Factors influencing the adoption of conservation tillage practices and their implication on profitability in maize- cowpea cropping systems - a case of Makueni district, Kenya
In the semi arid areas of eastern Kenya, the farmers are faced with food insecurity and low farm incomes due to rainfall unreliability. The low soil moisture resulting from low rainfall cannot support productive agriculture to meet the increasing population in the semi arid areas. In the year 2000 and 2001, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations disseminated conservation tillage practices, which included ripping and tied ridging. The Ministry of Agriculture and Kenya Network for Draft Animals Traction have been training the farmers on the use of ripping and tied ridging and informing the farmers on the technical gains of these technologies. However, the adoption rate of these practices is below the expectation of researchers and policy makers. Further, the information on financial returns of these technologies is relatively scarce. The objective of this study is to analyze household and technology attributes that influence the adoption of ripping and tied ridging and to evaluate the financial returns of these technologies. A total of 177 farmers were purposively sampled from Kalawa and Kathonzweni divisions in Makueni district. The divisions were chosen based on their importance in conservation tillage. A logit model was used to identify the factors influencing the use of ripping and tied ridging. Partial budgets were drawn to account for the extra benefits and costs of these practices. The results confirmed that farmers have adopted the technologies but the adoption is still relatively low. About 1.8 percent of the farmers in the Makueni district was using ripping and tied ridging as forms of conservation tillage. The adopters of ripping were more than those of tied ridging since tied ridging required specialized planters that operate better in heavy crop residue. The non-adopters reported lack of information, lack of equipment and lack of interests as reasons for not using the technologies. Partial budgets showed that the conservation tillage practices were more profitable than conventional tillage. A farmer who used ripping realized a net farm income of Ksh 21,277 per hectare per year, while a tied ridging farmer realized a net farm income of Ksh 17,677 per hectare per year with the returns bound to increase in the subsequent years due to reducing costs. The adopters also realized intangible benefits and costs. Regarding the factors determining the use of ripping and tied ridging, contact with extension services, off farm employment, family labour, group membership and (arming experience positively influenced the adoption of ripping and tied ridging. Distance to the nearest market was significant but negatively influenced the adoption of ripping and tied ridging. Understanding these factors will facilitate a targeted approach in promoting use of conservation tillage in order to enhance maize and cowpea production in the semi-arid areas. Therefore, these factors should be incorporated in the design of policies and strategies developed to promote the use of conservation tillage practices. Further, farmers should intensify the use of these technologies so that average output per hectare is increased.