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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Quest to increase yield leads a farmer to give land for demo

By Bob Aston
Maize farming has been the dominant crop in Laikipia County. Despite this some farmers have been getting low yield every season. Tabitha Wanjiru, from Kabati area started farming from 1978, but this year low yields prompted her to give a quarter piece of land to be used as a demonstration plot.
Tabitha standing at the soon to be established demonstration plot
During one of the capacity building trainings organized by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society, they were informed that ALIN would partner with MEA Ltd and Kenya Seed Company Ltd to set up demo plots.
Tabitha volunteered to be among the five who would give their land for the demo plots. MEA Ltd conducted soil analysis for her. This they said would be used to provide an accurate assessment of the soil’s fertility status that can be used to make fertilizer recommendations.
 “I want to embrace good agricultural practices in order to enjoy higher yield. I have been informed that some farmers have been getting as much as 40 bags per acre. I hope I will be able to improve my production,” said Tabitha.
Tabitha usually harvests between 7-10 bags per acre. She has never managed to harvest more than 10 bags in an acre.
“I have been making a loss from my maize production as the yield that I have been getting has been low,” said Tabitha.
Tabitha has been growing different types of crops in a three acre piece of land. Two and a half acres has been set aside for maize production.
Apart from maize she has also planted beans, tree tomato, pineapple and avocados. She has also kept cows and goats.
Tabitha inspecting her maize farm
Tabitha has been investing close to Ksh 20,000 per year on her farm but her estimated income has been Ksh 10,000.
She acknowledged that she never used to follow best farming practices. She used to plant 7 kg of maize seeds in an acre rather than the recommended 10 kg per acre. She has also been planting maize and beans in the same land and using 50 kg of DAP in a one acre piece of land.
“During capacity building trainings I realized that I never followed recommended spacing and I was also using little CAN. This I was informed affected production,” said Tabitha.
Tabitha 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.
She has also been issued with 25kg of 23:23:0 fertilizer and Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) for top dressing by MEA Ltd.
 “I have been hearing a lot about Kilimo Biashara. I want to learn more about is as well as encourage other farmers to also practice it," said Tabitha.
Tabitha expects to learn a lot from the demonstration plot. She said that the knowledge that she will gain will be invaluable. Her neighbours will also benefit from the demonstration plot as they will be invited during various demonstrations.
“I can advice other farmers to attend training. They will learn a lot when the demo is successful and they will also be able to improve their livelihood through the knowledge that they will gain,” said Tabitha.
Tabitha looking at tree tomatoes
With record keeping being one of the challenges that she faces, Tabitha was 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. She became the first farmer in Laikipia County to be profiled.
“I have not been keeping proper records in my farm and this has made it hard for me to know whether I have been making a profit or loss. This will no longer be a problem as it will taken care of by FARMIS Kenya,” said Tabitha.
FARMIS Kenya enables farmers to capture a farm’s profile and record all their farming enterprises, capturing costs of tilling, inputs, labour, harvesting and post-harvest operations for crops and similar records for livestock. By doing that a farm’s total productivity is documented and farmers are able to extract a profit and loss statement at the end of each season.
Tabitha can be reached through 0715716751.
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