Low produce in Kakamega linked to area’s high acidity levels in soils
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched an accelerated soil health campaign and training exercise targeting farmers in Kakamega county to redress the acidity of soils (pH) and power agriculture-led economic growth.
Through funding from the Ukraine supplementary funding unveiled by the United States government to mitigate a spike in fertiliser prices following the Ukraine-Russia war, USAID hopes to reach over 300,000 farmers in 13 counties before the expiry of the programme.
The Deputy Chief of Party USAID Feed the Future, Kenya Crops and Dairy Market System (KCDMS) Activity Judith Odongo says the agency hopes to drive agriculture led economic growth through improved soil health practices.
The USAID is targeting at least 100,000 farmers in the three-month soil health awareness campaign hoping it would result in a bumper harvest next season.
Morocco-based fertiliser producer OCP and West Pokot-based granulated lime producer Fanisi are partnering with the agency in this soil health promotion exercise. “Soil health practices is an area grossly ignored by many farmers in spite of it’s significance in production,” Odongo said.
She said farmers need to understand the pH of their farms, missing soil ingredients and how to fix that before the next planting season.
Director of Tumaini Veterinary Services, a USAID, KCDMS implementing and local partner of soil health hygiene programme in Kakamega Dr Winston Wanjala said preliminary findings indicate that soils in Kakamega county are acidic.
“A sample of 1,000 soil samples from 5,000 farmers gave a finding of a soil pH value range of between 4.3 and 5.8, which is generally acidic and may result in stunted crops or crop failure,” he said.
Kakamega County Executive Committee Member for agriculture Benjamin Andama says low yields in the face of high fertiliser input is a wholemeal characteristic of high soil pH values.
Generally rated as a high agricultural potential county, Kakamega boasts a poverty index of 31 per cent, is food poor and relies on food imports from neighbouring counties.
Statistics show an acre of land in the grain basket areas of Likuyani and Lugari sub-sounties can hardly yield 15 bags. The county has a farm input subsidy programme to raise production per acreage and improve household nutrition.
The agency is also implementing the programme in Kisii, Migori, Homa Bay, Siaya, Kisumu, Busia, Vihiga, Bungoma, Makueni, Taita Taveta and Kitui counties.