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Saturday, 29 March 2014

Sipili stakeholders forum hold farmers field day at Makutano B

By Bob Aston
Residents of Makutano B village in Laikipia County were treated to an agricultural field day on March 27, 2014. The field day was held at Elijah Mathenge’s farm. This is part of agricultural activities in Sipili Division organized by agricultural stakeholders forum.  The theme of the day was “Good seed for better yield.”
Sam from Ng'arua Maarifa Centre training some farmers about Sokopepe
Representatives from various organizations erected their stands and gave an insight of the products they have to the attendants. Among those present included: Syngenta, Kenya Seed Company Ltd, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Agro Solutions Ltd, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), Pioneer Kenya Ltd, Osho Chemicals, Monsanto (Seminis) and several community based organizations.
Speaking during the event Samwel Kiige, Field Officer Ministry of Agriculture, Sipili division urged farmers to follow proper planting methods in order to enjoy maximum benefits from their farms. Kiige said that practicing good crop husbandry would ensure that farmers get good returns from their farming activities.
“It was a good day. Farmers have received a lot of training from crop production to weeding. I hope they will practice what they have learned during the training,” said Kiige.
Elcy Kigano, Divisional Crop Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, Sipili division said that the field day was meant for farmers to interact with various stakeholders and learn from them. She said that the field day was also a day when farmers interact with their fellow farmers and share experiences and challenges that they encounter.
Livestock officer training some farmers about breeding
“Holding the field day at Mathenge’s farm has enabled other farmers to also learn from him about water harvesting. We have been encouraging farmers to harvest water instead of depending on rain fed agriculture,” said Elcy.
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. Farmers were also encouraged to use Sokopepe- an online and SMS based platforms that provide market prices information to farmers and links farmers with buyers.
Farmers were informed that Sokopepe will help them to query prices in major towns in Kenya and make an informed decision on where to sell and at what price thus have a bargaining power.
Peter Mukono, a Livestock extension officer with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries said that he was happy as the field day was successful.
Mukono said that farmers were trained by government staff and private practitioners on most of the enterprises pertaining livestock.
“Enterprises covered were bee keeping, rabbit production, breeding and dairy goat. Most of the emphasis was on fodder establishment since this is the right season for establishing fodder,” said Mukono.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Last minute rush for certified hybrid seeds

By Philip Mwamrizi
The Kenya Seed Company Ltd has been organizing road shows across the country to teach farmers on the type of seeds required and methods of farming. The road show reached Sipili Shopping Centre on the evening of Tuesday 25th March. A Caravan of up to ten vehicles comprising vans, pickups, lorries, and a mobile stage from a fabricated container roved the all weather roads of the area.
Farmers queing to buy certified seeds
“We could have been more. It is so unfortunate that some of the stakeholders such as KARI who were advocating for soil testing and who we were moving with could not make it here,” said Francis Mwaura, Kenya Seed Company Ltd Sales and Marketing Manager.
Talk by top notch Kenyan celebrity entertainers such as David who is with the Churchill show, zangalewa dancers among others attracted a large crowd of people. Students who were heading home from school found themselves stuck and glued to the music.
As the entertainment went on, the seed company officials simultaneously sold seeds to a large number of enthusiastic farmers who had thronged the place to buy the certified hybrid seeds.
Kenya Seed Company Ltd officials turned one of the pickups into a retail centre while few metres behind was a lorry which was acting as a ‘store’.
“We have all the variety suitable for this region. Our price today is even lower than for certified seed agents of Kenya Seed Company Ltd, as we have not included transport cost,” said Mwaura.
Farmers queing to buy certified seeds
“We are trying to build the confidence of the farmers in this region together with Laikipia Produce and Marketing cooperative society as cases of sale of fake seeds has been high here,” added Mwaura.
It is said that some of the region farmers last season planted fake seeds which had poor returns. Mwaura said that it is for this reason that they decided to come to Sipili and sell seeds directly to farmers.
“The issue of fake seeds has been a big problem. We are even saying they are becoming our competitors. This is a multimillion market in the agricultural sector and it was bound to attract some unscrupulous traders. The days of people selling fake seeds to farmers will soon come to an end as we are devising strategies on how to eliminate the vice,” said Mwaura.
Mwaura said that they are currently working on a verification system. Once the system has been finalized farmers will be able to send serial numbers printed on the packaging paper of seeds to a short network number. The system will then verify the authenticity of the seeds.
Certified seeds being loaded into a pickup
Mwaura said that no serial number will be able to be used twice and someone will not be able to generate a serial number on his or her own.
Francis Gikuma, a farmer who had bought more than fifty kilos of maize seeds said that he spontaneously decided to buy the seeds as he knew that he would not get another opportunity.
“I have spent all the money that I had to buy maize seeds. Buying from Kenya seed guarantees me that I have purchased certified hybrid seeds,” said Gikuma.
Kenya Seed Company Ltd could not meet the huge demand of farmers in the area and this prompted them to leave a large stock of certified seeds with Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society to sell to farmers.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Stakeholders meet to strategize on how to strengthen Co-operative

