Monday, 31 March 2014

SIMLESA becomes kid’s business

ACIAR’s Dr John Dixon recently heard great news from the SIMLESA (‘Sustainable intensification of maize-legume cropping systems for food security in eastern and southern Africa’) Program in eastern Kenya.

A farmer group (known also as a ‘local innovation platform’) at the Kyeni SIMLESA Program site is enthusiastically participating in the program; thanks in part, they say, to John’s interactions with them. The group has tested the program’s maize and legume varieties and various conservation agriculture (CA) practices. Their tests have led to two CA tillage methods being endorsed by the community, and two maize and three bean varieties being chosen for wider adoption, both within and beyond the initial program sites.
The Kyeni farmer group presenting John with 'SIMLESA I'
(photo: A. Micheni)


The group is working to identify challenges and opportunities for maize and legume production and other farm enterprises. They are purchasing farm inputs as a group (cheaper than they could as individuals), and consolidating their farm produce and marketing it at higher prices. They are also contributing cash and labour to a monthly ‘merry-go-round’ banking/loan system.

The group is extremely happy with the SIMLESA initiative and the opportunities it has provided to them. When John visited them back in 2012 they expressed their gratitude by presenting him with a goat, aptly named ‘SIMLESA I’. John was unable to bring the goat back to Australia, so she was kept by the group’s chairperson.

SIMLESA I and II with the farmer group's chairperson,
Mrs Asphilon Nyaga (photo: A. Micheni)
Recently SIMLESA I gave birth to a male kid, which the farmers have called SIMLESA II, again reflecting their close connection with the program. Dr Alfred Micheni, Eastern Kenya SIMLESA Project Co-ordinator, says the group members look upon these goats ‘as one of their strong bonds for sustaining the group’s cohesiveness’.

The engagement of the Kyeni group speaks volumes about the way SIMLESA is working with local smallholder farmers to improve their livelihoods and food security.

By Dr Wendy Henderson, ACIAR Communications

More information:
ACIAR’s SIMLESA Program (CSE/2009/024) is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). It aims to improve maize and legume productivity and to reduce yield variability on around half a million African farms, through improved varieties and conservation farming practices. The focus of research is in Burundi, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania,  Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Australia.

CIMMYT’s SIMLESA website

Fact sheet: Conservation agriculture to grow more food, efficiently and sustainably  

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