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Drought-tolerant crops help harvests double in Kenya

08 May 2013

Farmers in drought-affected Kitui, Kenya, have seen their yields more than double since they started using drought-tolerant crops grown from improved seed varieties supplied by Farm Africa.

The average yield from the high-quality sorghum, millet and cowpea seeds has gone up from 119kg to 275kg per acre.

Farmer Paul and one of his childrenRains have been sparse in Kitui in recent years, making it hard for farmers to grow enough food to eat. These bigger harvests mean they not only have enough to feed their families, but also can sell their surplus produce at market, bringing in extra income.

Paul, a farmer with three children from Muuwo self-help group, said: “The last harvest was very good – I harvested enough for almost the whole year. If things continue this way I’ll be able to pay school costs for my children from my crops.”

Producing seeds

During last year’s rainy season, 206 farmers were trained to produce the high-quality seeds themselves. Each of these farmers has shared their seeds with six more farmers, taking the total number of households in the area benefiting from the improved seeds to more than 1,350.

A Kitui farmer standing by some water conserving zai pitsBut the improved seeds aren’t the only change helping farmers cope with drought. We’ve also trained 10 champion farmers to use soil and water conservation techniques, such as zai pits, which help farmers capture some of the sparse rainwater to use to irrigate their crops.

These farmers then go on to train more local farmers – spreading Farm Africa’s lessons far further into the community than we could alone.

Water conservation

Six farmer field days have been held, with demonstrations to local farmers on water-saving techniques. The training also covered how to add value to produce, such as baking sorghum and millet cakes, along with advice on packaging and marketing.

At the moment Kitui’s farmers, who have formed groups to improve their bargaining power, are able to sell their surplus in the local market. But they plan to expand their sales to other markets, including a potential deal selling grain to a large brewery company. Sales such as these help farmers earn more money so they can better withstand the effects of a changing climate.

Read about the hunger trap facing farmers in Kenya

Find out more about climate-resilient farming

More about our work in Kenya