A Free Human Mind is Capital

Published on 28th February 2006

Carol Kivuva, a 28 year old farmer cum salonist is based at Kalawani market in Makueni district. Currently, Carol is the secretary of Kalawaani Mwanzo Mpya self help group. Carol is one of the farmers from Ukambani area of Eastern Province where IREN Kenya conducted an Agriculture research that focused on the production, consumption and marketing strategies of low resource farmers with a view of stimulating the use of commercial approaches in agriculture to spur food sufficiency and productivity. She shares with the African Executive how the group has gone an extra mile to cope up with the famine affected area.

Q. Tell us what you plant in Ukambani?

A. Cereals such as maize, beans, horticulture crops and fruits such as mangoes.

Q. For how long have you been a farmer?

A. Approximately 5 years.

Q. How are you coping with the drought at Ukambani?

A. Currently we have adopted a method called “push and pull.” Here we make a bowl shaped depression in the ground and remove the soil. We then place polythene paper on its base, refill it with the soil and plant the desired crop. Watering is the next step. Note that the polythene paper holds the water preventing it from sinking down into the ground.

Q. How did you learn about this method?

A. One member of the group heard about it on radio. He summoned the entire group and shared the idea. Following some brainstorming among the group, we decided to go ahead and try it. We did not even inquire more about the method, we just took the risk.

Q. So what happened next?

A. One member donated land. We prepared it and planted kales (sukuma wiki).

Q. Why did you choose kales? 

A. We chose kales because they do not have deep roots. For this method to succeed we realized that one has to consider the depth/ length of the roots. If the plant has deep roots and the distance between the soil and polythene paper is short, the plant dries up since the roots will not go past the polythene paper. However, we are looking forward to planting other crop varieties.

Q. How do you maintain the crop?

A. We water the crop every Friday. Our group has 34 members and each one of us has to water the kales with at least 5 liters of water. We water the crop, weed if necessary and since one member of the group lives next to where we have planted, she looks after the crop.

Q. How do you protect the crops?

A. We have fenced the shamba to keep off animals such as goats, cows or chicken from attacking the crop.  

Q. Do you use any manure or fertilizer?

A. Yes, so far we have applied DAP fertilizer. 

Q. What do you do with the produce? 

A. We sell it to the members and put the money in the groups account. We have not yet reached to a point where we can sell the produce to other people who are not in the group.  

Q. What are the advantages of using this method? 

A. We economize on water. One need not use clean water. After washing utensils, for example, instead of pouring the water, you put ash in the water and after some time the dirt settles and you can use that to water the plants. We do not use a lot of water after all.

Secondly, the polythene paper holds water for several days hence keeping the soil moist. If you visited the place today you would be surprised. Ukambani is currently very dry, but the plot is green People are inquiring each day about this method. I hope to employ the method in my own shamba.

Q. What are the disadvantages?

A. You cannot employ this method for a large piece of land. Moreover, the polythene paper prevents earthworms from getting to the top soils for purposes of soil aeration in the soil.

Q. Has working as a group helped you in any way?

A. Yes. First of all we are now able to get farm inputs, seeds, fertilizers at cheaper prices because we buy in bulk and share among ourselves. Secondly, we are now able to sponsor a member of the group to attend seminars or workshops on agriculture on our behalf and lastly, we learn a lot from each other, for example, I can now plant kales, something I never knew earlier on.

Q. What have you learnt from the IREN Kenya initiative?

A. I am glad that IREN Kenya conducted a research in my region last year. IREN went ahead and launched farmers’ forums that have seen us working together as a group. We now get farm inputs, seeds among other things at cheaper prices and are always learning from each other. I thank IREN for helping us understand that we must learn how to solve our own problems.

Q. What advice would you give other people?

A. Knowledge is wealth. It is a high time we stopped relying on the government to solve our problems. We should learn to utilize what we have maximumly.

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