By Bob Aston
Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) and Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) held a joint meeting on March 25, 2014 at Sipili Catholic Hall to strategize on how to strengthen the Co-operative.
Anthony Mugo addressing co-operative members
The Co-operative which was registered last year currently has more than 250 active members. ALIN through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre, with support from the Ford Foundation, initiated the formation of the Co-operative.
Speaking during the meeting, Anthony Mugo, ALIN Deputy Director said that they are happy with the progress of the Co-operative. Anthony said that there is a lot of goodwill on the Co-operative leadership.

Anthony gave a brief introduction of ALIN, saying that they strive to improve the livelihoods of arid lands communities through delivery of practical information using modern technologies. He said that ALIN wants to see how the co-operative can be included in the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP).
“The co-operation and goodwill exhibited by the co-operative members is exemplary. We want to strengthen the Co-operative and that is why we have come here with SNV so that they can listen to what you have to say,” said Anthony.
Sam Mwangi, Team Leader Community Empowerment-ALIN said that farmers cannot succeed if they do not put a lot of emphasis on Kilimo Biashara. He said that demo plots that will be established will help farmers as they will be able to gain knowledge through the farms.
David Makongo addressing co-operative members
“Co-operative officials have really worked hard. There is transparency in the co-operative and as ALIN we are proud of that,” said Mwangi.
ALIN is currently offering advisory support services, capacity building, information access and empowerment to the members of the Co-operative.
Waweru Kanja, Chairman Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society thanked ALIN for initiating the formation of the Co-operative. Kanja said that farmers have started enjoying the benefits of the Co-operative as they are now getting farm inputs through the Co-operative.
Kanja informed members of the co-operative that they are now partnering with Kenya Seed Company Ltd to supply farmers with certified hybrid seeds.
“We have so far bought 16 tonnes of maize seeds while the National Cereal and Produce Board has issued the Co-operative with 100 bags of subsidized government fertilizer,” said Kanja.
Kanja said that they are also partnering with the East Africa Grain Council to see how they can get warehouse Receipt System.
David Makongo, a Business Development Advisor with SNV said that they had come to listen to the co-operative members on how they can strengthen it.
Sam Mwangi addressing co-operative members
David said that SNV wants the co-operative members to be able to sell farm produce to schools through Home Grown School Feeding Programme.
“We want to reduce poverty through helping farmers improve their livelihood. We have come here to enable you sell your produce to schools,” said David.
“Farmers have the capacity to provide food for schools. We want to cover school feeding program through structured market,” added David.
The Co-operative members went through Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat (SWOT) analysis. They were informed that the SWOT analysis will guide the capacity building process. The members were told that addressing weaknesses in the co-operative will help to strengthen it.
SNV, ALIN and Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society decided on April 8, 2014 when they will roll out various training to farmers.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Farmers benefit from Laikipia agri-business trade fair

