Push-Pull East Africa

Dissemination of this successful cultivation method of maize and sorghum in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia

» Project story in TOF, Issue February 2017

"Push-Pull" (www.push-pull.net) is an integrated, sustainable method of farming that improves maize and sorghum yields and soil fertility: The stemborer pest is repelled by the smell of desmodium planted as an intercrop between the maize and sorghum ("Push").In regions with low rainfall, the drought-resistant green-leaf desmodium is now planted in addition to silver-leaf desmodium. Napier grass is planted as a border crop attracting the stemborers away from the maize field ("Pull"). Desmodium can also fix nitrogen and neutralise the striga weed. This increases yields without the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides. The napier grass is also a welcome source of healthy animal fodder. In drier areas, drought-resistant varieties of grass (brachiaria) are used.

The aim of the project supported by Biovision is to extend the use of this sustainable method to areas in Western Kenya, Eastern Uganda, Northern Tanzania and Ethiopia. In order to achieve this aim, PH-05 and PH-08 have been integrated into the development of the entire Push-Pull Programme. Push-Pull will be taught at numerous farming colleges and easy-to-understand information in the form of comics and manuals will be distributed to students. Practical instruction and short films are used to reach the farmers who often have no or little formal education.

Integrated expansion of the project »

Farmer Agnes Ambubi in her Push-Pull field of maize in Ebukanga, Kenya

Development Goal

Improve the food security and health of local people by extending the use of the Push-Pull method of cultivation that is increasing maize and sorghum yields in East Africa.


The majority of those living in rural East Africa depend upon agriculture. Most are families who run small farms without much land. The farmers have to contend with pests, leached soils and droughts but lack access to suitable, sustainable methods that would allow them to increase yields. The Push-Pull method of cultivation offers a remedy: Push-Pull is an integrated, environmentally friendly technology that improves maize yields and soil fertility naturally and is affordable for farmers.


In total, some 40,000 small-scale farmers in four countries are benefiting from the project activities and the higher yields achieved with the Push-Pull method of cultivation. In addition, their family members – 240,000 in total - and a further 340 people involved in the supply chain for cereals and milk (napier grass can be used as additional cattle fodder) are benefiting indirectly.

Objectives 2015 to 2017

  • Extend the use of the Push-Pull method over a wide area by using innovative new media (video, drama, comic strips and mobile phones) and integrating strategic partners in the process of disseminating and adopting the Push-Pull method. 
  • Introduce measures that further equal opportunities for women and men, young people and those with a disability. 
  • Improve the access to seeds (desmodium, napier grass and brachiaria)


In 2015, the training in Push-Pull provided under the project reached almost 100 additional farmer groups with a total membership approaching 100,000. As well as increasing their knowledge, farmers received napier grass, brachiaria and desmodium seed. In addition to this training and the information spread by word of mouth, knowledge was disseminated in several different ways, e.g. 2015 saw the production in English and Swahili of the first video series and a strip-carton textbook on the Push-Pull method (see below). Young people are also being brought into the project, e.g. 203 pupils had lessons in the method and they have already helped in the creation of Push-Pull demonstration fields. Since the start of the project in 2006, some 123,000 farmers in East Africa have successfully adopted the Push-Pull method.