In a bid to revolutionize agriculture and uplift the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in Western Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) conducted an intensive training program for 20 local farmers on the management of push-pull technology, September 13, 2023.
The initiative, which is part of the Upscaling the benefits of Push-pull Technology for Sustainable Agricultural Intensification in East Africa (UPSCALE) project, seeks to address the myriad challenges faced by farmers in the region.
Push-pull technology, initially developed by ICIPE in collaboration with partners, involves the strategic intercropping of cereals like maize, sorghum, or millets with repellent plants such as desmodium to deter stemborers and fall armyworm, control striga and improve soil fertility.
An attractant trap plant, usually Napier grass or Brachiaria, is planted around the borders to of the plot to lure and trap these pests. This innovative approach has shown promise in increasing yields and reducing the need for chemical pesticides, offering farmers a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to farming in East Africa.
The UPSCALE project, funded by the European Union and set to conclude in 2025, aims to expand the scope of push-pull technology from individual plots to entire landscapes.
Dr. Shem Kuyah, the project lead researcher at JKUAT, emphasized the project’s commitment to sustainable agricultural intensification.
“We are exploring the options to expand the use of push-pull for sustainable intensification in crops and agricultural systems beyond cereals, including the incorporation of nutritious and high-value crops,” Said Dr. Kuyah
In line with this goal, the project introduced the pigeon pea, a high-value and nutritious legume known for enhancing soil fertility. The project is also testing integration of innovative agroforestry practices, which involve the strategic cultivation of trees and shrubs within agricultural systems.
Dr. Kuyah, who is also the Director of Research at JKUAT, underscored the benefits of agroforestry, explaining, “Agroforestry improves organic matter in the soil, reduces nutrient loss, and allows farmers to maximize crop productivity on the same amount of land.”
According to him, these integrated approaches are poised to significantly increase yields for small-scale farmers and contribute to sustainable agricultural development in the region.
During the training, farmers were introduced to the principles and practices of push-pull technology, including its integration with other sustainable farming techniques such as agroforestry and the cultivation of high-value crops.
“These complementary strategies help improve soil fertility and increase crop productivity, all while preserving the environment,” attests Dr. Kuyah.
Farmers in the region who have already embraced push-pull technology are highly enthusiastic about its benefits. Albert Makanga, a farmer from Vihiga County, enthusiastically shared his experience, highlighting how the technique has empowered him to effectively combat agricultural pests that once plagued his land while also significantly improving soil fertility.
Beatrice Saisi, said the introduction of push-pull technology had transformed her farming practices and boosted her yields significantly. She has been actively encouraging fellow farmers in the region to embrace push-pull to enable them raise additional income and contribute to food security and nutrition.
The positive impact of the project extends beyond individual farms. Not only is it transforming agricultural practices and livelihoods for small-scale farmers in Western Kenyan and beyond, but it is also playing a pivotal role in building the capacity of postgraduate students.
Sylvia Buleti, Elisheba Imbaya (both PhD students at JKUAT) and Eva Kerubo (MSc JKUAT Student) are working closely with farmers to test the performance of push-pull technology under different crops and cropping systems.
Elishiba Imbaya believes that as they collaborate with local farmers and gain hands-on experience, they are not only contributing to the success of the project but also enriching their own knowledge and expertise, ultimately becoming future leaders in the field of sustainable agriculture.
In a bid to increase awareness on push-pull technology to a wider audience, the project installed a demonstration farm at Esirulo Junior Secondary School. This educational initiative not only serves as a practical learning platform for students but also engages the local community in the transformative potential of push-pull technology.
Dr. Kuyah said through the demonstration farm, students and community members can witness firsthand how the integration of repellent and attractant crops effectively combats pests while simultaneously improve soil health.
“It stands as a shining example of sustainable farming practices, inspiring future generations to wholeheartedly embrace innovative agricultural solutions, thus paving the way for a more prosperous and sustainable future,” concluded the Director of Research.