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Friday, 25 April 2014

Farmer gives land to be used as a demonstration plot

By Bob Aston
Demonstration plots have been used for a long time as training grounds for farmers on best farming practices. During a capacity building training organized by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society, Jackson Wainaina, a resident of Kahuruko in Laikipia County volunteered to be among five farmers who would give their land to be used as a demonstration plot.

Jackson removing weeds in the farm
Jackson has set aside a quarter of an acre for the demonstration. ALIN has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, MEA Ltd and Kenya Seed Company Ltd to set up the demo plots.
MEA Ltd conducted soil analysis for him. He was informed that the analysis will be able to help him know the current pH level of the soil, fertility levels of the principal nutrients, type and quantity of lime needed in the soil, nutrients need to be added in the soil as fertilizer and amount of fertilizer the crop and soil needs.
“We have had a lot of training courtesy of ALIN. Having a demonstration plot nearby will be ideal.  I have not yet planted as I am waiting to follow what will be taught during the demo,” said Jackson.
Jackson has been farming since 1990. Has been investing close to Ksh 20,000 per year in his farm but the returns have been minimal.
He has been planting maize, beans and potatoes in a three acre piece of land. He has given maize farming a priority as it has taken a huge chunk of land under cultivation. He has also kept indigenous chicken.
Jackson rarely sell harvested maize because of low yield. He normally harvests less than 6 bags per acre. Production has been on the decline as he used to get more than that some years earlier.
“Some farmers have been getting over 40 bags in a one acre piece of land but with me I have been getting around six bags every time I harvest maize,” said Jackson.
Jackson inspecting the yet to be established demo plot
Jackson has already been issued with four and a half kilos of certified hybrid seeds from Kenya Seed Company Ltd. The varieties that will be planted in the demo plot are; H520, H624, H629, H626, and H6210.
He has also been issued with 25kg of 23:23:0 fertilizer and Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) for top dressing by MEA Ltd.
He has not been using certified hybrid seeds before but instead planting using seeds from harvested maize.
Certified seeds come with a guaranteed germination, less risk of seed borne diseases and improved yield.

“I never knew the importance of using certified seeds before. I used to use seeds from my harvested maize. This season I will not do that as I have been informed that it is one of the reasons why my yield has been low,” said Jackson.

High input cost has always deterred him from practicing sustainable agriculture. He has been using a 50 kg bag of DAP in a three acre piece of land. This has been well below the minimum requirement from the Ministry of Agriculture which has been urging farmers to use 75 Kgs of fertilizer in a one acre piece of land.

After he was handed the soil analysis report by MEA Ltd he was discouraged from using DAP and instead he was told that he should now be using NPK 23:23:0 as his soil has become acidic.

Jackson removing weeds in the farm
Jackson has also been using inadequate Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN). CAN normally help to gives a boost in the developmental stage. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for healthy vegetative growth which ensures hastened maturity and a high yield.

“I agree that use of little CAN normally affect my production. I have been taught its importance and this season I intend to use the required amount,” said Jackson.
He has urged other farmers from Kahuruko to join training in order to also benefit from the demo plot.
“It is important that all farmers in this area also benefit. I want them to also practice Kilimo Biashara by embracing good agricultural practices,” said Jackson.
Keeping farm records has also been a challenge for him as he does not have a clear picture of his farm expenses. It has been hard for him to know whether he has been making a profit or loss.
He has now been introduced to Farm Record Management Information System – Kenya (FARMIS Kenya). FARMIS Kenya is run by Sokopepe Ltd, a social enterprise under license from Fit Uganda.
“I will now be able to track all my farming activities. Initially I never recorded my transactions in the farm but this season it will not be the same as I will be provided with a farm book from FARMIS Kenya where I will record all my farming activities,” said Jackson.
Jackson will be able to enjoy various benefits such as: improved automated record keeping; current market information; enhanced access to credit facilities; evidence-based decision making; access to 24 hour online platform; opportunity for group produce marketing; seasonal farm books provided for reference; market linkages to buyers and sellers and access to relevant farming tips.
Jackson can be contacted through 0728308418.
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