In an endeavor to rejuvenate the country’s productivity, the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) conducted research in 2013, revealing that nearly half of Kenya’s soils grappled with alarming levels of acidity.

The culprit behind this soil crisis was identified as the excessive use of DAP fertiliser. The remedy, as prescribed by experts, lay in the adoption of lime or organic manure to rectify soil pH levels (levels of acidity or alkalinity).

Yet, this solution posed a financial dilemma for many farmers, who were constrained by tight budgets and unable to afford additional expenses to address their deteriorating soil health.

The introduction of USAID’s KCDMS Feed the Future Program, however, has ushered in a ray of hope for these farmers, with an ambitious initiative aimed at boosting food production by restoring soil fertility.

In partnership with agrovets, KCDMS has initiated a value-chain products programnme specifically designed to combat soil fertility issues in Vihiga and Kisii counties.

The USAID-funded project in Kisii has joined forces with Enochem Agrovet, which has been a prominent player in the industry since 2002.

The support from USAID has enabled Enochem Agrovet to make significant inroads, reaching farmers across Kisii, Nyamira, Migori, Omabe, and parts of Transmara and Kericho with soil-specific inputs tailored to tackle the fertility challenge.

Enok Monda, the director of Enochem Agrovet, stressed the strong bond and trust forged with farmers due to the USAID support, enabling them to provide vital extension services, including soil testing.

Dr Monda highlighted the introduction of a fertiliser loyalty programme, which rewards farmers for their purchases from agrovet outlets, enabling them to offer farmers inputs that can address soil fertility once they redeem the points.

“A farmer who comes to buy a bag of fertiliser earns a point for every Ksh100 spent. Each point earns the farmer Ksh20. So a bag costing Ksh6,000 would just give a farmer Ksh1,200, which is redeemable, either with lime, which mitigates soil acidity, or any other product of their choice,” said Dr Monda.

To encourage farmers to purchase from agrovets, especially in light of heightened competition from government-backed subsidy fertilisers, KCDMS bridges the financial gap incurred by agrovets in issuing loyalty points.

This initiative is designed to ensure that even farmers not reached by the subsidy programme have access to essential resources.

Velma Injera, a manager at Rommic Agrovet in Mbale during the interview. Image|BDA.
Velma Injera, a manager at Rommic Agrovet in Mbale during the interview. Image|BDA.

The integration of ICT equipment, provided by KCDMS, into the operations, has streamlined business management and enabled the collection of valuable data on every farm that buys from the agrovet.

The system also facilitates online purchases, a novel approach that has been warmly embraced by the farming community. Dr Monda acknowledged the significance of this technological advancement, expressing gratitude to KCDMS for introducing them to the world of e-commerce.

KCDMS has also donated pH meters to the agrovets, equipping them to assess soil conditions accurately and offer the right solutions.

Through KCDMS, technicians were trained, and ten agronomists were employed to conduct soil pH assessments across various regions in Kisii County.

“A staggering 66 percent of our soils tested had the acidic range of 5.5, with an additional 36.7 percent teetering on the borderline between 5.5 and 6.5. This serves as a cautionary note for our farmers, and quality inputs alone cannot guarantee bountiful harvests,” he said.

In Vihiga County, Velma Injera of Rommic Agrovet echoed the sentiments of success, expressing gratitude to KCDMS for their support.

The loyalty program has allowed them to engage with at least 5,000 farmers in the county, facilitating soil testing and witnessing growers’ eagerness to participate due to the tangible benefits reaped in terms of increased yields.

“Apart from helping farmers to double their yields, the KCDMS-backed programme has also helped us to reach at least 70 percent of farmers in sales in the county,” said Ms Injera, the sales manager at Rommic Agrovet.

The collaborative efforts of KCDMS, agrovets, and farmers are not only restoring soil health but also revitalising Kenyan agriculture, paving the way for increased food production and prosperity in the region.