Our objective was to develop a teaching and demonstration farm to expose farmers in Njoro, Nakuru County, Kenya, to growing crops with potential for value-addition. Typically, Njoro farmers raise staple crops such as maize intercropped with beans and potatoes.
In March 2019, we began preparing nine acres to plant five acres of soybean and four acres of sunflowers. Both oil crops are adapted to the area and are becoming important regional crops due to their seed oil content and the use of the seed meal in the growing animal feed industry. We saw the potential for value-addition and generation of additional income after harvest of both crops.
We acquired sunflower seed for four acres but could not secure soybean seed and instead planted five acres of common beans. The production practices we used were:
- Conventional plowing techniques with a tractor to prepare the land for planting,
- Minimal soil disturbance during the season of crop growth, and
- Judicious use of agricultural inputs that improve yield and protect crops against pests and diseases.
Sunflower and common beans are crops that perform well in conditions where water is limiting and are important for areas that are impacted by climate extremes such as unusual periods of drought. The Njoro area has been experiencing the effects of extreme climate events during the past few years.
Our greatest achievements in 2019 were:
- The level of interest raised by Njoro farmers who saw the sunflower crop in all its splendor.
- Despite being commonly grown in the area it was unusual for Njoro farmers to see a pure stand of common beans, since the crop is typically intercropped with maize and potatoes. The sight of a pure stand of common beans was a novel experience for Njoro farmers.
- More than doubling the yield of common bean for the Njoro area.
Our greatest challenges in 2019 were:
- Managing the day-to-day operations with part-time assistance.
- Inability to respond in quickly to manage pests during the growing season which likely impacted our yields.
- Marketing of sunflower seed, because adding value to the harvested produce was not possible.