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Thursday, 26 July 2012

Patas Monkeys: the pride of Laikipia

By Dennis Kipkirui    

Patas population in Laikipia is not declining as is appears to be the case elsewhere in Kenya. Its numbers has largely remained stable. Countrywide the population has declined by almost 54%.
This has largely been attributed to the low density at which they occur in East Africa making them prone to local extinction.
Patas Monkey found in Laikipia
Patas are semi-terrestrial types of monkeys. They are usually large and shy and readily recognized by the brick-red upper parts and long, white limbs. Unlike the western or southern patas which have an all black face they have a blackish face, with a white nose and moustache. They have large home ranges and live in groups of 2 to 74 individuals. The adult male, which is approximately the size of an adult goat, is about twice the size of the adult female.  

Conservationists attribute the high survival rate of patas in Kenya and Laikipia in particular to livestock ranching, which is an important economic activity in Laikipia. Well managed range-lands have also boosted their numbers. Laikipia has perennial availability of food and water with extensive lands dominated by acacia woodlands. This has made it possible for patas to thrive. Large ranches provide well maintained all-year round sources of water that continue to provide good habitat for patas.

However, in some parts of Laikipia, elephants, giraffes and rhinos over-browse the acacia to such an extent that adequate food and sleeping sites for patas are not available. In addition, as for much of Kenya, large areas of Laikipia are being unsustainably used by livestock keepers and charcoal makers, or transformed to cropland. The resultant loss of natural habitat increasingly threatens patas and, of course, many other species.

The eastern patas are mainly found in western Ethiopia, southern Sudan, northern Democratic Republic of Congo, northern and western Uganda, and central and southern Kenya.

To conserve the population of patas in Laikipia, it is important to monitor changes in its distribution and size. The last survey of patas in Laikipia was conducted 12 years ago. Its approximate population was between 300 to 500.There is therefore need to conduct fresh census to have adequate information on how to protect this rare monkey species. However, it must be noted that the local community must realize real benefits from this rare primate because it will be a futile exercise if not relevant to the realities of the people who control and use the resources that need to be conserved.

Monday, 23 July 2012

County Council worker with a rare resilience

By Kelvin Njuguna

She wakes up to do the same thing she has been doing for the last 27 years. She has mastered the schedule well until the body is well accustomed to it. From to clean the market, from 10am to 1.30pm tidy the environment behind the shops and go for a 30-minute lunch break. Burn the garbage from and finally empty large bins at 4pm. This has been the life of Jane Wambui since 1985 when she joined Laikipia County Council as a permanent employee serving as a cleaner.

Wambui 49 was first posted to work in Sipili shopping centre in Laikipia west but has had numerous transfers only to be redeployed to Sipili. She attributes this to inability of many council employees to cope with the demanding work environment in the area. Typically one person cannot manage to clean the 200 acres shopping centre. She remembers being assigned her work with six others only for them to be transferred later and left alone to tend the area. However, she acknowledges the work done by different organizations to ensure clean environment in the shopping centre.

Jane Wambui, Council worker collecting litter.
  (PHOTO:Dennis Kipkirui|LRV)

Work has not come in a silver platter for Wambui. The mother of six children has been struggling to fend for her family. She admits that it is family needs that drove her to work for the council. She however complains of the past regime which allowed the council to oppress them. Wambui praises the current administration for ensuring that they their payments arrive on time and not letting arrears to accrue. As expected she only get peanuts compared to work demand, thanks to her low cadre in the organization.

Her working condition has been her great concern. The environment poses a lot of risks to her life and the council has been turning on a deaf ear to her pleas. Most of her colleagues have succumbed to poor health occasioned by the fateful working environment. Despite the good work done by these employees by ensuring a clean environment for human habitation, they usually cater for their treatment. The council can only afford to send them to cheap dispensaries without adequate facilities which can help them get better medical attention because of the risks involved with their duties.

She blames weak environmental policies for escalating poor waste management. She notes that policy executors are also relaxed in ensuring that people adhere to prescribed mode of waste disposal. Sipili market for example, dumps all manner of wastes in one bin ranging from needles to papers and it is expected that the collector ensures her safety.  Some people even go ahead and relieve themselves on bins located in the toilets. She alleges that most business premises in the area lack bins which make customers drop litter all over the place. This strains her a lot as she has to spend much time and energy collecting them. On a typical day she ends up with a headache and stomach upset. The worst usually happens when she has to dispose off a dead dog within the vicinity or along the road that leads to the centre. She will have to locate a place and dig a hole to bury it.

