The impact of agroforestry-based soil fertility replenishment practices on the poor in Western Kenya

This case study explores the relationships between agroforestry-based soil fertility replenishment (SFR) systems (improved fallows and biomass transfer) and poverty reduction in rural western Kenya. It further examines the role that different dissemination approaches play in conditioning which segments of society gain access to information to the technologies and then uses them. The study made use of many different qualitative and quantitative data collection methods and samples from both pilot areas where researchers maintained a significant presence and nonpilot areas where farmers learned of the technologies through other channels. Adoption processes were analyzed quantitatively using almost 2,000 households while changes in impact indicators were measured for just over 100 households. Qualitative methods included case studies for 40 households, where researchers lived in the villages for six months, and focus group discussions involving 16 different groups. The findings showed that poverty is rampant among households and appeared to worsen during the study period. The poor were reached by many different information providers and liked certain aspects of almost all types of organizations, from government extension to community group-based methods. Access to information is mediated by social relationships of wealth, gender and status; nevertheless, poor farmers acquired a significant amount of knowledge about soil fertility management. Adoption rates are not outstanding but they are encouraging, with about 20% of all farmers using the technologies on a regular basis, and a sizable percentage of farmers newly testing. Unlike some agricultural technologies historically, SFR was found not to be biased toward people controlling and managing resources above a certain threshold. The study also found that the poor were using the agroforestry technologies to a much greater extent than they were fertilizer (about 33% of farmers not using any other soil fertility practice were trying the new systems). The technologies were almost always at least doubling yields of maize. Despite these promising signs, the systems were not found to be linked to improved household-level food security or poverty indicators, primarily because the size of the fields under the agroforestry systems was, on average, quite small.” — Authors’ Abstract

Place, Frank
Adato, Michelle
Hebinck, Paul
Omosa, Mary
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