In Summary
  • The simple water-retention technology, with roots in China, entails sinking shallow basins and creating ridges. The farmer then covers the basins and ridges with a thin film of polythene paper.
  • The former mechanic at Kenya Bus Services is among a dozen farmers in the area who were introduced to the technology by Dr Simon Nguluu, their neighbour in Kakuumini village, Machakos County. Dr Nguluu is the dean of Agriculture at South Eastern Kenya University.
  • The technology has also enabled the 53-year-old to produce enough food for his family. Just like conventional organic mulching, the polythene one works by retaining moisture in the soil and ensuring it is evenly distributed.
  • Mulching reduces the cost of producing crops as it eliminates weeds and ensures efficient use of water and fertiliser.

Sammy Mbaluka’s farm near Sofia market on the Nairobi-Garissa road looked like any other in the Yatta plateau during the dry spell, until two years ago.

The farm stands out from others in the countryside as an oasis of greenery, thanks to water-retention technology Mbaluka has adopted. He was harvesting watermelons when Seeds of Gold visited.

“During dry seasons, this farm remained useless,” he said, listing terracing and polythene mulching as the technology he has adopted.

“Mulching using polythene has improved our watermelon yields during droughts,” he said. The advanced mulching technology drew the line as neighbouring farms also had terraces.

The simple water-retention technology, with roots in China, entails sinking shallow basins and creating ridges. The farmer then covers the basins and ridges with a thin film of polythene paper. The basins retain irrigation water, which percolates to the roots.

“The troughs should be shallow enough to hold little. Before covering the troughs and ridges with the polythene film, we ensure the soil is adequately prepared by adding fertiliser,” Mbaluka said.

The former mechanic at Kenya Bus Services is among a dozen farmers in the area who were introduced to the technology by Dr Simon Nguluu, their neighbour in Kakuumini village, Machakos County. Dr Nguluu is the dean of Agriculture at South Eastern Kenya University.

RETAINING MOISTURE

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