DEMO FARMS TO BOOST HORTICULTURE IN BUNYALA
The National Irrigation Authority through the Lower Nzoia Irrigation Development Project in Busia County has set up demonstration farms in Bunyala to upscale horticulture. The Authority made the step after realising that farmers in the region lacked the knowledge in setting up nurseries and picking the right varieties of horticultural seeds.
A demo farm is a piece of land used for teaching techniques and technologies, showcasing new or improved crops. Demo farms, coming in various sizes, are used for research and testing new methods against traditional ones. They could hold different types of crops and crop varieties.To ensure farmers get the best quality and knowledge of growing these crops, the scheme operates a commercial seedling nursery.
According to the Bunyala Irrigation Scheme Manager, Eng. Edwin Manyonge, “It is a shed net were we practise development of clean planting materials, propagate seedlings and sell to farmers.”
He says “it is simply a nursery in a controlled environment. We realised the challenge of farmers getting the correct and clean seedlings, hence began this commercial seed nursery, which was the first in the region.” Eng Manyonge praises the uptake by farmers since the seedlings in the first trial cycle in 2021 were supplied for free. The project is now in its fifth cycle.
Every cockpit tray holds about 200 seedlings that are transferred to the main field after 128 days before they are sold to the farmers. A seedling goes for between Ksh3 to Ksh10, depending on variety. Preparing the seedlings in a cockpit is economical and easier compared to farm nurseries because the cockpit holds more seeds in a smaller space.
The shed net measures 8m by 15m, can hold 200 trays and secure 40,000 seedlings.
According to Eng. Manyonge, the demo farms are also used to test crops that do well around Bunyala. Several crops have been tested with mixed results, but the tests guide farmers on the picking the right varieties.
The demo farms have also been used to partner with seed companies that also run crop tests, providing a platform where the Authority shares technologies and other knowledge with the aim of helping the farmer get the best crop variety. These companies are Kenya Seed Company, Simlaw Seeds among others.
Farmers are trained in handling crops, agronomy and management of the seedlings after planting, Eng Manyonge says, adding that they are linked to markets to reduce post-harvest losses and secure the right prices.