The Mount Kenya Trust had a farmer’s day at their Mugumo Regenerative Agriculture Project (MRAP) next to Lolldaiga ranch. Neighboring farmers, representatives from Timau, Ngusishi and Ontulili Water Resource Users Association (WRUA) were present.
Different aspects of conservation farming such as minimum soil disturbance, soil cover and crop rotation were demonstrated. Since conventional farm practices can negatively impact the environment and contribute to climate change, farmers must adopt farm practices that will minimize pollution, protect crop yields, improve crop resistance to drought and pests, and reduce total production cost.
Conservation farming seems to be the perfect solution. Conservation farming is an approach in which soil management practices are reduced to a minimum, thus preserving the soil properties and natural biodiversity. It includes a set of practices which conserve the soil, water, and soil moisture, enhance fertilizer and seed use, and finally, saves time and money.
Conservation farming has three main principles that help in biodiversity and environmental protection. These principles are:
- Minimum soil disturbance
- Crop residue management – leaving previous crop residue in the field or planting a cover crop
- Crop rotation practices
The emphasis of conservation farming is on conservation tillage practices, during which the soil is tilled just enough to be possible to sow seeds. Another practice is to leave at least 30% of soil surface covered by crop residue. This increases the water infiltration rate and reduces soil erosion and runoff.
Farmers have increasingly started these practices in their crop production in order to increase the productivity of:
- Soil – minimized soil tillage improves soil structure and protects the soil from erosion, while cover crops enhance soil organic matter
- Water – enhanced soil infiltration requires less water use
- Nutrients – crop rotation and decomposition of cover crops provides the soil organisms and plants with nutrients
- Weed management – weed population declines over time due to reduced tillage
- Environment – no-till provides for reduced fossil fuel use, while organic crop protection saves the environment and biodiversity
- Labor – less labor required for soil preparation
- Farm finance – reduced fertilizer, seed, and labor cost
Water scarcity remains a problem to irrigated agriculture in the Ewaso Basin.
Emu Sacco offers a solution by providing a savings and credit cooperative exclusively to support on-farm water conservation and management, which in turn supports increased agricultural productivity and livelihoods. The Sacco has allowed small holder farmers to save and borrow for on-farm water harvesting and management investments. Emu Sacco has partnered with various service providers specialized in the production and supply of water infrastructure (Afro Drip Limited and Sun Culture). Through this arrangement, Emu Sacco links its members and non-members with products from the two firms. The members get quality products at discounted prices.
Want to know more about conservation agriculture, or to get practical advice for your farm? Contact Tom Lawrence on 0722 312 577