Kenyan farmer harnesses Chinese innovation to boost yield

By Metro Reporter and Xihnua

Sammy Thimba, a middle aged Kenyan farmer would never dream of becoming a local celebrity as pessimism took a toll on him due to frequent crop failures occasioned by drought.

Like millions of Kenyan smallholders, Thimba had to grapple with climatic shocks, pests, diseases and market volatility that consumed investments on his small piece of land.
Thimba's farm is located in Juja, a peri-urban settlement located 20 km northeast of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
He represents hundreds of small scale farmers who have adopted a Chinese low cost technology on dry land agriculture.
Talking to Xinhua in Nairobi during a briefing on UNEP-China partnership to promote ecosystems management in Africa, Thimba stressed that affordable technologies are crucial to transform small scale farming.
"It is true that technology has changed the status of ordinary farmers in the village and most of us are reliable witnesses having adopted water saving technologies in our farms to sustain food production," said Thimba
China introduced rainwater harvesting trial projects on farms located in the Kenyan arid areas under its partnership with UNEP.
Thimba's farm was among the demonstration sites that have showcased the potential of water efficient farming systems to enhance food production in the light of climatic shocks.
He told Xinhua that the use of a black plastic film to reduce water evaporation has enabled him to grow staples and horticultural crops in all seasons.
"The plastic film is spread in the farm after rainfall to help preserve moisture. It is cheap, recyclable and reduces the cost of weeding," said Thimba.
He revealed that adoption of the black plastic film and mulching tripled production of staples like maize, beans alongside fresh produce on his land.
At the formative stages, Thimba encountered myriad setbacks that almost dampened his desire to undertake this activity for the long haul.
"Juja happens to be a dry area and rain fed agriculture has become untenable as we experience prolonged dry spells. Most farmers have invested in small dams to irrigate their crops," Thimba said.
He revealed that Juja is currently a major supplier of farm produce in Nairobi and adjacent towns thanks to the adoption of irrigated farming.
"We are involved in general horticulture as well as cultivation of maize and legumes. Introduction of water harvesting technology has increased production by 70 percent," said Thimba.
He has used plastic film to conserve moisture for the last two years and hope to expand the technology to the entire farm.
He added that this technology has insulated small holders in Juja from crop failures.
"It is possible to harvest seventy bags of maize in a two acre farm through the use of plastic film to retain soil moisture," Thimba said.
The deployment of Chinese technologies on dry land agriculture has offered respite to Kenyan small holders grappling with declining soil fertility, habitat loss and water scarcity.