Factors Influencing the Adoption of “zai” Pit Farming Technology to Enhance Food Security: the Case of Makueni County, Kenya
The purpose of this research was to determine the factors influencing the adoption of Zai pit farming technology to enhance food security in Makueni County. Makueni, one of the ASALs in Kenya, is characterized by hot and dry weather, low and erratic rainfall, meaning that smallholder rain-fed agriculture has been severely destabilized. Food security (availability, access, stability and utilization) is continually declining. Progress towards food security and nutrition targets requires that food is available, accessible and of sufficient quantity and quality to ensure good nutritional outcomes. Livelihoods are at risk as the majority of the population in these rural arid and semi-arid lands depends on rain-fed agriculture for their sustenance. The low prevalence of Zai Pit, a micro-catchment technology to increase yields for enhanced food security in Makueni County poses a contradiction given the fact that it has succeeded in Africa’s driest regions and even in Kenya, some regions of Makueni County included such as Wote, Mtito Andei and Mbooni. The objective of this study was to determine the influence of perception, social-economic factors and extension services on adoption of Zai pit farming technology in Makueni County. A theoretical framework was developed based on the technology acceptance model (TAM) and Everett Rogers’ innovation diffusion model. The study used descriptive survey research design and was limited to Makueni County in Kenya. The population was 55 farmers and 10 field extension officers in Makueni County, who have applied Zai pit farming technology and the field staff of local organizations. The sample size was 48 farmers and 10 extension officers using purposive sampling. Data collection was conducted by use of semi-structured questionnaires containing questions on the influence of perception of Zai pit farming technology using a Likert scale and the influence of social-economic factors, extension services. Pilot testing was carried out in 5 households before the commencement of the study. Data analysis was done using Ms Excel, presented using frequency and percentage tables and interpreted using computed descriptive statistics such as means and percentages. The study findings indicate that perception of technology influences the adoption of Zai Pit farming technology as 97.9% perceived that Zai Pits were useful for farming meaning they were easy to use, increased food security by increasing yield and reducing the risk of crop failure. The findings indicate that social-economic factors, specifically group membership as 89.6% were found to be group members, meaning the chamas were the main channels of propagation of the technology and members receive adoption support from fellow members. The study found that 60% of the officers merely offered support to the community trainer of trainers (ToT) but did not check directly with the farmers. The study concludes that the perception of the Zai Pit farming technology as being labor-intensive and costly were prohibitive to further adoption despite farmers perceiving the technology as useful for farming and easy to use, that group membership is important to adoption, provided that a balance can be sought to ensure males are active participants of the chamas. It is recommended that extension services should be more hands-on by involving the extension officers to enable the farmers to grasp the concept and receive constant monitoring and improvement since they were always on the ground. Collaboration between NGOs and government should be better as findings indicate that the government support was there but most farmers were not able to roll out the Zai Pits to land above one acre. Further research should focus on the role of behavioral intention to adopt Zai pit farming technology for non-adopters in Makueni County where the farmers have not been exposed to the Zai pit farming technology, what viable income generating activities can be supported by Zai pit farming in Mbooni, Makueni County and how to reduce the labour used in digging Zai Pits to increase the scale of use of Zai Pit farming technology. The study provides evidence for the potential of Zai pit farming technology in agriculture in Makueni County.
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