Development of mixed forage and crop production systems for coastal semi-arid Kenya
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The Kenyan coast forms part of the East and Southern Africa region that stretches from Somalia to the tip of Southern Africa. The coast region in Kenya has great potential for dairy Development stimulated by the high demand for milk and other dairy products. Currently, its agriculture is dominated by the tree crops, coconut and cashew (Jaetzold and Schmidt, 1983). Most farms (over 80%) belong to smallholders and the average farm size is about 4 ha. The main food crops are maize, cassava, and cowpea. Soils are developed on coastal sands and coral limestone. They have little organic matter and poor water holding capacity. Use of fertilizer is minimal and crop yields are low. Currently, livestock do not play an important part in farming systems. Where they are kept, they graze on natural pastures and are at risk from several diseases, the most important of which are trypanosomiasis and East Coast Fever. Diseases and the seasonal variability in feed quantity and quality of resources are the most important factors limiting dairy production. To promote dairy production in the region, there is the need to develop forage production systems adaptable to existing farming systems. Preliminary screening of forage species and field experience have identified the Napier grass variety Bana as one of the most promising fodder grasses and Leucaena leucocephala variety K28 as a productive leguminous shrub. If dairy Development is to succeed in the face of environmental constraints and increasing population pressure on land, intensive forage production systems will have to be developed using these fodders and agronomic practices which will ensure sustainable productivity. Alley farming (AF) using Leucaena hedgerows has the required attributes and the system can be utilized to improve both fodder and food crop yields. The broad objective of the (AF) research program is to determine whether a system of mixed crop and forage production can be developed in which output can be sustained by using biologically fixed nitrogen and by the use of management practices which maintain or improve soil physical characteristics and avoid erosion. Inputs of purchased fertilizers will be kept at a minimum.
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