Most of the people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and livestock for their food and income. But climate change-related problems, limited knowledge and weak financial positions lead to low production of crops and livestock. To increase the agricultural production of people in Igunga, the main measures are to:
- Improve the farming practices and management of their farm through the Farmer Field School approach.
- Increase crop production and improve the soil fertility through the innovative push-pull strategy and other soil conservation techniques.
- Increase soil moisture conservation through improved water buffering interventions.
- Spread risks by diversifying into climate change resilient activities (fish farming, fish-cum-rice paddy farming, poultry and agroforestry)
- Increase production levels of resource poor households through increased ownership of livestock (chickens and fish), resistant seeds, multi-purpose trees and equipment (fish farming materials)
Innovative push-pull strategy
The problems: stemborers and striga weed
If they were to harvest 10 bags of maize, stemborer and striga weed can cause a loss of 8 bags. Moths lay eggs on maize plants. These eggs hatch into larvae that eat maize leaves and burrow into the stem as it grows. The stemborer hence eats the food the maize would use to fill its grains.
Striga weed affects the maize by rooting into the roots of the maize plant, stealing the nutrients the maize has extracted from the soil.
Solution: the push-pull strategy
Stemborers and striga weed affects the maize production of many farmers. The push-pull strategy controls both insects and weed. To manage the pests in the field, farmers can use Napier grass and Desmodium (a nitrogen fixer). Desmodium is planted between the rows of maize in order to “push” away the stemborers and kill the striga weed. Napier grass is planted around the maize field to “pull” the stemborers out of the field and trap and kill them.
Advantages of the push-pull strategy
The push-pull strategy ensures an increased production of maize, but there are more advantages. Both Napier grass and Desmodium can be used to feed cattle throughout the year, leading to higher milk production. Besides trapping stemborers Napier grass protects maize from strong winds. Desmodium has several advantages: protection against soil erosion, retaining water through mulch, fixation of nitrogen, increase of soil fertility. Desmodium seeds are valuable and can be sold at a good price.
Passing on the Gift
To speed up the learning process and improve productive assets, the project provides some material inputs and technical constructions, both at household and village level. Chickens, fish fingerlings (a young fish less than a year old and about the size of a humans finger), fish farming equipment, resistant seeds and biogas installations are given, using the Passing On the Gift (POG) model.
POG is the hallmark of all Heifer-supported projects. Heifer donates animals or assets to farmers, who pass on offspring or the same material, including the acquired knowledge, to other families.
As each recipient in turn becomes a donor, the virtuous cycle of passing on the gifts continues and thereby builds a wealth of productive assets within the community.
The Passing on the Gift model is aligned with the Farmer Field Schools. Before receiving a gift, required trainings need to be followed.
Increasing ownership for agriculture activities
To help resource poor households, at least 80% of the targeted 6.000 families, get livestock and materials according to the passing on the gift (POG) model. This strategy secures extra income and food for scarce periods.
In the second year of the project 1.200 families receive four chickens (3 chickens and 1 cockerel). Conditions for this are that they need to successful complete the Farmer Field School Training on improved backyard chicken husbandry and need to demonstrate commitment to the project by building the requisite housing for the chickens. Within a year the 1.200 families who received chickens have to pass on 4 chickens to 1.200 other families. And the same process happens twice in the years after. This way, the project investment grant of parent stock is growing 3-fold within the project period and continues to grow beyond that.
The same process takes place for fish fingerlings, Mullato and Desmodium seeds for the push-pull strategy and quality seeds of drought resistant trees.