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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Stadium in sorry state

By Peter Macharia
Sipili stadium has lost its former glory. Unlike other facilities in the country crippled with problems like land grabbing, the social amenity is struggling with poor maintenance. This public utility lacks proper management and is currently in a sorry state.

The stadium is located next to livestock and poultry market. It is mainly used in sports activities, which includes football, volleyball and basketball. The sporting activities usually take place during weekends.
The stadium also hosts the divisional competitions in the neighboring schools. Due to high number of livestock wandering around, the compound is fenced all around using a strong wire mesh to keep them off.

Although the stadium is big enough, it is poorly managed. Grass has grown all over the area. This has greatly inhibited smooth running of activities in the area. The tall grass growing all over the place can only serve as a home forsnakes, mosquitoes and other dangerous animals.

The field is not flat. Mounts and ridges are dotted allover the compound making sporting difficult to perform. Worst still, it contributes to unnecessary injuries during games. The field is large but only a small part of it is being used. This is because of ditches that are on one part of the compound, which doesn't favor the activities.

Although the residents have tried their best to dig some trenches all around, drainage is yet another challenge. During rainy seasons the fields flood preventing any activity from taking place.
Amazingly, the provincial administration has also turned a blind eye on the stadium. They host their functions like public holidays in private plots instead of championing for its maintenance so that the can use the stadium.

The coming to of a new government that has prioritized youth agenda has raised hopes in the area. Residents are hopeful that the county government will intervene and keep the grass short and make good use of the lower side of the compound.

They are also appealing to the Governor to help them restore the glory of the field.There is need to flatten it, dig trenches around to solve the problem of flooding during rainy season and remove mounts of earth.
Establishment of pitches for new games like handball is also necessary.This will make youth with diverse skills utilize the facility.

Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) is asking the County Government to make urgent intervention to allow young people utilize the facility and promote social development in the county.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Traders appeal for drainage and lighting in the market

By Peter Macharia
Sipili market is the main buying and selling point for residents of Sipili Division and its surrounding communities. People travel as far as Ndurumo, Muhotetu and Ol Moran areas to trade. Its vibrant business activities and enhanced security has made it a tower for enterprising in Laikipia west. Unfortunately the land allocated for the market is surprisingly small.

 Activities start as early as six O’clock in the morning and ends at six in the evening. However, the business is vibrant in the evening hours except that absence of lighting has greatly hampered business growth. Few who can manage to have pressure lamps and tin lamps operate up to 9pm.

Saturday is the main market day. Livestock and poultry predominantly occupy the market. It is also a day where many people do their weekly shopping.

Although the market is of great help to the community, it is associated to various problems such as poor drainage that results to flooding all over the area making business difficult to run. Lack of shades where the traders can just shelter either from the scorching sun or heavy rains is also a real challenge. 

Various suggestions have been made by some local traders to improve the conditions of the market to the local authorities. These suggestions include construction of dykes all round the market to drain water, expansion of the market to create enough space, erectingtemporary shades for the traders to shelter in and establishing an entrance and exit gates so as to have a controlled movement of people.

Traders are also appealing to the local authority to put erection of lamp posts as a priority. This will boost security and also enable them extend hours of trade.

Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) believes that the County Government will look into this matter and make urgent intervention.       

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Quest for juicy meat led to farm innovation

