Field trials on diversified farming for better soils in Teso South, Kenya

By Dorine Oware (MSc Student, Egerton University)

Work package (WP) 1 of the EaTSANE project aims at diversified farming for better soils. The researcher team in this WP established field trials in four experimental sites to evaluate the effect of Conservation Agriculture, based on different cropping systems. On the experimental sites, the researchers together with farmers from the communities experimented with a “Three-Strata Food System”, a cropping system that aims to improve soil health, while producing more diverse and nutritious crops.

Farmer-researcher team preparing the experimental plots

Starting with planting for the first season in April 2019, it was one of my best experiences in the field of research since it was my first time to directly interact with farmers. Being that the "Three-Strata Food System" was a new concept for most farmers and everyone wanted to know more, made it even more interesting. Our journey with the experimental plots all began with joy as we compared different cropping systems: The first one was mono-cropping, whereby the crops are solely planted. The second one was inter-cropping, which combines more than one crop (e.g. cowpeas and amaranth) or the “three-sisters” maize, beans and pumpkin. The third one was the Three Strata Food System, where we enclosed our crops with different layers of forages and fruit trees of (desmodium, brachiaria grass, pigeon peas, papaya and avocado fruit trees). The latter system is mimicking a sustainable land use system from Indonesia, focusing on fodder and fuelwood production. The Three-Strata Food System is beneficial for the soil since, apart from diversifying the crop production, it all also acts as improved fallow after the crops have been harvested.

The plots have produced a great harvest ranging from fresh vegetables like crotalaria and cowpeas, fruits like papaya and pumpkin fruit, cereals like maize, to legumes like beans, not forgetting the animal forages like brachiaria grass and desmodium. To understand the effects of the different cropping systems on soil, samples will be analyzed in the next steps.

Checking if papaya fruit is ready for consumption
Three-Strata Food System

Finally, I am very grateful to participate in EaTSANE project and get in touch with so many people and more so to farmers who have engaged me with lots of questions. Through this I have learnt a lot and am very thankful to be part of the project team.