28 August 2019 – CABI is working in partnership to explore the prospect of smallholder farmers in Kenya achieving greater yields through ecological intensification (EI), thereby helping to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals ‘No Poverty’ and ‘Zero Hunger’.
Scientists from CABI, the University of Reading, the Natural History Museum (UK) and the National Museum of Kenya, are conducting surveys of smallholder farms in Kiambu and Muranga counties to determine the challenges facing farmers and what might be stopping them from adopting a more EI approach.
So far, a socio-economic survey of 108 farm households has been completed and a biological survey of 10 farms in the same two counties has also been carried out to assess the abundance and diversity of pollinators, pests and natural enemies.
The researchers are working to try and fill knowledge gaps in farmers’ awareness of the agronomic potential of biodiversity-based ecosystem service – such as natural pest control and pollination – which can have a significant impact on yields and, ultimately, their incomes.
Monica Kansiime, Project Manager for CABI based in Nairobi, said, “Smallholder farmers who do not have access to or knowledge of ecological pest management solutions have to invest in expensive inorganic products which affect food quality, besides their high cost. If farmers cannot afford these, or if they are unavailable, crop losses can occur.
“The indiscriminate use of pesticides also poses environmental threats, particularly water quality, diversity of beneficial organisms including pests’ natural enemies and pollinators, all of which affect crop productivity.
“Ecological intensification approaches are beginning to transform agriculture globally but little progress has been made in Sub-Saharan Africa. Considerable research investment is therefore required to identify possibly EI solutions including incentives and barriers to adoption.”
Supported by information from CABI’s Plantwise plant doctor network, the data gathered from the project – funded by the GCRF Strategic Fund – will lead to the development of a policy brief outlining the key challenges and opportunities facing smallholders in Sub-Saharan Africa and specific targeted EI practices.
Ms Kansiime added, “As the majority of farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are women they are in the strongest position to benefit financially from the outcomes of this project. It is hoped that broader welfare improvements will occur as women use their improved incomes for better health and nutrition and for their children’s education.”
Find out more about the Ecological Intensification of Smallholder Farms in Kenya from the project page.