Since 2018 and with the support of Fert, CGA has been engaged in the implementation of a soil analysis service for its members. A service that has gone through several evolutions to be accessible to the smallest farms and allow farmers to adapt their fertilizer use to the needs of their soils.
Soil analysis allows to characterize the composition and the physicochemical characteristics of a soil and thus to know the real needs of the soil in nutritive elements according to the needs of the crops. This technique makes it possible to limit the excessive and sometimes ineffective use of mineral fertilizers which can deteriorate the quality of the soil in the long term.
Soil degradation is increasing and impacting yields
The combined effects of climate change causing increased rainfall and excessive use of mineral fertilizers have further degraded agricultural soils in Kenya by increasing their acidity. This has a direct impact on land productivity and consequently on farmers’ yields and incomes. It is becoming essential for farmers to take into account the composition of the soil to better adapt their fertilizer inputs.
However, small farms, unlike large ones, do not always have access to soil analysis to adapt fertilizer use.
Evolutions and adaptations of a soil analysis service for farmers
In 2018, CGA teams had invested in equipment to test the soils of farmers in Narok and Nakuru counties. However, as soil testing requires a high level of technicality, CGA has been working on a new approach: connecting farmers directly with private soil testing companies.
In 2020, a first partnership was initiated with Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services Ltd (Cropnuts), a company known in East Africa for its expertise and technology in agronomic analysis. CGA informed farmers of the importance of testing their soils and put them in contact with the company.
This partnership quickly showed some limitations, notably related to the cost of the analysis. At about 20€, it was not affordable for smaller farms.
A year later, CGA facilitated a new partnership, this time with Cropnuts and an input supplier, Yara Kenya. The results of the soil analysis are shared with the input provider, who can advise farmers on the most appropriate inputs. This partnership has reduced the cost of the soil test to €7 since Yara Kenya pays part of the price.
A service based on relay farmers
With this new formula, this soil testing service was extended to 20 counties and 537 farmers. Due to its success, CGA advisors have trained relay farmers to accompany the farmers.
The relay farmers sensitize the farmers to the need for soil testing and collect the samples. CGA takes care of sending the samples to the Cropnuts company. To enable the relay farmers to carry out their mission, they receive an allowance for each sample analyzed.
Relay farmers are farmers with good farming know-how and a willingness to share it with other farmers. They are intermediaries between CGA and the farmers. They allow the development of services that best meet the needs of the members. In Kenya, CGA is testing and supporting different services with these key actors, depending on the diversity of situations.
This service enables farmers to identify the inputs best suited to the quality of their soils. New fertilizers are tested on collective demonstration plots by farmers accompanied by CGA advisors. Today, CGA is thinking about further improving the accessibility of this service. It plans to equip relay farmers with soil analysis equipment, thus reducing the costs associated with the delivery of samples.