Final B4SS Farmers’ Workshop in Kapsabet, Kenya (November 2017)

The Final B4SS Farmers’ Workshop took place in Kapsabet, Nandi county, Kenya in November 2017. The workshop was led by Dr David Lelei from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Henri Biwott, the son of a local farmer, who has been key in keeping close communication with farmers participating in the Biochar for Sustainable Soils (B4SS) project.

David Lelei presented the results of the experimental biochar trials and farmers were divided into groups to discuss their experience with biochar. The results show that the treatment that promoted the highest crop (maize) growth was biochar and cow manure, followed by biochar and diammonium phosphate (DAP). In the B4SS project in Kenya, the biochar was not mixed (“charged”) with fertilisers prior to application, but rather incorporated into the soil soon after fertiliser application.

As a modest gesture to thank farmers for their participation in the B4SS project, David Lelei and Ruy Anaya de la Rosa handed out Australian Burke & Willis hats to male farmers and Aboriginal designed tea towels to female farmers who were all happy to receive these gifts.

During the feedback provided, all farmers showed interest in learning how to produce biochar by themselves. Therefore, we took the opportunity to run a demonstration of the Kon Tiki soil pit kiln. The local area is a large producer of tea, and so wood from tea bushes often becomes available. This time, a tea company had uprooted large quantities of tea bushes, which had reached maturity, and gave us this feedstock for free. Henri made sure that the wood was dry, and we chopped the trunks that were too large to fit in a small soil pit. The production of biochar was clean and relatively fast.

The final B4SS farmers’ workshop in Kenya was successful mostly due to the leadership and guidance provided by Dr David Lelei and Henri Biwott. The farmers were grateful to Starfish Initiatives and the B4SS project, and expressed motivation to continue experimenting with biochar and fertilisers by themselves to grow maize and other crops, such as beans and capsicum. The B4SS project in Kenya will soon communicate the results through the B4SS good practice guides and a scientific article. Stay tuned.