Reports from SSA small farmers

 Report on our Jack Beans Pilot Project in Igunga Community of Sabatia Sub- County for Cover Crop

 Establishment Demonstration Program by Community Hands Against Poverty. Kenya

SCOPE Jack beans cover crop establishment trials for cover crop adoption for encouraging local farmers to utilize cover crops recommended by an expert agronomist, Roland Bunch. 


CHAP has been working on the Jack Bean project with other interested farmers on efforts to help in establishing enough demonstration sites for other farmers, service providers, and community residents to learn about the project and the benefits it brings to them on soil management practices among other. We are thrilled to share the progress of the project for the past two years despite many challenges that affected its smooth delivery. Many farmers in this community have not been carrying out any sustainable practices in the past years. Farmers till each year before any planting and have been using chemical fertilizers to boost their harvest due to lack of soil nutrients. It has contributed to soil erosion and soil nutrients leaching downstream. This has contributed to luck of food in the region and income for other basic needs from their farming which is main source of livelihood. Through the Grahams seed grant, the local landowners, some other local farmers, and board members of CHAP continue working together to help establish demonstration sites in this community. With our outreach on social media and the help of an initial group of farmers and participants, this project is well received and has gain more interest from other local farmers and the local service providers including research centers especially the farmers who want to try in their farms. Approximately 38 farmers participated in 2019 and 2020 jack beans sowing for adoption in these communities and currently 12 this year. Two of them are from Bungoma County, where we helped them with jack beans. Last year some communities from this county reported desert locust attacks on their crops in February. We learned that in areas where jack bean had been grown, it was not affected by the locust-like in Uganda. Also, it was the only source of food available to eat. PROJECT GOALS 1. Establish jack beans cover crop or use of other legume cover crops and trees to reduce erosions, bring leached nitrogen back in degraded farms, and provide emergency food to help end hunger, increase organic matter, and reduce pests and weeds in small holder farms. 2. Provide the farmers and service providers with information about use of jack bean cover crop and legume trees practices on soil nutrients management as recommended by expert agronomists. This objective is done by establishing demonstration sites to be used on field day for education and also promote on this activities by distribution of donated seeds by Grahams for helping the farmers. 3. Promote cover crops, agroforestry and no-till practices for helping to revive lost nutrients and biodiversity. 4. Evaluate impact of cover crop in degraded sols, crop yields and quality. 5. Evaluate the costs and benefits to including cover crops in annual crop rotation Some farmers received Jack beans to start sowing into their fields though; some did not produce photos of their Jack beans due luck of phone to help them share good images of their jack beans with us. Also, Covid 19 Pandemic brought challenges that necessitated lockdowns for more than two months in many regions across the county on regulations by the ministry of health on a social gathering which limited traveling from the city and stay-at-home orders before lockdowns. It was difficult meeting with most of the farmers as the guidelines were to help to prevent the further spread of the virus in Kenya. In 2019 we managed to help few farmers sow some jack beans as we continued establishing the demo site with the harvested Jack Beans. The growing season had other challenges like unpredictable rains and floods like in the Nyanza region that neighbors this community. Many farmers lost crops in the waters also, jack beans that had just germinated. Other farmers reported they had cooked all their beans due to hunger. Last year, I did not travel like in 2019, where I participated in some fieldwork activities on sowing Jack bean. The sowing took place a few days after harvesting the maize in August 2020. In 2019/2020 some pigeon peace and cassavas cuttings were also planted. The cassava cuttings was received from KALRO CENTRE in Kakamega. The cassava was planted inside the Jack bean demo farm. Many of the farmers in this community did not carry out any sustainable practices. Most of them plough their lands before any planting including using chemical fertilizers and this has led to soil erosion and soil nutrients leaching to downstream. SUCCESS This project has been positively received in the region and many farmers have gained interest to try Jack beans on their farms. One of the objectives is to establish a cover crop demonstration site so it can help many other local land owners in the region with soil nutrients concerns to learn about this new technology and distribute to other farmers and the community including across Kenya. The overall success from the start of the project is evaluated by successful trials on the jack bean after multiple trials on amount of interested farmers in these trials and on harvested seeds from the demo site despite drought, floods, human interference to the demo site and Covid 19 pandemic stringent measures that has made life difficult. Despite low rainfall there was significant amount of coverage from the jack bean, among the pigeon pea, mucuna and the sesbania legume trees sown on the field in 2019 and 2020.Jack bean did better. The yields were quantified with offseason maize sown in the jack bean demo field that was grown during dry season before it was cleared. It remained green and sustained during dry weather. The soils in the demo field were moist and some short season maize did quite well which produced some corn for eating. We are continually working to establish this project with ultimate goal to engage farmers that will implement cover crops for their farms and economic improvement in future. In 2020 Mr. Brown the local land owner helped to provide some training at the field day and shared about jack beans to the participants on the farm. We plan to host stakeholder meeting and looking forward to share this with participants in 2021 as we continue enrolling more farmers. The project activities are supported by Graham. We hope to be continually supported and plea on other NGOS to fund the project including USDA or other interested foundations. We hope to share more photos on this project this year from the communities and pray the lockdown comes to an end soon. Below are some of the field activities photos in 2019/2020. The Photos shown below demonstrate on the Jack beans sown together with some maize in the demo field in September 2019 few weeks after maize was harvested in the region. Harvesting is usually done in July and August each year when rains come on time. This field previously was sown with Jack beans (bushy kind) in 2019 field demonstration and was cleared after it took a year. The field did not produce any maize for many years and had been abandoned even when chemical fertilizers were applied nothing could be harvested. Napier grass was also tried but did not do well and was removed. With just a year of trials on Jack bean, some good results have started to show. There was no any fertilizer or manure application. Jack bean intercropped with MaizeJack bean intercropped with Maize 

We also started a poultry project supported by Graham in 2020 and here are few photos taken from the project. The poultry project started with 20usd to help buy 10 young local breed chickens and now the farmer has 26 chickens remaining from 37 in total. 11 died from infections and 7 were eaten. Currently 1 is laying eggs.

 Participant’s feedback 

Participating farmers had good lingering questions on phone interview and during demonstration and on demo farm visit. This feedback is critical as we plan our next steps. Among these questions, farmers asked; 1. How can I harvest mature pods which are very hard to break when dry?

2. Can I plant jack beans in my maize field which I used fertilizer’s during planting? 

3. How long can the bushy kind remain on the farm before clearing or does it flower again if left to keep growing? The participants reported on increased farm management knowledge compared to previous years to a greater level and there was reduction on labor for tillage in past year when the jack bean was sown on the fields and including no costs use purchase fertilizers and peptides. There was also some food as some seeds were tested by the farmer including feeding on their poultry. 2021 

Jack bean is off to a good start. Currently ongoing outreach and efforts is made to assist increase interested farmer in the community. At least 10 farmers have already sown their jack bean this growing season. Also we have plans to help them sow after harvesting their maize in July and August 2021. s We are gearing up to continue this work due to increased interest from the farmers, 

we appeal for donors to help funding needs especially from interested sponsors in addition to Grahams seed funding from his pocket for 1kg seed funding and CHAP as organization is willing to support this project if funded to support many subsistence farmers I Kenya to learn this technique and promote cover crops and agroecology. We also plan to host a field days later in the year and workshops to train more farmers. Report by Alfred K Asena

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