It is apparent that the success a farmer gets from a certain crop is dependent on many other things besides just rain. In Masinga, the farmers have ascertained that apart from rain, fertilisation and cultivation, the method of land preparation also matters a lot. Techniques such as deep digging and double digging go a long way in ensuring a farmer gets the highest yield in a relatively small cultivated are.
“Deep digging involves tilling the land a layer deeper than would normally be done,” explains Joseph Kioko. In deep digging the land is tilled twice the normal depth to loosen the soil and allow for better root penetration and even aeration. “You cannot achieve that kind of depth through harrowing. You need to till the land with a hoe,” adds Kioko.
Double digging on the other hand involves preparing a small area measuring two by two feet where ten holes each two feet deep are made for planting maize. This can be made slightly bigger for kales and other greens. One might get the illusion that the farmers of Masinga are going back to old cumbersome ways of land preparation but considering the smallness of the land area utilised in the two land preparation methods and the yield obtained, one begins to see the economic sense in the whole approach.
“The yield from this small area is higher and of a better quality than that obtained from a large harrowed area that is difficult to manage. We have now realised that we would rather till and manage a small area that stretch ourselves to a bigger area we can hardly afford to take care of. Tilling a small land area allows us to give it the very best of our attention.
Using these approaches allows a farmer to concentrate efforts and resources in a small area hence producing superior yield. The farmers in Masinga have since been able to develop a seed bank with eleven seed varieties. “The small plots we develop can sustain our families and even afford us some surplus to sell to the local markets,” says Munguti Kavivya as he inspects a crop of millet planted on a deep dug plot.