“Push-Pull” (www.push-pull.net) is an integrated, sustainable farming method that improves maize yields and soil fertility: The stemborer pest is repelled by the smell of desmodium planted as an intercrop between the maize (“Push”). Napier grass is planted as a border crop and it attracts the stemborers away the maize field (“Pull”). Desmodium can also fix nitrogen and so improves maize yields without the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides. The napier grass is also a welcome source of healthy animal fodder. The aim of the project supported by Biovision is to extend the use of this sustainable method in the area around Lake Victoria. The Push-Pull method is being taught at many agricultural schools and information that is easy to understand is being made available in the form of manuals or comics. Practical instruction and short films are used to reach the farmers who often have little or no formal schooling.
Most local famers have about 0.9 – 2 hectares of land for the cultivation of maize and other crops. However, they find it extremely difficult to produce sufficient maize, which is a staple food in the region. Problems include poor soil fertility and infestations by pests such as the stemborer moth. This can reduce maize yields by up to 60%. The Push-Pull method can significantly improve food security and the position of small farmers, particularly in terms of the challenges facing them as a result of climate change.
In Central Kenya, some 1,700 farming families are benefiting directly from information on sustainable methods and in so doing are improving maize harvests and milk production. The farmers also learn how to process and market their products. A further 15,000 people enjoy an indirect benefit in the form of improved food security.
- Year 5 of the project will focus on establishing a complete supply chain from producers to consumers in order to generate a reliable source of income from current surplus yields. This will bring us a step closer to the overarching aim of poverty reduction and improvements in the living conditions of the rural population in Central Kenya.
- The continued spread of the Push-Pull method, including training at agricultural schools together with the targeted dissemination of information remains, however an important element of the project. At the same time, existing networks will develop mechanisms to monitor and evaluate progress.
- A further focus is training on how to improve the production of napier grass and desmodium.
- In addition, farmers will learn how to conserve the animal fodder produced. This will ensure that animal feed is always available at a low cost and so allow milk production to generate an income throughout the year.
- In addition, research projects will identify solutions to the new challenges facing the Push-Pull method (e.g. the biotic stress resulting from global climate change evident in previous project phases) and test and disseminate the results in cooperation with local farmers.
- By the end of 2012, some 50% of those trained in the Push-Pull method had reliable access to food; in the next phase, we aim to increase this figure to 70%.
Since the start of the project, 71 “Farmer Field Schools” have been established and have provided practical training on sustainable agriculture to more than 4,000 female and 2,000 male farmers. At the same time, the method itself has been refined and easy-to-understand information and complete Push-Pull “starter packs” that include desmodium seeds have been distributed to farmers.
Biovision is a long term partner and supports the wider distribution of the proven Push-Pull Method. Biovision’s Farmer Communication Programme (FCP) is a central plank of the scheme to disseminate free information through its various channels.