Farming techniques to adopt as rains become scarcer

As rains become scarcer and the temperature rises considerably due to the negative effects of climate change, most areas across the country are becoming drylands, making farming even harder.

Therefore, this calls for farmers particularly in areas that initially received constant rainfall to arm themselves with dryland farming technologies for continued food production.

Luckily, some of these technologies have been in use by farmers in arid and semi-arid areas for some years Seeds of Gold visited farmer Urbanus Kamuti, for lessons on farming amid scarce rains. Despite being in a drought hit area, Kamuti, 37, runs a model farm in the area. He rarely feels the pinch.

On his three-quarter farm, he uses various technologies to successfully grow fruits such as pawpaws, pixie oranges, watermelons, maize, tomatoes, collard greens, and traditional vegetables. The regenerative technologies he uses are:

Vertical gardens

Kamuti’s vertical gardens are made of used tyres and dam liners, where he grows a variety of vegetables. With four floors, the first measuring 6ft long holds collard greens (sukuma wiki), the second is 4ft and hosts spinach while traditional vegetables sit on the third (3ft) and fourth (2ft).

The soil in the garden is mixed thoroughly with animal and plant manure before the crops are grown.

“With the garden partitioned using dam liners upwards, I grow up to five types of vegetables,”

According to him, the method of farming is efficient as it saves on space and water.  “It is also easier to manage pests and diseases using vertical gardens, with multiple crops grown in one place.”

Rainwater harvesting

The farmer has dug three farm ponds, all which collect rainwater. One harvests runoff water and the rest water from the roof catchment.

The runoff pond measures 15m in length, 14m in width and has a depth 4m, Kamuti states, noting he made it in 2015 in 78 days.

On the sides and bottom of the pond he has placed dam liners, and on the surface shade nets to prevent evaporation. “Dam liners and labour cost me Shs7m during the period,” reveals the farmer.

The second pond taps water from an 8 by 15m greenhouse in which he grows tomatoes. It measures 20m in length, width 7m and height 3.5m and it took him 14 days to construct.

The smallest pond is 3 by 3m, and has a depth of 1.5m and it harvests water the roof of his house. These ponds ensure that he has water to irrigate his crops all year round.

From the ponds, he pumps water into two tanks using a solar system, which then reaches his crops using drip lines and pipes for irrigation.

“The ponds collect 500,000 litres of water at full capacity. This enables me to farm the whole year without any hitches. I use about 1,000 litres of water daily.”

Nursery trays

Most farmers plant directly maize seeds inside the holes in the field and wait for them to germinate before weeding. Well, while this is the traditional practice, you can raise the seeds on nursery beds first before transplanting them.

This is the method Kamuti uses and it has paid dividends. He has 50 trays, where he raises the seedlings for three to four weeks before the onset of rains.

The seeds in the trays are planted on soil mixed with manure. “With the technology, one is assured of almost 100 per cent seed germination rate. The seeds are well-taken care of under an open shade net for good growth.

The method saves time and reduces losses in case of rain delay or failure,” explains Pius Opiyo, an agronomist from Ace Africa, an NGO, noting the crop can also be planted and grown under irrigation.

Other technologies on Kamuti’s farm are intercropping of vegetables, soya beans, and maize with fruit trees such as pawpaws.

The farmer is also practising agroforestry, where he grows indigenous trees such as Sesbania, which are vital in fixing nitrogen in the soils and leucaena mainly for animal feed formulation and supplementing.

Leah Mwaura, SNV project manager, says regenerative agricultural practices assist farmers to create jobs and promote environmental and human health.

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