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Experts root for mapping technology to boost food production

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Analysts say farmers have failed to embrace new technologies. One such technology that agriculturalists are rooting for is the geographic information system (GIS) mapping.

Analysts say farmers have failed to embrace new technologies. One such technology that agriculturalists are rooting for is the geographic information system (GIS) mapping.  

By Frankline Sunday

Posted  Wednesday, November 2  2011 at  23:32

As Raphael Orwa packs his tomatoes for sale in Kisumu, he is expecting at least Sh200,000 this season.

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His neighbours are also preparing other fresh produce like vegetables and fruits following a bumper harvest despite the dry season.
The fresh produce growers from Mbita, Homa Bay County counts their gains, thanks to irrigation farming and adoption of modern technologies.

For Mr Orwa, he says irrigating his farm with water from Lake Victoria has turned his three-acres land under tomato into a money spinner.

“An acre under tomatoes gives me about Sh80,000,” he said. “We usually have three plantings each year and what we get from the farm is enough to sustain our families and save some bit of it,” he says.

Mr Orwa is just one of thousands of small-scale farmers in Kenya who depend on their small plots of land to generate a sizable amount of income.

For many small-scale farmers, however, the story is not so good.

Most use old farming practices that have contributed to low yields, methods agriculturalists say are to blame for reduced food production and slow growth of the sector that is among Kenya’s economic drivers.

Analysts say farmers have failed to embrace new technologies. One such technology that agriculturalists are rooting for is the geographic information system (GIS) mapping.

“GIS mapping has been used before by farmers, but mostly on a large-scale and its application in Kenya has been very low”, says Andrew Adwera, a research fellow with the African Center for Technology Studies (ACTS), in Gigiri.

GIS is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyse, and present all types of geographically referenced data.

In its simplest sense, GIS mapping refers to the use of global positioning technology to create reference points according to unique identifying characteristics.

When applied in Agriculture, GIS mapping is used to map out agricultural land in accordance to specific characteristics like soil texture, weather patterns, and prevalence of pests etc.

This in turn provides farmers with crucial data that can greatly improve their yield.

“GIS is basically a technological tool that is used to facilitate decision making,” says Mr Adwera.

“For example by mapping a particular geographic unit, we are able to identify what kind of soil exists in that area”.

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