Wambui nostalgically recalls the day they were employed and were provided with full working kit. This was made up of gloves, mask, gumboots and uniform together with six bars of soap every month. This made her like her working environment. Today the supply is not stable. This has further compromised their health. The only item she has today issued by the council is a 10-year old rake and a five litre container shaped like a spade used for shoveling garbage. Surprisingly, if she was to get a transfer, the council expects her to move with these meager tools to the new station. But to her a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.  She is not discouraged by lack of facilities to do her chores. She reports to her work place hopping that someday someone will intervene and change the situation for the better.

The middle aged woman scorns at the way the council is ran. She is particularly disturbed by the circus involved in the issuance of uniform. She complains that her seniors ask her to send cloth measurements and preferred color only for tenders awarded to take ages to deliver the uniform. They only arrive at a time when they are too small to fit the owner. This deals the owner double blow because they don’t use the clothes and have their wages deducted since the council stopped buying them uniform. The Laikipia County Council employee can only be differentiated from the civilians by an aging job card, placed precariously at the left side of her chest.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Buffaloes invade maize farms

By Dennis Kipkirui

Buffaloes from Laikipia Ranching Company invaded maize farms in Nyakinyua village on Monday night. They destroyed about seven acres of maize which belongs to Mr. Bernard Ndongai. Only three acres were left untouched by the buffaloes. The ranching company is approximately one kilometre from the farms.
Section of a maize field destroyed by buffaloes
Ndongai who was visibly angry blamed the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for not doing enough to arrest the situation which has been persistent for close to a decade. He claims that one prominent farmer in the area is the only one who is being compensated whenever wild animals invade farms. He believes it is because of his connection with government officials that gives him an edge over the rest of the farmers in the area since he plants every year without fear of animal invasion. The farmer in question owns over one hundred acres of land and borders the conservancy. He is a brother to a former powerful cabinet minister.

Laikipia County is synonymous with ranches. Three quarter of the county is occupied by ranches while only a quarter is inhabited by human. Human-wildlife conflict is a frequent occurrence. It is only recently when lions killed donkeys in the area. Human life has not been spared either by the wildlife.

Elephants are a common eyesore to the residents during rainy seasons because they come out and destroy crops. Despite the buffalo invasion in Ndongai’s farm, residents see it as a rare invasion since elephants are the only one known to invade crop farms. Ndongai alleges that he lost two and half acres of maize to elephants in 2011 but was never compensated.

Residents have stepped up measures to curb this perennial problem. They have hired reservists to guard their crops four months to harvest time. Each farmer contributes Ksh. 4000 every month from July to November. The guards use torches and thunder brushes to ward off invading animals. However, a new challenge has emerged. Lions and cheetahs have been roaming in the area of late. This has become a threat to the guards who are now not willing to come out in the night to scare away the herbivorous for fear of attack by the ravaging canines.

Ndongai has initiated a process towards compensation for the losses incurred through the wild animals. When Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) visited his farm, he was planning to visit Rumuruti town the seat of Laikipia West District to launch his complain in the KWS offices.

Lately,KWS has witnessed a proliferation of human-wildlife conflict. Six lions were killed a month ago in Kitengela by Maasai morans after killing their livestock. This week Maasai elders from Amboseli swore to kill the animals if they found their way to their farms.This is after the KWS Director Dr.Julius Kipng'etich failed to turn up in a meeting expected to discuss how to deal with the problem in the area.He instead sent a warden asking the elders to send representatives to Nairobi for discussions. 

Only two days ago elephants were found straying in Kajiado area. It took the intervention of KWS chopper to drive them back to a nearby conservancy and save them from the furious mob baying for their blood.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Ng'arua Maarifa ICT pass out

By Simon Siwa

ICT trainees graduated in a colourful ceremony attended by members of the public from all walks of life. The event which was held on Friday in Sipili Catholic Hall attracted huge crowds which filled the hall to capacity. Trainees were awarded certificates for completing the three-month long training conducted at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre.

The ceremony was presided over by Mr. Noah Lusaka, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) officer from Nairobi headquarters. Over eighty graduands were awarded certificates for completing training in computer packages. Speakers were full of praises for ALIN for sponsoring the trainings which were conducted at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre. They also thanked Mr. Brian Bundi the ICT instructor for working tirelessly to ensure they acquire ICT skills. 

