Sorghum intercropped with desmodium in a push-pull technology which is appropriate and economical to the resource-poor smallholder farmers in the region as it is based on locally available plants.
Small holder farmer groups in Western Kenya have increased their crop production by over 50 per cent by using push-pull technology to kill pests, an impact that has led to International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) to shift its focus on how to enhance further adoption of the technology in the region.
Push-pull technology, has been in existence for over 20 years however, it has been slowly adopted by smallholder farmers due to lack of knowledge making ICIPE shift focus on farmer groups to reach more farmers by training them about the technology to help them reduce pest infection and increasing crop production in districts of Homa Bay, Mbita and Butere.
Annette Taaka, a farmer in Busia County started maize farming using push-pull technology in 2015 on a 50x50m section of a farm which had been abandoned because of striga weeds infection. In the first season she harvested three and a half 90kg bags of maize and in the subsequent season the yields rose to seven 90kg bags.
This has since motivated her and she has decided to spread the use of the technology in growing other crops such as millet, groundnuts, beans and sesame in her two acres of land. She learnt about the technology from ICIPE technician Romanus Odhiambo in the county.
Her success in applying push-pull technology has attracted the global centre to use her farm as a push-pull learning site. In the past two years 125 farmer group leaders were trained on its use.
Patroba Obonyo, ICIPE field worker in Homa Bay district woks with 25 groups of farmers every planting season. He demonstrates push-pull technology to each group and visits them across the season to monitor their progress. “After demonstrations I leave farmers to mobilise themselves to bring more farmers on board while from time to time I visit them for any necessary assistance,” said Obonyo.
In Butere district, there are 30 groups of 10 farmers each, which makes service easier for ICIPE field worker Philip Andanje who offers them training equipping them with the necessary skills on push-pull.
Rispa Ouso is a farmer from Suba district. She planted her first push-pull plot of maize in 1998 assisted by an ICIPE technician in the area. This improved her yields which saw her produce surplus maize for ale to support her higher education. She later became a push-pull farmer-teacher enabling her to reach more than 25 groups of farmers in Mbita and Nyando districts.
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Push-pull technology was developed by scientists at ICIPE in Kenya and Rothamsted Research, in the United Kingdom, in collaboration with other national partners. IT has attracted over 147,505 smallholder farmers in East Africa where maize yields have increased from appreoximately a tonnes per hectares to 3.5 tonnes per hectares, achieved with limited farm inputs as the technology uses locally available plants.
To address the challenge of seeds shortage of desmodium, which is one of the key crops used in push-pull technology, in 2003 ICIPE began working with Kitale-based Western Seed Company and Kenya Seed Company in Bungoma which contract farmers to grow the seeds for sale.
With proper management practices, a piece of plot measuring 5 x 50m can yield eight kilograms of desmodium seeds. Kenya Seed Company pays farmers Sh1000 for each kilogram for the seeds. A farmer needs only 2kg of desmodium seeds per acre which can yield 30 to 60 kg of seed when harvested.