Linkages be1ween integrated soil fertility management technologies and marketing of smallholder produce in central highlands of Kenya
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Land degradation and declining soil fertility are increasingly being viewed as critical problems affecting agricultural productivity and human welfare in tropical Africa. It is then imperative that improving soil fertility is key entry point for achieving food security, reducing poverty and preserving the environment for smallholder farms in Africa. However, due to high costs of inorganic fertilizers, tackling soil fertility issues requires a holistic approach that integrates biological and social elements. The study sought to determine the linkage between integrated soil fertility technologies and marketing of smallholder produce in Meru South and Mbeere districts in central highlands of Kenya. A farmers' survey was carried out on ·those having access to Integrated Soil Fertility Management technologies (ISFM). Simple random sampling was used in selecting the farmers from the four catchment areas; Murugi, Mukuuni and Kirege locations. in Meru South district and Machang' a location in Mbeere district. Analysis of ISFM technologies and marketing of smallholder produce was done. The data was correlated in a bid to establish whether there was a relationship between the crop production using ISFM technologies and marketing of smallholder produce. The results revealed that sampled farmers were aware of the benefits accrued from application of the ISFM technologies and other extension services. However, these technologies were not continuously being practiced by smallholder farmers due to their inability to see the value of the benefits resulting from them. The results indicate that the main problem facing the wide practice of ISFM innovations was poor market returns caused by low prices offered especially by brokers. This is despite the fact that 66% of the farmers in both study sites obtained their main income from sale of crops. The results also showed that application of various ISFM technologies on a given agro-enterprise by smallholder farmers was based on the returns accrued from the sale of a particular produce. This then implies that in order to promote investment in the improved farming practices among smallholder farmers there is need for project developers and policy makers to encourage farmers to orient their production to markets by equipping them with not only practical soil fertility replenishing skills but also on marketing skills; this may increase adoption of improved technology options and natural resource management strategies introduced to them.