In Kenya, farmers see early rewards from adding legumes and trees to their farms
Less than a year after supplying farmers with legume seeds and fertilizer tree seedlings, the Legume CHOICE project team caught up with farmers and traders in Kisii and Migori counties of Kenya. The farmers were already enjoying the benefits and were keen to scale up.
Legume crops like beans and peas (known collectively as pulses when dry) are a versatile and affordable source of protein and other important nutrients. A mainstay of vegetarian diets, legumes play a critical role in meeting the protein needs of people who cannot access animal proteins such as meat and eggs.
The Legume CHOICE project is supplying farmers with their choice of seeds of beans and other legumes, which they grow for home consumption and sale. In addition, the farmers receive advice on how to grow the legumes and on better land management, part of which is growing useful trees and shrubs. In this way, the project aims to fully realise the potential of legumes to improve diets and livelihoods of people practicing mixed crop-livestock farming in East & Central Africa. It is currently active in Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).
Climbing beans (Vigna sesquipedalis), one of the species being distributed under Legume CHOICE, can grow to a height of 3.5 metres and produce up to 4 tonnes per hectare, which is double the yield of common beans. “This makes climbing beans ideal for farmers with small plots,” explains Maurice Shiluli, a researcher with Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).
Stakes are used to support climbing beans, and Legume CHOICE is also promoting the cultivation of Gliricidia and Calliandra [see report: Distribution of legume tree seedlings to farmers in Kenya.docx. Besides stakes, these agroforestry species with rich foliage provide fodder for livestock and raise the soil’s fertility.
“Green manure from the trees’ leaves and cuttings enhances soil fertility, which helps crop yields and farm income,” says Ingrid Oborn, a researcher with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). “The trees can be intercropped with other crops in alleys, grown as hedge rows, spot planted, or planted in woodlots and rotations,” adds ICRAF’s Irene Okeyo, who is part of the project team.
Following the distribution of legume seeds and tree seedlings in late 2015, the Legume CHOICE team caught up with farmers and traders in project sites in Kisii and Migori counties of Kenya, and discovered that the farmers were already reaping many benefits of growing legumes and tree shrubs on their farms, and were optimistic about the future.
Meet a few of the farmers.
James and Prisca Oroko from Kitutu Chache North, Kisii County
Mr James Oroko: “In September, 2015 a government extension officer visited my farm and invited us to attend a Legume CHOICE training at our local trading centre in Marani. We were trained on legume crop cultivation and later, we were provided with legume seeds and trees of our choice,” says.
“I chose a handful of climbing bean seeds and a few Calliandra tree seedlings which I was told would improve soil fertility, provide fodder and also stakes for the beans. In just three months, the handful of seeds I planted on a small area within my three-acre farm had grown into a canopy supported by stakes. I harvested 16 kilograms in March this year.”
Mrs Prisca Oroko: “Apart from their abundant yield, climbing beans improve soil fertility, are easy to cook, nutritious and fetch better prices in the local markets. A 2-kg tin of climbing beans can earn you 300 shillings (around US$ 3), double the price of the common variety which sells at 150 shillings.”
“We planted the Calliandra shrubs with Napier grass next to the river at the bottom of the farm. The trees in help in soil conservation and provide good livestock feed.”
Enosh and Benta Obudho, Suna West, Migori County
Benta Obudho: “I wanted to engage in farming that brings income, controls erosion, provides healthy food for my family and promotes soil fertility. We chose Kakamega 8 (KK8) bush bean variety, pigeon peas and Gliricidia and Calliandra trees, to add to the millet, maize, beans and groundnuts we already have on the farm.”
Enosh Obudho: “Working with the project since November 2015, we have seen the few seeds we received multiply to 180 kg by the second season of planting. But pigeon peas are not yet very popular in our area and finding markets for our produce is not easy. Other challenges are unfavorable weather, lack of water and constant attacks from pests and diseases.
Legume trader at Piny Oyie market
Jane Achieng: “Different varieties of beans fetch different prices, from sugar beans at 50 ksh a kilo ($0.5) to yellow beans which costs ksh 100 (1$) a kilo.” Yellow beans are one of the types being promoted by Legume CHOICE
Philemon Onyango, Kosodo village, Rongo
Philemon Onyango: “I have noticed that the legumes and trees have improved crop health. The maize leaves are now dark green because of the Gliricidia. We expect a good harvest in the coming season.”
“I am growing faba beans, soy beans, climbing beans, field peas, cow peas, and ground nuts. I am also raising tree seedlings of Calliandra and Gliricidia.”
Patrick and Paul Otiso, Nyaribari Chache, Kisii County
Paul Otiso: “My brother and I were trained by the Legume CHOICE project in tree nursery establishment and management. We are raising a variety of agroforestry tree seedlings. We have over 1000 seedlings of Calliandra calothyrsus, Gliricidia sepium, and Senna siamea.
“Our major challenge in scaling up the tree nursery business is the lack of markets, appropriate equipment and potting material. I’m however optimistic that a large market will be created once the community is made more aware of the benefits of legume trees.”
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) researcher Generose Nziguheba, the Legume CHOICE Project Coordinator, says in addition to distributing seed and seedlings, the next phase of the project will prioritize farmer training in agribusiness and agronomic practices.
“Equipping farmers with skills on crop production, marketing and up-scaling mechanisms is key.”
Legume CHOICE project website