LTRA-10: CAPS for smallholder farms in eastern Uganda and western Kenya

Principal investigator

Jay Norton, assistant professor of soil fertility, Department of Renewable Resources, University of Wyoming

Research team

  • Eric Arnould, distinguished professor of sustainable business practices, Department of Management and Marketing, University of Wyoming
  • Bernard Bashaasha, associate professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, Makerere University, Uganda
  • Eusebius Mukhwana, director, SACRED Africa
  • Urszula Norton, assistant professor of agroecology, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Wyoming
  • Rita Ojok, director, AT Uganda
  • John R. Okalebo, professor of soil science, School of Agriculture and Biotechnology, Moi University, Kenya
  • Emmanuel Omondi, director, Manor House Agricultural Center (MHAC)
  • Danelle Peck, assistant professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wyoming
  • Melea Press, assistant professor, Department of Management and Marketing, University of Wyoming


Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) faces formidable food security and environmental challenges. Population pressure, agricultural intensification, market distortions, an unevenly supportive policy climate, and inherently unproductive soils create a degradation spiral that underlies declining food security and environmental quality. While conservation farming systems capable of improving productivity have been developed, several broad constraints impede adoption for many of the 60 million smallholder farmers across SSA. This project proposes to develop field-scale farming system components through a participatory process that incorporates concepts of co-innovation and co-design among researchers, advisors, and men and women stakeholders in agriculture.

The research team combines experienced non-governmental and university partners in Kenya and Uganda with a soil scientist, an agroecologist, an agricultural economist, and two experts in sustainable business management from the University of Wyoming, all eager to apply participatory design, analytical, and outreach approaches. The catalysts for this proposal are Kenyan directors of two well-established non-governmental organizations who are completing Ph.D.s in agronomy and soil science at the University of Wyoming. Both will complete Ph.D.s that integrate cropping systems studies in the United States and Kenya early in 2011 and already have many years’ experience implementing agricultural training programs for smallholder farmers in Kenya. They have enlisted the highly effective Ugandan non-governmental organization (NGO) AT Uganda as well as professors at Moi and Makerere universities to round out the host-country team.

To address a spectrum of economic and environmental conditions in Eastern Africa, this project will be replicated in four areas: the Tororo and Kapchorwa districts in eastern Uganda and the adjacent Trans-Nzoia and Bungoma districts in western Kenya. Tororo and Bungoma are highly degraded lowlands with sandy soils of low fertility.  In contrast, Kapchorwa and Trans-Nzoia are highlands that have more commercial agricultural systems but face serious soil erosion challenges. Farmers in Kapchorwa and Trans-Nzoia are generally more innovative and accepting of improved agricultural systems, while in Tororo and Bungoma work on conservation tillage has been undertaken for quite some time using farmer field schools with limited impact.

This project’s approach incorporates components of co-innovation described by Rossing et al. (2009) in which end users of technology become active participants in its development through frequent interaction, monitoring, and redesign. On-station replicated trials combined with on-farm pilot plots in the four districts of Kenya and Uganda will provide multiple settings for engagement and participation among the research team, regional and national officials, local community leaders, local/regional agricultural educators, and local farmers. This proven approach will foster broad participation for the basic redesign of agricultural livelihoods that is necessary for improvements in SSA. By structuring the pre-experiment survey and design activities to target both men and women in different types of households and agricultural settings, the research team expects that at least one prototype conservation agriculture production system (CAPS) and one pilot farm in each study area will focus on particular issues faced by women farmers.

More information about the activities of the CAPS for smallholder farms in eastern Uganda and western Kenya team is available at the University of Wyoming SANREM website.