Field Stories

Farmers bemoan losses caused by fall armyworm in Busia, Kenya

By Nancy Juma

Left: Fall armyworm-infested maize leaf

What do you say to a farmer whose crop is being gobbled up by the Fall Armyworm as he literally watches? Charles Weko, a small scale farmer from Busia county depends on farming to pay for his children’s school fees and service his loan.

“I don’t know what to do, I am so afraid, these worms have devastated my farm and I don’t expect to harvest anything this year,’ laments Charles Weko.

The army worm infestation has affected more than 2,000 acres within the Busia sub county hitting hardest the poor subsistence farmers who fully depend on their farms. Charles is wondering if this problem hit him for choosing to...

Nigerian farmer mentors youth on cassava farming

Left: Pastor Afolabi with the youth farmers in Imeko, Ogun State

Pastor Felix Afolabi, owner and founder of Afolabi Agro Divine Ventures (AADV), has been a farmer since 2014 — farming on 360 hectares of land — 300 of which he intends to set aside for growing cassava.

This season, AADV has targeted cassava planting on 90 hectares of land, and 75 hectares has been planted while another 15 hectares will be planted by end of June 2017.

AADV in collaboration with Africa Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) through its Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-processing Project (CAMAP) also plans to set up a cassava processing plant to provide a market for cassava farmers in Imeko, Ogun State and its environs.


Fighting ignorance through new technology

Posted February 2016

Left: Farmer Samuel Owiti Awino at his farm

Samuel Owiti Awino was an agricultural gambler, so to speak.

Tormented by unreliable rains and the destructive Striga weed, he was ready to try any crop that came his way. “When you are sick and you don’t know what ails you, you will take any concoction hoping that one of them will eventually cure you. In farming that is what I had been doing for quite a long time.”

But this was before he encountered agricultural extension services during a field day facilitated by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in Homabay Town two planting seasons ago.  They introduced him to new ideas such as...

Women take the war over to ‘cereal’ killer

Posted February 2016

Left: Margaret Auma Aleke, the Chairperson of Becha Inyuma Women Group

Busia is among the most fertile of Kenya’s 47 counties.  Its rich soils receive between 760mm and 2000mm of rainfall. “Most parts of the County have high potential for agriculture and promises of faster growth,” according to the Busia County Integrated Development Plan 2013-2017.

Yet this frontier region lags behind in virtually all key indicators of life. Poverty level is 20 percentage points higher than the national figure, life expectancy is 17 years short of the national level, literacy level is 75% against the national’s 79%, and only one in five of teenagers are enrolled in high...

The Striga witch has left

Posted February 2016

Richard Amolo, a farmer (left) supervising his farm. On his right is AATF’s field officer Caleb Adede

Richard Amolo takes this writer around his farm. He just ploughed it in readiness for the short rains that were expected the previous week.

Yes, the rains delayed. Amolo says he is afraid they may fail altogether.  But there’s one thing that no longer gives him sleepless nights -the Striga weed, known locally as Kayongo. He’s among dozens of farmers in Got Bondo village, in Central Asembo, Siaya, in Western Kenya, battling the destructive purple-coloured weed that attacks cereals, including maize, sorghum and...

Removing drudgery from cassava farming – success for farmer Stephania Kunda in Zambia

Posted March 2015

Stephania Kunda (extreme right) with the CAMAP team (left to right: George Marechera, AATF, Lazarus and Mr Mutondo, Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) ) on her farm.

Cassava, a highly nutritious crop, can be time consuming to plant, maintain and harvest. This has caused many farmers to shun planting the crop and those who plant cassava neglect its maintenance leading to below optimum yields. Cassava Mechanisation and Agroprocessing Project (CAMAP), currently being implemented in Nigeria, Zambia and Uganda, is aimed at reducing drudgery, and increasing productivity and incomes for farmers.

Stephania Kunda is one of the farmers participating...

Farmer Mumba forsees lucrative cassava production in Zambia with CAMAP

Posted April 2014

Farmer Celestina Mumba demonstrates to fellow farmers how she planted her cassava crop

When Celestina Mumba Chanda heard that there was a new project being implemented in her locality to help cassava farmers improve their crop production she was eager to be one of the first beneficiaries. A resident of Mansa district in Zambia, one of the areas in the country that grows the most cassava, Mumba wants to increase her cassava production so as to make money from the sale of her produce. Mumba’s children are all grown-up and have left home. For her therefore, growing cassava for home consumption only is not as important. She is looking to make money out of her cassava and she...

