Contour Farming; An ultimate solution to preserve soil and land quality for quality cultivation in Kenya
Soil erosion is a major problem on steep lands, especially when rainfall is abundant. Steep lands that receive substantial rainfall often experience fast water runoff across the slopes, which causes the soil to displace, and ultimately causes the loss of water and nutrients by the crops. And to surpass that problem, hence contour farming in Kenya introduced.
Contour farming in Kenya introduced as the ultimate solution to preserve soil and land quality for quality cultivation. Contour farming an advanced farming practice that has been used to ensure the irrigation supply evenly distributed on steep slopes and soil erosion minimised to a larger extent.
So let’s get a detailed understanding of:
- What is contour farming in Kenya?
- What are the benefits of contour farming?
- How to stay prepared for performing contour farming?
- Is contour farming cost-effective?
What is Contour Farming in Kenya?
Contour farming or contour agriculture is an agricultural practice where tiling is performed on sloped land in lines of consistent elevation to preserve rainwater and soil erosion.
This type of farming includes the formation of wheel tracks, furrows, and seed rows across sloping land areas, which help collect rainwater for proper water and nutrition distribution in soil and prevent land & soil degradation.
Popular Crops Grown Through Contour Farming
Here are a few popular crops commonly grown through contour farming:
Benefits of Contour Farming in Kenya– Why is it Widely Adopted?
Direct rainfall can wash away the topsoil, fertilisers or certain nutrients — which are important for crops to cultivate. The process of contour farming helps reduce erosion by avoiding the harsh impact of rainfall.
The benefits of contour ploughing are best visible when practised alongside other methods of farming such as terracing (the practice of creating ridges & channels in slope), water diversion (the process of diverting surface water to farm fields), and strip cropping (the process of sowing different crops in alternative strips to prevent soil erosion).
Let’s discuss in detail the benefits of contour farming in Kenya…
1. Contour Farming Helps Combat Soil Erosion
Contour farming is believed to reduce soil erosion by 50%. Conventional farming involves cultivation along long and straight slopes which are parallel to rainwater. This method easily allows rainfall to wash away the topsoil, which is important for cultivating crops.
Contour farming in Kenya, on the other hand, helps slow down the flow of run-off water and gives time for water to get absorbed by the soil properly.
“How is soil erosion harmful? Soil erosion is a process where topsoil is removed, which is quite an important soil layer for production and agricultural purposes. Loss of topsoil can cause lower crop yields and higher production costs.”
2. Contour Farming provides effective irrigation to soil
Contour farming or contour planting helps evenly distribute the water in the soil between the furrows as the water runs slowly and adequately.
- As the irrigation water runs off quite slowly but deeply into the furrows, it makes the absorption of water in the soil much better. Unlike the downward sloping irrigation method, which makes the water streams run off quite fast, making it hard for the soil to absorb the water.
- Contour farming in Kenya requires less labour to look after the irrigation process once the furrow streams well adjusted, compared to the traditional down-slope irrigation method. This helps save on labour costs substantially.
Down the line, contour farming benefits also include an increase in crop productivity and reducing production and operational costs while working on farm fields.
So these were important contour farming benefits; let’s discuss the scope where this powerful farming technique best suited and what to keep in mind while preparing for it.
Where Should Contour Farming Be Performed?
Though contour farming is quite a successful method to conserve soil and water quality, it may not be suitable for all slope types and weather conditions. This practice best when applied to crops that irrigated on moderate sloping lands. Also,
- Contour farming ideally practised where slope gradients (a metric that calculates slopes’ steepness, calculated by dividing the vertical height by horizontal distance) are between 2% to10%.
- The area should receive a sufficient amount of rainfall for practising this farming technique.
How to Prepare a Land for Contour Farming?
To prepare land or ground surface for contour farming, the following steps are important to take into account:
- Conduct a typographic survey of the field.
- Create field borders to make space for the movement of farm or tractor implements.
- Parallel to the baseline contours, consider doing farming activities.
Is Contour Farming Cost Effective?
Yes, contour farming cost-effective compared to traditional farming methods, as the cost of creating contour rows is much less than traditional farming. Also, contour farming has two other costs attached to it:
- Firstly could be from surveying the land to predict its suitability for this special type of farming. Well, the cost of surveying the land can vary according to the requirement or so and generally isn’t that costly to bear.
- Secondly, other costs may include the farming activities related to harvesting from small rows in the corners or end of the field.
Besides, the practice requires the same basic farm implements that you have been using to perform the traditional tiling or farming practices of planting, cultivating, and harvesting.
Contour farming is an efficient and cost-effective modern-day farming practice whose purpose is to help lock irrigation water in such a way that:
- Soil can absorb water evenly during heavy rainfall.
- Soil could protected from getting wash away.
- Fertilisers could be prevented from stripping away to ensure crops get enough nutrients and inputs to thrive.
Frequently Asked Questions on Contour Farming
1. What is contour farming?
Contour farming or contour cultivation is a modern-day practice of tiling across sloped lands at consistent elevations to help keep soil moisturised by capturing the rainfall.
2. What are the benefits of contour farming?
Contour farming is a modern farming technique whose purpose is to reduce soil erosion and fertiliser loss in order to increase crop yield on terrains where rainfall is heavy. Contour farming can help reduce soil erosion by 50%.
3. Is contour farming sustainable?
The impact of Contour farming is definitely sustainable because it can reduce soil erosion by 50% and help retain twice the rainwater, which helps in keeping the soil moisturised.
4. What is the difference between contour farming and terrace farming?
In contour farming, furrows created around the hill or slope to allow slower and more effective water infiltration into the soil. While in terrace farming, instead of furrows, steps or terraces created to meet proper water absorption in soil and avoid soil erosion. Both methods differ in design and approach but done in view of keeping soil and land quality in check.
6. What should farmers consider when performing contour farming?
Several factors needed to determined for contour farming, such as the steepness of the slope, the gradient of slope should be between 10-12%, rainfall frequency. Other factors that could studied by conducting a detailed land survey.