By Bob Aston
The agri-business trade fair held at Nyahururu stadium last week provided a unique opportunity for more than 100 farmers from Sipili Division in Laikipia County a forum to interact with agricultural sector stakeholders. The farmers were exposed to new technologies and ideas as well as being encouraged to invest in farming as a business.
John Macharia, a maize farmer said that he attended the agro-business trade fair with the sole purpose of learning more about maize farming.
Farmers being trained by Tree is Life
“I concentrated a lot on fertilizer application, weeding, harvesting, foliar spraying and post harvest grain handling techniques,” said John.
John said that he now wants to start preparing his farm ahead of the planting season. He intends to practice what he learned during the trade fair. He purchased H624 maize seeds, foliar and NPK fertilizer during the trade fair. John said that he decided to buy H624 maize seed variety as it does well in Sipili as well as they are tolerant to grey leaf spot, leaf blight and rust.
“I have bought 23.23.0 as I was advised not to use DAP as soil in Sipili has become acidic as nutrients have been depleted. Continuing use of DAP would lead to decline in production,” said John.
John said that information that he learnt about farm preparation is invaluable as he has gained a lot of important information that he now wants to apply practically.
Joseph Maina who has a lot of passion on bee farming said that he gathered a lot of information about bee keeping. Joseph said that he learnt about how to make wax as well as health benefits of propolis.
“I never knew that propolis has a lot of medicinal values. I have learnt that it can be used as an antioxidant, in cancer treatment and cancer prevention, as an oral hygiene product due to its antimicrobial properties, treatment of ulcers and for allergies treatment,” said Maina.
Maina said that he learned a lot about livestock feeder and about rabbit farming. He said that he never had interest in rabbit farming before but after the trade fair he now intends to start keeping rabbit.
Farmers inquiring about UAP services
“I now know how to take good care of my livestock. I plan to start rabbit farming due to its nutritional benefits,” said Maina.
Samuel Nyaga who is passionate about organic farming said that he learnt a lot about organic farming. Samuel said that he got to learn about Aloe Vera tree and its benefits.
“Last year I bought aloe vera tree seedlings but I did not plant them as I thought that they normally take a long time to mature. I have learnt today that they take only three months to mature. I am going to plant them immediately the long rain starts,” said Samuel.
Samuel who is also interested in carbon credit money said that he was trained on how to use castor oil cooker. He said that he will now be able to train other farmers in Sipili who are soon set to receive castor oil cooker.
Samuel has also decided to start coriander farming. He said that he leaned a lot about coriander and he now wants to starts farming it as he was told that there is ready market.
“I have decided to venture into dhania farming. I will get all the required farm inputs so that I can start immediately. I have been assured that market is not a problem,” said Samuel.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Juhudi Kilimo helps in investing in rural area farmers

By Bob Aston
Lack of capital has been one of the major challenges faced by farmers in rural areas. Most farmers have been unable to access credit facilities hence unable to expand their agricultural activities. This challenge is now being addressed by Juhudi Kilimo which invests in farmers in rural areas.
Juhudi Kilimo began in 2004 as an initiative within K-Rep Development Agency, an NGO that performs research and product development for the microfinance sector. In 2009, Juhudi Kilimo became an independent for-profit company.
Farmers during Laikipia County Agri-business trade fair
Juhudi Kilimo finances specific agricultural assets that offer immediate and sustainable income for rural areas farmers. The assets act as an alternative form of collateral in case of default.
“Lack of capital is no longer an excuse for farmers. Asset financing is an innovative approach to poverty alleviation. Rural farmers are able to acquire farm inputs and other agricultural equipments through our asset financing,” said Jane Zakayo from Juhudi Kilimo.
Jane said that Juhudi Kilimo maximizes the benefit of asset financing by providing both technical assistance and business training. Prior to each loan, officers visit the client's farm to perform a business assessment and advice on improvements.
“Juhudi Kilimo clients are provided with targeted training on new assets, as well as group management and leadership and finance principles,” said Jane.
The first four meetings of a new group are then devoted to training clients on basic finance and business. After a loan is approved officers give continued support to farmers as well as offering them technical assistance on assets.
“We train on value chain and assist farmers to access tools that they need to scale up and succeed,” said Jane
Farmers being trained on new innovations
To aid its poorest clients, Juhudi Kilimo facilitates small loan amounts, payment installments, and savings deposits.
“We specialize in agriculture thus we have to ensure that we are on the ground to assess how farmers are doing,” said Jane.
Jane said that Juhudi Kilimo clients support each other through solidarity loan groups and they also co-guarantee member’s loans.
Juhudi Kilimo offers financing for the following assets; dairy farming like dairy cows, unit construction, milk pans, chaff cutters and cooling units. Livestock and fish farming like poultry, pigs and rabbits. Agricultural equipments like irrigation, water tanks, green houses, solar devices, bio-gas plants and posho mills. Farm transportation like motorcycles and bicycles.
“Each group must have a minimum of 15 members. We usually train groups for six weeks. Once they start harvesting we assist them by linking them to necessary markets,” said Jane.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Laikipia Governor opens county Agri-business trade fair

By Bob Aston
Laikipia Governor Hon Joshua Irungu was the guest of honour during the official opening of an Agri-business trade fair that started on March 20, 2014 at Nyahururu Stadium in Laikipia County. The two day event is set to end on 21st March. The trade fair has been organized by Kenya Livestock Producers Association in collaboration with the Laikipia County Government and has been officially sponsored by Airtel Kenya. The theme for the Agribusiness Trade Fair is “Farming is big business.”
Governor Irungu being shown certified seeds
The main objective of the trade fair is; To afford the regions farmers, service providers and industry suppliers a unique opportunity to showcase their products for benchmarking and trade, expose agricultural sector stakeholders to new technologies and ideas for better efficiencies and quality, provide a platform for short seminars and demonstrations to small scale and large scale players in the livestock sector, to showcase outstanding breeds for different livestock and to encourage farmers to invest in farming as a business.