Transforming the cassava subsector in Zambia with mechanisation

Posted February 2014

Traders hawk fresh cassava tubers at Mbanyutu market in Kaoma district, Western province

Majority of farmers in Zambia own land in excess of ten hectares. However, until recently very few farmers had ever imagined cultivating a full hectare of cassava.  Most of the land in the cassava growing areas in the country, like in Mansa and Samfya districts of Luapula province and Kaoma district of the Western province is occupied by bushes and thickets that could pass for forests in some countries. Farmers mostly practice shifting cultivation with most of the cultivated land falling under maize thanks to the government’s subsidised inputs for growing the crop.


An encounter with the devastating effects of the Striga weed

Posted February 2014

Monica's farm with a label showing the variety planted and planting date

Imagine investing in a venture and reaping nothing at the end of the day. This is the sad story of Monica Mbeya – a primary school teacher who has been watching desperately as her maize crop is ravaged by the notorious Striga weed.

Monica like many other farmers in Kosele village, Rachuonyo district in Western Kenya devotedly put her money on her half acre virgin piece of land during the long rains of 2013 to grow maize with very high expectations that she would harvest enough for her subsistence and even have a surplus for sale. She bought 2kgs of certified maize seed for Ksh 400...

Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-processing Project inspires hope in Nigeria

Posted February 2014

The Cabesi - the area traditional ruler who is also a project beneficiary at his cassava farm

The Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-processing Project (CAMAP) has opened a new world of opportunity for many cassava farmers in Osun state, Nigeria. One of these farmers is Mrs Kikelomo Amusan who never thought that at any given day in her life she would ever cultivate anything in excess of one acre of the cassava crop. However, all this changed when CAMAP activities kicked off in the state in May 2013.

Mrs Amusan was fortunate to be among the first 50 beneficiaries to participate in the Project  after adequately satisfying the elaborate selection criteria which included...


Breaking the poverty loop with IR maize


Until 2007, Grace Lugongo, a young mother of four from Butula district in western Kenya had never known the meaning of harvesting a full sack of maize from her 1.25 acre piece of land thanks to the Striga weed popularly known as oluyongo in her local language. The weed had decimated maize farms to the extent that farmers in the area associated it with witchcraft. Grace would dutifully go to her 1.25 acre piece of land to plant maize every season knowing very well that her efforts would yield as low as two gorogoros (a tin that measures about two kilogrammes that is usually used at market places) of maize. In an effort to try and deal with the oluyongo, Grace, like other farmers in the area, used to uproot the weed and discard it by the roadside or sometimes burn or bury it. She also struggled to control the weed through use of animal manure, but her cattle could not produce enough to cover her piece of land. – Click here for full article

Reaping the fruits of Imazapyr resistant maize

strigaVitalis Kwena Oduor is a small-scale farmer from Nyamwanga Village of Busia District in Western Kenya. He grows various crops including maize, beans, sorghum, cassava, ground nuts and sweet potatoes on his six acre piece of land. Vitalis’ farming experience dates back to 1978. Like any other farmers in the region, maize is a staple crop which he has planted for as long as he can remember. With time, the fertility of his land started dwindling and whenever he planted maize the yields went down with each cropping season. He recalls that at some point a strange but nice looking weed which produced purple flowers emerged and started to slowly colonize his farm causing his maize yields to decline even further. At some point he could not be assured of harvesting anything at all. The initial thought of many farmers was that their farms had been bewitched a notion that made them feel helpless. The weed, as Vitalis and his fellow farmers came to learn was known as Striga or witchweed and locally as oluyongo. – Click here for full article

From hunger to food sufficiency

strigaChristine Achieng Onyango hails from Nyabenge village of Maranda Division, Bondo District in western Kenya. She is a member of Kayongo Farmers Association, which is named after the Striga weed ‘kayongo’ in Dholuo dialect. The association comprises 20 members, two of them male. Its key aim is to eradicate Striga weed in the area. Christine is a small-scale farmer who grows maize, soya beans, and beans amongst other crops. She learned about the StrigAway Imazapyr Resistant (IR) maize technology which helps in the control of the Striga weed in 2009 from Hagongolo, a farmer organisation promoting the technology in her area. She decided to give the new maize technology a try since she had been experiencing meager harvests from her 1.5 acre piece of land because of Striga. – Click here for full article


Developing a bacterial wilt resistant banana for smallholder farmers in Africa

bananaThey say a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step. This is the story of the long walk towards the elimination of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) disease which is threatening to wipe out the valued banana crop in east Africa. Bananas and plantains are an important source of food for over 100 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as income for over 50 million smallholder farmers. The banana bacterial disease was first reported in Uganda in 2001 and has since spread to many banana growing regions in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo. Kalyebara et al. (2006) reported that if BXW is not controlled, Uganda stands to lose an estimated $295 million worth of banana output valued at farm gate prices. – Click here for full article


