Global Agriculture

CABI working in partnership to help 30,000 farmers in Kenya reap improved soybean harvests

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10 September 2020, UK: CABI is working in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute(IFPRI) and Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise Ltd (ACRE Africa) and Kilimo Trust to help 30,000 farmers in Kenya, particularly women, improve their soybean yields.

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Funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Global Challenges Research Fund, through Innovate UK, the partnership will use a combination of earth observation and ground sensor data as well as best-practice approaches in agricultural extension to increase soybean productivity and quality which is currently hampered by challenges in the supply chain.

Low off-take of Soybean in the market

Soybean is a key crop for improved livelihoods and nutrition in Kenya but 30% of total soybean production is rejected by off-takers due to poor quality – exacerbated by the unavailability of seed, low productivity, pests, lack of market access, credit facilities and financial safety nets – further curbing potential household income.

The project will focus on a range of pests but in particular – the bean fly Ophiomyia phaseoli, commonly referred to as Bean Stem Maggot (BSM) – which can cause crop losses of 40-100% if not detected and treated. BSM develops rapidly during the early planting season attacking newly-germinated soybean plants, causing reduced growth, or plant death.

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Muthithi Kinyanjui, Project Lead at ACRE Africa, said, “The project aims at bringing together an integrated suite of services whose value proposition is not only tied to access to technical information, models and alerts – derived from Earth Observations (EO) and ground sensors – but also provision of a comprehensive social support. This will enable women farmers to engage with the high-worth value chain in their nearby urban markets, detailed information on good agricultural practice and financial support.

“Including direct access to micro-credit and novel pest insurance products, appropriate climate-smart approaches, risk management advice and entrepreneurship training, will in turn support ACRE Africa’s network of village champion farmers who then transfer this knowledge and information to their peers.”

The partnership will also train 300 of ACRE Africa’s Village Extension Service Providers (VESPs) on the basis of Plantwise plant doctor processes – focusing on soybean pest identification and management – with a view to scaling production and supply from female farmers.

They will also look to extend and test an innovative picture-based insurance tool as a way of speeding up the uptake of pest insurance products in Kenya. The project will, in addition, seek to validate pest models across rural and per-urban locations as well as determining if these models can provide insurers with valuable data to inform ‘basis risk’ calculators – alerting them to the validity of forthcoming claims.

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“Soybean production meets only 10% of the market need”

Suzy Wood, Project Manager at CABI-UK, said, “In Kenya, soybean production meets only 10% of the market needs. This is because productivity remains low due to poor agricultural practices and losses to pests and disease.

“The Bean Stem Maggot, for example, is a significant pest which develops rapidly during the early planting season attacking newly-germinated soybean plants, causing reduced growth, or plant death.

“Faced with a lack of early warning of imminent attacks, few advisors, and an absence of practical pest management information, farmers spray insecticides indiscriminately, leaving unsafe chemical residues.

“We seek to overcome these constraints by providing a frontier system integrating technology and best-practice approaches in agricultural extension to increase soybean productivity and quality.”

Ms Wood added that while a number of weather-indexed services are available, there is a general lack of evidence-based pest and disease insurance should the worst happen and the farmer loses their crop. Indeed, only 2-3% Kenyan farmers are insured. Conversely, insurance providers lack data on pest risks to enable them to develop fair and attractive, sustainable products.

MaryLucy Oronje, Project Team Lead at CABI-Africa, said, “Soybean production is increasing in Kenya but pest infestation often results in low yields and poor-quality soybean for the soybean processors. We aim to bridge the gap and provide cutting edge, timely and critical pest management information to farmers. We will engage both the VESPs, soybean farmers and processors to improve on production and quality.”

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