manure and top dress their crops using liquid manure. They are taught new sustainable farm practices such as “masumbuko” and “madara”, the kind of kitchen garden useful for household consumption. For farmers whose farms are on a sloppy terrain they are taught how to create contours to prevent top soil from being carried away in case of run-off. Since Laikipia County is a parched area farmers are taught ways to mulch their crops to prevent excessive loss of water from the soil.

The group also benefits from water harvesting lessons. They are taught how to construct water tanks near their households. The tanks should be long-lasting and supply them with water for domestic purposes and irrigation during the dry season. After the training, each group builds a water tank for each member. Everybody including women is expected to participate in the actual construction of the tank.

To prevent soil degradation that come as a result of excessive use of inorganic fertilizers and poor farming practices, farmers are encouraged to practice crop rotation and inter-cropping to enhance availability of nutrients in the soil for crop uptake.

FLIP sessions has literary flipped farmers and made them to soar into better livelihood.

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