What is the push-pull technology? This is a farming technology that was invented by Dr. Zeyeur Khan of ICIPE Mbita in collaboration with ICIPE partners that has environmental and economical benefits for farmers. It involves intercropping maize with a plant like desmodium and planting Napier grass or Brachiaria grass, which is commonly referred to as Mulato grass around the maize field.
Desmodium acts as a cover crop that retains soil moisture and it also enhances soil fertility by fixing nitrogen. The economical benefits mainly stems from desmodium, Napier grass or Brachiaria grass which are a great source of animal fodder and have been proven to boost milk consumption when given to dairy cows.
How does push pull work?
The desmodium roots, as the intercropped plant, release chemicals which prevents striga weeds from attaching to the cereal weeds while at the same time acting as a repellant to the stemborers and drives them away (push) from the main cereal crop like the maize. The stemborers are then attracted to lay eggs in grasses like the Napier grass (pull), which are used as the trap plant around the cereal crop. After the stemborers lay their eggs on the Napier grass, it does not support their development hence most of the larvae do not mature.
Creating awareness in the push pull system
It is important to have a strong linkage between the various stakeholders in the push pull technology transfer project. The various stakeholders include farmers, scientists, media organization, governmental and non-governmental organizations concerned with issues of food security. Through awareness creation, the rate of adoption of the technology among farmers has been very high a figure which stands at more than 65,000 farmers from East Africa alone.
Two way learning process
Besides the adoption of the push –pull technology, the farmers are also able to relay the challenges that they are facing back to the scientists to help shape further research.
To help increase donor understanding, it has also been crucial to capture success stories and positive outcomes from push-pull farming systems. One of the notable initiatives is a film feature by David Fritz to help the Swiss public understand the impact of the push pull technology.
The Organic Farmer magazine and radio programmes aims at improving the welfare of small-holder farmers in Kenya and Africa through promotion of sustainable agriculture initiatives by generating and dissemination of information on ecologically sound and useful practices to improve human, animal, plant and environmental health.
The communication programme helps in demystifying the push-pull technology and encouraging farmers to adopt the technology. The Organic Farmer radio will also be conducting a radio interview with farmers to make them understand the benefits of the push pull technology.
Different channels used in communication
To reach out to the young farmers The Organic Farmer website publishes and generates debates on the push pull technology among farmer networks. The video production unit will also be producing short films on the success stories of farmers who have benefited from the push pull technology which will be uploaded on The Organic Farmer website, youtube and will also be used as a demonstration tool by the outreach extension team.