admin | March 13, 2017
Samwel Kamundai is a middle-aged farmer who recently retired from public service. Before 2013, he and other small-scale farmers in his part of Kenya had been practising mono-cropping. Mr. Kamundai had planted only maize on his three-acre farm.
But he decided to diversify crop production on his farm in Nakuru County, northwest of Nairobi. He is diversifying to increase his resilience to the effects of climate change.
He explains: “Growing maize alone is risky since a farmer can lose an entire harvest to diseases and pests. There is [a] need therefore to explore other crops that can act as a buffer against hunger during the dry spell.”
Mr. Kamundai now grows vegetables, legumes, potatoes, and indigenous fruits on his farm. He has also ventured into beekeeping and is rearing rabbits. His rabbit meat sells out quickly in the local market.
In order to avoid crop failure during dry spells, Mr. Kamundai uses drip irrigation. He also practices crop rotation, planting different crops in his fields every season. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, crop rotation can reduce disease and pest incidence, and may improve soil quality, particularly if a legume is part of the rotation.
Because of his success diversifying his crops, Mr. Kamundai has become a model farmer in his area. On a typical day, he hosts many farmers from neighbouring villages, who visit to learn about the benefits of crop diversification.
Mr. Kamundai says he is happy to educate other farmers on how to practice intercropping. Intercropping involves planting two crops in the same field at the same time, and its benefits include reducing weeds and pests.
He says he intends to be a national champion for crop diversification in Kenya. Mr. Kamundai adds: “It is my wish to see other farmers progress in their agricultural activities. Visiting my farm gives them a first-hand experience of what it means to diversify in farming; and I do discourage them against mono-cropping or depending heavily on one single crop.”
According to Mr. Kamundai, the shortage of extension workers hinders progress on educating farmers about crop diversification in many parts of Kenya. He urges the Ministry of Agriculture to arrange for additional extension officers to train small-scale farmers on how to practice intercropping and crop diversification. He adds: “It is good to have farmers learning from each other, but I believe there would be more impact if agricultural officers visit farmers in their farms regularly to educate them on what needs to be done and monitor their progress.”
By diversifying their crops, Mr. Kamundai and other small-scale farmers in his area have been able to produce enough staples for household consumption and for sale. He says that growing a variety of crops has not only guaranteed his family food security, but has also boosted his income. He adds, “Since venturing into intercropping, I am relieved from the stress of inadequate food supply and declining revenues.”
This story is based on an article titled “Kenyan smallholders embrace crop diversification to boost food security” To read the full story, go to: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-01/17/c_135990716.htm?CID=AGR_TT_agriculture_EN_EXT
For more information on crop rotation from the Food and Agriculture Organization, go to: http://www.fao.org/ag/ca/training_materials/leaflet_rotations.pdf
Photo credit: Simon Scott Photography