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Emerging Evidence on Why Soil Testing is Key to Improve Yields on Smallholder Farms in Kenya

Soil acidity problem is a significant cause of low and stagnated crop yields in Kenya, particularly for maize, which is the country’s main staple crop. But research demonstrate that few farmers test their soils or make soil management decisions based on knowledge about the condition of their soils.

To help generate evidence to bridge this gap, ICED and Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience (MRR) through the USAID’s ALL-IN research grant is funding Tegemeo Institute in Kenya to conduct a research dubbed Soil Testing for Soil Acidity Management on Smallholder Farms in Kenya. The research, whose Principal Investigator is Dr. John Olwande, aims to provide policy-relevant and evidence-based insights on practical ways to encourage farmers to understand and update their knowledge about the condition of their soils and subsequently apply appropriate soil amendments.

The researchers collected soil samples from 657 smallholder farms in 120 villages in 24 wards spread across Bungoma, Kakamega, Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu counties. Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services Ltd (Cropnuts), Tegemeo’s partner, conducted the soil analysis and developed the recommendations for soil acidity management and fertilizer application.

Before disseminating the soil analysis results and recommendations to the farmers, Cropnuts trained 53 agricultural officers in each of the study counties. “The purpose of the training was to expose the officers to the technical aspects of the soil analysis and interpretation of soil test results the basis on which the recommendations were made,” says Dr.  Olwande. “The training covered areas like Understanding soil analysis report; Interpretation of soil analysis data; Role of various nutrients in maize production; Negative effects of soil acidity on nutrients availability to maize plants among others,”

The soil test results and recommendations for acidity management and fertilizer application were distributed to the individual farmers whose soils were sampled and the farmers whose soils were not sampled but are part of the research. The researchers and Aagricultural Officers held in-person meetings with farmers across the 120 target villages and delivered and explained to them the results of the soil tests and recommendations. “This feedback session with the farmers was critical. While a few  farmers had had their soil samples taken by some organizations for testing before, none of them had ever received soil test results,” says Dr. Olwande

Emerging evidence from this study points to the importance of soil testing and its critical role in improving farm productivity among smallholder farmers. Importantly, based on these findings, the researchers provided a set of farm-specific and ward-level recommendations for maize production. First, they recommended application of calcitic and dolomitic lime to correct soil acidity. Majority of the farmers have heard about agricultural lime and acknowledge that lime is available in local agrodealer shops, but few of them have applied lime to their farms despite the fact that liming is required on majority of the farms.  

Secondly, the researchers also recommended the types of fertilizers to apply and the application rate, as well as application of organic matter (manure and/or compost). The fertilizers recommended to the farmers were locally available in the agrodealer shops, while some were being sold by county governments under their respective subsidy programmes.

“Through this project, ICED is strengthening locally-led research solutions to local development challenges experienced by critical sectors like agriculture.  We hope that insights from this project will be instrumental in shaping adoption of soil-testing and application of appropriate soil management practices by smallholders for improved yields,” says Dr. David Ameyaw, ICED’s CEO.

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A team from The International Centre for Evaluation Development (ICED) led by the President and CEO, Dr. David Ameyaw is in Ethiopia holding talks with Officials of the Ethiopian Ministry of Planning and Development, other partners and civil society organizations on the progress of the Evidence to Action Conference to be held in Ethiopia this year.

  • Dr. Fitsum Assefa Adela (right) holding talks with Dr. David Ameyaw (second right), Dr. Solomon Zena Walelign and Hon. Tirumar Abate Ayalew (extreme left)

The ICED team, which also has Dr. Solomon Zena Walelign Director of Research, met with the Minister for Planning and Development, Dr. Fitsum Assefa Adela, State Ministers of the Ministry of Planning and Development H.E. Sandokan Debebe and Hon. Tirumar Abate Ayalew, H.E. Professor Beyene Petros, the Director General of the Policy Studies Institute, H.E. Dr. Becker Shale, Director General of the Ethiopian Statistics Services, the President of the Ethiopian Economics Association, Prof. Mengistu Kete and the President of the Ethiopian Evaluation Association, Mr. Seifu Tadesse.

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ICED Newsletter, March 2023

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CarrersOpen Vacancy

Vacancy: Senior Administrative Officer

The International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED) is pleased to invite all qualified
applicants to apply for its job opening with further details in the document below.

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CarrersOpen Vacancy

Vacancy : Post-Doctoral Researcher in Economic Viability of Kenya’s Horticulture Industry

The International Center for Evaluation and Development (ICED) seeks to recruit a
motivated Post-Doctoral Researcher to join a team of researchers in our project on “Economic Viability
of Kenya’s Horticulture Industry: Should farmers shift from staple crop production?”, which has
recently been funded by the feed the future Horticulture Innovation Lab.

Find the job description and details of how to apply in the document below.


Improving Productivity of Women Smallholders Through Capacity Building

In Uganda, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk & Resilience (MRR) in collaboration with International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED) through ALL-IN grant are funding the Strengthening Women Smallholders’ Resilience to Agricultural Shocks for Enhanced Income Diversification and Empowerment in Uganda project. Led by researchers from Makerere University, the project is testing a comprehensive approach to supporting women, including interventions that improve on-farm productivity, increase their resilience to shocks and increase their overall empowerment.

Recently, a total of 640 participants (320 women and 320 spouses) In Isingiro and Alebtong districts benefited from a training on business skill, Gender Transformative Approaches (GTA) and Gender Responsive Climate Smart Agriculture (GRCSA) collaboratively delivered by Makerere University, District Agricultural Officers and Community Development Officers. The project has three treatment arms and one control group in each district. There is a group receiving both the revolving fund and training, another receiving training only, third group is receiving revolving fund only and the last category is a control group which does not receive anything. The revolving fund was received by a total of 320 women (160 in each of the districts that is Alebtong and Isingiro respectively).

With support from ALL-IN, the project is providing revolving funds to selected women savings groups to boost their small-scale enterprises. These series of trainings are designed to create awareness about the gender roles, equip beneficiaries with business skills to improve their existing business or motivate them in opening up business. The training is also meant to strengthen capacity of the group structures to manage the revolving fund as intended by the project so that all the group members eventually receive the funds.

In order to increase the success rate of the revolving fund it is important to have the support of husbands at household level. Therefore, the men were invited so that they can be sensitized on the revolving fund and their role in supporting their spouses to increase or diversity household income sources,” says the Principal Investigator, Dr. Florence Muhanguzi, Makerere University.

“This project is providing insights and evidence that will help eliminate barriers to women economic empowerment,” says Dr. David Ameyaw, ICED President and CEO.

ALL-IN is funding twelve research projects in five African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria) led by twelve Principal Investigators across nine Universities.

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