Stakeholders exhibiting their products include; Airtel Kenya, Kenya Livestock Producers Association (KLPA), Kenya Highland Seed Company Ltd, East Africa Seed Company Ltd, Equity Bank, Family Bank, Kenya Women Finance Trust Fund, Organic Africa, Brade Gate Poultry Industries, Juhudi Kilimo, Elgon Kenya Limited, Simlaw Seeds, Spring Valley Machinery Services Ltd, Nobert Herbal Products and Pannar Seed (K) Ltd.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, Laikipia County Governor Hon Joshua Irungu said that the County Government is focusing on undertaking capacity building for farmers and farmer organizations in value addition as well as encouraging storage and packaging of livestock products.
“I would like to encourage farmers in Laikipia County to enhance value addition to their beef and dairy produce individually or as groups through the establishment of cottage industries or small processing plants. This way farmer’s income will be enhanced and more jobs will be created for the benefit of our rural population,” said Hon Irungu.
Governor Irungu viewing one of the Exhibition stands
Governor Irungu also said that the County Government is encouraging development of supportive infrastructural services, promoting fodder production and high quality livestock feeds, reclaiming and developing livestock holding yards and livestock stock routes.
 “Farmer organizations are important vehicles in the agricultural value chain approach. I therefore urge farmers to form and join such organizations in order to enjoy the economy of scale,” said Hon Irungu.
Governor Irungu urged livestock farmers to improve production and value chain skills. He said that farmers should shift from subsistence production to start focusing on commercial production as it has huge potential.
“Beef and dairy production are the most important livestock activities for farmers in Laikipia County. It is important for farmers to adopt efficient ways of production,” said Hon Irungu.

Governor Irungu said that they are establishing disease free zones within the county as well as intensifying security along the border. He said that relevant County Government departments are currently addressing the poor infrastructure network and marketing channels in the county.
One of the exhibitors receiving a trophy
“Use of modern farming methods and technologies will help improve efficiency of livestock production to our farmers. This calls for intensification of production system and proper management of resources so as to enhance productivity from the area,” said Hon Irungu.

Geoffrey Gikungu, National Chairman, Kenya Livestock Producers Association urged farmers to implement what they will learn during the two day event. Gikungu asked farmers to join groups so that they can be taught on different aspect of livestock farming like fodder management, water harvesting, value addition and soil testing.

Some of the highlight of the two day Agri-business exhibition include ; Dairy Products,  E-dairy, rabbits, quails, bee Keeping, agro-chemicals and seeds, financial services products, Insurance Services, agricultural  products and farm machinery and equipments

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

More farmers opt for early planting

By Bob Aston
The onset of the rainy season has seen more farmers deciding on early planting. Elcy Kigano, Divisional Crop Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, Sipili division said that planting season in Sipili normally starts from 25th March to early April although this season some farmers have opted to plant earlier than that.
Elcy said that rainfall has started early this season. Most farmers have not yet done land preparation as they were caught unaware. Elcy advised farmers to plant extra seeds to allow for losses due to insect pests and ground squirrels.
Peter Migwe at his farm

Elcy also urged farmers to ensure that seeds are not directly in contact with fertilizer during planting, as this can cause poor germination due to seed scorching. 

“Farmers should maximize crop production through appropriate land-use management. They should also put in place soil conservation measures to minimize environmental degradation,” said Elcy.
Data from Kenya Meteorological service indicates that most of the rainfall over the better part of the country is likely to be recorded during the peak month of April. Laikipia County is expected to receive near normal rainfall with a tendency towards above normal. Cessation dates of the long rain in the county is expected to be between 3rd and 4th  week of May.
Early planting ensures that crops can be harvested before depletion of soil moisture as there will be less water loss by evaporation. It will also ensure there is better response to fertilizer. Yields are greatly reduced by late planting.
Peter Migwe who has been farming maize and beans in a three acre piece of land said that he decided to plant early in order to harvest early. Peter is among the few farmers in Sipili who managed to buy the subsidized government fertilizer.

Most farmers in the region have opted to buy fertilizer from agro-vets. Fertilizer prices in most shops is retailing as high as Ksh 3,100 while the subsidized government fertilizer is retailing at Ksh 2,000.
Peter and his family planting peas

James Mwai who also decided to plant early said that he could not wait for the government fertilizer as time was not on his side. He had decided to plant early but getting subsidized government fertilizer was a problem.

