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in keni south, located in eastern kenya’s embu district, farms are still ploughed mainly by hand.
asliphon nyaga farms a small plot of land, growing maize and sometimes bananas. she is like
many women across eastern africa, tending small plots of land and raising a family.
input costs are rising and with little spare money Mrs nyaga has to make choices about crops,
purchasing expensive fertilisers and how to market any surplus produce. labour is becoming
scarcer and therefore more expensive.
in doing the work herself, Mrs nyaga is typical of many farmers in rural africa. unable to afford
to buy or hire a small tractor, and having no draught animals, she must till, weed and harvest her
crops by hand, and work out how to move any surpluses to market herself.
The possibility of intensifying production without external help is remote, both in terms of
labour or power and access to new farming techniques and crop varieties. Yet it is farmers such
as Mrs nyaga who are expected to carry much of the load in meeting increasing demand and
sustainably increasing production in sub-saharan africa.
aciaR’s sustainable intensification of maize–legume cropping systems for food security in
eastern and southern africa (siMlesa) project is working with farmers, including Mrs nyaga, to
introduce new farming practices and crop varieties. Through support from the project, delivered
by the kenyan national agricultural Research institute, Mrs nyaga has learnt about conservation
agriculture (ca), introduced legume crops and now uses manure and fertiliser. The result is
ca is central to siMlesa, which is adapting this approach to the unique needs of smallholder
farmers across five east african nations. The approach acknowledges the realities of farming
systems in each nation and adapts the introduction of ca to those realities. For example, in
ethiopia, where livestock is common, use of crop residues differs to that in kenya.
The aim is to introduce smart ca approaches to boost yields. This will provide a platform for the
farm mechanisation work to build on, accelerating adoption. smart ca is helping Mrs nyaga and
many other farmers to boost yields and earn more income. For Mrs nyaga, the future may extend
to accessing mechanised labour, introduced through aciaR’s farm mechanisation research.
Trilateral partnership a first
conservation agriculture (ca) is well established in parts of india, so much so that the country
is now hosting african researchers interested in farm mechanisation. The visit was organised as
part of aciaR’s farm mechanisation research project and is the first trilateral partnership between
aciaR, the indian council of agricultural Research (icaR), and the international Maize and Wheat
improvement center (ciMMYT).
The training tour also represents a first in cooperation between the african nations of kenya,
Tanzania, ethiopia and Zimbabwe, and india and australia in agricultural research.
The director general of icaR, dr s ayyapan, says the exchange represents a strengthening of
south-south collaboration by encouraging mutual learning and growth between countries. dr
ayyapan says that india and africa have many similar challenges and such exchanges offer a good
model to carry forward future activities to benefit all involved.
The visit was organised and coordinated by ciMMYT in partnership with icaR and the central
institute of agricultural engineering (ciae) in Bhopal. other host institutions were: the central
Farm Machinery Training and Testing institute Budni; Borlaug institute for south asia; Pacs-
machinery hire bank/cooperative; Punjab agricultural university; national agro industries; jagatjit
agro Technology; dashmesh Mechanical engineering Works; amar agro industries; all india
Machinery Manufacturers association; ciMMYT on-farm ca sites and farmer cooperatives; central
soil salinity Research institute; and the directorate of Wheat Research in karnal.
The delegation was led by the Farm power and conservation agriculture for sustainable
intensification (Facasi) project coordinator, dr Frédéric Baudron, and engineer saidi Mkomwa,
executive secretary of the african conservation Tillage network, during the first and second week
a feature of the exchange was three days of hands-on-training on manual, animal traction,
and two-wheel and four-wheel tractor machinery at the ciae. Participants also welcomed the
opportunities to share stories and build a network of ca practitioners across several countries.
one of the main outcomes of the tour was the identification of ca equipment to match Facasi
The two adoption Pathways surveys will be
done in more than 500 villages where siMlesa
has introduced improved farming methods. The
researchers will visit the same households where
siMlesa baseline data was gathered in 2010 to
find out what changes smallholders have made.
While previous studies concentrated on
specific sai technologies, such as the uptake
of fertiliser, the new study takes a more holistic
approach. “We are trying to look at the drivers
of adoption such as policies, market access and
institutions. We also want to look at the role of
extension services in influencing adoption of
new technologies,” dr kassie says.
“We will collect the same information from
the same households over time. adoption is a
process that takes a while and the benefits of
technologies may not be seen in the short term,
especially with conservation agriculture.”
dr kassie adds that even with short-term
technologies, such as using fertiliser and
improved seed, farmers are observed adopting
these and then tomorrow or in the near future
they drop the same technology. “so why is
this happening? Why is this adoption and dis-
adoption taking place?”
Researchers will also examine what farming
practices and technologies women farmers use
compared with men. They will look at the role
of gender in agricultural development to see if
there is a difference with technology adoption
or approach to food security between female
and male farmers, as well as between a wife and
husband in the same house.
For example, farmers who have planted
improved maize or legume varieties will be asked
if they or their spouse took the decision to plant
the new varieties, how they found out about
these varieties and who got the credit or cash to
buy the seeds.
according to a report on the project, the
findings will “facilitate the formulation of robust
pro-poor and gender-equitable policies” that
promote the spread of sai technologies and
improve food security. dr dixon says the lessons
learnt from this project will be useful for other
projects and governments across africa.
etHIOPIA, KenYA , MALAwI ,
PRojecT: Fsc/2012/024 identifying
socioeconomic constraints to and incentives
for faster technology adoption: Pathways
to sustainable intensification in eastern and
southern africa (adoption Pathways)
conTacT: dr john dixon, senior adviser,
cropping systems and economics Research
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