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ISFM Background

Improving agricultural productivity in Makueni County through scaling up cereal-legume intensification

Kenya’s population is growing rapidly, with the total number now at 43 million persons. This level of upward population demographic trends, coupled with the growing numbers of the middle class (estimated at 24.4% according to Kenya National Burial of Statistics), have created an unprecedented demand for food in a country that has been traditionally classed as food insecure. For the nation to achieve food security and sustainable growth of the agricultural sector there is need to cultivate and invest in smallholder value chains-from production to output markets. This includes addressing the soil fertility problems through wide-scale use of improved seeds and fertilizers within the context of integrated soil fertility management and strong markets engagement.

In an attempt to address some of the aforementioned problems, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) partnered with the Anglican Development Services (ADS) Eastern (formerly known as the Ukamba Christian Community Services, or UCCS) in a 3-year project (2011-2014). The project, implemented in Makueni County, sought to address the prevailing food insecurity due to low and declining production of the staple cereals and pulses in the region. The county is characterised by low rainfall (<700mm) and low usage of farm inputs (50% of the farmers use fertilizer and only 35% use improved seeds).

The project achieved outstanding results, including building capacity of about 14,000 farmers with ISFM (Integrated Soil Fertility Management) technologies (against a target of 10,000), 61% of whom were women farmers. The County Government in Phase 1 played a significant role in providing extension services through extension staff and also donated 50 MT of improved sorghum seeds which were provided to farmers.
Despite these investments, there are still existing gaps that needs to be addressed in order to lay a firm foundation for agricultural growth and intensification in the county. Principally, there is need for scaling out ISFM interventions to other geographies in Makueni county that were initially not covered in phase 1, in order to improve overall production and provide good economic sense for more participation by larger-scale agricultural produce off-take agencies. The first phase of the project reached approximately 14,000 farmers, which represents no more than 10% of the estimated 150,000 farmers in the expansive county. In this phase II, the project is anticipated to reach additional 20,000 farmers with ISFM technologies.

This project is anchored on consolidating the gains achieved in Phase 1 through the agricultural value chains known as Going Beyond Demos approach. The approach recognizes that demonstration of use of fertilizer, improved seeds and good agronomic practices that includes cereal-legume rotations/intercrops alone cannot effectively lead to massive uptake of soil fertility technologies by smallholder farmers. Farmers need to access farm inputs and output markets. This requires linking farmers to stakeholders on the agricultural value chain.

This project is being implemented by a consortium of partners led by ADS Eastern and including the county government of Makueni and a local NGO known as Women and Girls Empowerment Solutions (WAGES). The project partners bring on board a wealth of experience and opportunities for synergies with other AGRA initiatives (seeds, markets and innovative finance). This follow-on project phase targets to reach and work with additional 20,000 smallholders and will work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture extension staff in the county government of Makueni in six project localities. This project will focus on improving the lives of women and youth by offering ISFM technologies that can improve crop productivity of legume crops and sorghum that have viable markets in the county. The project will work with 3 crops: sorghum (Gadam), cowpeas (M66) and pigeon peas (ICEAP 0040 and KAT 60/8).

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