Most of the former trainees have secured themselves jobs, courtesy of the training they received in Maarifa Centre. They gave numerous testimonies of how they have benefitted from learning ICT. The trainees cut across all age groups.

Mr. Lusaka congratulated the graduands for their pass out and thanked them for finding time to train in ICT. He also acknowledged the funding from Melinda and Bill Gates which facilitated the training. He urged members of the community to maximize the use of facilities offered by ALIN in Maarifa centre. Lusaka noted that ICT had transformed the way people run their lives and asked the public to move with the pace in which the world is moving. He illustrated the manner in which ICT had eased communications by giving an example of a foreign radio show which he participates in without necessarily being physically present in the studio.

Several ICT students are currently undergoing free computer training in the Centre.

Graduation Pictorials

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Rural farmers feted

By Dennis Kipkirui

Residents of Kaharati village Laikipia County was treated with a rare fete on Thursday when Sipili Stakeholders Forum held a field day in the area. The event was held in Mr. David Mwai’s farm in Wangwaci. Participants showcased their products in style. This is part of monthly activities in Sipili Division organized by stakeholders.  The theme of the day was “farming as a business”

Mr. Noah Lusaka ALIN officer giving a speech during the Field day
Representatives from various organizations erected their stands and gave and gave an insight of the products they have to the attendants. Among those present include: Osho Chemicals ltd, ALIN, Green belt Movement, Elgon Kenya ltd, City Farm, RABAK, SCODE,TILT, Ministry Livestock and several community based organizations.

The event was graced by Mr. Noah Lusaka from Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) headquarters Nairobi. He implored the attendants to make good use of facilities brought to the society by well wishers. 

He also challenged them to ensure that they use the skills they get to change their livelihoods. Mr. Lusaka emphasized on the need for every farmer to keep proper farm records to enable them evaluate whether they are getting actual benefits from their farms. He mentioned one farmer from Sipili called Mr. Kiarahu who benefited from ALIN’s activities in the area and because of his ability to utilize the skills given he got an opportunity to travel to Ethiopia to share his experience with the rest of the world.
Members of the community being addressed at one of the exhibition stands

Members of the community were asked to embrace new technologies in farming. They were encouraged to use internet services to learn various methods of farming.

Sokopepe an online marketing service piloted by ALIN was mentioned as one of the facilities that was set to transform the way farm produce is marketed in the area.   

Products on display ranged from farm chemicals used to control pests and diseases, pepper farming, tree planting, livestock keeping, rabbit keeping traditional wares and energy savers.

The stakeholders are scheduled to have an exchange visit to Lessos, Nandi County in the month of August.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Rising insecurity in Laikipia

By Shadrack Njuguna
Laikipia West is witnessing unprecedented proliferation of crime. Attacks are becoming frequent in the area and security teams have been taken aback by reports from different areas where people have been attacked.
On Sunday one man was seriously injured by rustlers in broad daylight when he attempted to respond to an alarm. Reports indicate that the man was coming from the church when he decided to join a team which was pursuing stolen goats. Eye witnesses indicate that the man was shot on the foot by one rustler who had a gun in Lariak forest. He was rushed to Sipili Nursing Home where he was given first aid and later referred to Nyahururu Level Five Hospital.
When Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) reporter got wind of the information he rushed to the Nursing Home only to see the man being lifted to vehicle which took him to Nyahururu.LRV could not identify the man by name but saw him clad with a turban associated with a religious sect commonly called wa kithomo in the area. The reporter also saw blood which dotted the hospital gate. Earlier in a public rally attended by area MP Nderithu Mureithi who is also Industrilization Assistant minister one of the Ward Representative aspirants had informed the gathering of the attack and the MP indicated that he was aware of it and had requested the victim be transferred to Nyahururu. He also offered to foot medication bill. The assistant minister informed the rally on various measures the government is taking to curb the menace in the area.
On the fateful Sunday, one man was also attacked and injured in Ol Moran area of Laikipia West. Area Councilor sensationally claimed that there was laxity on the part of government to deal with the matter. He said that the residents had to raise funds to buy fuel for the vehicle that belong to the Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) based in Ol Motonyi. The unit is charged with the responsibility of dealing with cattle rustling in the area but ironically could not fuel their vehicle to pursue the stolen animals. The councilor asked the government to ensure that the District Officer (DO) was provided with a vehicle to boost security operations.
Elsewhere, a child was killed early Sunday in Sipili shopping centre in one of the scrap metal collecting points. It is alleged that the child was electrocuted after attempting to steal scrap metal. Eye witnesses claim that the owner had connected electricity to avert theft in his shop.

