Push-Pull technology is the first integrated pest and soil fertility management strategy that effectively combines control of both stemborers and striga weed, with concomitant grain yield increases from below 1t/ha to 3t/ha. Due to its multiple benefits, the technology has opened up opportunities for smallholder growth and represents a platform technology around which new income generation and human nutritional components, such as livestock keeping, can be added. The technology is proving critical particularly to the smallholder dairy industry in eastern Africa through provision of quality fodder for livestock thereby supporting an important emerging income alternative for smallholder farmers.
Smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa practice mixed farming, comprising cultivation of crops and keeping of livestock. Shortage of fodder and animal diseases represent the most serious constraints to animal husbandry.
An important benefit accruable from push-pull technology adoption is the exploitation of its fodder provision component. Push-pull technology provides all-year round quality fodder, and this is one of the main motivating factors for its adoption by many livestock farmers. icipe incorporates animal husbandry in the Push-pull technology dissemination and collaborates with Heifer International (http://www.heiferkenya.org) in training farmers on proper animal care and effective exploitation of fodder from push-pull farms. Heifer International also facilitates farmers to acquire improved livestock breeds.
The push-pull technology thus opens up significant opportunities for smallholder growth and represents a platform technology around which livestock keeping and other new income generation and human nutritional components can be integrated. This improves the smallholder farmers’ opportunities to enter into the cash economy.
The Push-Pull technology was developed in Africa by icipe scientists and partners for smallholder farmers to offer effective control of cereal stemborers and Striga weed in cereal cropping systems, mainly maize, sorghum, millet and rice. The evaluation and economic performance of this technology in maize cropping systems compared with the conventional maize mono, maize-bean and maize-soybean, Crotalaria rotations, and imidazolinone-resistant (IR) maize seed inter-cropping systems in western Kenya show that maize yields and associated gross margins from the Push-Pull system are significantly higher than those in the other systems. According to the study, on-station evaluation on the effects of integrating beans in the maize–desmodium intercrops using three treatments; maize monocrop, maize–bean intercrop and three maize–desmodium intercrops, two of which were integrated with beans, either in the same holes with maize or in between maize plants in a row. The findings showed that, the integration of beans increases labour and total variable costs, with these being higher in plots with both crops in different holes than in the same hole. Total revenue, gross beneﬁts and beneﬁt cost ratios do not differ between the bean integration and maize–desmodium intercrops. Integration of beans in the Push–Pull technology while guaranteeing an additional crop, a protein source, to the farmers does not compromise the observed beneﬁts of the technology but yields same economic beneﬁts. Where labour is easily available, farmers are advised to plant maize and beans in separate holes to avoid the risk of competition for moisture and nutrients where these might be limiting.
The project has undertaken other studies on the effectiveness and economic relevance of information dissemination pathways for learning and adoption of Push-Pull technology. Findings have shown that, Field Days are relatively cheap mechanisms of training farmers and mostly preferred by the farmers. Farmer Teachers and Farmer Field Schools on the other hand are relatively expensive in the initial stages but have the distinct benefits such as knowledge retention and constant interaction. From these findings, the project is using these pathways at different stages of the dissemination of Push-Pull technology. Field Days are used in the initial stages of dissemination in order to speed up the adoption process, while Farmer Field Schools and Farmer Teachers are used to reinforce the messages at later stages. Mass media sources such as radio and print materials are used for awareness creation to reach many farmers who don’t manage to attend field days.
Khan et al., 2008a; De Groote et al., 2010a; De Groote et al., 2010b; Khan et al., 2009; Amudavi et al, 2009a; Amudavi et al.2009b; Murage et al., 2011
Farmers’ perception on the importance of Push-Pull technology in addressing their farming needs and challenges has a potential effect on its adoption. The project has undertaken studies to elucidate farmers’ perceptions on Push-Pull technology as a strategy in the control of Striga weed and stemborers. In general, the findings have shown that practicing farmers rate the technology highly as effective in increasing cereal yields, controlling Striga and stemborers, increasing fodder production, improving soil fertility, soil and moisture conservation and reducing labour and long term cost for weeding. The technology has also increased farmers’ levels of knowledge and information on the biology of pests and weeds, increased networking among themselves and with extension and research centres for new information on farming activities. However, farmers are faced with a few challenges such as; shortage of desmodium seeds attributed due to huge demand for the seeds; lack of regular monitoring and evaluation as a result of the vastness of the geographical coverage as well as limited resources for dissemination of the technology.