KMT Research

Enhancing Market Access and Use of Agricultural Lime

Research shows soils in Western Kenya is not only acidic but they also suffer from soil nutrient depletion. Farming is not optimal on account of high risks associated with dependence on rain-fed agriculture, high input prices, and low farm-gate prices.

What Informed The Study?

Research shows soils in Western Kenya is not only acidic but they also suffer from soil nutrient depletion.

Farming Is Not Optimal

Farming is not optimal on account of high risks associated with dependence on rain-fed agriculture, high input prices, and low farm- gate prices.

Low Productivity

Agricultural productivity is low because of low utilisation of yield-raising inputs, inadequate irrigation, low soil fertility, high soil acidity and reliance on manual labour for farm production.

Acidic Soil

The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that around 50% of smallholders in western Kenya may be farming soils with pH below 5.5.

Lime As A Remedy For Soil Acidity

Lime is one of the major solutions to soil acidity

The application of agricultural lime, a calcium- containing product processed from limestone, gypsum or dolomite increases the soil pH, reduces the solubility of the toxic elements and increases availability of nutrients to plant roots.

Lime also helps in biological nitrogen fixation in legumes and general microbial activity. Although agricultural lime is produced in Kenya and used by large-scale farmers, historically, its use by small-scale farmers has been low.

Challenges Of Lime Market And Lime Use

Some of the key challenges in the expansion of the lime market and use of lime by farmers included;

Many farmers still expect government and donor agencies to help them acquire lime.

They view the cost of lime as being prohibitive and so they do not perceive lime as a viable way to improve their farming business.

Farmers perceive lime application as a bulky and costly process.

That whereas farmers appreciate that lime is good for correcting soil acidity, they perceive it as a bulky, dusty commodity requiring a lot of labour for application.

Some farmers due to limited knowledge on liming, end up mixing lime and fertiliser during planting.

Also they do not adhere to the recommended lime application rates.

Why Some Farmers Fail To Retest Soil For Acidity

From the study, only two households had redone soil testing. The reasons for not retesting soil were reported to be;

Financial constraints; and the crops were still doing well.
It was less than three years since the last test.
Lack of service providers

About This Research

Objectives Of The Study

Objective 1

To establish the existing knowledge levels, knowledge gaps and information awareness on lime and soil testing services among smallholder farmers in western Kenya region

Objective 2

To demonstrate the impact of lime use and soil testing services on farm productivity, yields and farmer incomes in western region

Objective 3

To establish uptake levels of lime use and soil testing services among smallholder farmers in western Kenya region

Objective 4

To demonstrate the intervention’s impact on cross-cutting issues, including climate resilience and gender

Objective 5

To establish the change in business performance, market share, sales and revenue for the lime manufacturing partner and its distribution networks through sales of lime and soil testing services

Key Findings From The Study

It appears that some farmers know about soil acidity and liming but not about soil testing

  • Not Productive
  • Productive

80% of the households believed that their farms were not producing at maximum yield

91% believed that crop yield could be improved by monitoring soil health in their farms.

Out of 518 households, 54 households (10.4%) had undertaken soil tests while 34 households (7%) had done liming.

Farmers had several sources of information on lime. The three major sources were NGOs, extension officers and fellow farmers.

Sources of Information About Lime

Challenges in Expansion

When To Lime Soils: A big dilemma for most farmers

Lack of clarity on when soils require liming was demonstrated by responses from households. When asked on when soils required lime, three major responses were given: “When there is low crop production”; “when soil acidity is high”; and “during land preparation” These responses accounted for 70% of all the responses. Some respondents had no idea when soils require liming. Other responses included: “during planting”, “when there is low soil fertility”, “after soil testing”, “when there is Striga weed”, and “when top dressing”.

  • Percentage

Conclusion: The Key Observations

Western Region Soil Quality

Empirical studies by KALRO and university scientists have indicated that soil acidity and low fertility are widespread in soils in the western region.

High Cost Perception

The main reason why farmers had not adopted soil testing was the perception of high cost without a clear understanding of the benefits thereof.

Inconsistency In Farmers Knowledge

There exists lack of harmony in the messages given to farmers by different stakeholders about lime. This situation is exacerbated by lack of a policy on lime and fertilisers.