Revitalizing maize production in Tanzania through Striga weed suppression

If all arable land in Tanzania could be put under maize, the most preferred cereal staple, it would feed the entire East African region. The most astonishing fact is that over 600,000 hectares have been rendered useless by Striga weed, commonly referred to in Kiswahili as kiduha in the region. Striga weed is known to cause maize yield losses of up to 100 percent, subjecting most of the farmers to a vicious poverty circle. The severe infestation has left some farmers so desperate to the extent believing that their land has been bewitched. Efforts to control Striga using traditional methods such as weeding and use of manure have yielded dismal results. Tanseed International Limited, a private seed company in Tanzania, is working with International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and BASF to develop new maize varieties using the STRIGAWAY technology which kills Striga. The technology is based on a herbicide known as Imazapyr whereby Imazapyr resisistant maize is coated with the herbicide. When Striga tries to attach on the maize to suck nutrients, it is killed by the herbicide. By use of this technology, farmers will be able to increase their yields to between 18 and 28 bags. The technology has been commercialized in Kenya and it is under testing in Uganda. In Tanzania it is awaiting registration of the herbicide before it can be commercialized. – Click here for full article

The wonder seed that kills Striga

Farmer Timothy - striga “I gave them the worst Striga-infested portion of my land,” says Pastor Timothy Nyagol Ochiel, a farmer in Simbiri village in Rachuonyo, Nyanza Province, Kenya. “Now it is the most Striga-free part of my farm.” He pauses for a while and adds: “I have never seen a wonder seed like this that kills Striga. I never thought that Striga can be controlled.” He says farmers in the neighbourhood stream in every day to marvel at the development on his farm and ask him where they can get the seed known by its brand name StrigAway or Ua kayongo (kill Striga in the local language). The Integrated Striga Management in Africa (ISMA) project has been managing a demonstration plot on Timothy’s farm for the last two maize growing seasons, Timothy allowed them to use a 0.25 acre piece of land on his farm which “he had no use for” since no maize would grow there because of the Striga weed infestation. Timothy, who plants maize on 1.5 acres of his land was surprised when he harvested more maize from the demonstration plot than from his 1.5 acres. – Click here for full article

Fostering food security in smallholder farms in Striga weed hotspots of Kenya

Farmer Rashid - strigaEvery year, Striga damage to crops accounts for more than US$ 1 billion in yield loss in SSA, and affects the welfare and livelihoods of over 100 million people. In SSA, the weed infests some 20 million ha, while in Kenya alone, it is estimated that over 200,000 ha of land are infested with Striga causing crop losses amounting to nearly 400,000 tons worth US$ 80 million per year. In the last one year, AATF has facilitated agro-dealer access to IR maize seed through Seed Credit system to prime demand. We have registered 98% repayment by the agro-dealers, who then are gradually weaned off as they become endowed with resources to acquire seeds on their own. The payoff of this system has been tremendous, with some 25 tons of certified IR maize being sold to farmers since September 2010 – November 2011. This directly impacts the lives of at least 12,000 farm household members. Grain yields have been increased from an average of 0.5 kg/ha to at least a 1 ton and some farms going up to 1.5 tonnes/ha.. – Click here for full article

IR Maize - the knight in shining armour

MeboIn 2010 Mebo got some information about a new maize seed variety which could kill Striga and hence increase maize yields. She did not give it a second thought owing to the fact that she had suffered enough to the extent of drawing money from her clothes business to make up for food expenditure. So she decided to give it a trial by planting a one kilo of IR OPV 303 maize variety which had been treated with the chemical that kills Striga. To her astonishment she reaped 1.5 bags from a 0.1 acre plot where under normal circumstances she could have only obtained a maximum of 10 gorogoros (2-kg containers). This was a major boost to her food security and also it saved her business which was running low on capital due to frequent withdrawals. Since then Mebo has been planting the IR maize and she cannot hide her joy. Her small piece of land is now nearly free from Striga weed as compared to the neighbouring farms which are heavily infested. – Click here for full article

Double blessing for IR maize farmer

IR maize farmer catherine otiendeMs Catherine Otiende never believed at any given day she would produce enough food from her ¾ acre farm to feed her family and by extension the extended family. The young mother of four children who hails from Dago village, Nyahera Location of Kisumu District had been planting the local maize varieties for many years with meager returns of less than 2 bags of maize from her farm thanks to the Striga weed popularly known as uyongo in the local dialect. Catherine got information from Mr. William Bodo about some improved maize varieties which could kill the Striga weed and hence increase maize production to a great extent. She received this information with a lot of enthusiasm and decided to give it a trial. Catherine did not have any problem convincing her husband on adoption of this new technology. She decided to try it during the 2011 short rain season and as she says she will never regret her decision. She prepared her land early enough and bought 5 kg of IR OPV 303 seed variety. She got a double blessing when the short rains became more than expected. – Click here for full article

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