“I had wanted to get subsidized government fertilizer but it was not possible. I decided to buy in an agro-vet. It was costly as I had to part with Ksh 3,000 but I did not have any option,” said Mwai.

Mwai also decided to use DAP instead of 23.23.0 which he said is the most preferred fertilizer in Machunguru area and because he believes that it is reliable.

Despite some farmers deciding on early planting some have not yet planted. Johnstone Ndegwa Ndiritu who has a tree nursery said that he depends on sale of trees to buy farm inputs. Johnstone said that the onset of the long rain and subsequent purchase of trees will enable him to start preparing his farm for planting.

Last year Johnstone used 23.23.0 in a three quarter piece of land to plant maize and he said that the returns were good as he managed to get 22 bags of maize. Previously he was using DAP and he was getting between 15-17 bags.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Farming Innovation using locally available materials

By Philip Mwamrizi
In the recent past agricultural farming has taken a totally new dimension. Certified seeds customized for regions, soil testing, commercial fertilizers and tested and approved modern practice and farming techniques are the sectors’ new vocabulary.
With all this information out for use, innovation and creativity has slowly crept into the minds of farmers where one takes into practice specific or a combination of relevant info that best works for him or her.
Lucy  at her green house
One such farmer is Lucy Mwangi, a resident of Naibrom in Laikipia County. After her hotel business collapsed in 2008, Lucy decided to venture into small scale commercial agriculture by first building a greenhouse. 
Her creativity and innovation drew in her husband Francis Mwangi Mbugua who also started showing interest in the project. Francis who is commonly known as ‘Fanana’ decided to scale down his carpentry work in order to concentrate on farming.
“I could not afford erecting a green house supported by metallic bars while buying a green house was beyond my reach,” said Lucy.
 “We had to be innovative. My husband built this using timber poles and PVC material we brought in Nakuru. He is a carpenter by profession so his skills really helped,” added Lucy.
The finishing process included digging several trenches two feet wide and deep along the length and filling them up with a mixture of rich top soil, saw dust, charcoal powder and other plant waste to create fertile arable planting medium.
The family has grown tomatoes, capsicum, onions, kales and spinach in the green house which is estimated to be 50 by 100 feet.
A visitor who came to view the green house
Lucy said that returns from the green house has helped the family improve its economic livelihood. The family has been able to pay school fees, medical bills and even bought a piece of land in the neighborhood to expand their plot. Many visitors have also been coming to visit the farm to learn from her.
Lucy’s youngest daughter who cleared form four last year has also taken a keen interest in the project and now has a portion of the greenhouse house set aside for her. She has now grown vegetables in her portion of the green house.
Her innovation has constantly been increasing as she seeks to improve yields. Saw dust and other waste from her husband carpentry workshop always ends up in the farm. Water from the kitchen is also recycled into the farm.
“I would advise other farmers that they should not restrict themselves to size of land, rain pattern or good soil to plant crops,” said Lucy.
Like any other project, the greenhouse has its equal share of problems. The current rains experienced in the country have been her biggest menace coupled with the strong winds in the region. The weather mishap blew away PVC materials covering the structure. In some parts trees swaying by wind and rubbing against the walls tore the material. More than half the greenhouse was destroyed by strong winds.
Lucy also said that her other challenge is lack of water for irrigating the crops in the greenhouse. Keeping the soil moist has also been a challenge due to evaporation caused by heat in the greenhouse. Others include pest and diseases which are common in any farm and constant threat from elephants.
 “Everything is possible. We are working with a small piece of land but despite the challenges, we are succeeding,” said Lucy.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Youth farmer ventures into horticulture farming

