By Bob Aston
Demonstration plots have been used for a long time as training grounds for farmers on best farming practices. Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, MEA Ltd (a fertilizer manufacturing company) and Kenya Seed Company Ltd to set up the demonstration plots in Nga’rua Division, Laikipia West, Lakipikia County in Kenya. During a capacity building training organized by ALIN for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society in April 2014, Charles Nderitu, a resident of Naibrom in Laikipia County volunteered to be among five (5) farmers who would set aside part of their land to be used as a demonstration plot.
Charles later availed a quarter of an acre of his farm for the demonstration. MEA Ltd conducted soil analysis for him in April, 2014. He was informed that the analyses will determine the accuracy of the soil’s fertility status that will be used to make fertilizer recommendations. This will ensure that enough fertilizer applied will meet the requirements of the crops while taking advantage of the nutrients already present in the soil.
Charles had been issued with four-and-a-half kilos of certified hybrid seeds from Kenya Seed Company Ltd. The varieties to be planted in the demonstration plot are; H520, H624, H629, H626, and H6210. He was also issued with 25kg of 23:23:0 fertilizer and Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) for top dressing by MEA Ltd.
Charles, who has been farming in a five (5) acre piece of land since 1979 has planted variety of crops among them being beans, maize, tree tomato, avocado, oranges, passion fruits and mangoes. He also keeps poultry, cows and sheep.
He has always invested more than Ksh 45,000 (approximately US$530) in his farm every year with maize farming consuming a big portion of the investment. Despite this huge investment, he has been harvesting less than 10 bags per acre.
“It has been hard for me to break even. I expect to learn from the demonstration plot how I can practice farming as a business. I want to make money and I believe this will be possible after learning from this initiative,” said Charles.
High input costs have always deterred him from purchasing some inputs required for his farm. For 30 years he has been using 25 kg of Di-ammonium Phosphate (DAP) fertiliser per acre.
The soil analysis report which he received from MEA Ltd indicated that his soil is acidic due to continuous use of DAP. He was advised to use Nitrous-Phosphate (NPK) fertiliser or 23:23:0 and five (5) tonnes of farm yard manure per acre. “I have already bought 23:23:0 and I am now waiting to plant on the rest of the farm after they have planted in the demonstration plot. I will no longer use DAP as I have been advised against its use,” said Charles.
Charles has never used Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) despite its importance. He has been using stock borer and foliar spray instead of CAN. “My advice to farmers is to follow what they are taught by agricultural extension officers. Most of us normally assume that we know but the truth is we are not gaining a lot from our farms,” said Charles.