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Assessing the users’ need for a spatial decision support system of smallholder farming in Kenya
Accurate data of the natural conditions and agricultural systems with a good spatial resolution are a key factor to tackle food insecurity in developing countries. A broad variety of approaches exists to achieve precise data and information about agriculture. One system, especially developed for smallholder agriculture in East Africa, is the Farm Management Handbook of Kenya. It was first published in 1982/83 and fully revised in 2012, now containing 7 volumes. The handbooks contain detailed information on climate, soils, suitable crops and soil care based on scientific research results of the last 30 years. The density of facts leads to time consuming extraction of all necessary information. In this study we analyse the user needs and necessary components of a system for decision support for smallholder farming in Kenya based on a geographical information system (GIS). Required data sources were identified, as well as essential functions of the system. We analysed the results of our survey conducted in 2012 and early 2013 among agricultural officers. The monitoring of user needs and the problem of non-adaptability of an agricultural information system on the level of extension officers in Kenya are the central objectives. The outcomes of the survey suggest the establishment of a decision support tool based on already available open source GIS components. The system should include functionalities to show general information for a specific location and should provide precise recommendations about suitable crops and management options to support agricultural guidance on farm level.