The Agriculture support team of AMPATH with the aid of Dow AgroSciences has made some positive progress for the small farmers of Western Kenya. Last spring was challenging in getting our 21 Demo plots planted. We had some issues with seed germination which caused 16 of the 21 plots to be replanted. However, we looked at this as just one of many challenges that farmers go through every year. It became a teaching moment and created an opportunity for us to create a “Maize Best Practices” module for use during the year.
Now that we are approaching harvest and the Maize plots look very good we have scheduled 14 Demo Days. At this point we have completed 4 field days with the farm groups selected for the plots. “Best Practices” is being taught by Abraham Boit who is the Ampath Agriculture Leader. Abraham has taken the curriculum and translates it into Kiswahili so the local farmers get a complete understanding.
Areas of teaching for “Maize Best Practices” are:
- Starting with Soil test which is our road map for understanding the recommendations for fertilizer and pH requirements.
- Proper Planting Techniques. Land preparation, timing, seed population, planting depth and row spacing
- Fertilizer using soil analysis for rates and nutrients needed. Timing and proper application. Using a trusted supplier is critical
- Seed Selection. Find a trusted supplier that uses knowledge to make recommendation based on relative maturity, good emergence, disease tolerance, standability and dry down
- Weed Control. Use herbicides when effective. If hand weeding make sure early weeds are eradicated before they cause damage to the crop.
- Scouting of fields. Must start the first week to check stand and early germination. Scout fields weekly. Use trained agronomist when needed. Keep good records when issues arise
- Good Harvest Practices. Start harvest when grain can be shelled to 15.5% moisture. Store grain in clean, dry well ventilated area. Use PICS bags to reduce post- harvest storage loss
- Use Experience to your advantage for next year’s crop. Keep good records and learn from the data but realize every year is different and “Maize Best Practices” need to be repeated for each crop
Our approach has been well received by the farmers. We have trained over 125 farmers so far and they are asking us to come back for a post-harvest training or even a pre planting training for next year. Much of what we are teaching is basic information, but it is all new to them. We are planning to use these same teaching techniques for other crops as well as animal production.
The most encouraging part of this project is the farmer willingness to learn and enthusiasm to utilize what we have taught them on their own farm. We are making a difference by improving the yields of the crop. The next step is helping them in understanding and developing markets for crops they produce. The access to marketing and inputs are two areas that can be improved by creating the legal cooperatives which we are beginning to discuss with them during our plot demo days.
We are happy with what have developed to this point and we have plans for improvement as we go into next year.