Participatory Evaluation of Water Harves ting Techniques for Establishing Improved Mango Varieties in Smallholder Farms of Mbeere District, Kenya
Mugwe, J. N.
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A participatory on-farm study was conducted in Mbeere District, Kenya, in 1996/97 to evaluate the effectiveness of two microcatchments (V-shaped and diamond shaped), and conventional planting holes in the establishment of improved/exotic mango varieties under farmer management. The study area is characterised by low erratic rainfall (600 - 700 mm yr-1), which is received in two seasons. Two types of microcatchments, V-shaped and diamond-shaped, were tested and compared with simple holes commonly used for tree planting by farmers in the area. Grafted mango varieties tested were Tommy Atkins, Van Dyke, Haden, Kent and Apple. Researchers designed the trial, laid out the microcatchments but farmers were given a free hand to manage the trees. Assessment’s done three months after planting showed high survival (>70%) in all cases, except for Van Dyke in the V-shaped microcatchment which had a survival rate of 65%. This was encouraging, as this season was characterized by drought. Through their own initiative, farmers protected, watered, mulched, and used bottle-feeding and shading methods to increase moisture availability to the young trees. These methods, however, masked the actual effects of the microcatchments but further assessments demonstrated that modifications were randomly applied. Adoption of these moisture conservation techniques indicated farmers’ awareness of the negative effects caused by moisture stress and possibly high value attached to fruit trees. Rankings by farmers identified the V-shaped microcatchment as the most effective in terms of moisture retention and labor requirements and was thus recommended for establishing improved mango varieties.