Lime Use Projects Implementation

For more than a decade, lime use projects have been implemented in the western region and as a result many farmers have become aware about lime and soil testing services.

Studies on the Economics of Lime

There seems not to be any study that has addressed the economics of lime application explicitly comparing the costs and benefits of the technology. The demo farms ought to have included such a component.

Information on Lime Packaging

Lime packaging does not contain adequate information about lime such as application instructions. The exception is brief safety instructions in the packaging by HLCL.

Farmers Testing Their Soil

Only a minority of farmers paid commercial rates for having their soils tested; the majority of farmers obtained services subsidised by the County Government or the Equity Group Foundation. Only a minority of farmers had purchased lime.

Key Recommendations

Soil Testing Information

Farmers need to be given consistent information about the importance of soil testing prior to application of lime and fertilisers.

Bridging The Farmer To Service Provider Gap

The gap between farmers and service providers can be bridged by youth (they have better education) that take the opportunity to invest in a combined service offer of soil testing (using soil scanners; acting as agents for soil testing labs for more detailed tests) and bringing lime from agrovets/suppliers to the farmers at affordable prices.

Facilitating Dialogue Among Stakeholders

KMT should take the lead in facilitating dialogue among stakeholders (lime manufacturers, fertiliser companies, Ministry of Agriculture, KALRO, input distributors, county governments, etc) to promote advocacy for finalisation of a policy on agricultural lime and fertilisers that includes minimum technical information that should be provided to farmers on fertilisers and lime.

Collaboration Between Stakeholders

There is need for the GoK Extension Officers, NGOs, research organisations, development partners and government to collaborate to ensure that the information given to farmers is correct and area-specific.

Cost & Benefits Studies

Studies on the economics of lime application explicitly comparing the costs and benefits of the technology are required; such data should then be used in extension messages to assist farmers assess for themselves the value liming adds to their farming.

Information On Health Risks

Crushed limestone is in powder form. If inhaled in excessive quantities over a prolonged period or extended period, respirable dust can constitute a long term health hazard. Dust inhaled or exposed to the eyes can cause severe burning of the eyes and mucous membranes. Therefore, inhalation of dust from aggregates should be avoided through wearing of personal protective equipment.

County Government Involvement

County Governments especially in those counties with high levels of soil acidity should support the exploration of agricultural limestone deposits.

Poor Farmers

There is a need for a paradigm change in soil testing and supply of lime to poor farmers. Currently the rate of adoption of these goods and services by smallholder farmers is low.

Guides For Farmers

An effort by a combined team of researchers and extension personnel could make an important contribution by preparing a simple manual/guide for farmers with information on different options in liming and the associated costs for guiding farmers.

Enhancing Market Access and Use of Agricultural Lime

Early Impact Assessment Report (Abridged Version)

Format: PDF

Summary Version: 1.6 MB


A Dawn of a New Chapter for Kenya Markets Trust

After years of successfully working together as partners with a shared mission of transforming sectors in East Africa, Gatsby Africa, Kenya Markets Trust and Msingi East Africa have decided to integrate and become one entity as of April 01, 2022.

The new integrated entity will be called Gatsby Africa – a philanthropic entity of Lord David Sainsbury and will operate across six sectors in East Africa – Commercial Forestry, Aquaculture, Textiles and Apparel, Livestock, Agricultural Inputs, and Water.

We believe that the ambition and vision of the new organisation, coupled with the breadth of our portfolio, puts us in a strong position to deliver a meaningful level of impact for millions of people in the East African region. It equally strengthens our ability to generate and share our learning with others.

Coming together allows us to leverage the strengths of the three organisations, brings efficiency to how we work, and ensures we have a greater impact in our work.

What does this mean for the work that we have been passionately championing over the years? There will be no changes to the focus and modalities of how we work or our shared commitments – our three existing programmes will continue to operate in the same way they have always done.

We will be launching the new integrated Gatsby Africa organisation on April 01, 2022. By mid-April, we will share with you a link to our new website and official social media handles. However, we will retain our current website for a minimum period of six months, so that our knowledge materials are available to you. We shall be moving these over to our new website so that nothing will be lost.

As an organisation, we are excited about the opportunities that this integration brings for our people, partners and the sectors we work in. We are humbled by the collaboration and good working relationship we have had with all our different stakeholders and look forward to continuing working with you in the new organisation.