Farmer groups' characteristics' influence on the selection of soil fertility enhancement technologies in Eastern Kenya
Mwebia, Frashiah Wangeci
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Declining soil fertility is a key problem in East and Central African sub-region and in the Central highlands of Kenya, which is compounded by the ever growing population that depends on the decreasing land sizes. Despite development of good and effective soil fertility enhancement (SFE) technologies, uptake by the farmers has remained low. Farmers' groups approach is one of the methodologies used for dissemination of SFE technologies but understanding of how this approach influences uptake of the technologies is limited. This study assessed the influence of farmer groups' characteristics on the technology application and also the influence that farmers' participation, trainings and socio-economic characteristics have on the selection of the technologies. The study was carried out in Mbeere South and Maara sub-counties in Kenya. Interview schedules were administered to farmer groups and individual farmers. Descriptive (frequencies, means, frequencies, percentages) and inferential (correlation and regression) statistics were performed on the data collected using SPSS software. The results showed that several key variables influenced groups' application of animal manure. These include; group size (p=O.O 19), the number of females in the group (p=O.027) and reason for applying manure (p=O.O 15). Variables that influenced application of fertilizer include; reason for applying fertilizer (p=O.043) and Tropical livestock unit (p=O.025). Variables that influenced application of a combination of manure combined with inorganic fertilizer include; group age (p=O.008), reason for applying the combination (p=O.022) and group gender (p=O.056). Household variables that influenced selection of manure include; HH size (p=O.OOl), benefits of manure (p=O.OII), TLU (p=O.036), source of knowledge (p=O.023) and most effective teaching method (p=O.024). HH variables that influenced selection of fertilizer include; HHH education (p=O.033), land under food crops (p=O.012) and availability of on-farm income (p=O.OI2). HH variables that influenced the selection of a combined use of animal manure and inorganic include: HHH education (p=O.OOl), TLU (p=O.Oll) and availability of farm income (p=O.Oll). Among the total trainings (93.6%) that were conducted; 98.2% were soil " fertility related, 24.3% were group dynamic related while 39.4% were production related. There was a significant (p=O.043) relationship between trainings and selection of a combination of manure + fertilizer. There was a significant (p=O.039) relationship between farmer participation and selection of a combination of manure + fertilizer. The information obtained from this study will be helpful to the groups themselves, researchers, policy makers, farmers' training designers and other stakeholders wishing to disseminate technologies in natural resource management programmes.