Banny Ronoh, 28, an agricultural economist and a tutor at the Rift Valley College of Management and Technology (RVCMT has introduced a new farming technology in Kenya that will help farmers increase crop yields, conserve water and improve soil fertility.
Zai pit farming technology is an African traditional method which originated from Burkina Faso. The method was invented to solve the challenge of water harvesting and conservation by collecting run off water through digging pits where crops are planted after soils are mixed with manure then mulching applied to maintain moisture in the semi- arid country where short rains are experienced.
“Through research I was able to come across this method in efforts to address climate change in ASALs region and current trend of short rains in the 2018/19 season in Kenya,” said Ronoh.
According to a 2011 research published in the Journal of Experimental Agriculture dubbed “Zai improves nutrient and water productivity in the Ethiopian highlands” it was revealed that Zai pits increased crop yields, helps conserve water and improves income.
The research was conducted over three years from 2004 to 2006. Potatoes and beans were used as test crops. Overall, compared to control plots, the zai pits, in combination with nitrogen (N) inputs, increased potato yields from 500 per cent to 2000 per cent. The pits contributed more to increased crop yield than N inputs. Similarly bean yields from the zai pits were up to 250 per cent higher. Crop water productivity was 300-700 per cent higher with zai pits than with control plots. The income of farmers who used zai pits was up to 20-fold higher than the labour costs required to prepare them.
Triangular zai pit
“This method is water efficient and soil fertility reservation farming technology that involves runoff water harvesting through digging the Zai pits, the pits are in different shapes rectangular (75 by 35cm) pits, square (60 by 60cm) , round pits and even triangular 30cm dip then soil dug is mixed with manure at ratio 4:1,”
Young farmers training on zai pit farming technology
In this, different types of crops can planted in the pit from; maize, sorghum, some vegetables e.g. butternut pumpkin and fodder like Napier grass.
The method collects surface runoff water at the on onset of rains. It enables water conservation and moisture retention by increasing the amount of water stored in the soil. It increases soil fertility concentration and reservation by enhancing use of limited of manure and concentrating them on the pit and holding it from being carried away.
“Zai pit farming system is a new method to most farmers in Kenya amid climate change and experience of short prolonged rains ,this method can solve problems of installing costly irrigation system or labor intensive manual irrigation for small holder farmers,” said Ronoh.
Zai pit enhances fertility in barren land where nothing could grow and thus it has high potential of ending hunger and creating food security.
“I recently introduced the method to some few young farmers I am working with and we have done a trial in our farm, once we have done our observation and collected our results, I will be able to teach and train more interested farmers who visit our farm on this method of farming that I am projecting to solve the question of what to do on climate change and farming,” he said.
Ronoh can be reached on +254 770 100 919