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Kenya: Double benefits from the push-pull technique (by Pius Sawa for Farm Radio Weekly in Kenya)

Things changed for the better for Simon Wanyoike when he adopted the push-pull technique to control stem borers in maize. Not only did he increase his maize yields from one and half to fifteen bags per season, but his dairy business also improved.

Simon Wanyoike and his wife Jane Njeri Wanyoike farm half a hectare of land in Gatanga district, central Kenya. The changing weather, unreliable rains and increased pests made it increasingly hard to sustain their family of twelve. But, he says, “For the past two years since I started using the push-pull technology, I have experienced a tremendous change in my family as we have been able to produce enough food.”

Mr. Wanyoike explains how push-pull helps his dairy business: “I did not know that push-pull technology had multiple benefits. Currently my cows are being fed on Napier and desmodium [grasses] that [also] control the maize stem borer.” He has three dairy cows that now provide up to fifteen litres of milk per day.

He says the push-pull technology is easy to learn. Mr. Wanyoike plants Napier grass around the perimeter of his maize field. This attracts or pulls the stem-borer moths away from the maize. He also plants desmodium between rows of maize. Desmodium repels or pushes any remaining moths away from the maize plants. Together, the Napier grass and desmodium keep the maize free from moths that lay stem borer eggs.

Napier is a fast-growing grass which forms a bushy border around the maize field. Mr. Wanyoike explains how he feeds his cows: “I cut the Napier, then bring it home and chop the leaves and the stalks, add some salt and put it in a trough to feed the cows.” The Napier grass continues to grow after the maize has been harvested.

Desmodium is a low-growing plant which quickly covers the soil. Mr. Wanyoike feeds desmodium to his cows in the same way as Napier.

He says the two crops are locally available, and that they increase milk production when used as fodder: “I can now sell milk to the neighbours, have some for my family, while at the same time I have enough maize to feed the family.”

Mr. Wanyoike sings the praises of the push-pull technique. It has brought hope not only to his family, but to his entire community. He says, “Buying animal feed from shops is quite expensive for a rural farmer. But since the push-pull system was introduced, farmers like me in my area have double benefitted in crops and dairy farming.”