By Fredrique Achieng
A new farm know-how service providing soil testing and guidance on ideal crops and seeds is giving free services to farmers for the next three months funded by a COVID fund to help increase farm yields for 2020.
Farmers must be a member of a co-operative society, in order to get the free services from local agronomist company Ujuzikilimo.
Launched in 2014, by Brian Bosire, Ujuzikilimo was inspired by the struggles he saw his mother going through as a result of constant losses after each planting season.
He watched investments go down the drain as a result of not having the know-how and depending on trial and error, which he realised was a common trend amongst local farmers.
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Ujuzikilimo, instead, gives farmers individualized technical information so that they can achieve the maximum yield per planting season by knowing what amount and type of fertilizers to use and the best variety of seeds to use, as advised by the company’s agronomists.
Raising yields is the single most direct way for farmers to transform their income. As it is, agriculture accounts for 26 per cent of Kenya’s GDP, with over 75 per cent of its population depending on agriculture for their daily livelihoods. Yet three-quarters of the country’s farmers are achieving yields that are far below average, at around 40 per cent to 50 per cent productivity levels, according to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) report of 2017.
To improve those results, Ujuzikilimo is giving farmers the knowledge to upgrade their agricultural practices using new technologies in farming, such as soil testing, which uses sensors and analytics to achieve precision farming that increases yields by securing better soils in the farm.
The soil testing device uses light, temperature, and ion-selective sensors to detect and measure soil nutrients. Sensors are conditioned to show the amount of specific ions and nutrients that are in the soil sample. This is done by measuring the PH, salinity, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and moisture in the soil.
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Once these results are in, a farmer is advised by an agronomist on the best way forward to care for their soil and their crops.
The agronomist services span soil testing, fertilizer and lime application guidelines, crop breed planning, farm inputs insurance, and the provision of market data, among others.
There are several ways in which farmers can enroll with Ujuzikilimo:
- Through sending a short code text message “ujuzi” to 20880 farmers will be registered into the platform and get updates on weather, crop management, and market information.
- To register for the COVID fund free services for three months, a farmer needs to be registered in an accredited farming cooperative or society, and can then get technical advice including soil PH tests, farm inputs insurance, fertilizer, and lime application guidelines. To register click here.
- To register permanently with the service, packages range from Sh1,000 to Sh3000 per month for the different service levels. To register click here.