When farmers are partners in research & technology dissemination
Meet David Chiroto, a finger millet farmer from Rift Valley province in Kenya. David has been growing finger millet as a staple food crop for the last 30 years. In his homestead, finger millet is used to make porridge and ugali to feed his family. Its high calcium and carbohydrate content make it a highly nutritious traditional cereal for infants, pregnant and breast feeding mothers and for the whole family.
Growing finger millet hasn’t been without its challenges for David. For one, the erratic rainfall often leads to low harvests. In response to this concern, ICRISAT and partners have developed finger millet varieties that have a short maturity period, are resistant to diseases and pests and are higher yielding than the traditional varieties. The improved varieties include U-15, KNE 741, Gulu E, Seremi1, Okhale1, and P224.
These improved varieties were selected for Participatory Variety Selection (PVS) and David was one of the farmers who volunteered to carry out the trials. A PVS trial is a two-way system where improved technologies are tested or evaluated on farmers’ fields to determine their potential for adoption. During the cropping season, the scientists carry out on-farm visits to obtain feedback from the farmers and give solutions and suggestions where needed. During heading and maturity stages, the scientists usually arrange for field visits whereby farmers from neighbouring communities are invited to see the improved varieties on farm.
In collaboration with Egerton University and the Ministry of Agriculture, ICRISAT held a field day demonstration in David Chiroto’s farm where he showcased the improved finger millet varieties in comparison with the local variety. The purpose of the field day was to raise farmers’ interest in finger millet by introducing them to the improved varieties. The field day attracted over100 farmers from the neighboring villages.