Monday, 9 July 2012

UDF drums up support in Sipili

By Dennis Kipkirui

 The United Democratic Front (UDF) party held a public rally on Sunday in Sipili market, Laikipia West Constituency. Industrialization assistant minister, who is also the area MP Hon. Nderitu Mureithi, led party leaders in urging the residents to join the new outfit. He asked the attendants to desist from tribal politics and embrace leaders who sell parties based on their policies and not individuals.

Hon.Jeremia Kioni address the gathering in Sipili market
  Ndaragwa MP Hon. Jeremiah Kioni felt short of naming a prominent politician whom he said was a schemer who wanted to ascend to power using the backdoor. He alleged that the politician ‘‘he feared most’’ was interested in dividing people into two factions so that there will be a presidential runoff during the upcoming elections. According to the MP a runoff between the ‘‘feared’’ politician and the other whom he did not name was dangerous. He alluded that the ‘‘feared’’ man could easily win in that case. 

 Kioni urged residents not to be balkanized since this may take the country back to problems it faced after the 2007 post election violence. “There is one person whom I fear most and you also fear. This person wants to ensure that only two people are in the runoff. How will it be when he will be sitting in power while we are making trips to The Hague?” He asked the crowd. He acknowledged the cosmopolitan nature of Laikipia County and cautioned people to tread carefully when choosing leaders since the region is volatile enough to be ignited by petty political differences.

Ecstatic crowd cheer UDF leaders
 Nderitu was taken to task by various county representative aspirants on his development track record since he came to power. He was at pains explaining why he wants to ascend to the post of a senator yet his record as the area MP is wanting. He has declared interest in the post of senator Laikipia County. The MP however asked the residents to be patient with up-coming developments especially the construction of the Sipili-Kinamba road which he claimed was in the pipe-line. He enumerated various development projects which he had started, chief among them being supporting educational and health services in the area.

  UDF National Treasurer Ms Martha Wangari told the crowd that UDF unlike other parties is not owned by individuals but members. She said that despite Hon. Musalia Mudavadi being the presidential candidate he does not own the party as an individual. She asked them to register as party members and turn out in large numbers during the day of election to ensure the party wins.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Mixed fortunes brought by last rains

 By Kelvin Njuguna

The second rains are on in Laikipia County. Like the rest of the country heavy rains have ceaselessly pounded the area. In this last leg of the annual seasonal rains school children from Kaharati, Naibrom and Ngomongo are now doing their usual jig of hop, step and jump in an effort to reach the learning institutions albeit without their wish.

The rains have brought fortunes to some while it is wrath to other sections of the populace. For instance, farmers are full of joy because majority of them are now through with weeding. They can now rest and wait for the harvest season.
Section of Sipili-Kinamba road rendered impassable by on-going rains

Poor state of road in Ng’arua particularly Sipili and Ol Moran Divisions are bringing good tidings to mechanics. Vehicle mechanics and cycle repairers are filling their pockets as a result of the poor road network. Roads are gaping with deep potholes. Political aspirants are all over dishing out promises if elected in the up-coming general elections. At the moment all manner of contestants are running all over pleading with voters to be given a chance to improve the social amenities in the area.

Farmers do their best in farming and get huge harvest. In spite of bumper harvest they are however faced with a myriad of problems. Farm inputs reach the farm late or even miss. Like everybody else in the area roads have hampered transportation of their produce. They make losses from their perishable goods which cannot reach the available market in time. This gives a field day to brokers who invade the helpless society and offer them their services at a high cost. In the long run farmers get low profits or even none at all.

For the business men the game is played in the same field but the goal posts are shifted. They face hard times in transporting fragile goods in and out of the area .During this period vehicles end up destroying their merchandise while struggling to get through the rough and slippery terrain of Ng’arua. Essentially they are equally not spared by the wrath brought by the raging rains. The dreaded brokers usually come in hand ready to negotiate in the difficult circumstances and end up fleecing the businessmen. Harvesting the fruits of rainy season, different ways.