By Bett Kipsang’
 When Rahab Githumbi first saw a Turkey 13 years ago, it was a fatty bird, whose meat whets an appetite. She decided to buy some and keep in her farm.  ‘‘The seller told me that the flesh on the neck of a Turkey was full of juicy fat’’ she said.  She bought 2, 3 months’ old Turkeys and started rearing them alongside her chicken. Rahab was amazed at the way the two bird species got along well with each other. ‘‘After a few months, the female turkey started laying eggs in a nearby shrub’’ said Rahab.
Rahab feared that wild animals may eat the eggs of her nice birds. She devised an innovative management strategy; taking the eggs to the house in the evening and returning it back to the nest in the morning before the bird realized that her egg was missing. As the eggs accumulated, she started keeping the rest of the eggs in the house and taking only one to the nest for the bird to see and continue inhabiting that next. The farmer observed that Turkeys are sensitive birds. ‘‘If they notice that somebody is following them to the nest, they turn back from that direction until they are sure nobody is keen on them’’ she said.
‘‘When the bird started staying long in the nest, I realized maybe it was time for it to become broody and sit on the eggs, I observed it for two days and latter gave it all the eggs to sit on’’ she said.  Her experiments continued as she thought of an idea after the other. ‘‘What if I gave it chicken eggs to sit on as well?’’ was the question on Rahab’s mind. She later learned that Turkey eggs took 28 days to hatch, while those of hens took only 21days.
To make sure that eggs from the two sets of poultry hatched simultaneously; she delays chicken eggs by seven days after the Turkey has started sitting on its eggs.
‘‘Turkeys have large surface area, produces more heat and can sit on the eggs more seriously than chicken’’ she said.
Young turkeys are very susceptible to diseases and needs to be fed well. Once the eggs hatch into chicken and turkey chicks called Poults, she then isolates them from the Turkey and uses a hen to take care of the young Turkey and chicken chicks until they are three months old and ready for selling! In her experience, the hens are more cautious in taking care of the chicks and offer better protection at the tender age than the turkeys which often step on the young chicks and does not bother feeding them!
Young turkeys are fed to milk and other poultry feed, they are also fed to the locally available stuff like vegetable, food leftovers, onions and carrots. 
  Apart from the delicacy which was the original intention of the farmer, turkey rearing has come with a multiple benefits. A turkey fetches higher profits per kilogram than chicken's, turkeys are also much heavier. One turkey can sit on up to 20 chicken eggs alongside its own and hatch them successfully. Two Turkeys in a homestead serves the same purpose as brooder.
Within a household of 9 members, one mature turkey can provide meat for four (4) days. One turkey on average weighs up to 17 Kgs when mature. Turkeys provide lean meat and eggs.
  Turkeys on the other hand are used for additional security at the homestead as they respond to strangers by making noise. ‘‘They make a lot of noise whenever a stranger enters the compound, thus alerting me even when I am far in the farm’’ Rahab said. 
The turkeys produce about four times more manure than chicken, which is used to enhance farm fertility and growing vegetables. Rahab observed that unlike chicken, Turkeys are heavy feeders and their droppings accumulate very fast. She added that it is important to feed the birds and maintain good hygiene in the poultry house.

 Given the ready market, Rahab concentrates on production of 3 month old chicks which she sells. One turkey chick is sold at between Ksh. 300 to 500/= depending on the factors such as business patronage and quality of the bird. One turkey egg is sold for Ksh. 30 to 40/=. Most buyers visit to buy directly from her homestead as word spreads about her ventures.
 The chicken are left to mature then are sold to the local Sipili market. Occasionally she sells mature turkeys that fetch over Ksh. 2500/= locally.

 This innovation has raised Mama Rahabs’ social status in the village and she’s much respected as an expert on turkeys and chicken production. From her home to Sipili market is about 4.5 Kms, though she acknowledges that this distance does not deter visitors from making their way to her farm. She gets many different visitors including farmers, diverse professionals, scholars and leaders. This has made her become eminent as a ‘turkey champion’ in Laikipia! 

 The demand for the turkeys is growing and sometimes she’s unable to meet it! Rahab has produced and sold over 1700 turkeys over the years in different parts of Kenya including Isiolo, Mombasa, Nairobi, Siaya, Kyuso, Muranga etc. She uses the income from the sales to pay school fees for her children and to diversify her farm activities. 

 Rahab plans to expand and improve her poultry production in future to meet the ever increasing demand for turkeys in Kenya. Her dream is to get some financial support and scale up her enterprise by starting the first ever mixed turkey and chicken hatchery on her farm! 

 She’s aware of the potential for value addition by recycling the bird’s feathers. These ventures will help create local employment to youths and strengthen community resilient to climate change and make a significant contribution towards the fight against poverty and hunger in Kenya and beyond.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Solar-powered fence increase chances of farming

By Dennis Kipkirui
Residents of Laikipia may now rest after devising ways of curbing elephant menace. This is after they began constructing a simple fence to keep away the destructive animals. Mr. John Njeru a retired teacher is taking the lead. His proximity to Lariak forest where these animals inhabit has only served to make him devise the best method to reduce elephant menace. Njeru owns 13 acres adjacent to the forest. He bought eleven out of his retirement benefits and inherited two from his father after dividing the 12-acre farm amongst six brothers.

Mr.Njeru constructing solar-powered electric fence
Njeru settled in Laikipia County more than six years ago. He did this painfully after his life was endangered for fighting for the rights of coffee farmers in his Nyeri backyard.  “Anyhow this is a story for another day,” said Mr. Njeru appearing visibly disturbed after refusing to pursue this line of questioning. “I am not yet healed from the torture of coffee politics in Nyeri, we better talk about the more progressive things I have done to ensure that farmers here live safely and harvest their crops without being destroyed by elephants.”

