Main Article Content
Soil fertility management and soil conservation are viewed as major components of sustaining crop production in the steep slope farming areas. A survey was conducted in eight villages of mountain Elgon areas of Mbale and Kapchorwa district (four from each district). In four of the villages (2 from each district) a detailed household (HH) survey on soil management was conducted. The HHs were divided into three wealth categories (rich, middle and poor) following criteria developed by the farmers themselves. From these categories, 10, 10 and 15 HHs were selected from the rich, middle and poor, respectively, for the survey. In the other four villages focus group discussions were conducted. The results revealed that although Kapchorwa district had smaller HH sizes, it had a higher land pressure than Mbale (0.4 compared to 1 acres of land per HH, respectively), and still had more labour problems. Livestock keeping in Kapchorwa was significantly higher (P<0.05) than in Mbale. Soil fertility was reported to be low in both districts but soil erosion and lack of inputs were significantly more prominent (P<0.05) in Kapchorwa than Mbale. For soil conservation measures, mulching is practiced by the majority of farmers, followed by manure application, terracing and soil bunds. Fertilizer application was only reported in Kapchorwa district. Major sources of information are extension officers and other farmers for Kapchorwa; relatives, NGOs and other farmers for Mbale. The type of information from these sources to most farmers is to do with crop management and general agricultural methods but in most cases this is not adequate. From the survey information gathered it was evident that lack of knowledge, labour and distance of farmers’ fields from the homestead are the major constraints to soil conservation and fertility management. Wealth status may have a role to play, especially in the adoption of soil management techniques that require financial inputs; however, this may not be as significant since some poor farmers with small fields were reported to have had good soil conservation and fertility management measures.