Friday, 23 September 2011

Conservation agriculture technology for food security in Kenya

Conservation agriculture technology is a farming practice being piloted in Kenya by agriculture development agencies.The method contributes to sustainable agricultural production and environmental conservation, by maintaining a permanent or semi-permanent organic soil cover; through the use of mulches or cover crops, employment of Zero or minimum tillage and crop rotation. Weed control is done using herbicides or shallow cultivation resulting to minimal soil disturbance, water and nutrients retention. Some of the benefits of conservation agriculture technology are reduced labor and farm-power requirements, improved soil fertility, crop yields increase over time compared to conventional farming, livelihood improvement, decreased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and reduction of climate change.

Small scale farmers in Kenya face numerous challenges, which call for simultaneous increase of farm production and natural resource preservation. Land for farming in most parts of Kenya is scarce due to high population density.  Over the years intensive farming have been practiced in most parts of Kenya resulting to land degradation, decreased farm yields and increased poverty. Rain-fed subsistence farming is the main source of livelihood for majority of the rural people in Kenya. In the recent years this livelihood strategy has become unreliable due to climate change, prevalent droughts and seasonality of the rains; leading to crop failure, low food production and increased poverty. Oblivious of the danger farmers continue to practice intensive tillage technologies which have been known to cause soil degradation. Therefore there is urgent need for introduction of conservation agriculture technology in order to counteract the situation.

The youth are the future of farming industry in Kenya. They should therefore take advantage of every opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills in conservation agriculture technology. In addition they should spearhead implementation of this innovation in their communities. This will ultimately influence whole communities to practice conversation agriculture technology, for livelihood improvement, climate change adaptation and mitigation. Furthermore agricultural soil is a limited and precious resource whose irreversible degradation ruins the main asset of current farmers and reduces the farming opportunities for the future generation

The Kenya Government in collaboration with its stakeholders has a pilot conservation agriculture technology project in Laikipia district. The project started in the year 2006 as a result of resolutions made during the third world congress on conservation agriculture technology which took place in Nairobi Kenya in October 2005.The event was organized by African Conservation Tillage Network in collaboration with the government of the republic of kenya and the Kenya CA Tillage Network. The fourth world congress was held in New Delhi India in February 2009 while  the 5th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture technology was held in Brisbane, Australia in September 2011.
Conservation agriculture technology acknowledges the importance of creating and maintaining a healthy soil and integrates various approaches to the management of weeds, pests, diseases, and plant nutrients. adoption of conservation agriculture technology will help crops adapt to changing climatic conditions and ensure harvest despite unreliable rainfall. This is an innovation whose time has come and cannot be stopped.