20 October 2023, Kenya: In the heart of Taita-Taveta County, Kenya, an innovative combination of superior seeds and comprehensive training is yielding bumper crops. The Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project, supported by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), has registered significant positive impacts.
Farmers are reporting better harvests than traditional farming methods, which are often adversely affected by unpredictable rainfall.
ICRISAT’s Finger and Pearl Millet breeder for East and Southern Africa, Dr. Henry Ojulong, says the project goes beyond just training farmers and providing seeds.
“Taita-Taveta farmers are among the 25,000 we have trained on climate-smart farming. Specifically, on how much rain they should expect in a season.
“With climate change, this information is important because it helps farmers to plant within a concise window.” said Dr. Ojulong
Grace, a veteran farmer in Buguta, one of the villages in Taita, recounts decades of disappointment with pigeonpea and millet due to unreliable rains.
But last season, the sun began to shine on her fields, and the smiles returned. Like Grace, most farmers in the area share in this newfound joy. They are witnessing a transformation that promises to change their lives for the better.
“I am very grateful to this project for teaching me how to practice farming in a modern way. If I had continued with the old farming practices of planting traditional seeds, I think we would have very little or no harvest at all.” said Grace.
In the neighboring area of Mwatate, Elias boasts of a robust pigeonpea harvest, all thanks to the knowledge he gained in the training.
“I had not imagined planting pigeonpea on a large scale,” he admits. “I have harvested two sacks from a small portion, which earned me some good cash, something I did not expect.”
The project has fostered a sense of community, as farmers come together to share knowledge, including seed storage and management practices. Elias and Grace are now planning to share their newfound wisdom and seeds with other farmers.
According to ICRISAT’s Field technician Geoffrey Mutai, this ripple effect will ensure that the project’s benefits extend far beyond initial targets, as plans take shape to expand the project to other regions.
AICCRA collaborates with partners like the County Government, whose extension officers provide crucial support to farmers, including seed distribution and the adoption of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). This collaboration has enhanced the reach and impact of the project.
The County Director for Agriculture, Doris Kiia, says the success of the AICCRA project has led to plans for expansion into other areas beyond the initial three wards. This expansion aims to further improve food security and nutritional outcomes for farmers in the region.
“The introduction of drought-tolerant crops with shorter maturity periods provides farmers with a more reliable source of food and income, reducing food insecurity and malnutrition in the region,” said Ms Kiia.
The AICCRA project, in collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders, is helping the resilient farmers of Taita-Taveta County adapt to the challenges of climate change. Their collective efforts are raising the bar for agricultural practices, promising better livelihoods and fortified food security. In a land accustomed to hardship, a brighter future is finally taking root.
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