Attaining Sustainable Farm Management Systems in Semi-Arid Areas in Kenya: Few Technical Options, Many Policy Challenges

A. de Jager, H. van Keulen, F. Mainah, L.N. Gachimbi, J.K. Itabari, E.G. Thuranira, A.M. Karuku

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Soils in arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) are fragile, low in fertility and susceptible to erosion and leaching. To address these problems, activities were implemented in 1998-2003 to identify current problems, and design, test, implement, demonstrate and disseminate improved, integrated soil fertility management techniques. Current soil fertility management results in slightly negative nutrient balances, especially for phosphorus and potassium. Recycling of nutrients through crop residues and animal manure is inefficient, with evidently high losses. Due to the relatively high price of fertilisers and the high risks of crop failure, use of mineral fertilisers is restricted to market-oriented farms with access to irrigation facilities. Of the total farm household population, 35-85% lives below the poverty line. Applying higher rates of Farm Yard Manure (FYM) and/or fertilisers is unattractive and risky. Combinations of FYM and fertilisers give better financial returns than either of the two alone. Where irrigation is available, farmers adopt innovative farming systems that include higher application of mineral and organic fertilisers, and result in higher and more stable yields and higher financial returns. A set of specific policy measures for the semi-arid areas were identified to arrive at necessary changes in the economic environment, leading to a wider range of financially attractive technology options for smallholders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-205
JournalInternational Journal of Agricultural Sustainability
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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