Finger millet variety U-15 adjudged most preferred in field days in Western Kenya
About 200 farmers, half of them women, 25 high school students and representatives of 28 local farmer agricultural groups attended four field days in Chakol, Amukura and Butula Divsions of Busia County and Ukwala Division of Siaya County in western Kenya on July 11, 12, 14 & 19, respectively. Held by ICRISAT in partnership with Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and other collaborators including extensionists, farmer groups and community-based organizations, participants actively took part in participatory variety selection (PVS) to identify the most preferred finger millet varieties out of eight which were included in the trials. U-15 was judged the most preferred finger millet variety across all PVS sites due to its early maturity, high yield, and good grain color, resistance to lodging and tolerance to blast disease. It could be an ideal candidate for official release in the near future.
Jackline Omondi, a widow, whose plot hosted one of the field days, said “I used to harvest 3 bags of finger millet grain per acre using traditional varieties. But now after adopting the improved varieties in combination with row planting and microdosing, I harvest about 8 bags of grain per acre.” The effect of microdosing on finger millet with fertilizer was demonstrated in all the sites. While the microdosed plots showed well-formed finger millet fingers and grain, those without microdosing had very poorly formed fingers or none at all, convincing the farmers about the positive effect of the technology.
Four local agro-input suppliers (one each from the field day sites) displayed their products, including seed of finger millet variety P224 (a released ICRISAT/KARI variety), fertilizers and other farm inputs. Akuranut Development Trust (ADT), a community-based Farmer’s Bank for Saving and Credit, detailed the services and products available to local farmers. Eastcom Foods displayed finger millet products such as plain finger millet flour, finger millet flour blended with soya or cassava. Farmer groups showed keen interest in visiting Eastcom Foods to learn about finger millet grain value-addition and processing activities. Cakes, buns, biscuits, porridge and local beer made from finger millet and prepared by farmer groups in collaboration with extension services were displayed on the field days.
During the discussions following PVS, Mr Caleb Omondi, District Agricultural Officer, Teso South District noted that finger millet (and not maize) has the greatest potential to provide food security for the fast growing population in Western Kenya, because of its resistance to storage pests, stable farm gate prices and its nutritional qualities. He emphasized that farmers had appreciated the superior performance of improved finger millet varieties, especially U-15, and therefore requested that its seeds be made available before the next planting season in January 2012. The project has estimated that about 1 ton of clean seed of U-15 and P224 varieties was multiplied through selected farmers from the four sites and will be purchased by the project for informal seed marketing and distribution to more than 1000 farmers before the next season.