By Bob Aston
Youth unemployment has remained one of the most daunting challenges in Kenya’s socio-economic development. Today, unemployment in Kenya stands at 40%, and 70% of those unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 35. Victor Gachigi a 30 year old, from Naibrom area in Laikipia County decided to venture into farming from 2013 instead of looking for a white collar job.
Victor has planted carrots, cabbages, kales and spinach in a one acre piece of land. He has planted the Nantes variety of carrot and Gloria F1 variety of cabbage.
Victor said that he has always had a passion for farming. Last year he planted half an acre of maize but the returns were not good hence he decided to venture into horticulture this year, returns in horticulture is better than maize.
Victor accessing computer at Ng'arua Maarifa Centre
Victor said that he decided on Gloria F1 as it is adaptable to various climatic conditions as they can withstand high temperatures, matures early, has uniform growth, and also due to its early maturity.
“Cabbage requires rain water or irrigation as it has high water requirement during growth. I have now been able to reduce costs used in pumping water for irrigation due to the rainfall currently being experienced in the country,” said Victor.
Victor also decided on Nantes carrot as they are popular among farmers, easy to grow, mature early and have a sweet taste.
Victor said that most youths fear venturing into horticulture farming due to the high cost of agricultural inputs, horticulture crops perishing very fast and the fluctuating horticulture prices.
 “The major problem in this area is elephants eating farm produce. It is common to hear that elephants have destroyed an entire farm in Naibrom,” said Victor.
Victor has been a frequent user of Ng’arua Maarifa Centre. He is normally seen using a computer to research on carrot and cabbage farming as well as reading agricultural books.
During one of his visits to the Maarifa Centre he was encouraged to use Sokopepe- an online and SMS based platform that provide market prices information to farmers and links farmers with buyers.
Additionally Sokopepe provides other services like access to input suppliers, extension services and a pool of information on both crop farming and livestock.
Victor at his farm
“I am now able to query prices of cabbage and carrots in major towns in Kenya through Sokopepe. This will help me make an informed decision on where to sell and at what price when I harvest,” said Victor.
Victor said that use of Sokopepe has enlightened him a lot as he can even query farming tips. This has enabled him to learn a lot about diseases that affect carrots, cabbages and kales.
“Today I have queried price of cabbage in Nairobi and Nakuru. Cabbage is going for Ksh 1000 per bag in Nakuru while in Nairobi it is going for Ksh 2200 per bag. One will get a higher value for his crops in Nairobi,” said Victor.
Victor has encouraged other youths to venture into farming instead of travelling to Nairobi to look for jobs. He said that the high unemployment in Kenya can only be reduced when youths change their attitude on farming and take farming as a business. This he said will improve their livelihood as they will be able to improve their economic status.
“I can advise my fellow youths to appreciate farming. Farming has a lot of potential. I expect that I will be harvesting cabbages from June while I will be harvesting carrots from July,” said Victor.
Horticulture is the most vibrant sectors in Kenya's agricultural sector and contributes immensely to the socio-economic development of the country. The sector currently records an average growth of 15% to 20% per annum.
The sub sector employs approximately 4.5 million people countrywide directly in production, processing, and marketing, while another 3.5 million people benefit indirectly through trade and other activities.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Lariak Primary School holds prize giving day ceremony

By Robert Eyapan
Lariak Primary school held a price giving day ceremony on March 13, 2014. The colourful ceremony was graced by various stakeholders in the education sector who included Sipili and Ol-Moran Area Education Officers. The theme of the event was ‘Team work and devotion by all for a successful future’.
Pupils entertaining guests
Anastacia Mucheke, a teacher at the school gave an analysis of the school performance. Mucheke said that the performance of the school has been consistently improving.
Speaking during the event Sipili Division Area Education Officer (AEO), Peter Keru said that the core purpose of those in the education sector is to develop children.
Keru stressed the importance of team work which he said is vital for the school performance to improve. He said that their main objective is to ensure better score in Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE).
“Every team player should ensure that whatever is done should be for the success of the school. Let us keep emphasizing the importance of a child friendly school,” said Keru.
“People are happy when students perform well. We would like students to work hard and join secondary schools,” added Keru.
Peter Kariuki, Head Teacher Lariak Primary School said that there is a lot of hard work and dedication done by teachers at the school. Kariuki said that the kind of work that the teachers do without supervision is wonderful.
“I feel greatly honored and privileged to welcome each and every one of you to this great occasion of celebrating our success in various disciplines as Lariak Primary fraternity,” said Kariuki.
A teacher receiving her award
Kariuki said that the school has for the last five years been moving from strength to strength. The school mean score has been steadily going up while number of pupils joining secondary school has been on the rise.
Ol-Moran Division Area Education officer, Edward Omondi said that it is important for teachers to realize that their work is to ensure that they transfer knowledge to students. Omondi urged all teachers to make sure that they contribute towards making the school improve its performance.
“Set your target towards achieving your goals. You cannot succeed if you do not act. We hope next year when we come here we will be celebrating better results,” said Omondi.
Mr. Minjire who is the School Management Committee (SMC) Chairman congratulated the teachers for their good work. Minjire urged the teachers and pupils to continue working together to ensure that they post better results come next year.
Pupils who got above 300 marks in 2013 KCPE examination were rewarded. Also receiving gifts were top pupils per class, teachers in the school, best performing clubs in extracurricular activities, best teachers in subjects whose pupils performed well in KCPE as well as the school management committee members.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Ministry starts vaccinating poultry against Newcastle Disease

