Commercializing Technical Innovations
Kilimo Trust has been supporting the commercialising of technical innovations in key areas of food and energy security. Programmes and projects supported included the following:
- Striga is the most pervasive and damaging parasitic weed threatening cereal production in East Africa. More than 2 million ha are infected and each year millions of tons of cereals are lost with an estimated value of US$437 million – more than US$1.0 million a day. Over the past 10 years knowledge, technologies, and practices for Striga control, such as 'push-pull' and Striga resistant maize varieties, have been perfected but the problem continues to grow. What is clear from this experience is that Striga cannot be eliminated by one method alone – rather it requires a combination of different technologies and practices, strong collective action, and strategic public and private sector investment. Indeed a regional strategy is needed because Striga infestations do not respect national boundaries. A number of actions are now underway across Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania and Kilimo Trust is inviting all stakeholders to plan a major regional Striga control programme comprising two 6-year phases with the aim of substantially increasing maize, sorghum, rice, and millet production on 60% of the currently infested cropped land. The programme requires private sector investment of US$380 million with an estimated US$40 million from the public sector.
- The introduction of clonal forest technology across East Africa that is now beginning to transform wood production on which the region depends for over 90% of its energy needs and for construction materials. Working in partnership with Mondi Forests Ltd of South Africa, Eucalyptus hybrids, well suited to smallholder farming, were introduced in trials across Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The result is that over 80 commercial nurseries have been established and some 21 million trees planted with an estimated value of US$370 million – a 100-fold increase on the initial investment. This programme is not without its critics but it is producing substantial economic benefits and contributing to the current global effort of Reducing Emissions from Forest Degradation and Deforestation (REDD).
- In Uganda, increasing fertilizer use is crucial to sustainably increasing the country's agricultural productivity of staple food crops. A well-established rural fertilizer/farm inputs retail network has made fertilizers available to over 30,000 smallholders in 6 Districts. They brought in fertilizer manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors; provided credit facilities, know-how, infrastructure and markets to cope with the increased production. In many cases crop yields more than doubled and produced an additional gross income of US$450/ha.
- Smallholder farmers in Western Kenya are finding that Conservation Agriculture is an affordable and appropriate technology that holds the key not only to sustained food security but also improvements to soils and ecosystems services. About 2700 smallholders have adopted the new practices and maize yields have doubled from 1.5 to 3.0 MT/ha and soybean averaged 1.1 to 1.8 MT/ha. Net household incomes rose from US$53 to US$146.
- Banana Bacterial Wilt (BBW) has been blighting the banana crop in Uganda. The technologies for control are well known but not widely adopted. Over 90% is now protected following a programme of information dissemination and empowerment of national and local governments, and communities to apply the tried and tested technologies. In 2007 national banana production increased from an estimated US$290 million (without BBW control) to US$560 with full control. A similar programme is ready to roll out in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Democratic Republic of Congo where BBW is a problem.
- Over 3,000 smallholders in Namutumba, Uganda have changed their cropping from low-land flooded rice to the African upland rice variety NERICA III. This not only lifted the quality of life for people labouring with uncertain rains, declining wetlands, and Bilharzia but it also relieved environmental pressures on wetlands. Over three years upland rice has grown in popularity, nearly 1,800 tons of rice was harvested worth US$1.3 million, sales of farm inputs have increased and so too has off-farm business such as rice milling.
- Upland rice was also introduced to farmers in Luweero, Uganda. Production increased from 1,600 to 2,800kg/ha for milled rice and the local ecosystem improved. Market information and collective marketing enabled farmers to negotiate better prices. 8. A communications NGO has demonstrated how participatory learning through farmer-to-farmer videos can stimulate uptake of new and improved practices and improve yields for rice. This innovative approach to agricultural extension in local languages is reaping dividends across East Africa.
- In western Kenya some 300 smallholders are learning to use drip irrigation kits to grow high value commercial crops such as vegetables and bananas. An added benefit of these changes from traditional subsistence farming is the availability of clean water from irrigation tanks for domestic use, which reduces the families' workload searching for clean water sources.
- Traditional forms of grain storage offer little protection and weevils, such as the large grain borer, are the main cause of post-harvest grain losses in eastern Kenya. But thanks to the introduction of metal storage silos farmers are now able to safeguard their grains and guarantee food security for their homesteads. The silos can be used for over 50 years, with minimal maintenance costs.
- Mangos are the main fruit grown along the Kenyan coast. But they are usually sold fresh which creates a glut during the harvesting seasons and this depresses market prices. Smallholders trained in production and marketing technologies and supported to add value by taking advantage of drying mango chips and pickling to extend product shelf-life improved income and created employment.
- Newcastle disease can cause devastating losses among village chickens in Tanzania. New thermo-stable vaccines, which are more robust and can be transported without refrigeration, are proving invaluable for controlling this disease. Almost 6,000 smallholders in Mwanza, Tanzania now use this vaccine and chicken mortality is down by 80%. Farm incomes have increased family nutrition has improved.
- Salinity can result in irrigated land being abandoned as unproductive in arid regions. But with careful management this land can be reclaimed. On smallholder irrigation schemes rice yields on reclaimed land increased from 240 to 1200kg/ha and maize yields increased from 120 to 520kg/ha. Average income of rice/maize farmers more than tripled from US$125 to US$417/year.
- Urea Molasses Multi-nutrient Blocks are convenient and inexpensive 'lick' blocks containing molasses, vitamins, and minerals to provide animals with the nutrients which may be deficient in their diet. The introduction of this simple technology has substantially increased cow milk yields for some 450 farmers in Uguja and Pemba islands in Zanzibar from 1 to 5 litres/day and farm incomes from US$0.40 to 2.10/cow/day.
- Introducing smallholders in Tanzania to Draught Animal Power technologies for cultivations has significantly reduced farm labour by 90%, increased household cropped area from 3 to 3.4ha and, in combination with other farm inputs, increased maize yields from 800 to 2,900kg/ha. Additionally farmers used the time saved to pursue off-farm income generating activities such as carpentry and blacksmithing.