Utilization of soil fertility management knowledge among smallholder farmers in Chakol division, Kenya
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This study investigated soil fertility knowledge land how it influenced the selection land effective use of various soil fertility technologies among smallholder farmers in Chakol Division of Teso District in western Kenya. Chakol Division has a high population density of approximately 427 persons per km z while absolute poverty levels for the district stand at 56%. Poverty levels have been worsened by poor agricultural production while continuous cropping of land with little restoration of soil nutrients through application of organic manures land mineral fertilisers have contributed to the increase of soil degradation over time. The need to improve agricultural productivity through better soil fertility management is therefore paramount considering that T eso District mainly relies on agriculture with 65% of the population being involved in agricultural activities. In order to address this problem, a call for a holistic approach that is socially acceptable hence easily adaptable land fit for purpose is necessary land therefore the conception of the Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) strategy. This ISFM strategy at TSBFCIAT aims to maximise on nutrient recycling on farms, replenish soil nutrient pools, reduce soil nutrients losses to the environment land improve the efficiency of external inputs. It was applied through the Folk Ecology Initiative (FI l) approach which attempted to strengthen farmers' understanding of soil fertility management through community-based interactive learning. This current study grew out of the FEI approach land it involved both quantitative land qualitative data collection techniques using questionnaire surveys, focus group discussions land in-depth interviewing. A total of ninety smallholder farmers land five key informants were interviewed while six FGDs involving thirty six farmers were carried out. SPSS was used to analyse the data collected through questionnaires land a narrative log used for the case studies. Study findings showed that farmers in Chakol had knowledge on the preparation, benefits land drawbacks of soil fertility technologies but the decisions they made towards the selection land application of technologies such as compost, natural fallows, cereallegume rotation, biomass transfer land fertilizer were mostly affected by capital, land, labour land other social constraints. Preference was given to technologies such as farmyard manure land crop residue incorporation since they were socially convenient in terms of labour land time demands; were comparatively less complicated to apply, cheaper land easier to get. However, less accessible technologies such as mineral fertilizers, no matter how important, were least preferred or selected. It is therefore concluded that soil fertility knowledge is necessary for meaningful decision making. It played a vital role in the selection land application of soil fertility technologies. However, poverty played a major constraining role. It is therefore recommended that strategies to boost farmers' incomes should be strengthened. For instance, through encouraging farmers to form marketing groups land linking them to markets to generate incomes that can then be ploughed back in the recap utilization of the local degraded soils. Alternative livelihood sources to cultivation such as bee-keeping should also be encouraged. Such enterprises as bee-keeping require lesser labour and capital land can therefore be profitably carried out in spite of the decreasing land sizes.