We must move away from conventional monoculture-based industrial agriculture that relies heavily on external inputs, and transition towards sustainable and regenerative farming systems that prioritize the well-being of small-scale farmers.
These were the sentiments of Dr. Shem Kuyah from the Department of Botany, JKUAT during Chakula Bora Speaker Series hosted by Passion of Hope International.
According to Dr. Kuyah, agroecological practices such as push-pull technology are becoming increasingly important as industrial agriculture continues to degrade the environment and undermine the health and well-being of rural communities.
“Conventional agriculture is dominated by monocultures that rely heavily on external inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. These inputs can have negative impacts on soil health, biodiversity, and water quality. Moreover, conventional agriculture is often controlled by large corporations, which takes away the autonomy of small-scale farmers,” said Dr. Kuyah.
He further said the push-pull technology offers several advantages over conventional agriculture. First, it reduces pest damage without relying on synthetic pesticides, which are expensive and can harm the environment and human health.
Secondly, the pull crop traps pests, preventing them from migrating to the main crop, which helps to reduce yield losses. Thirdly, the push-pull system improves soil health and fertility, as the nitrogen-fixing desmodium crop provides natural fertilizer to the soil.
Additionally, the components of push-pull i.e. desmodium which is the “push” crop, and Napier grass or Brachiaria which is the “pull” crop are a source of fodder, and provide an additional source of income for farmers through livestock production.
His sentiments are supported by a study conducted in western Kenya that found the push-pull system increased maize yields by 2.5 times and milk production by 3 times while reducing the use of synthetic pesticides by 92%.
While advocating for agroecological practices Dr. Kuyah believes the practice prioritizes the well-being of farmers and their communities, while also promoting ecological resilience and sustainability.
“Agroecology emphasizes the use of local knowledge and resources, and the development of diversified and resilient food systems that are adapted to local conditions. Agroecology also promotes biodiversity, which is crucial for maintaining healthy ecosystems and resilient food systems,” said Dr. Kuyah.
In conclusion, the Agroforestry Expert said by prioritizing sustainability, resilience, and local knowledge, agroecological practices can promote food security, social justice, and environmental health. It can also provide a foundation for building more equitable and sustainable food systems, which can support the well-being of people and the planet.
The Chakula Bora Speaker Series provides a forum for policy discussions for food security and food sovereignty in Africa, bringing together stakeholders to advocate for agroecological practices and promote sustainable and equitable food systems.