Celebrating SWRT in Makueni, as Project Implementation Ends

Dr. Shem Kuyah leads the discussion on the way forward with regard to the sustainability of the project

After three years of implementation, the Subsurface Water Retention Technology (SWRT) project implemented by researchers from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), JKUAT Enterprises Ltd, Alliance Bioversity-CIAT, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), and SWRT Solutions LLC, is finally coming to an end in October, 2022.

Funded by the Nordic Development Fund, the project installed soil water retention membranes on 18 farms in Mtito-Andei and Masongaleni wards in Kibwezi Sub-county, Makueni.

The aim of the project was to increase farm system resilience, crop production and carbon accumulation in sandy soils in Makueni County.

“The project was based on demonstrating the utility of the Subsurface Water Retention Technology (SWRT), and involves the installation of subsurface impermeable water‐retaining membranes which disrupt large amounts of water and nutrients lost through natural deep percolation in sandy soils,” explains Dr. Shem Kuyah of JKUAT.

Various stakeholders follow proceedings during the close-out workshop

To take stock of the successes gained by the project, the team of researchers held a close-out workshop bringing together stakeholders from the county government, research institutions, financial institutions and small-scale farmers to discuss the way forward with regard to the sustainability of the technology.

While acknowledging that SWRT installation is expensive and labor-intensive, especially for smallholder farmers with meager resources, Dr. Stanley Karanja of the Alliance Bioversity-CIAT said the project team conducted a cost-benefits analysis establishing that high-value crops such as kales increase profitability as compared to maize.

“In the last phase of the project we decided to experiment with high-value crops and the farmers settled on kales. The beauty with kales is that once they are mature, kale leaves can be harvested for at least three months ensuring that the farmer has vegetables throughout the year,” said Dr. Sylvia Nyawira of Alliance Bioversity-CIAT.

As the three-year project concludes, the project has been steadfast in attracting the interest of farmers, financial institutions and entrepreneurs and raising their awareness on the installation and short-term return on investments and long-term benefits of SWRT.

Kales grown under the Subsurface Water Retention Technology (SWRT)

The project team has worked on a business case beyond the funding period, which allows the scaling up of the benefits the technology brings to the farmers.

Using the 18 farms as demonstration farms, the project has been working with farmers of Makueni County to create awareness of the benefits of SWRT and has witnessed an increase in the demand of the technology.

To foster sustainability of the project and champion linkages with relevant stakeholders, Managing Director, JKUAT Enterprises Ltd, Dr. Winifred Karugu, said, the project is developing a platform that will act as a repository of all the project’s information.

The platform domiciled at JKUATES will also provide an avenue for farmers and stakeholders to interact with each other and give feedback on the use of the technology as they strengthen collaborations.

The project, deemed to improve the agricultural index of Makueni County, was spearheaded by Dr. Shem Kuyah (JKUAT), Dr. Winifred Karugu (JKUATES), Dr. Sylvia Nyawira and Dr. Stanley Karanja (The Alliance Bioversity-CIAT), Prof. Alvin Smucker (SWRT SOLUTIONS LLC.) and Dr. Libère Nkurunziza (SLU).

Celebrating SWRT in Makueni, as project implementation ends

Comments are closed.