From Food Relief to Sustainable Agricultural Production: Simple, Low-Cost Technologies Improve Farmers’ Yields and Incomes in Kenya
Agriculture in the northern parts of Meru County in Central Kenya has been inhibited by erratic rainfall, poor agronomic practices, limited information, and weak market linkages, all of which create the conditions for food insecurity. As a result, the Government of Kenya has had to provide ongoing food relief to residents of Meru for several years.
Against this backdrop, the Muchui Women Group in the Buuri District of Meru County is working to enable its 100 members to utilize their resources sustainably through improved agricultural practices and natural resource conservation. Unfortunately, despite operating for nearly two decades, the group has struggled due to a lack of knowledge of critical issues, such as pests and disease management, access to certified seeds, and market outlets for their produce.
With support from Feed the Future over the past six months, the Muchui Women are finally beginning to achieve greater success in reaching their goals.
Through a partnership between USAID and Syngenta, the women’s group has been introduced to modern farming methods such as shade nets, greenhouses, drip irrigation, safe use of pesticides, access to hybrid seeds, and nursery management. The group has now adopted horticultural farming and is growing high-value crops such as banana, avocado, greenhouse tomatoes, kales, peppers, eggplant, spinach, and sweet potato. Each member has a kitchen garden for household vegetable production and sells excess produce for income.
In April 2012, the group hosted a field day where 107 farmers received hands-on training in many of the modern farming techniques adopted by Muchui. With a market for their product secured by Syngenta, the group has invested in 7 greenhouses and 70 screen houses. From March to April, a total of $2,260 was earned by the members. Two group members harvested 546 kilograms of greenhouse tomatoes, valued at $210.
USAID programs like this one directly contributed to expanding Kenya’s horticulture exports by more than $54 million in 2011. An estimated 26 percent (or $14 million) of that total increase went directly to smallholder farmers.