 By Bob Aston

One of the major challenges affecting poultry farmers is the issue of disease control and management. Most farmers have not adopted the practice of disease control interventions such as vaccination. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries in Sipili Division is now training farmers on how they can vaccinate their own poultry in order to control and prevent Newcastle Disease infection.
Newcastle Disease (NCD) is a fast spreading poultry disease that affects poultry of all ages. It is caused by a virus known as Paramyxovirus which is of variable pathogenicity. When it attacks, the contagious disease can wipe out an entire flock.
Mukono demonstrating how to measure Hipraviay vaccine
Peter Mukono, a Livestock extension officer with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries said that to detect diseases in their early stages, it is important for poultry farmers to be aware of the daily status of chicken. They should judge this by the behavior of the poultry, droppings, feed intake, and mortality rates.
Mukono said that transmission of NCD is by direct contact with secretions, especially faeces, from infected birds or by contaminated feed, water or implements.
Signs of NCD are highly variable and will depend on the infective dose and the degree of immunity from previous exposure or vaccination. Some of the signs include; Sudden death, depression, chicken not feeding or drinking water, coughing, difficulty in breathing, diarrhea, lack of balance or inability of the birds to stand on its feet, paralysis and twisted neck.
Mukono said that the first sign of NCD in laying chickens is usually a marked drop in egg production, followed within 24 to 43 hours by high death losses. After 7 to 10 days, deaths usually subside. Chicken surviving 12 to 14 days generally do not die but may display permanent paralysis and other neurologic signs.
“Preventing the spread of Newcastle Disease requires isolation, proper sanitation, cleaning and disinfecting infected items as well as controlling movement to the poultry house,” said Mukono.
Generally vaccines must be stored between 20C and 80C and they should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
Mukono said that during vaccination, water used for mixing the vaccine should be completely free of chlorine or other chemical agents.
Depending on the ambient temperature, poultry should not be given water for 2-3 hours prior to the vaccination.
Mukono mixing Hipraviay vaccine
“Vaccinations should be done during the cooler part of the day either early morning or late evening,” said Mukono.
Mukono said that chicks can be vaccinated one day after hatching, if they are placed into an endemic area of Newcastle disease. Once you have vaccinated the chicken you can again vaccinate them after two weeks then after another 12 days.
 “The only way to control Newcastle Disease is through vaccinating healthy birds as there is no treatment of the disease,” said Mukono.
Mukono said that when using Hipraviay vaccine, one should ensure that the vial is opened under water. Small quantity of water should then be used to reconstitute the freeze-dried tablet. Once the freeze-dried tablet is resuspended, pour it into an adequate container mixed with the required amount of water.
“Two ml dosage of Hipraviay vaccine will be able to vaccinate 24 chicken. Each chicken will have to be given two drops of the vaccine,” said Mukono.
The vaccine should be ingested by the chicken within one or two hours once it has been mixed with water.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Ng’arua Co-operative seeks to benefit from carbon credit

By Bob Aston

Kenya launched its National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) last year. The plan addresses the options for a low-carbon climate resilient development pathway as Kenya adapts to climate impacts and mitigates growing emissions. Since then farmers have been trying to benefit from carbon credit. Ng’arua Fruits Organic Farmers Co-operative Society Limited is now among those who will soon start benefiting from carbon credit money.

The Co-operative which was formed in 2010 currently has 67 active members majority being women. They have partnered with Biodeposit Africa, Restore Hope Foundation and Musoni Kenya Ltd to ensure that members start benefiting from carbon credit money.
Farmers being capacity built
Currently one gets credited to the extent to which one is emitting less carbon as per the standards fixed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

