Scaling up options for improving soil fertility in western Kenya: the case of COSOFAP uri icon


  • Western Kenya, a densely populated region of the country is an example of many areas in Africa where continued threat to the worldâ??s land resources is compounded by the need to raise food production and reduce poverty. Attainment of food security is intrinsically linked with reversing agricultural stagnation, safeguarding the natural resource base, slowing population growth rates, combating the negative impacts of HIV/AIDS pandemic on the community and reducing poverty. Over the last 12 years, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in collaboration with Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Programme (TSBF) and with support from the Rockefeller Foundation developed several integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) options. Examples are: (i) short-duration improved fallows with leguminous nitrogen-fixing species, such as Sesbania sesban and Crotolaria grahamiana; (ii) biomass transfer of Tithonia diversifolia; (iii) dual purpose legumes like soybeans and cowpeas and iv) the combination of phosphorus fertilizers, including the reactive Minjingu phosphate rock, with the above organics and farmyard manure. These options that can increase yields of maize by 2â??3 folds were tested and adopted by thousands of farmers in pilot project sites in Vihiga and Siaya Districts. Other work has been pioneered by ICIPE on Pushâ??Pull technology, MBILI by Sacred Africa, green manuring by the Legume Research Network. Besides yield improvements, other benefits associated with improved soil fertility management strategies include striga control, fodder, wood fuel production and stakes for climbing beans. However one of the biggest challenges is to scale these initiatives to more farmers in the region.To scale up this and other promising technologies, a Consortium for Scaling Up Options for Improving Soil Fertility in Western Kenya (COSOFAP) of over 80 partners was initiated in January 2001. COSOFAP covers 22 districts of western Kenya and reaches thousands of farmers with quality germplasm and information. Links to private sector and policy makers have also been strengthened. This paper highlights some of the salient features of the ISFM options available and their dissemination pathways through the consortium of partner institutions and the empowerment of farmers to train others and scale up the options through Interactive Learning Sites

publication date

  • 2003