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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Matwiku Horticulture Group embracing Climate Smart Agriculture

By Bob Aston
Climate change has affected food production in most parts of Laikipia County this season.  Most farmers have either experienced low yields or total crop failure with some still waiting for rainfall in order to plant. In Matwiku area of Ng’arua Sub County in Laikipia West, Matwiku Horticulture Growers Self Help Group members are not concerned with the lack of rainfall as they met on December 15, 2014 to plant in their one acre demonstration farm.
The group’s activities focus on practicing Climate Smart Agriculture. The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) in collaboration with SunCulture Company had earlier on trained the members on installation and management of a drip irrigation system as a practice that enhances climate smart agriculture. The project that is funded by Act Change Transform (Act!) aims to strengthen communities’ resilience to impacts of climate change while conserving natural resources in Laikipia County.
 “The rainfall pattern has changed in most parts of Laikipia County. Most areas are currently dry but this will no longer deter us from farming as we are using drip irrigation. We are now able to farm throughout the year, “said Mr. Peter Gatheru, Chairman, Matwiku Horticulture Growers S.H.G.
The members agreed to plant Real Grade Super tomato that they acquired from Elgon Kenya Ltd and California Wonder capsicum. Mr. Gatheru said that they decided on early maturing varieties as they are targeting to harvest in early April which is normally the peak period.
“Tomatoes and capsicum which are usually in the market in April are usually harvested through irrigation hence market is not saturated during such times and the price is also good,” said Mr. Gatheru.
Some of the group members planting
He said that many farmers in the area have ventured into horticulture due to high returns and that the group is also keen on ensuring that they get good returns in order to improve the livelihood of members.
He said that they decided on Real Grade Super tomato from Elgon Kenya Ltd as the farmers who planted the variety last season realized better returns than those who planted other tomato variety.
“The size of the tomatoes after harvesting is also bigger compared to others this means that the quantity will not only be higher but the quality will also be of international standards,” said Mr. Gatheru.
Already the area agriculture extension officer has visited them twice to train them on agronomical practices. Mr. Gatheru believes that the information that they have acquired will help them adopt good agricultural practices and hence realize better yields at the end of the season.
He noted that planting the tomatoes and capsicum under drip irrigation is easier than what they were initially used to. The emitters are spaced at 30 cm while the agriculture officer recommended spacing of 60 cm for both the tomatoes and capsicum thus instead of using a tape measure during spacing they now only need to skip one emitter while planting.
He said that they have also been advised use NPK 17:17:17 fertilizer as the soil in the area is acidic due to continuous use of DAP fertilizer. They are also planning to use Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) for top dressing. They have been informed to top dress each plant using one soda bottle top of CAN after a month then two bottle tops after another month. This should go on until the last month of harvesting to ensure that even the tomatoes which will be harvested last will be of good quality.
Drip irrigation is a method of watering plants through emitters where single drops of water come out at a time to wet the soil around the plants roots. The system is efficient in use of water since no water is wasted as runoff.
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