Use Zai Pits to plant your crops and enjoy the harvest

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Farmers around the country are in the planting season and it is beneficial for any farmer to get to plant their crops and make good produce despite the climatic conditions in their part of the country.

 Zai pits commonly known as planting pits are water harvesting pits which are dug and filled with organic material such as manure or compost. Use of zai pits is a water efficient technology practised in arid and semi arid areas, areas with highly unreliable rainfall like the eastern parts of the country so as to utilise water.

They increase water inflitration and retain moisture for crop production and help to keep moisture close to the root of the crop.

How it’s done

One starts by digging a pit of approximately 2ft by 2ft and 2ft deep. Leave an aproxiamation of one metre between the rows. The measurements always vary depending on the type of crop being planted and the amount of rainful the area receives.

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After digging the pit, apply organic matter and dry plant material such as dry leaves and maize straws which act as mulch that helps prevent evaporation of moisture that the crop utilizes to grow. The kind of organic matter should be light enough to decompose within a very short period.

The farmer then should apply three to four handfuls of soil or well decomposed Farm Yard Manure. Both the organic matter and manure should take upto approximately three quaters of the pit leaving space on top for water accumulation and mulching.

Benefits of Zai pits

Image: Access Agriculture

Use of zai pits is a technology that requires very little input from the farmer yet gives good crop yields and it can be practised by small scale farmers as it is manageble and financially accesible.

The pits improve water management and protects the soil from soil erosion, thus addressing the problem of land degradation and fertility. The pits help in concentrating fertility close to the root zone of the crop.

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Zai pits can be used in many areas where there is limited rainfall or dry areas.

Harvesting of rain water in the small pits harness water when it rains and the soil/farm yard manure placed in each pit enhances their water harvesting function. The organic matter helps prevent evaporation of mositure and helps retention of water in the soil.

Increases food production. For instance, maize plant, when one plants an aproximate of nine seeds per pit, they can harvest over 12 bags of maize from half an acre shamba, which is a good crop yield to feed a farmers household and it ensures food security.

It promotes the efficient use of limited quantities of of organic matter and prevents seeds and organic matter from being washed away.

It is advisable for farmers to adopt this technology of farming as it has a lot of benefits, despite the labour that comes in making the pits, the yields from that are worth the time and labour.

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With this technology, farmers not only can have enough food for their household but they can also sell the produce and make good profits from it.

Zai pits are slowly becoming important not just to the arid and semi arid parts of the country but in the whole country given that many parts of the country are getting less rainfall and prolonged dry season. Zai pits are relevant due to the ever changing climate.

The farmer cannot only plant maize in the pits but also other crops such as vegetables, for instance kales and spinach. These crops are good for both home consumption and also for sale.