A Kenyan researcher and instructor,
An agricultural economist from Uganda,
And UW Extension soil specialist Jay Norton and post-doctoral research associate Emmanuel Omondi of Kenya met in Minnesota for a road trip.
From different continents, the group trekked south and west to visit agricultural systems and research centers far removed from their countries.
Shadrack Tuwei works 2 acres of land in Kenya and became involved in Norton’s U.S. Agency for International Development project to research tillage options for Kenyan and Ugandan farmers.
Tumwei’s operation is a little different from the 18-person, 15,000-acre, equipment-heavy farm in Iowa. Yet, there is something to learn.
The plow and donkey are still used in Kenya, but Tumwei says he could cut his expenses in half and improve the soil by using conservation tillage.
“We learn as much as we can and bring the ideas home,” says Tuwei.
The Kenyan farmers have very limited access to technology, such as tractors, says Norton.
Kenyan researcher Dennis Ashilenje has a background in agronomy, a master’s degree in horticulture, and had an interest in agricultural systems. He took advantage of working with Norton and the University of Wyoming in the tillage systems project.
Producers working with scientists improve the agricultural landscape.
“They talk and research the various systems,” says Ashilenje. “That has really helped a number of people appreciate the various technologies, especially conservation tillage.”
Just prior to his coming to America, a team of county directors of agriculture had looked at ways to scale up conservation agriculture. “They have a lot to learn, and they can go back and spread the information,” he says. “The other thing that helped is involving farmers in the research and discussions. That has really helped change their minds.”
Some Kenyan and Ugandan producers are like some American counterparts – risk averse.
“A number did not want to take the risk for something new,” says Ashilenje. “But with most, the field day seminars we have caused a number of them to appreciate what is happening and in some cases they are applying the techniques.”
Norton says he has met some skepticism from the Kenyan producers, “But I’ve been really welcome. People realize there are food security issues. They welcome the assistance and are glad we are there.”
Having information from known sources of learning like universities eases transferring knowledge to farmers, says agricultural economist Grace Tino from Uganda.
“Their production can increase. Most know they are producing below their potential,” she says.
The last five years of collaboration with the University of Wyoming and other organizations has enabled Uganda farmers to become involved in conservation agriculture and to test how it works she says.
The time has been a learning process, she says. “The farmers can identify what really works or not work.”