Samwel Nyaga, Secretary Ng’arua Fruits Organic Farmers Co-operative Society Limited said that the objective for which the society was established are: to organize and promote the welfare and economic interest of its members, to arrange the operations marketing, processing, grading, packaging and transporting the members produce and to arrange the purchase and resale of bio-deposit fertilizers and bio-deposit agro for organic farming establishment in Ng’arua.
“Members have immensely benefited through various capacity building trainings organized by Biodeposit Africa and Musoni Kenya Ltd. They now understand a lot about carbon credit and how one can improve his economic livelihood through it,” said Samwel.
Samwel said that many benefits are oncoming for example receiving carbon credit money which will be disbursed together with castor oil cookers.
“Carbon credit money will be received thrice a year. This will be through planting trees, when one does not use chemical fertilizer when planting and also through burning methane gas,” said Samwel.
Samwel said that one tonne of carbon dioxide is equal to one credit. Credit will also depend with the prevailing market forces. This will be equated to between 40 dollars per credit. On average one tree will consume between 10-12 kgs.
Samwel said that one hundred trees will earn a farmer close to 40 dollars. Trees like eucalyptus will earn a farmer more as they absorb a lot of carbon.
The Co-operative is awaiting delivery of castor seeds from Biodeposit Africa. The castor seeds will cover half an acre and will be able to mature after four months. Members will then be able to earn from sale of the castor seeds after every month.
Restore Hope Foundation has already promised them that they will buy mature castor seeds from the Co-operative at Ksh 30 per kilo.
Farmers being capacity built
Some of the co-operative members have already started using bi deposit fertilizer. They said that bio deposit fertilizer can help plants withstand dry conditions. Some members managed to harvest as much as forty (40) bags of maize in a one acre piece of land.
“I have planted kales using bio deposit fertilizer. Production is high compared to using chemical fertilizer,” said Samwel.
The Co-operative members have also planted grafted passion which they received from Biodeposit Africa. They now expect to start harvesting passion fruits from July.
Samwel said that one of the challenges that they face is lack of established market for organic products. They are now looking for partners who can assist them find market for their crops.
The Co-operative is also trying to get youths to be more actively involved in organic farming. Most of the members are elderly people.
“We do not have youths among the members. We are currently trying to recruit more youths. They are the future farmers of this country,” said Samwel.
Samwel said that their future plans include having a factory for processing fruits as well as a company for processing castor oil.
“We are after green revolution and at the same time we are ensuring that our members practice sustainable agriculture,” said Samwel.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Persons with disability from Kagaa venture into poultry farming

By Bob Aston
The socio-economic situation of persons with disabilities in Kenya does not augur well for them. Most persons with disabilities depend on their families for social, financial, material and psychological support. In Kagaa village in Laikipia County, a group of thirty (30) disabled persons have come up together to form Kagaa Kwirera Disabled Group and are now set to venture into indigenous poultry farming.
The group seeks to eradicate poverty through economic empowerment of persons with disabilities. They want to socially and economically become fully integrated members of the community.
Members being capacity built
David Gituthe, Chairman of Kagaa Kwirera Disabled Group says that uplifting the economic status of the disabled in Kagaa village, is of utmost importance to them as they do not want to continue depending on handouts.
Gituthe said that they picked on indigenous poultry as most of the members already have poultry in their homesteads. He said that keeping poultry will be relatively easier compared to other farming activities as it will not be labour intensive.
“We already have indigenous poultry in our homesteads but we now want to invest more in poultry farming so that we can improve our livelihood, as well as take care of our families,” said Gituthe.
Generally, persons with disabilities in Kenya are economically deprived. This is mainly due to a number of barriers including; stigma and marginalization, poverty, limited access to opportunities and benefits and low self esteem.
According to the Kenya National Population Census, 2009, the overall disability rate in Kenya is 3.5% which translates to 1,330,312 million persons with disabilities.
Gituthe said that they have been inviting the Ministry Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to capacity build them on various aspects of poultry farming. Group members now know about various poultry diseases, how to construct a good poultry house, how to differentiate eggs that will hutch as broilers or layers and how to feed poultry.
“We are going to start with a merry go round to ensure that each member has constructed a good poultry house. Once we do that we will ensure that each member has a large stock of indigenous poultry,” said Gituthe.
Already some of the group members have started benefiting from poultry farming. Joseph Kinyua Kia was able to sell four chicken. Kinyua used the proceeds to find a tractor to plough a three quarter piece of land which he intends to cultivate maize.
Members being taught how to construct poultry houses
“Proceeds from chicken sales enabled me to plough my piece of land. I think once we invest more into poultry farming we will be able to get better returns,” said Kinyua.
Kinyua noted that the ministry of livestock has informed them that market for indigenous eggs and chicken is still small.
The group plans to use a market portal called Sokopepe- an online and SMS based platform that provide market prices information to farmers and links farmers with buyers.
Gituthe said that Sokopepe will be able to link them directly with buyers of indigenous chicken and eggs hence they will be able to eliminate middlemen.
Additionally Sokopepe provides other services like access to input suppliers, extension services and a pool of information on both crop farming and livestock.
“We want to help make the disabled self-supporting instead of depending on others. The steps that we have taken will help us improve our livelihood,” said Gituthe.
Cost of production of indigenous poultry is relatively cheaper compared to exotic poultry as the chickens can be fed on home-made feed rations. They can be allowed to free range, therefore cutting down the amount of feed that the farmer has to give them. Indigenous poultry are also tolerant to many diseases, which reduces veterinary costs.