InSub-Saharan Africa, more than 70% of the poor live in rural areas. They heavilydependent on their natural resource base, particularly soil and its productivecapacity.
The main physical asset of poor farmers is land, and its contributionto their income which is far more important than the physical capital. Landdegradation in the form of soil erosion and nutrient depletion pose a threat tofood security and the sustainability of agricultural production, particularly inthe less favored drylandareas. In Kenya, the magnitude of soil erosion losses to the economy has beenestimated as equivalent to US$390 million annually or 3.8% of gross domesticproduct (Cohen et al., 2006)Use of hybrid seeds amongsmallholder maize farmers has not resulted in corresponding increases inproduction despite the fact that more than three quarters of smallholder maizefarmers have adopted improved seed. Given that a large majority of smallholderfarmers grow maize, getting farmers to grow varieties that are suited to theirenvironments is a key strategy. Sub-Saharan Africa’sagricultural performance has been variably called the world’s foremost globalchallenge (United Nations, 1997) and as “still very far behind” the rest ofAfrica (Odulaja and Kiros, 1996 p.
86). Moreover, the region’s population isincreasing, and is expected to account for30% of the underdeveloped world bythe year 2010.A recent study by Tegemeo Instituteof Agricultural Policy and Development and the University of California foundthat by targeting the right variety for the area in which it is grown, maizeproductivity increased by 40%. However, challenges remain in getting farmers toadopt this technologies. Many cannot afford the higher cost of improved seedand fertilizer and have no access to financing. Some cannot afford fertilizerto maximize yields, while some plots with poor soils do not respond to fertilizer.Some simply do not have access to verifiable quality seed and fertilizer in theirlocal stores. First, and most importantly, farmers need to learn about the newvarieties.
Information about these varieties is sometimes scanty, resulting infarmers having unmet expectations that may result in failure to adopt thesetechnologies. Secondly, farmers should use complementary inputs to therecommended levels. Although technological innovation is proven to increaseyields for key staples, combined use of fertilizer and improved seed is stilllow. The study found that although farmers use the correct seed rate for hybridseeds (a farmer should plant between 8-10 kilograms of seed per acre), farmersuse slightly above the recommended rate for fertilizer. Farmers must ensure thefertilizer used enriches the soil.
Accordingto a KALRO study in 2015, a majority of the soils in the maize-growing regionare acidic. Therefore, farmers should use fertilizers that are blended with therequired nutrients and trace minerals to maximize their output. Key to gettingfarmers to increase use of fertilizer is providing innovative financing optionto farmers, and improving knowledge and access to required mix of nutrients.Thirdly, farmers should be able to get the knowledge in a way that is easilyunderstandable for them to make the necessary decisions.The present study contributes to theliterature by analyzing the adoption of technology on maize productivity bysmallholder farmers in Kericho parts of Kenya. The specific objectives of the studyis to determine whether access to information affects farmers in adoption ofmaize improvement technology, examines current maize-farmingpractices; and to analyze farmer characteristics towards modern farmingtechniques that influenced adoption in Kericho, KenyaThestudy uses farm-household survey data and descriptive methods. This providesinsights for strengthening the national extension systems that are now underthe county governments.
Increasing the food available per capita requires aparadigm shift to overcome yield stagnation. This entails policy interventionsthat operationalize the promotion of technology bundles that complement eachother to boost crop yields, diversify technology options, and address liquidityand investment constraints. Technology adoption is a function of bothsmallholder farmer demand and the markets available to them. Increasinginvestments in research and development can lead to well-tailored innovationssuch as hybrid seeds and fertilizers that can overcome pest and diseases inmid-altitude areas.
Improving access to credit and markets could help ensure thatinnovations in seed systems are truly profitable for smallholder farmers. Withpersistent pressure onavailable land resources and the generally risky nature of the sector, there isno doubt that farmers will rely more on technological innovations to boostproductivity. This would enable smallholder farmers to harness arisingopportunities for improved household welfare from participating in the market.