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Sugarcane versus Agroforestry Farming in Western Kenya
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Sugarcane versus Agroforestry Farming in Western Kenya


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This study was presented during the conference “Production and Carbon Dynamics in Sustainable Agricultural and Forest Systems in Africa” held in September, 2010.

This study was presented during the conference “Production and Carbon Dynamics in Sustainable Agricultural and Forest Systems in Africa” held in September, 2010.

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  • 1. Sugarcane vs. Agroforestry Farming in Western Kenya A comparative study of different farming systems in the Muhoroni district by Ida Lindell & Gustaf Magnusson Kroon Supervisors: Prof. Ingrid Öborn and PhD Ylva Nyberg, Dep. of Crop Production Ecology, SLU Examiner: Jan Lagerlöf, Dep. of Ecology, SLU ABSTRACT: In Kenya agricultural products such as coffee and tea, cater for the largest export income after tourism. 80 % of the population in Kenya works with agriculture or food processing, most of which is subsistence agriculture. The typical farm in Kenya is often small (less than two hectares) and mainly produce maize, beans, fruits and vegetables for the household and local market, but depending on location cash crops can be produced for additional income. One of the largest commercial crops is sugarcane and it is frequently grown around some sugar factories in western Kenya. Since it takes two years for the sugarcane to mature small scale farmers that have allocated large parts of their farms to sugarcane production end up having problems with food security. They also become very dependent on the company including the market price and when they get the payment. One way to diversify the production system and income generation is to practice agroforestry where different types of crops and trees are grown on the farm for home consumption and the market. Products from this type of systems can include staple crops, vegetables, fruits, fodder crops and firewood. The aim of this study was to compare farming systems based on sugarcane and agroforestry in terms of income generation, workload, nutrient management and carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stocks. The study was undertaken in Muhoroni district, in a village called Kopere, located 45 km East of Kisumu in Western Kenya where many small scale households are contracted to the local sugarcane factory. Twenty farms were selected, ten mainly producing sugarcane (five completely depending on sugarcane and five with only some fields purely for sugarcane) and ten practising agroforestry (five with and five without use of farm yard manure). Semi-structured interviews and seasonal calendars were used to assess the household economy and workload on a monthly basis. The seasonal calendars were also used to identify major nutrient flows. One field on each farm was selected for soil sampling for bulk density (indicating soil structure and water infiltration capacity) and total C and N determinations, and the input-output N balance was quantified. Keeping in mind that this study is relatively small, the results indicate that there are differences between the studied farming systems. The incomes for households practicing agroforestry are more evenly spread throughout the year but not necessarily higher compared to sugarcane systems. However, all systems had very low incomes and most farmers had problems with debts. The agroforestry systems seem to be more labour intensive than the sugarcane systems. On the other hand, the agroforestry system can provide the household with e.g. firewood and fodder for the animals which otherwise are time consuming tasks. The sugarcane farms had higher external nutrient flows whereas the internal flows dominated in the agroforestry systems. The bulk densities in the agroforestry systems are lower than in the sugarcane system. The amounts of carbon and nitrogen in the soil were higher in the agroforestry than sugarcane systems and highest in the system without applied farm yard manure, where leaves from N- fixing trees were used as green manure. In conclusion, diversified systems can provide small scale farmers with food security as well as even income generation. However, there is a trade-off between labour demand and a more diversified production.
  • 2. Introduction - Kenya • Dependence in agriculture • High population growth rate  higher demands • Main cash crops are tea, coffee and sugarcanes
  • 3. Farming systems -Sugarcane – perennial grass – harvested about once every 18th month – in East Kenya often burned before harvest – often prepared by deep tillage
  • 4. Farming systems -Agroforestry – reconstruction of ecosystems after deforestration – a diverse system – may contribute with nutrients and improved conservation of organic matter in the soil – often prepared by hand or ox
  • 5. Materials and methods - Farming systems • Sugarcane (6 farms) – Farmers connected to WESAME – Agroforestry and food crops on a part of their land • Agroforestry with manure (7 farms) – Farmers connected to WESAME – Organic matter (trees, household waste, manure) – Mainly food crops • Agroforestry without manure (5 farms) – Farmers connected to WESAME – Organic matter (trees, household waste) – Mainly food crops • Sugarcane- none agroforestry (5 farms) – Farmers not connected to WESAME – Food crops mainly for domestic use
  • 6. Material and methods • The study was carried out in western Kenya during Jan-Mar 2010 • Semi-structured inteview, all farms • Soil samples, bulk density in top soil and C and N content, all farms connected to WESAME (16 farms)
  • 7. Material and methods • Seasonal calendar (2 farms per system) • Field-gate balance (2 farms per system connected to WESAME) • Soil pit (2 farms per system connected to WESAME)
  • 8. Results -carbon content in soil (0-15 cm) Percentage of carbon in topsoil 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 SC AF w M AF wo M Each dot represent one field Toncarbonperhectare Carbon content in soil (0-15 cm) Agroforestry without manure
  • 9. Results -Nitrogen • Higher nitrogen flow in sugarcane • More N from organic matter in agroforestry • More industrial fertilizer in sugarcane Percentage of Nitrogen in topsoil Agroforestry with manure Sugarcane Agroforestry without manure
  • 10. Workload 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 Jan Feb Mar Apr Maj Jun Jul Aug Sep Okt Nov Dec Sugarcane non- agroforestry 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Sugarcane 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Agroforestry without manure 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Agroforestry with manure
  • 11. Financial status Financial status (kKsh/ha 2009) Farming system Incomes Expenses Balance Agroforestry with manure 28.4 27.1 1.3 Agroforestry with manure 35.1 55.8 -20.7 Agroforestry without manure 166.7 1333.8 -1167.1 Agroforestry without manure 22.4 31.4 -9.0 Sugarcane 55.0 72.2 -17.2 Sugarcane 11.1 35.1 -24.0 Sugarcane non-agroforestry 146.6 41.8 104.8 Sugarcane non-agroforestry 70.2 55.6 14.6
  • 12. Food security 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 SC AF wo m AF w m SC non-AF
  • 13. Conclusions • Higher carbon and nitrogen content in agroforestry system without manure • More homogenic carbon and nitrogen levels in sugarcane • More work in agroforestry systems than in sugarcanes • The incomes may be higher in sugarcanes but the incomes are more regular in agroforestry systems • Many farmers in debt • The food security is rather similar in all systems but most even in the sugarcane systems where agroforestry is practiced as well.