Elijah Kosgei, a maize farmer from Kiplombe in Turbo, Uasin-Gishu County has been planting the crop religiously for the last three decades. But overtime, the maize yields from his farm dropped from an average of 30 bags per acre to 14 bags.
In 2017, this changed when he attended training and was given lime- based fertiliser which he applied on his farm. The results were impressive, in the second year of productivity, he got over 28 bags of maize. A recent report released by Kenya Markets Trust in Eldoret credited the drop in crop productivity in the country to high acidity and low nutrients in soil. The survey initiated in 2015, covered Uasin-Gishu, Trans-Nzoia, Bungoma and Kakamega counties that are considered the country’s traditional food basket. The report says that lack of clear policy and standardisation on fertiliser use and high costs are to blame for the slow adoption of the lime based fertiliser by small-scale farmers, which could benefit the country’s food security.
The study interviewed 518 farmers in the four devolved units in the North Rift and Western regions. Only 55 per cent of the respondents said that they were aware about use of lime while 44 per cent knew about soil testing. “Since the levels of acidity differ from soil to soil, it is important to undertake soil analysis before undertaking corrective measures. We also noted that most of the limes in the market lack clear instructions on (on their packages) how to use them,” said Michael Kamau, a farm-input specialist at the Kenya Markets Trust. A tonne of lime-based fertiliser goes for between Sh7000 and Sh8000 in the market and it would require on average two metric tonnes per acre. Some of lime-based fertiliser in the market include agricultural lime-acidic, agricultural lime-dolomitic and granulated lime.
Access to a soil testing provider was also identified as a challenge. Majority of farmers in Kakamega revealed that to get a soil tester, they have to travel at least 50km from home while in Bungoma and Uasin-Gishu farmers travelled an average of 20 kilometres. Uasin Gishu county director of agriculture Wilbur Mutai said that the devolved unit was concerned over the acidity and was working to reverse this trend.