As fate would have it, Njeru met another tragedy in his farm. Elephants invaded his farm one evening, and as he tried to drive them away, he was nearly killed by one of the jumbos. At the end of the day, crops were destroyed and had to run for his dear life. This made him realize that a permanent solution must be obtained however expensive it might be.

The solution came in form of a fence. He remembered a fence he once saw at Kifaru area in Nyeri County and thought that it was ideal for his farm. After thinking over it, he visited Gallagher Power Fencing East Africa Company in Nairobi that exclusively deals with electric fences.  The purpose of the visit was to familiarize him with construction of electric fences and whether he can borrow the technology from them and improvise it in his farm.

The visit was invaluable to the pensioner. Immediately he came back, he bought materials worth Ksh 180000 and began to construct the fence all by himself. The fence needed cement, metal rods, insulators and wires for materials.  Njeru molded the poles and erected round his farm. He also managed to purchase a powerful solar panel that could produce up to 125 watts. 

“When I fenced my farm, my brothers were amazed. They witnessed an incident whereby the elephants came during the day and could not access the farm. Every time they try to, the electric fence could hit them. They ended up going round the fence until they returned to the forest without a trace of destruction. They then requested me to help in fencing theirs. All I wanted from them were cables since I had purchased enough materials”, said Njeru. Today the whole family fence is electrified.

When the neighbors saw the development in their farm they approached him and asked for his assistance. Because of his desire to help the community he asked them, just like his brothers, to purchase materials. The villagers also saw it wise to request Mr. Njeru if he could arrange for some of them to visit the Gallagher Power company. 

They also petitioned the area MP to allocate them funds to construct the fence. The money was allocated up to a tune of Ksh 1.3 million.  The fence is now under construction and will cover a distance of 15 km. It is expected that this will keep elephants away from the farm just like it has managed in Njeru’s farm.

Njeru is now a happy horticultural farmer with annual revenue of Ksh 2 million from a 2 acre irrigated farm. He plants onions, cabbages carrots, butter nuts and water melons. He also has 500 plants of tree tomatoes. The electric fence has served to protect his produce and since he has plenty of water in the farm he farms in and out of season. 

The fence also helps him to keep away cattle rustlers and his animals from straying to the forest.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Cultural heritage of the Pokot

 By Joseph Nderitu
The mention of Pokot in Laikipia sends a chilling feeling down the spine of Laikipia residents. They are known for their ruthlessness and strong affiliation to livestock that has made them raid other communities over time. Although they are not the original inhabitants of the county, they have however made a footing in the place.

Photo of a Pokot woman
The name Laikipia has its origins with the laikipiak Maasai who once moved through this area. They were defeated and dispersed by the ancestors of the modern Kenyan Maasai in a series of major battles during the 19th century.

Some western tribes belonging to the collective group also live in laikipia. One of the most populous of this group is the Pokot. Pokot have a unique culture, divided into two major groups, that is ;people of the cattle(pipa tix)and  people of the corn(pipa pax),cattle herders and agriculturalists. No other tribe in Kenya is so distinctively divided.

T he two groups are fundamentally different with differently designed structures for housing. Despite this division Pokot culture is essentially a nomadic cattle culture. Even ‘corn people’ keep cattle. Customs and traditions closely are linked to the Karamojong of Uganda and Teso of western Kenya than other Kalenjin peoples. It is worth noting that Pokot Kalenjin (otherwise called highland nilotes) unlike Teso, Turkana and Samburu who are plain nilotes.
Pokot youth outside a manyatta

Pokot value cattle so much. Bulls with distinctive horns that is horns facing forward and others facing backward. The relationship between the Pokot and these bulls was one of near mystical worship. Corn people like many tribes adapted to initiation rituals-based rites of circumcision. Cattle people do not circumcise, sharing opinion of the Karamojong and Teso that circumcision is barbaric. Instead they developed a rite of initiation called the sapana initiation  which meant entry  into one of two sets either; Tukoi(zebra)because of their distinctive pattern on their brass jewelry or  the Nyimur (stone)reference to their dark copper  jewlery

Pokot women wear distinctive brass jewelry including large looped earrings. After marriage, women generally pierce their lower lip and fit with a decorative plug.
Laikipia is rich with diverse culture worth exploring.