The five day course organized by KEFRI in collaboration with WILLPOWER and other partners of CARDNO- Agrisystems and University of Nairobi brought together 18 Farmers Field School (FFS) group leaders drawn from Salabani, Liboi, Eldume, Marigat and Ng’ambo location to strategize effective means of utilizing and managing Prosopis in the region.
Speaking during the opening ceremony Marigat DO Mr. Lincoln Chege Njung’e divulged that Prosopis is now a potential cash crop in the area. It produces pods that are palatable by animals and human beings. He called upon the community to liaise with the experts to put into place effective utilization, management and control mechanism.
Mr. Julius Lekosek (Prosopis interim committee member) from Salabani, one of the areas invaded by Prosopis, listed three shortfalls amidst nine benefits. These shortfalls were that Mathenge tree threatens the lifestyle of the people, colonization of agricultural land and invades pasture. However with constant awareness this tree is now considered a blessing and nine benefits accrued from Mathenge tree were listed as follows. Apart from producing pods which are first sun-dried and then stored for consumption during the dry spells, it has hardy and durable timber, charcoal with high carolific value, controls soil erosion, provides shade and its flowers are a source of bee foliage. No wonder Marigat is well known for its abundance in honey production.
Mr Kiringai Kamau (WILLPOWER) in his topic “Managing Prosopis for wealth creation” called upon the TOTs to mobilize their community members into forming a cooperative that will coordinate sale of Mathenge and other agricultural products. He took the TOTs through the processes of forming cooperative highlighting Githunguri dairy farmers as one of the successful case.
There are many drawbacks when individuals enter into the market single handed and such challenges will continue unless community members are determined to modernize utilization and processing of Prosopis products.
One advantage of forming a cooperative is strengthened bargaining power in the market. For instance an individual farmer selling 300 bags of charcoal per day @ Ks.200 gains 60,000.00. This figure would double when the cooperative sells a similar bag at the market price of Ks. 800 x 300 per day fetching around ks. 240,000
Another advantage is that a cooperative has the ability to incorporate value addition strategies with minimal cost. For instance, raw products like pods are ground into flour and once sifted the refined flour has several uses in confectionary, like baking cakes, mandazi, or chapati. The rest of the flour which is a nutritive fodder is added to animal feeds. It is also easier for a cooperative to repackage and develop value chain linkages with other institutions as well as diversify income generating activities.
CARDNO Agrisystem leader Mr. Munyikombo alleged that “We are gathered here to find solutions, which will not be found unless we own this tree like other agricultural crops. As we embark on exploitation the potentials of this tree It is important to do monitoring and evaluation, verify the daily production of each farmer by measuring the weights of the produce each one deliver to the cooperative. Farmers who collect pods will be paid by the weight of pods they collect, likewise, those who will deal with charcoal, honey and other products.
And In order to articulate accuracy four modern electronic weighing machines were introduced to curb erroneous measurement. The data are to be delivered to cooperative for produce aggregation.
KEFRI research scientist Mr. Simon Choge stated that the challenge of the current time is to discover and implement Prosopis management and utilization mechanism viable to support, livelihood and protect the environment. He revealed that KEFRI in collaboration with other relevant intuitions have the potential to introduce biological control measures as means of controlling the invasive tree. However, after consultation the community requested more time to devise other means of utilizing and managing the tree.
During a field visit at Kapkuikui led by Mr. Henry Kahi (University of Nairobi) the group learnt how the community are improving livestock and integrating beekeeping as income generating activity. The group thereafter visited Salabani secondary school where management of
Prosopis has succeeded. The place where Prosopis was cleared the soil fertility was assumed high and grass thrived well even under the tree canopy. Three high breed cows and 15 ostrich were seen on the field feeding on the grass.
At Salabani Catholic church a 2 acre plot was cleared of Prosopis and thinning done to improve productivity. At farm level several farmers with the help of Ministry of Livestock and NGOs have embarked on uprooting Prosopis and planting grass as management and control measures. The remaining trees are staked and pruned to allow a single stem to produce good timber. With regular cultivation between the trees, no invasion of young trees occurs and when the trees become larger, they are thinned for timber production.
The course was officially closed by the Marigat DO 1 Mr. Obwocha Bwobwocha who alleged that Mathenge tree has changed Marigat environment from once a dusty region into almost a forest. He urged the leaders to work hand in hand with government ministries and other experts to mobilize the community members to join groups. He will work closely with the cooperative members and assured support to those community groups who have started tapping Mathenge products.