Feed the Future Innovation Labs visit Murang’a County, Kenya

by James Kamuye Kataru

On Friday, 19th May 2023, Feed the Future Innovation Labs, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) personnel and local smallholder farmers visited a SAWBO Network Kenyan farmer in Murang’a county. Mwalimu Swaleh Mutawali has been practicing farming using multiple techniques he learned after watching SAWBO animation videos shared in our WhatsApp network. On his farm, the visitors saw crops and demonstrations on the SAWBO videos. Local farmers provided reflections as given below.

Visitors from the Innovation labs and USAID on Mwalimu Swaleh Mutawali’s farm in Murang’a. Photo credit: Kataru Concepts

  1. Groundnut: Good agricultural practices for production

Farmers in the central Kenya region rarely grow groundnuts. They have been growing Macadamia; most imagined groundnut pods grew above the ground like beans. Mwalimu Swaleh chose to experiment with various crops from several SAWBO videos which made his farm stand out, one of which was groundnut. His groundnuts attracted large crowds who were amazed by the crop’s performance.

  • Survival gardening: Raised planting beds

The second technique on Mwalimu’s farm was the raised planting beds. Beans grown on the beds looked healthier and vibrant than beans planted on flat ground which surprised farmers. Several farmers in the central Kenya region don’t put resources into cultivating and improving bean production. Several farms had beans at different stages with yellowing leaves or stunted growth. After visiting Mwalimu Swaleh’s farm and watching the animation and impact of raised beds on bean production, farmers discovered where they have been going wrong. They promised to practice the technique on their farms.

  • The triple S method: How to prepare and store sweet potato roots

Popularly known as “ngwace” in the local Kikuyu language, sweet potatoes have been extensively cultivated as one of the region’s staple foods. The triple S method demonstration revealed to farmers how to store the tubers in a way they had never imagined. The plot on Mwalimu Swaleh’s farm had a beautiful crop planted using vines produced using the technique which farmers hailed as a breakthrough that would end their perennial vine shortage. 

A SAWBO Kenya Network volunteer demonstrating to farmers and visitors the triple S method. Photo Credit: Kataru Concepts

  • How to identify and scout for fall army worm

Kenya has been experiencing serious fall army worm invasion on maize fields reducing crop performance and overall harvest. Households have grappled with rudimentary techniques to eradicate the worms, some of which are experiments with washing powder, ash, and a concoction of ineffective herbal remedies. As demonstrated by Mwalimu Swaleh, the technique in SAWBO animation video is the most effective in identifying and handling a worm invasion timely to prevent damage to the crop.

  • Preparing banana plantain suckers for planting to reduce pests and increase yields and stem trapping to control weevils

Since the farmer has a banana plantation, he practiced the second part of the animation video on “stem trapping to control weevils”, which posted terrific results. Admittedly, of all animations in practice, this was the most unique and popular to farmers who owned large banana plantations but had never seen the weevil that ravaged their crop. Little did they imagine it was a “bean sized” weevil that looked like the small maize weevil they’ve been encountering in their stores!

  • Post-harvest loss: Jerrycan bean storage

This is a popular animation that our network volunteers have used several times to demonstrate to new groups how to access, download, watch, practice, and share SAWBO animations. It is extensively used as a curtain raiser and entry point during in-person training sessions organized in churches, halls, public barazas, and even homes by volunteers who want to leave a lasting impression and create an overall interest in SAWBO animations. 

  • How to reduce firewood and fuel in cooking: Using rocks and a grate

This demonstration crowned the day’s activities and reminded farmers that stones placed in the cooking place at a measured distance and adding a grate can increase air circulation reduce the amount of firewood used to cook food, and hold heat. As demonstrated by the SAWBO coast region lead volunteer Fatma Swaleh, the technique interested the women who promised to watch the animation video again and practice at home. They said this would help them save on fuel, reduce the smoke emitted, and keep food warm.

As a result of our Kenya network volunteer team’s cooperation with the local administration, county, and national government extension service providers, different players from the private sector, media houses led by Citizen Radio and TV, and the local security chiefs, the day was a great success.   

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