Model farms help pastoralists diversify
Raising animals is more difficult than ever in much of Kenya. Diversification offers a solution to many farmers’ problems. In Samburu, model farms are helping pastoralists familiarize themselves with a choice of crops.
Animal husbandry is an important economic activity in Kenya. Samburu is one of the areas in which pastoralism is particularly widespread. Through the PASTTA (*) program, our Seeds2B team is helping to establish crop production there, notably potatoes.
“It’s vital for pastoralists to have a promising alternative”, declares Seeds2B head Tony Gathungu. “Like their counterparts around the world, Kenyan cattle-raisers face numerous challenges.” The problems include drought, economic downturn, lack of schooling and widespread poverty. In Kenya, violent livestock raiding makes matters even worse.
In ecologically suitable pastoral areas, PASTTA aims to strengthen economic activity and food security by diversifying farming. Pastoralists interested in growing potatoes, for example, gain access to a choice of high-yielding varieties: Shangi, Unica and Wanjiku. “Importantly, however, we also provide training”, explains Monitoring & Evaluation Officer Stephen Okeyo. “The main vehicles for this are five model farms, in convenient places for the pastoralists.”
The model farms demonstrate new techniques and technologies. “Farmers learn to adopt such practices, both for potatoes and Nyota beans”, Okeyo adds. “In 2022, our team has already held ten Farmer Field Schools for some 150 farmers. They learn not only about seed, soil health, crop protection and diversification, but also about topics important further along the value chain, such as GAP.”
The aim this year is for each model farm to reach 500 farmers. Samburu County Department of Agriculture (**) provides crucial support with site identification, farmer mobilization and training.
The term Field “School” applies to this work in more ways than one. “We’re also partnering with local educational institutions such as Lorrok Secondary”, Okeyo continues. “The students take new knowledge back to their parents. I’m really impressed with their farming attitude.”
See how we’re also working on potatoes with Kenyan schools and other partners in Meru.
*PASTTA is our Partnership for Seed Technology Transfer in Africa with USAID. It primarily focuses on transferring seed-related technologies to smallholders, to increase their harvests and income.
**Samburu Ag Dept. was also one of the pioneers in our work on farm advice via radio. Extension officers teamed up there with Serian FM.