In the middle Yala block, the project should focus on three main areas identified as a result of the baseline data and field trips to the block. The block can be divided into two parts with the Gold River serving as the dividing line. The northern part of the block is characterized by unsustainable farming practices and low woody vegetation cover, whereas in the southern part of the block has greater tree cover and better managed farms with established tree plantations and banana orchards. Sheet erosion can be found in the entire block and farming of steep hill sides is common, with few or no conservation measures in place. Therefore, the management recommendations for the Middle Yala block involve five distinct sets of activities:
Increasing the woody cover with special focus on diversification through promotion of indigenous trees.
Soil and water conservation. Here focus should be on the importance of soil and water conservation in relation to sustainable production and on the integration of trees in soil and water conservation measures.
Intensification of current land use, with special focus on conservation agriculture and legumes.
Establishment of fodder banks with special focus on indigenous trees and legumes.
apacity building of communities and CBO’s in the above mentioned topics and elements related to their preferences.
Figure 4.5. Priority intervention areas in the block.
The map above shows the suggested intervention areas for the block. Three priority areas have been selected for intervention with the intentions of the information on improved practices spreading to the entire block once good management practices have been established.
Area 1 is located in the northern part of the block and covers clusters 4, 8, 12 and 16. This area has been selected because of the prevalence of unsustainable farming practices in the area and the low presence of trees in the landscape. The eastern part of the area is located in the Kakamega forest reserve, yet there are no trees in the landscape. An organization called the Green Zone is currently reforesting this area; however, they need more advice on appropriate tree species and the importance of diversification. The area around cluster 8 is severely eroded and more than half of the sampled plots show visible signs of sheet erosion.
From the socio economic survey, we have identified several groups in this area that would be useful partners for project implementation:
Kiyaguza and Kinyenyi around cluster 2, both of which focus on Women’s activities.
Isukha Mulindi around cluster 8; which focuses on tree planting and promotion of indigenous trees.
Jinjini Farmers around cluster 12 which also focuses on tree planting and promotion of indigenous trees.
There seems to be a general awareness among the population in the block regarding the importance of trees, which the project should build upon and strengthen.
Recommended activities for the project include: Soil and water conservation through terracing and contour planting. In areas where conservation measures are already established, the project should introduce various leguminous trees and shrubs (Sesbania sesban, Gliricidia sepium and Tephrosia spp.) as well as crops and trees for fodder production (Calliandra calothyrsus, Leucena spp. etc). This is in line with the need to increase production per unit area, since the farms in this area are very small and often under utilized. In this area the majority of the farmers mentioned small farm size and low soil fertility as the major constraints at farm level. Conservation agriculture which works around three principals: crop rotation, reduced tillage and permanent soil cover is one option to intensify the agricultural production. This concept argues that crop rotation and permanent soil cover increase the nutrient content of the soil, especially if promoted in association with legumes. Establishment of horticulture units is another option to diversify the current cropping systems of maize intercropped with beans.
Another activity which should be undertaken in this area is large scale tree planting. Since the 1980s this area has been deforested with little focus on replanting and diversification of the woody cover. The most common trees in the area are Eucalyptus spp., fruit trees and Croton spp. Several groups in the eastern part of this area are already focusing on the importance of indigenous trees and the project should partner with these groups and assist with establishing tree nurseries and with providing good quality seeds to increase the proportion of indigenous trees being planted.
Finally, free grazing is a serious problem in this area more so than in the southern part of the block. Generally there is no clear demarcation of individual farms and livestock is roaming freely in the area. More than 50% of the farmers interviewed said that free-grazing livestock is a problem to them. The success stories of Lower Nyando in relation to the creation of by-laws could be drawn upon and implemented here. It is essential that free-grazing be controlled if large scale afforestation is to take place in the area.
Area 2 is located around cluster 2 in the western part of the block. This area has been chosen because of the severe soil erosion taking place here (rill erosion). Farmers also recognize low soil fertility as a major problem. Thus, the first activity that should be under taken is the establishment of soil and water conservation measures on the hill sides and the integration of trees into the farming system. Much focus should be given to interventions, which replenish soil fertility and at the same time offer other products to farming families such as fruits, fodder and firewood. Very few farmers are aware of the various functions of trees, which indicates the need for the project should focus on this issue. In this area, agroforestry is not being practiced for soil fertility and erosion control, yet there is a genuine interest in tree planting. Hence, the project should give trainings in the communities to raise awareness of the various functions and products of trees.
The Kiyaguza and Kinyenyi Women’s group could be one of the entry points in this area. These two groups focus on agricultural issues in relation to women. Conservation agriculture and legumes in general, should be promoted in this area, which with time can replenish soil fertility and provide fodder and firewood relatively quickly after being established. Since land size is relatively small in this area, legumes such Dolichos lablab and Mucuna spp. could be introduced as an intercrop.
The last area selected in this block is called Area 3 and is located in the centre of the block covering clusters 7 and 10. This area has been selected because of the unsustainable farming techniques being used and the severe erosion taking place, even on gentle slopes. In this area, farmers are farming down to the river bank and the natural vegetation along the river bank is being removed and replaced by maize and beans. Gold mining is still an attractive business to many people in the area and the river banks are being disturbed in the search for gold. Therefore, one important activity in this area is stabilization of the riverbank and promotion of alternative livelihood strategies to the gold miners, in association with training on the importance of conservation of rivers, its flow pattern and vegetation. Furthermore, as mentioned above, activities that focus on soil fertility replenishment, intensification of the cropping systems and integration of trees in the farming systems is equally important in this area. The systems recommended are well described under Area 1 and 2. In this area, there are 4 groups which all focus on related activities; Cluster 7: Itoro Women’s group which focuses on horticulture and livestock and Avirina Women’s group which focuses on women related topics in agriculture; Cluster 10: Jitolee Youth group which focuses on horticulture and firewood production and Chavogere Maendeko Women’s group which also focuses on horticulture.
For all three areas, the livestock component of the project also needs to be developed. The majority of the farmers rear livestock; however, very few have invested in improved breeds, which is something the project could focus on. It is important to ensure that the conditions for sustainability of this component are met before any livestock is introduced to the communities, since farmers are not producing sufficient fodder for the currently herd. Fodder production can easily be integrated in the soil fertility replenishing activities as well as in association with soil and water conservation measures and structures.
The activities recommended above are based on a summary of the baseline data collection. However, it is imperative that before initiating any activities in the respective blocks, more information be collected for the targeted area chosen for interventions. Equally important is it that the communities and farmers need to be involved in the process of prioritizing activities.