Kenyan maize and beans production is estimated at 2.4 and 0.3 million metric tonnes, against a consumption requirements of about 3.6 and 0.9 million metric tonnes, respectively (World Bank, 2012). A farm profile study conducted in the region revealed that the two crops’ yields are low at 1.2 and 0.5 t ha-1 against the expected 6.0 and 2.3 t ha-1 season-1 for maize and bean, respectively.
The problems are compounded by low adoption of appropriate farming methods due to lack of appropriate local institutional to foster and promote innovative practices; lack of access to extension services, poor state of transport and other infrastructure ( Nyariki et.al.,2004). It is also attributed to low or too high rainfall coupled with degradation of land ,reduced tree cover and water resources (Nyariki et al.2004;Simpson et al.,1996)
Of Kenya’s population roughly 80% are involved in agriculture (Kenya National Bureau of Statitics, KNBS, 2017). Approximately 4.8 million households (average household of 7 persons) are smallholders farming on less than two hectares representing 75% of the country’s population. At any specified period at least 10 million Kenyans are estimated to suffer from chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition. An estimated 98% of 3.5 million small-scale farmers in Kenya grow maize where it accounts for 56% of cultivated land in Kenya (ASDS, 2012; Kilimi 2012). The main cropping system for smallholders is maize-legume system which entail intercropping and crop rotation. There are also incidences of maize mono cropping and relay cropping is also being practiced.
Key risks faced by smallholder farmers include i) variability in markets (prices of produce and inputs), ii) emerging diseases and pests including Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) and Fall Army Worm (FAW) , and variability in rainfall causing drought or floods. Although crop production vary between households, low soil fertility, climate variability, pests and high cost of inputs are among the most common challenges faced by farmers (Ouma and DeGroote., 2011).
SIMLESA undertook on-farm research in different agroecological zones to assess the benefits of CASI and to develop appropriate technological packages for farmers. It increased the range of maize, legume and fodder/forage varieties available to smallholder farmers. Farmers were involved in participatory seed selection trials to identify the seed with qualities that they prefer. SIMLESA helped establish Agricultural innovation platforms (AIPs) to bring members along the value chain together (including farmers, seed producers, agro-dealers, NGOs and extension workers) to better serve farming communities, help mobilize resources, and support scaling. SIMLESA also provided training and capacity strengthening for national agricultural research systems and worked with government, business, and civil society organizations to provide an enabling environment for the benefits of CASI to be realized by farmers.
The majority of farmers in Kenya belong to groups. It was cost-effective to reach farmer groups through cluster approaches that evolved to innovation platforms ( also included researchers, extension providers, savings and credits, farmer field schools, church based organizations and cooperatives)
Many approaches such as field demonstrations, Participatory Variety Selection(PVS), were used, and many were familiar to farmers, but the AIPs were a relatively new approach.
In Kenya, AIPs were formed and managed at location with majority of members coming from the same region. However, the initiatives had memberships with regional and national levels of operations. Examples of such members included Equity bank, Crop Insurance Companies and Seed Companies.
Direct beneficiaries reached through SIMLESA support : 172,621
Innovation Platforms: 13
Farmers reached: 10,000
Researchers trained 651
Adoption target: 130,708
|Area under dedicated for maize (millions)||1.6|
|Production per ha (tonnes)||1.8|
In Kenya, SIMLESA operated in two regions that represent about 39% of the arable land. In eastern Kenya, the Programme covers three counties: Embu, Meru and Tharaka Nithi (intial Counties). Later outscaled to, Meru, Embu, Nyeri and Kitui Counties (NCCK). In western Kenya, two counties are covered, Siaya and Bungoma (initial Counties) and later outscaled to Vihiga and Busia Counties) (Egerton University)
Some of our field experimental sites: