Tropical Grasslands (2003) Volume 37, 251–256

Development and transfer of forage production technologies for smallholder dairying: case studies of participatory evaluation of species and methods of establishment in western Kenya


National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) Kitale, Kenya


Inadequate feed and low soil fertility are important constraints to dairy cattle and crop productivity on smallholder farms in western Kenya. This paper presents 3 case studies on participatory evaluation of forages with smallholder farmers. Study 1 evaluated 12 forage species/varieties at 2 sites in the Trans Nzoia District. Study 2 evaluated methods of napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) establishment in terms of productivity, economic outcomes and farmer acceptance. The treatments were: (i) Tumbukiza (a Kiswahili word meaning placing in a hole) planted with farmyard manure (FYM); (ii) conventional with FYM; and (iii) conventional with inorganic fertilisers. Tumbukiza holes measured 60 x 60 x 60 cm and were spaced at 100 cm while conventional holes were 15 cm deep and 1015 cm diameter and spaced 100 cm apart. Study 3 evaluated 5 different fertility management strategies consisting of inorganic and organic fertilisers or their combinations on napier grass productivity and farmer acceptance. Napier grass varieties followed by rhodes grass (Chloris gayana) were high-yielding and preferred by farmers. Amongst the legumes, dolichos (Lablab purpureus) and mucuna (Mucuna pururiens) produced high dry matter yields but received low rankings because of the need to replant. The Tumbukiza method of planting napier grass produced significantly (P<0.05) higher dry matter yields than the conventional method and was preferred by the majority of farmers. The Tumbukiza method was best in terms of the benefit:cost ratio while the conventional with inorganic fertilisers method gave the best return to labour. Inorganic and organic fertilisers or their combinations produced dry matter yields that were significantly higher than those of the control (no fertiliser application). Farmers preferred to use a combination of 5 t FYM with 4.4 kg P and 30 kg N per hectare. Implications of these results on uptake of forage technologies are discussed.

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