CGIAR’s Embu Virtual Field Trip- Farmers’ Journey with CGIAR’s Ukama Ustawi program

Farmer Agnes Ndia of Kiamuka Women’s Group hosted the CGIAR’s Ukama Ustawi Embu Virtual Field Tour at her family’s farm and home in Kuthera village, Runyenjes Central Ward, Runyenjes Sub-County, Embu County.


I started farming many years ago but the harvest was always poor. I was just tilling the land without following any steps as we’ve always done over the years in this area. I wasn’t aware of the need to plant in furrows and ridges and to space the seeds and the benefits inherent in these practices. I didn’t know when to apply fertilizers and manure. I and my family used to plant at least two seeds in one hole just to be sure one germinates if the other doesn’t.

When I met Kalro and its partner CGIAR’s program Ukama Ustawi, we were taught how to plant properly and we were given the right seeds. We’re advised to apply fertilizers or organic manure simultaneously with the seed in the hole. I now plant just one seed per hole and it germinates. We’re also taught how to spray insecticides and foliar fertilizers at the right time.

Today one maize stock/plant produces at least two or more bunches and our production has increased and at times doubled or tripled. I used to till and plant in only one acre but I’ve now increased the acreage under food crops to three acres.

Though I used to plant maize and beans, the planting was disorganized. In one acre, I used to harvest a mere two debes (about 100 kgs) but this has now increased to eight bags of about 90 kgs each. Beans production has also increased to about one bag  (of over 90 kgs) per acre compared to a few kilos harvest before I met Kalro and Ukama Ustawi.

Now I don’t spend a lot of time and effort tilling the land and neither do I employ people to dig the farm and this has cut down costs. I harvest more and have enough food for my family and some extra to sell. I’m therefore able to buy manure and fertilizers and meet my daily budgetary needs.

I’m appealing to my neighbors and friends to learn and practice better farming methods. Some of my friends and neighbors have accepted this modern farming method and some of them are even copying me. I’ve planted maize and beans and have also realized that making furrows and mulching the soil holding the crops retains water for long even when the rains take long to fall.

This is my family’s farm and I’m the one in charge so I’m also educating other family members on this new conservation agriculture methods. Yet, getting mulching vegetation is a big challenge but we’re happy that Kalro has introduced some type of grass that we use as mulching material.


My family members are impressed with this farming method because we get enough food for our family and leave some to sell and I wish that many of my neighbors and friends could also adopt this farming method in order for us to reduce hunger in this area thanks to CGIAR’s initiative.

Lorenshia Ruguru Kanjoya:

I’m a farmer from Kirongano, Gikuru, Runyenje Sub-County growing both maize and beans. Since I started farming guided by Kalro and now with CGIAR’s Ukama Ustawi as Kalro’s partner, I’ve realized better harvests. I now use furrows and ridges to plant just a single crop seed per pole as opposed to two or three seeds per hole in the past; planting more than one seed per hole is a mindset of many people around here. I also plant certified maize and bean seeds such as the DK 831 maize and the Nyota bean seed varieties.

From last season, I harvested  10 bags of maize compared to just one bag in past seasons. I also harvested a bag of beans compared to the normal harvest of just 10 kgs in past seasons.

When I learned about conservation agriculture, I changed the processes. Today, for instance, I apply one bottle top of fertilizer for every maize seed I plant. Further, I used to plant beans irregularly without any style or plan and I never made any furrows. I used to plant the beans sporadically in very shallow holes. I’ve now learned that planting beans and maize in an orderly manner in furrows makes a lot of difference and hence improved harvests.

John Muriithi:

Farmer John Muriithi (holding an umbrella) listens as another farmer gives her testimony

My name is John Muriithi and I’m a farmer from Gichegeri, Manyatta Constituency, Embu County. Initially, I had a formal job but when I lost the job, I decided to do farming and I’ve been planting maize and beans for the last three seasons to date. I belong to various farmers’ groups and this is how I met Kalro.

Kalro, together with its partners such as CGIAR’s Ukama Ustawi, has taught us new farming techniques. Today, I furrow the land before I plant the seeds in the furrows because I know that the furrows harvest a lot of water even when the rains are slight and this helps the crops to survive harsh weather and climatic conditions. I also do mulching to prevent soil moisture loss when the sun is hot and prolonged.

I started with planting beans and using this modern method the harvest was better compared to what my neighbors got and I also got some reasonable income. I also learned how to control pests and weeds better with better and safer use of pesticides and herbicides. I also learned that I don’t have to use much of these chemicals once I mulch the crops given that the mulching suffocates the weeds.

I’m happy and positive about conservation agriculture and would like many farmers to adopt this farming method and especially plant their food crops in furrows. For maize, I do furrows that are about half a foot deep and beans less than one foot deep because the beans’ roots don’t need to go deep.                                                                                                                                                

I’ve learned from CGIAR’s also that farming is productive and gives good income so my appeal is to men to embrace agriculture so that they can earn good and honest incomes. There’s a need to expose more people to conservation agriculture so that they can get the benefits and for many of us to fight hunger and food insecurity in Embu and all over the country.                                                            

I practice farming with my family members and so use the opportunity to teach these farming techniques to my spouse children and other relatives.

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