KMT’s Agriculture Intervention Specialist Michael Kamau presents findings from our Lime Impact Study during the Kenya Fertilizer Platform (KeFERT) Roundtable meeting in Nairobi | January 15, 2020 | Photo: Serah Njenga
A recent study by Kenya Markets Trust (KMT) reveals that soil acidity remains a key constraint to optimising farmers’ productivity in the Western and Rift Valley regions.
When crops are grown in acidic soils, they are ‘locked’ from accessing the nutrients they require from the soil for proper plant growth.
The study on ‘Enhancing market access and use of agricultural lime among smallholder farmers in western Kenya region’ was conducted to establish the extent of knowledge levels, adoption and uptake of agricultural lime by smallholder farmers due to functioning market systems.
The study showed that despite many farmers acknowledging reduced yields from their farms over the years and knowing the contribution of acidity to these reduced yields, few were willing to incur the expense of liming their farms.
These agri-research findings were shared on January 15, 2020 by Kenya Markets Trust (KMT), in partnership with the State Department of Agriculture and KALRO, to key stakeholders during a Kenya Fertilizer Platform (KeFERT) Roundtable meeting.
In attendance were Agriculture County Executive Committee Members from Bungoma and Uasin Gishu Counties; Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MOALF); Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa (AGRA); United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Kenya Bureau of Standards (KeBS), among other key stakeholders in Kenya’s fertiliser sector, from both private and public spheres.
Deliberations from the meeting
KMT’s Acting CEO Alison Otieno said that the organisation is always working towards improving farmers productivity.
“When I think about agriculture, three things come to mind; farmer, productivity and food security. Liming has the potential to benefit all three by reducing soil acidity,” she said.
Speaking during the meeting, Bungoma CEC for Agriculture Mathews Wanjala emphasised the importance of strong partnerships to improve food production and productivity.
“Agriculture is now fully devolved, apart from research and development aspects. Bungoma County will work with the National Government, KALRO and development partners to disseminate the findings of this study to farmers and break the concepts into a language that farmers can understand,” he said.
To keep this agenda in motion, KeFERT stakeholders will be in consultation with the national government in seeking harmonisation of guidelines and procedures around soil testing and liming. On the same note, members will also pursue the government’s buy–in on lime subsidisation.
Consistency in messaging is key and lime manufacturers and traders vowed to pursue joint small-scale farmer education on liming. It was recommended they also invest in promotional activities and distribution channels on the use of lime.
KeFERT will convene another forum to explain the issue of e–vouchers and subsidy management.
The e-voucher is a payment card given to smallholder farmers in a selected area. The prepaid card is loaded with credit and provides the farmers with access to agricultural inputs of their choice up to the fixed amount. The cardholder can go to any approved agro–dealer and purchase the goods by simply swiping on an electronic point of sale machine (POS) to pay for the goods.
E-voucher solution allows secure voucher management between agribusiness and farmers, reduces government costs associated with procurement, transport and storage of inputs. The other successes relate to increased private sector participation in input distribution especially in rural areas and an increase in beneficiary targeting.
Promoting systemic change in lime access and use
Soil acidity remains a big challenge in some parts of Kenya, but more so, the farmers’ limited awareness on the levels of soil acidity. This has affected food production and productivity.
To overcome soil acidity constraints, Kenya Markets Trust (KMT) engaged a range of market players in 2013 to promote agricultural lime use by smallholder farmers in Trans-Nzoia, Bungoma, Kakamega and Uasin Gishu Counties. This involved working with a lime manufacturer, soil testing service providers, agro-dealers and other stakeholders to create a sustainable supply of agricultural lime to smallholder farmers in Western Kenya.