HOPE project survey in western Kenya Survey reveals effectiveness of field days

HOPE project survey in western Kenya Survey reveals effectiveness of field days

Farmers sampling finger millet products at a national field day in Western Kenya. (File photo).

Farmers sampling finger millet products at a national field day in Western Kenya. (File photo).

More than 80% of the farmers who took part in the field days organized by ICRISAT and partners in Western Kenya, successfully applied the knowledge on their farms, a survey has revealed.

Another surprising finding of the survey was that women walked longer distances than men did to attend the finger millet field days. While no male participants travelled farther than 5 km, 32% of female participants travelled more than 5 km to field day sites. Women seemed more willing to take part in field days and were ready to walk longer distances if required.

The Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) project team recently conducted a survey in Kenya to evaluate the effectiveness of field days as communication channels for technology dissemination to finger millet farmers in Western Kenya.

Most women farmers who attended the field days applied seed selection technologies learnt during training. This is attributed to the role women traditionally play in finger millet seed selection and storage.

“Future trainings in finger millet seed selection should focus more on women,” the survey team observed.

On the other hand, a significantly smaller proportion of women than men reported trying out technologies on fertilizer and manure use. This indicates an underlying constraint that limits women more than men in applying fertilizer or constraint has to be overcome for women farmers to substantially increase their finger millet productivity.

Technology uptake was highest for application of row planting method. The field day messages were highly effective in creating farmer awareness in row planting, fertilizer or manure use and use of suitable improved varieties. They were, however, low in creating awareness on disease and weed control; and better postharvest handling and value addition techniques.

Labor for weeding and lack of money to procure fertilizers were highlighted as the two main constraints for improving finger millet production and productivity in the region.

Since 2011, five farmer field days have been held each year in western Kenya to disseminate information on improved finger millet technologies as well as demonstrate their superiority over the traditional practices. More than 1,500 farmers have participated in these events.

The project team, led by Mr Patrick Audi, Socioeconomist at ICRISAT, randomly selected 100 farmer participants of the five finger millet field days held in 2014 (20 farmers from each field day) for the survey and used a semi-structured questionnaire to collect the data. “The farmers’ level of satisfaction with the use of various technologies was highest for row planting (83%), fertilizer use (61%), suitable varieties (26%) and weed control (8%),” he said. Farmers were generally satisfied with the grain yield enhancing attributes of the following:

  • Fertilizer and/or manure use – 3 bags per acre
  • The use of suitable varieties – 1.5 bags per acre
  • Row planting in combination with above – 5 additional bags per acre

The survey report also made the following recommendations:

  • Field day sites be selected closer to farmers for better participation especially by women
  • Financial credit should be made available for fertilizer purchase especially for women farmers
  • Future project activities should encourage farmers to adopt row planting, use of fertilizer and manure, use of suitable varieties and weed control
  • Mechanical row planting and weeding technology be promoted to reduce demand for labor
  • Linking Community-based Seed Production (CBSP) to agro-vets will improve and sustain use of high quality seed of improved finger millet varieties.
  • More research inputs to identify/develop varieties resistance to blast disease.

In western Kenya, the objective of the HOPE project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is to improve productivity of finger millet and household incomes by enabling farmers to adopt improved varieties and associated agronomic practices and to link the producers to both input and product markets. This activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals.