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Friday, 14 October 2016

Climate is changing, food and agriculture must too

Bob Aston
"Climate is changing, food and agriculture must too," is the theme of 2016 World Food Day. Msumarini in Kilifi County is today hosting this year’s celebration, which is usually marked on October 16.
This year’s theme looks at how agriculture and food systems need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive, and sustainable. 
The day also focuses on raising awareness about the actions people around the world can take to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Farmers being trained on conservation agriculture
Sokopepe Partnerships and Linkages officer Ms. Judith Nkatha noted that strengthening resilience of smallholder farmers through conservation agriculture could play a transformative role in addressing the impacts of climate change.
"We are helping to enhance food security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reverse the effects of soil degradation caused by mechanical tillage in Meru County,” said Ms. Nkatha.
She said that the pace and severity of climate change risks overwhelming smallholder farmers hence the social enterprise is helping farmers adopt conservation agriculture as a way of combining profitable agricultural production with environmental concerns and sustainability.
Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less in the same area of land and wise use of natural resources. 
It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), higher temperatures and increase in weather related disasters are affecting the worlds poorest more than others.
FAO estimates that agricultural production must rise by about 60 percent by 2050 to feed a larger population. 
Ms. Nkatha said that Sokopepe is training farmers on best agricultural practices to enable them produce more with less as well as reduce post-harvest losses.
The United Nations (UN) General Assembly declared 16th October as World Food Day to honor the date of the founding of FAO in 1945. 

The day aims to heighten public awareness of world food security and strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Increasing opportunities for women farmers

Women play an important role in food production and in achieving greater food security. However, few women have access to land tenure, extension services, finance, education, market, and control of family funds.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), providing female farmers access to the same resources as men could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million.
Lucy Karimi preparing to take her tomatoes to the market

In Meru County, Sokopepe through its Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS) is helping women farmers pull down the barriers that they face. 

The innovation is helping women farmers move from subsistence to commercial farming. It is also helping women make right farming decisions for increased production and productivity.
FARMIS is helping women to track their agribusinesses as they perform other household duties. Three women based in Kariene Ward in Imenti Central shared their views on how Sokopepe is helping them reach their potential in farming.
Mrs. Peninah Kinanu said that Sokopepe has enabled her to venture into horticulture farming. She decided to cultivate tomatoes and cabbages in her one-acre piece of land. She said that it is now easier to know whether she is making a profit or loss at the end of each season.
 “Sokopepe has built my confidence as a farmer. I can I now take care of my family from the proceeds that I receive from the farm,” said Mrs. Kinanu.
On her part, Agnes Mwaki almost gave up on farming before a Sokopepe Production Information Agent (PIA) convinced her that FARMIS would help her track all her agribusiness enterprises, schedule different farm events and track all her expenses. She then started cultivating onions, kales, and beetroot.
She said that a PIA visits her farm once a week to check the progress of her crops as well as assist her fill the farm book. She said that when women farmers flourish, families and communities do too.
“I now know how much I am investing in each enterprise and projected income from each crop. I also carry out market survey in order to determine crop prices before planting,” said Mwaki.
On her part, Lucy Karimi said that embracing record keeping through FARMIS enabled her to determine profitable crops and enterprises that were “eating” into her profits.
Last season she planted tomatoes of which she has already harvested 1,000 kgs.  She is selling the tomatoes to her neighbours and other traders.
Sokopepe PIAs training farmers on FARMIS
She said that the extension service provided by PIAs has enabled her to learn about pests and disease control. She is now able to control white flies and aphids in her one-acre farm leading to increased quality yields.
According to a World Bank report titled Levelling the field: improving opportunities for women farmers in Africa, a key hindrance to agricultural development and broader growth is a wide and pervasive gender gap in agricultural productivity. The report argues that tackling the barriers that hold back the productivity of female farmers could both enhance gender equality and usher in broader economic growth.
Sokopepe’s Agribusiness Manager Ms. Hildah Nkirote noted that closing the gender gap in agriculture is important in increasing production and enhancing food security.
She said Sokopepe has increased women participation in crops selection, adoption of agricultural innovations and good management practices, as families are increasingly using the record keeping data to know which crops are more profitable.
She said that Sokopepe is working with more than 5,000 women farmers in Meru County through trainings in record keeping, best agricultural practices, market information and linkages, conservation agriculture as well as promotion cultivation of high value crops among women.
“We are now building partnerships with agro-suppliers, agro financiers, extension service providers, and farmers groups to increase opportunities for women farmers,” said Ms. Nkirote.
Ensuring that women have equal access to productive resources is not only increasing agricultural productivity but has also ensured that more women have better control of their economic destinies. 

Friday, 30 September 2016

Joto Afrika Edition 18 is out

By Bob Aston
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is pleased to present edition 18 of Joto Afrika newsletter.  The edition is a joint effort between ALIN and the Ministry of Environment Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities (MENRRDA) through the Low Emission and Climate Resilient Development (LECRD) Project.
Funding for the LECRD Project is by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this is within the framework of the US Government led effort on Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategy (EC-LEDS).
Joto Afrika edition 18 cover
Joto Afrika, meaning “Africa is feeling the heat’ in Kiswahili is a series of printed briefings and online resources about climate change mitigation and adaptation actions in sub- Saharan Africa. The series helps people understand the issues, constraints, and opportunities that people face in adapting to climate change and escaping poverty.  
Edition 18 seeks to look into the role and involvement of youth in addressing climate change and further, highlight opportunities that need to be leveraged to consolidate ongoing engagements and build to scale successful youth led interventions.
Most evident, is the leading role youth in Kenya have played in championing for climate justice in global climate negotiations, their proven actions in conservation, afforestation, green energy, and smart agriculture. Of significance are their recent pilot actions to secure domestication of the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) in specific counties in Kenya.
It is in enabling transition to community level actions that we see a clear role for youth in Kenya. Considering that close to 50% of the Sub-Saharan population is under the age of 30 years and given the high levels of unemployment in the region, youth remain particularly vulnerable to climate threats and the impacts thereof.
Climate Change has remained one of the greatest threats to civilization. Its impacts continue to threaten lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable groups living in the global south.

It is our hope that readers will find the 18th edition of Joto Afrika as informative and that it would add value to their work in addressing the challenges and opportunities faced by youth regarding climate change as well as enable them learn about smart farming technologies that youth can adapt. You can download a copy of Joto Afrika issue here.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Increasing opportunities for smallholder farmers through partnerships

By Bob Aston
On September 24, 2016, Sokopepe convened a day’s meeting at Incredible Hotel in Meru County where Wanda Organic trained the social enterprise team on the importance of soil health and the role of bio-organic fertilizer.
Sokopepe is partnering with Wanda Organic to enhance good agricultural practices by promoting use of plantmate bio-organic fertilizer for enhanced soil fertility. 
The organic fertilizer is a mixture of plant and animal wastes through an advanced bio-fermentation process using BIO-PLUS activator. It is a result of over 40 years of biotechnology research in Southeast Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
Ms. Roseline Ngusa, Sokopepe Operations Director addressing the participants
Wanda Organic Director Ms. Marion Moon stressed on the importance of improving soil fertility. She noted that food crop yields per acre are on the decline partly due to continuous cropping without adequate soil nutrients replenishment. She said that plantmate bio-organic fertilizer works on the soils physical, biological, and chemical properties thus making it a unique product.
Further Ms. Moon stated that Wanda organic fertilizer contains beneficial microorganism and organic material, and is non-toxic and eco-friendly. In addition, they replenish soil nutrients, helps to increase yields, shorten crop cycles, and reduce crop diseases.
She noted that farmers could maximize their yields when they use it with a little chemical fertilizer. The organic fertilizer contains over 20 naturally occurring beneficial micro-organisms growing in a scientifically blended food base made of chelated trace elements, enzymes, amino acids, growth promotants and functional compounds.
“We want to improve productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers by providing economical, effective, and sustainable agricultural inputs,” said Ms. Moon.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, healthy soils are the foundation for food, fuel, fibre, and even medicine. FAO approximates that 33 percent of the global soil resources are degraded due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification and chemical pollution.
Ms. Roseline Ngusa, Sokopepe operations director said that the social enterprise is leveraging on partnerships in order to develop stronger value chains and systems that lead to improved income for smallholder farmers.
She said that the social enterprise, which is supporting the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information and farm records management services is partnering with agro-suppliers, agro-financiers, public-private extension services providers, knowledge partners, market access actors and farmer groups.
She noted that Wanda Organic partnership would enable farmers easily access bio-organic fertilizer through its agencies in Meru County.

Achieving and maintaining appropriate levels of soil fertility, especially plant nutrient availability, is of paramount importance if agricultural land is to remain capable of sustaining crop production at an acceptable level.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Sokopepe at 6th African Green Revolution Forum

By Bob Aston
The 6th African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), which concluded on September 9, 2016 at the United Nations (UN) complex in Nairobi, Kenya, featured Sokopepe among 15 Information and Communication Technology for Agriculture (ICT4Ag) innovations.
The landmark forum themed: ‘Seize the Moment: Securing Africa’s Rise through Agricultural Transformation’ aimed to advance the policies and secure the investments that will ensure a better life for millions of Africa’s farmers and families.
The open session on “the digital harvest: How to grow and sustain ICT4Ag solution” reviewed though a video documentary ICT4Ag Innovations, consumer feedback and steps made towards sustainability.
Sokopepe director Mr. James Nguo, was a panelist in the session moderated by Ms. Carol Kyazze Kakooza, Chief Technical Advisor, and Chief of Party for Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW)-Market-led, User-owned ICT4Ag Enabled Information Service (MUIIS), Uganda.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) supported an assessment of the business models of fifteen ICT4Ag solution providers in Kenya, Tanzania, and Ghana. The fifteen solution providers volunteered to share their successes and challenges in making ICT work for smallholder farmers during the forum.
Dr. Agnes Kalibata,AGRA president addressing delegates.PHOTO/AGRF
The review of Sokopepe business model by Advantech Ltd indicated that the two year old company is already 25 percent towards sustainability.
During the session, policy makers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society, scientists, and other stakeholders watched a video of Sokopepe highlighting testimonies from farmers and value preposition offered by Sokopepe through its Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS) innovation.
Mr. Nguo shared the successes and challenges faced by Sokopepe. He noted that data obtained through FARMIS would enable agriculture stakeholders such as County governments and central government, agro-input providers, providers of agriculture credit and development partners to get evidence of the status of agriculture.
 “FARMIS gives farmers holistic year-round monitoring, data collection, entry, storage, and mid-season analysis to enable appropriate farm planning and sustainable market linkages,” said Mr. Nguo.
The participants appreciated the efforts made by Sokopepe in Meru County, Kenya in addressing lack of accurate production, marketing and operational data in agriculture as well as limited access to finance by smallholder farmers.
The session reviewed examples of successful business models as well as how to improve uptake and usage of ICT4Ag.  The panelists also deliberated on what is hampering ICT4Ag solutions to grow and sustain.
The panelists agreed that challenges in business models such as lack of clear and unfavourable revenue models, limited view on cost drivers, and unwillingness by farmers to pay for services coupled with lack of clear business case for users usually lead to solutions that do not have robust revenue models.
The delegates concurred that sustainable ICT4Ag solutions have revenue models, diversified sources of income, organize regular customer feedback, have copyright protected technology and key performance indicators to monitor the business among others.
The forum realized a pledge of more than US $30 billion in investments to increase production, income, and employment for smallholder farmers and local African agriculture businesses.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Unlocking opportunities for smallholder farmers through financial inclusion

By Bob Aston
Increasing smallholder farmers’ access to financial and insurance services would ensure improved food security and increased incomes. Smallholder farmers need access to financial services to generate income from their agricultural enterprises, build assets, and manage risks.
Most smallholder farmers are unable to reach their potential due to difficulty in accessing financial products and services such as savings, insurance, and remittances that enable them to deal with crop failure, high cost of inputs among other challenges.
Smallholder farmer weeding
However, financial institutions cite lack of proper farmer records as a major constraint when evaluating farmers’ viability for credit.
Financial inclusion or inclusive financing is the delivery of financial services at affordable costs to sections of disadvantaged and low-income segments of society, in contrast to financial exclusion where those services are not available or affordable.
In Meru County, Kenya, Sokopepe, a social enterprise supporting the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information and farm records management services is taking an initiative to address the constraints by unlocking financial markets for smallholder farmers through partnerships.
The social enterprise through its Farm records management Information System (FARMIS) is keen to lay emphasis on building financial literacy for smallholder farmers as well as their financial capabilities. This is a critical investment as smallholder farmers are able to make informed decisions regarding financial products and services.
FARMIS provides a platform that enables farmers effectively store records and financial institutions can review farmers' performance over a period to help them make an informed decision about the farmer's capabilities to manage credit.
Through the innovation, farmers are able to track all their agribusiness enterprises, schedule different farm events and track all the expenses incurred. In addition, mobile financial services payments for produce have improved financial stability and security for the farmers.
Financial inclusion is a powerful tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and helping to ensure more banked farmers.
According to the 2016 Financial Access Household Survey, mobile money platforms have boosted the Country’s financial inclusion. However, women still have lower access to formal prudentially regulated services such as banks (35% for women compared to 50% for men). The report notes that a third of Kenyan adults report agriculture as their main source of income.
Sokopepe hopes to leverage on existing relationships within the value chains to ensure farmers access financial services sustainably while the financially excluded enjoy new possibilities.
Over the next few years, financial inclusion will continue to be a key element of Sokopepe’s commitment to increase incomes of smallholder farmers involved in agricultural production activities.

Friday, 9 September 2016

ICTs for sustainable development goals

By Bob Aston
The 2016 Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium themed:” Embracing capacity building opportunities in the digital era” that took place at Safari Park Hotel and Casino in Nairobi on September 6-8, 2016 pledged continued capacity building in Information and communication technologies (ICTs) in order to facilitate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The over 400 participants from regulatory authorities, academia, entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations representatives agreed to improve’ digital skills and empower countries to take full advantage of strong continued growth in ICT-related jobs.
Delegates during the Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium.PHOTO/ITU
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) organized the Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium, while the Kenyan Government through the Communication Authority of Kenya hosted the event.
Mr. Francis Wangusi, Director General, Communications Authority of Kenya urged ICT stakeholders to work together to establish synergies in capacity building initiatives for greater impact.
Mr. Wangusi advocated for partnerships like the ITU centres as a way of ensuring the success of capacity building. He urged governments to increase investments in the development of ICT capabilities in order to mitigate against looming digital skills gap.
“As ICT skills become critical in the digital economy, there is need to develop some global benchmarks for ICT skills, as well as some tools for assessment, training, and certification,” said Mr. Wangusi.
Dr. Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau called for continuous capacity building as the ICT sector is evolving very fast. He stressed on the importance of new skills requirements in the digital era and in achieving the SDGs.
The delegates implored universities to adopt new innovative teaching methodologies that are in line with the recent developments in ICT. The symposium urged governments to capacity build top-level executives on mobile technology and Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) to enable them support digital economy initiatives.
The symposium supported a strong legal environment that fosters long-term policies for the creation of capacity building programmes in ICTs. The delegates urged ICT stakeholders to integrate ICT capacity building in education. This would help provide educational content in new, better and more effective way.
The symposium awarded long-standing ITU partners like Cisco, the United States Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI), and the United Kingdom Telecommunications Academy (UKTA). ITU also awarded Prof David Mellor for his personal contribution to building capacity building in the area of ICT while BRCK Education won the 2016 Young Innovators Award.
Two pre-events dedicated to "Capacity Building in Internet Governance" and "Regulators as Enablers and Consumers of Capacity Building" took place on September 5, 2016. The events enabled participants to map out strategies for capacity building in internet governance and to deliberate on innovative ways of regulation through upgrading of staff skills sets and training.
The outcome of the Symposium will provide strategic guidance to the national and international community on capacity building in the field of ICT, and on strengthening collaboration among the global ICT capacity building community.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Kenya determined to bridge gap between possibility and achievement in ICT

By Bob Aston
Deputy President H.E William Samoei Ruto has said that Kenya is determined to bridge the gap between possibility and achievement in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The Deputy president made the remarks while opening the Global ICT capacity Building Symposium (CBS) themed:” Embracing capacity building opportunities in the digital era” that is taking place at Safari Park Hotel and Casino in Nairobi on September 6-8, 2016.
Participants following proceedings during the Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium
He said that the 2016 Kenya Economic Survey indicated that the value of ICT output expanded from 259 million shillings in 2014 to 280 million in 2015. In addition, this year’s projection indicates that the sector will contribute at least 8 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“There are young people across the country doing phenomenal work and rolling out important apps, websites and solutions that are transforming our society into an easier one to live, work and prosper,” said the Deputy President.
He said that ICT is the enabling sector towards the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals and Vision 2030 in Kenya. In addition, the more connected people are, the higher the likelihood of more innovation and transformation.
He noted that various sectors in the economy like finance, health, education, agriculture and the government are quickly embracing technology to enable dissemination of information, enhancement of service delivery and effective reach to customers. 
He noted that mobile technology has revolutionized financial inclusion with two out of three adult Kenyans being part of the formal financial ecosystem. This phenomenon has up-ended the traditional business models of financial institutions and retail outlets. 
“As a country, we have embraced ICTs because of our firm belief in their transformative power. Kenya's ICT sector is vibrant, ambitious, and innovative, and is underpinned by sound and progressive National ICT Policy,” said the Deputy President.
On his part, Mr. Joe Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology said that the mobile and internet connectivity currently stands at 89.2 and 87.2 percent in the Country while more than 78 percent of Kenyans have access to 3G services.
He said that his ministry is reviewing the National ICT Sector Policy in consultation with stakeholders. The revised ICT policy will drive the pace of ICT innovations in the country and resonate with the rapid technological advances, changing public needs and evolving global trends.
He touched on the government’s initiative in producing quality ICT leaders in public service through the Presidential Digital Talent Program (PDTP). This year the project has overseen the recruitment of 400 ICT management trainees who are now working in both the public and private sectors.
He emphasized on the importance of the Digital Literacy Program (DLP), which aims to build 21st century skills amongst primary school students through use of digital technologies in education.
The Symposium has brought together stakeholders across 70 Countries to discuss trends and developments in the sector and their implications for human and institutional capacity building.
The outcome of the Symposium will provide strategic guidance to the national and international community on capacity building in the field of ICT, and on strengthening collaboration among the global ICT capacity building community.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Securing Africa’s rise through agricultural transformation

By Bob Aston
The 2016 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) kicks off in the United Nation Complex, Nairobi, Kenya on September 5-9, 2016. The landmark forum themed: ‘Seize the Moment: Securing Africa’s Rise through Agricultural Transformation’ aims to advance the policies and secure the investments that will ensure a better life for millions of Africa’s farmers and families.
This would help fulfill the head of states commitments outlined in the National Agricultural and Food Security Investment Plans (NAFSIPs), African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Smallholder farmers being trained on best agricultural practices
About 1500 leaders including African Heads of State and Government, Ministers, policy makers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society, scientists, and other stakeholders will attend the forum.
Africans have relied on agriculture for food, jobs, and economic growth for decades. However, despite the role and potential of African agriculture, transformative change remains out of reach for millions on the continent.
This year’s forum provides agriculture stakeholders with an opportunity to highlight the best elements of Africa’s agriculture, the changes that are allowing farming families to lift themselves out of poverty by embracing agribusiness.
AGRF has emerged as Africa’s leading platform that brings together a range of critical stakeholders in the agriculture landscape to discuss and develop concrete plans for achieving the green revolution in Africa.
According to Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the event marks a milestone moment over AGRA’s 10-year history, which has seen the achievement of tangible transformation at national levels and within the private and public sectors.
Conceptualized with a “less is more” format, the forum will promote optimal B2B engagement, big idea plenaries, interactive workshops, and empirical knowledge sharing.
There will be five thematic group discussions on finance; Inputs; trade; markets and the domestic private sector; agricultural infrastructure; technology and mechanization; and capacity development and women and youth in agriculture.
In addition, the forum will mark the inaugural launch of “The Africa Food Award.” The Award recognizes an outstanding individual or institution that is leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa-from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives.
Banking on agriculture for Africa’s future would help secure investments in agriculture thus ensuring a better life for millions of Africa’s farmers and families.

Follow the hashtag #AGRF2016 on Twitter and Facebook for live updates on the 2016 African Green Revolution Forum. Let us seize this unique moment to secure Africa’s rise through agricultural transformation.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Drought-hit Kenyan herders turn to new money-maker: hay

By Anthony Langat
MANDERA, Kenya - As a boy, Abdirahman Hillole Musa would spend long hours roaming the scrubland of Kenya's northeast with his father's cows and goats, often venturing into neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia in search of fodder for the animals.
At the best of times, grazing land is in short supply in this arid corner of Kenya dotted with thorny bushes, but in times of drought it is even scarcer - with devastating consequences for pastoralists.
"In those days, we could lose a lot of livestock since some died on the way due to the long distance and lack of pasture," Musa recalled.
Abdirahman Hilole Musa standing next to the community facility.TRF/Anthony Langat
Last month, the 50-year-old was among a group of men arranged on the verandah of the area chief's office, away from the burning glare of the sun.
Engrossed in discussion, they discussed not lack of pasture for their livestock, but a more pressing matter: lack of storage for the hay they'd baled.
More than a decade ago, Musa, now 50, and other farmers in Bula Haji, in Mandera County, attended a government training course on crop irrigation where they learned how to plant, harvest, dry, bale and store hay.
They now plant grass to feed their animals during long dry seasons and during droughts, which are more frequent and harsher due to climate change. Some now make a living selling their surplus hay to the government and other farmers.
Good hay harvests have left them with an unusual problem: lack of storage.
Since learning about irrigation techniques, Musa, a tall, turban-clad man, has grown Sudan and Columbus grass and has never run out of hay for his eight cows and 40 goats.
"I plant maize, beans and vegetables which I sell but I store the grass to feed my livestock. They fatten and when I sell them they fetch a better price," he said.
Up to 1,500 farmers living along the River Daua are using irrigation to produce hay, according to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), a state body set up in 2011 to coordinate drought management in arid areas.
"There has been huge adoption by farmers in the recent past and right now there isn't a single parcel that is not under cultivation along the river," Hussein Mohamed, the authority's county drought coordinator, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Every three months, the NDMA provides training on different farming methods on a government farm in Mandera. Guidance on crop irrigation is considered a priority subject, especially for farmers living along the River Daua. At least 100 farmers are trained at a time.
"This is an arid area and our people are generally pastoralists, so crop irrigation is new to them. They are taught to plant grass and make hay so that they can have enough feed for their livestock in drought," said Mohamoud Adan, who manages the government farm.
The drought management authority provides five kilos of seeds to first-time grass farmers in order to motivate them. When there is a drought, the farmers also receive fuel.
Some farmers like Abdi Mohamed Haji, 60 are already buying their own fuel and extra seeds. "I get five kilos from the NDMA and I buy five more so that I can plant on one acre," Haji said.
He has 400 bales of Sudan grass from his March harvest in a communal storage facility in Bula Haji.
Unlike Musa, Haji, who has seven camel and 50 goats, sells most of his hay.
"I do not need a lot of hay because I have camels and goats. I am looking to sell at between 350 shillings ($3.50) and 500 shillings ($4.95) a bale," he said.
The River Daua usually dries up between December and February. Recognising that it is during this dry season that stored hay is most needed, the drought authority buys hay from farmers at between 450 shillings and 500 shillings a bale to distribute to farmers in other parts of Mandera.
NDMA's Mohamed hopes that, in the long run, the agency will not have to distribute hay free of charge to those in need of it. With more funds he said, the authority would like to build dams across Mandera County, to help farmers practise irrigation in the hinterland too.
When the dry season ended earlier this year, Haji and Musa planted their Sudan grass and harvested it six weeks later. After the March harvest, the river burst its banks and flooded many farms.
But this time the father of 11 is optimistic he can recover and make ends meet by selling hay, not his animals.
"I do not have to sell my camels to pay school fees for my children. I make enough from selling hay," Haji said.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Enhancing adoption of record keeping through improved marketing skills

By Bob Aston
Sokopepe Ltd, a social enterprise supporting the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information through SOKO+ and farm records management service through Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS) is holding a two-day training for Production Information Agents (PIA) at Methodist Bio-Intensive Agricultural Training Centre in Meru County on July 18-19, 2016.
The training seeks to equip the PIAs with marketing skills to ensure enhanced adoption of FARMIS by the farmers. In addition, the forum has provided a platform for the PIAs to share experiences, challenges and to lay strategies on how they will surpass the target of profiling 16,290 farmers by the end of March 2017.
The FARMIS Innovation roll out in the nine sub counties in Meru County is being supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Kenya Feed Innovation Engine (KIE)
Ms. Roseline Ngusa, one of the Sokopepe Ltd directors addressing the PIAs
Speaking while opening the training, Ms. Roseline Ngusa, one of the Sokopepe Ltd Directors said that the organization is keen on enabling farmer’s view their farming as a commercial business and helping them make right farming decisions for increased production and profitability.  
She said that KIE commissioned Short term technical assistance (STTA) to support the organization in developing a business model and Marketing and distribution plan thus the reason for holding the PIA training.
Training the PIAs would equip them with information that would help them support smallholder farmers who are the majority in Meru County and rarely keep farm records to develop and nurture a culture of record keeping.
In addition, training them would ensure that they provide extension services to farmers and training them on how to keep accurate primary data as such data can inform many aspects of planning that can empower the farmers to improve their incomes, livelihoods, and enhancing food security.
FARMIS innovation seeks to enable the creation of a complete documentation of the farming enterprise resulting in a comprehensive digital database available in a central server and online. This will enables agriculture stakeholders such as the County and central government, agro-input providers, providers of agriculture credit and development partners to get an accurate perspective of the status of agriculture at any given time.

The PIA’s are instrumental in providing farm record keeping data, demand driven extension services, boosting farmer’s access to information and acting as intermediaries between the innovation and farmers.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Companies now liable for climate change damages in Kenya

By Edna Odhiambo
Climate change lawsuits are gaining momentum as citizens are increasingly turning to domestic courts to hold governments and corporations accountable for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With the passing of its 2016 Climate Change Act, Kenya is among the few countries globally to directly regulate on climate change, signaling strong political will to pursue low-emission development.
The act allows citizens to sue private and public entities that frustrate efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.
Solar carport at Garden City Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
The law establishes the National Climate Change Council, which has the power to impose climate change obligations on private establishments, including regulations on the nature and procedure for reporting on performance.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), on behalf of the council, is charged with monitoring, investigating and reporting on compliance. An organisation that fails to comply may incur a fine of up to a million Kenyan shillings ($9,900) and officers risk five years imprisonment if they withhold or gives false information to NEMA.
An interesting feature of this law is the lenient standard required to prove liability. It is enough to prove that a corporation is not doing enough to address climate change without having to also demonstrate that a person has suffered loss or injury.
Traditionally, in public interest environmental cases, though the law waives the requirement of demonstrating direct harm, there is still a requirement that an applicant establish that a section of society will suffer harm. Perhaps the indulgence granted to climate suits demonstrates the severity and urgency that we should all exercise when tackling a global crisis that threatens the survival of humanity.
The consequences of liability may be exceedingly costly for corporations as Kenya’s Environment and Land Court has the power to order compensation for climate victims where it deems appropriate. Once a company becomes included within a climate change regime, the likely substantial compliance requirements will entail significant, related ongoing costs of operation and management that could affect returns and competitiveness.
An example of liability arising from climate change disclosures is the Volkswagen scandal. "We've totally screwed up," said Volkswagen’s America boss Michael Horn, when the car-manufacturing giant ran into serious problems in 2015 for falsifying carbon dioxide emission tests of their vehicles.
Recalling and modifying the vehicles has resulted in massive losses of approximately $2.8 billion and likely fines of up to $20 billion may be incurred.  Additionally, VW stated in its quarterly report that it anticipates facing criminal and civil charges from national regulatory authorities and lawsuits from customers and investors.
So how do you navigate the pitfalls of climate change liability? In the corporate world, companies and their shareholders are increasingly addressing climate change by conducting research and adopting explicit policies and practices as part of sound environmental and risk management practices.
Shareholder proposals submitted to major corporations such as Phillips, Gillette and Reebok state that corporate boards of directors and managers have a "fiduciary duty" to be informed, and to inform shareholders, about potential climate change risks and opportunities.
This involves careful assessment and disclosure to shareholders of information on significant risks associated with climate change, and warrants precautionary, prudent and early actions to enhance competitiveness and protect profitability in a world moving away from fossil fuels.
Public disclosure of uncertainties that are likely to result in significant changes in a company's liquidity because of climate change is essential. Furthermore, factors affecting sales or revenues that may have a current or future effect on the company's financial condition, results of operations, liquidity, or capital resources are equally important to consider.
Nevertheless, it’s not all gloom and doom, as the act creates opportunities for the private sector by advocating for incentives to pursue low-carbon development and promotion of research and development on clean technologies.
This indicates that there will be significant financing channeled towards tax reliefs to promote uptake of clean energy, energy efficiency, and to encourage sustainable architecture. Consequently, the future promises numerous business prospects for members of the private sector who are willing to embrace sustainable development pathways for posterity.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Farm records helps farmer to increase investment in profitable enterprises

By Thomas Ngaruiya
An innovative solution targeting smallholder farmers in Meru County has helped Mr. Nkanata Mwitari, a 75 year old farmer from Karindine village, Imenti Central to improve his agribusiness.
Mr. Mwitari started farming in 1963 after quitting alcohol and drug addiction. However, he only started keeping farm records from January 2016 after joining Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS). The innovation by Sokopepe Ltd supports the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information through SOKO+ and farm records management services through FARMIS.
Production Information Agents (PIA) automating FARMIS records
“I heard about Sokopepe a year ago but I did not see the need to subscribe to FARMIS since I felt like I had enough farming experience. For over fifty years, I never kept farm records," said Mr. Mwitari.
His interest rose when FARMIS Production Information Agents (PIA) visited his farm early this year and took him through the benefits of joining the innovative service. The visit enabled him to see the value of his farm and the importance of concentrating on high value crops.
“I had to talk with my son who lives in Nairobi to send me the subscription fee. After joining FARMIS I was given a farm book and the PIA also opened my online account,” said Mr. Mwitari.
His journey in farming started at a tender age after he lost his father, which prevented him from going to school. Although he has never had a formal employment, he has managed to educate his eight children through proceeds from his farm.  Two are graduates while the rest have college and secondary education.
He believes that only hard work can make people live a better life. He always spends a minimum of six hours a day tending to his farm together with one permanent employee and casual farm workers or attending agricultural forums.
In August 1961, he started contract farming for French bean companies. However, after some few years, he shifted to banana and coffee farming due to reduced French beans prices caused by increased production.
Mr. Nkanata Mwitari applying fertilizer to his onions
He said that good coffee and banana prices during 1970-1980 enabled him to purchase a 3-acre farm. He then increased the number of coffee trees to 700 but the number reduced in 1990.
“Farming lost its meaning around 1990 due to low and fluctuating prices. Since then I have been shifting from one crop to another and each season prices of commodities always varies,” says Mr. Mwitari.
He is glad that Sokopepe is providing market information, as he is now able to query for market prices across different towns in the County.  He noted that lack of market information led to the formation of Karindine Horticultural Group to enable farmers aggregate and source for markets for bananas, tomatoes, onions, and cabbages.
He said that the group has a ready market for bananas as they are selling a kilo at Kshs 15. He hopes that Sokopepe will help them find market for their crops.
Through FARMIS, Mr. Mwitari is monitoring the progress of his dry onions, which is on an eighth of an acre. He has invested over Kshs 30,000 but he expects to harvest over 4,000 kilograms in August. He hopes that the market information that he is able to access through Sokopepe will enable him to earn close to Kshs 400,000.
“I wish I had joined FARMIS in 2014 when it was piloted in Meru. I am sure my agribusiness would have really grown by now. However, I believe that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and I have embarked on that journey,” said Mr. Mwitari.
He said that the extension services provided by PIAs has enabled him to know how much he is investing in each enterprise and projected income from each crop. In addition, every week a PIA visits him to check the progress of his crops and to assist him fill the farm book.

He has urged other farmers to join Sokopepe and embrace record keeping as a way of determining profitable crops and the enterprises that are ‘eating’ into their profits. In addition, the record keeping data would enable them to plan their farm enterprises.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Achieving Green Economy in Africa: What are the Options?

By Dr. Benard Muok
As the world journeys to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the question remains: how prepared is Africa to achieve SDGs? Will it be a missed target like the MDGs? Is Africa on the path of green economy?
Why Green Economy?
Green growth is described as a path of economic growth that uses natural resources in a sustainable manner. Green economy can be defined as one that results in “improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities” (UNEP 2010).
Pupils at Lesiredai Primary School in Isiolo County display solar products.TRF/James Ochweri
In its simplest expression, a green economy is low-carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive development approach. In a green economy, growth in income and employment are driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Critical to attaining objectives of this approach to development, is to creating conditions for public and private investments to incorporate broader environmental and social criteria. In addition, the main indicators of economic performance, such as growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should be adjusted to account for pollution, resource depletion, declining ecosystem services and the distributional consequences of natural capital loss to the poor.
A major challenge is reconciling the competing economic development aspirations of rich and poor countries in a world economy that is facing increasing negative impacts ofclimate change, energy insecurity and ecological scarcity.
The world population continues to rise rapidly, by around 75 million people per year. Soon enough there will be 8 billion by the 2020s, and perhaps 9 billion by the early 2040s. These billions of people are looking for their foothold in the world economy.
The poor are struggling to find basic food, safe water, health care, and shelter for survival. Those just above the poverty line are looking for improved prosperity. Those in the high-income brackets hope that technological advances will offer them and their families even higher levels of well-being.
However as we celebrate the progress made in economic growth, it is also important to understand that such growth is based on economic trajectory that relies heavily on fossil fuel and other natural resources yet for a species that depend on the beneficence of nature, or on what the scientists call “environmental services,” we are doing a poor job in protecting our natural capital.
A green economy can meet this challenge by offering a development path that reduces dependence on fossil fuel, promotes resource and energy efficiency and lessens environmental degradation. As economic growth and investments become less dependent on liquidating environmental assets and sacrificing environmental quality, both rich and poor countries can attain more sustainable economic development.
The concept of a green economy does not replace sustainable development; but there is a growing recognition that achieving sustainability rests almost entirely on getting the economy right. Decades of creating new wealth through a “brown economy” model based on fossil fuels have not substantially addressed social marginalisation, environmental degradation and resource depletion. In order to achieve green growth, Africa must avoid carbon lock-in. For decades Africa development has been hugely based on the abundant natural capital base of the continent.
During the past two decades, Africa has embarked on a process of economic transformation. In almost every county and region, white papers have been developed to transform middle level economy as their new vision. For example in Kenya there is Vison 2030, Vision 2025 in Tanzania and Vision 2063 of the African Union.
It is argued that industrial economies have been locked into fossil fuel-based energy systems through a process of technological and institutional co-evolution driven driven by path-dependent increasing returns to scale. It is asserted that this condition, termed carbon lock-in, creates persistent market and policy failures that can inhibit the diffusion of carbon-saving technologies despite their apparent environmental and economic advantages.
The notion of a Techno-Institutional Complex captures the idea that lock-in occurs through combined interactions among technological systems and governing institutions. While carbon lock-in provides a conceptual basis for understanding macro-level barriers to the diffusion of carbon-saving technologies, it also generates questions for standard economic modelling approaches that abstract away technological and institutional evolution in their elaboration.
Studies indicate that after coal and gas power, lock-in of personal, oil-based passenger transport (gasoline and diesel cars) is the most troublesome globally. Policy-makers, especially at the urban scale, need to avoid planning sprawling, car-based infrastructure.
Policy-makers at all levels can adopt stringent fuel economy or CO2-intensity standards for new vehicles. However, there is a major governance deficit in natural resources management around the world. This deficit is largest in countries that depend heavily on natural resources for development and growth.
There is need to address specific needs, opportunities and challenges of the private sector with respect to green growth. Promoting entrepreneurship, addressing the investment constraints faced by women and young entrepreneurs and supporting micro, small and medium enterprises can scale up adoption of green growth policies.
Dr. Benard Muok is the Director of Centre for Research Innovation and Technology at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST). Email 

Article is available in edition 17 of Joto Afrika Newsletter. Download a copy here