Preparation for The Planting Season in Western Kenya
Western Kenya is widely known for small scale farming. Since the agricultural practices in Kakamega County located in the Republic of Kenya are hugely dependent on the heavy, seasonal rains, farmers have to brace themselves by preparing extensively for the planting season. Most farmers plant grains such as maize, beans, and groundnuts. Usually, the planting season starts in March and extends all the way to early September. Although traditional farmers mostly relied on traditional farming methods, they have recently begun to incorporate a mix of both technological and traditional methods.
The Role of the Community in Farming
From time immemorial, farming has always been a collective family responsibility and by extent – a community affair in Kakamega county. Today, some communities still hold this idea dear. While men strictly play the physical role of plowing the farms and planting, women are usually preoccupied with food preparation activities. Children, on the other hand, are tasked with constructive activities as well. While girls help their mothers with food preparation, boys stay back and help the men with carrying some light loads as well as farming tools when they move from one area of the farm to another to make things easier. This offers much in the way of training the children to be responsible.
Women also serve the men food while they expend their energies plowing with hoes. A common meal that is offered in the farms is known as “ Maengere”, a mixture of boiled beans and maize grains. An interesting spectacle happens when the hardworking Luhya men see women from afar bringing meals. Their hearts light up and some shriek with excitement at the sight of the refreshing meal. In this sense, Luhyas have been widely known for their wild appetite, and this has been a common topic for many jokes by comedians recently.
How Farmers Prepare for the Planting Season
In the grand scheme of things, most farmers start the farming preparation practices from around February. The plowing activities are two-pronged. They are categorized into the first plowing and second plowing activities before planting the crops.
- First Plowing Practice
A few months before the plowing begins, the farmers allow neighbors to graze their cattle or sheep on the farms from time to time so that when the cows release cow dung, manure is evenly spread across the farms. Besides the traditional manure, the farmers also use manufactured fertilizer to nourish the planted grains. During the first planting season, the farmers begin the groundbreaking activity of digging the land once the signs of rainfall begin getting clear. Some of the signs include the formation of dark clouds in the sky during the day. While some farmers hire tractors to conduct the first plowing activities, other farmers use the ox plow using well-fed and strong bulls.
On the other hand, a farmer can hire young men and women to begin digging, and they categorize themselves into groups of two to make work easier. While the plowing is ongoing, it is a common practice for passersby to applaud the farmers for their hard work and encourage them to keep working. This kind gesture signifies the strong communal bond existing in the Luhya community.
- Second Plowing Practice
After the first plowing activities, the land is left bare for around weeks for the ground to soften especially if it had been left untouched in the preceding months. At this point, it is expected that some rains will fall to help soften the ground further. Then, once the land is ready, the second plowing is conducted in either mid or late February in preparation for planting in March when the heavy rainfall begins. Whether the farmers use tractors, ox plows, or work things out themselves using hoes, they prepare harrows in preparation for the planting season.
This roundup information provides a basis for the preparation of the planting season by the Luhya Farmers. Although there might be variances from one community to another, some common practices such as the plowing tactics and the community’s role in planting are more or less similar.