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Thursday, 27 November 2014

The impact of knowledge access at Ng'arua Maarifa centre

By Bob Aston
The Ng’arua Maarifa centre played host to an official of Institute of Development Studies (IDS) on November 25, 2014. The field visit enabled Mr. Jon Gregson to interact with some of the Maarifa centre beneficiaries and also to learn how knowledge access at the Maarifa centre has helped community members. He was accompanied by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) project officer Miss Esther Lung’ahi.
Mr. Gregson was particularly interested in learning how knowledge access from the Maarifa Centre has helped to address community local issues. He was informed that the Maarifa Centre serves an average of 26,000 people per year through provision of various services that include; Library services, internet access, advisory services, online market information, SOKO+, Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS), E-Government services, ICT Training, Citizen Journalism Training, Multimedia content, publications like Joto Africa and Baobab and knowledge sharing on Natural Resources Management (NRM) and Sustainable Land Management (SLM).
Mr. Gregson interviewing ALIN's Miss Esther Lung'ahi

 Mr. Samuel Nyaga narrated how he was trained on ICT skills at the Maarifa centre and how the knowledge that he got has helped him in accessing information at the Centre. He said that the Joto Africa publication helped him to learn a lot about climate change and as a result of that he is now using custor oil burner to mitigate against the effects of climate change.

“I was also able to learn about Stevia and chick peas by using internet at the Maarifa Centre. This resulted in me being linked with Pure Circle Kenya Ltd and a professor from Egerton University. I have now planted both crops,” said Mr. Nyaga.
Similarly, Mr. Victor Gachigi narrated how the information that he has been receiving at the Maarifa Centre has helped him as a farmer and in broadening his skills in card design and drawing. He said that he is currently doing an online study at the Maarifa centre on canvas painting which he expects will improve his knowledge once he clears the course.
Mr. Gachigi also touched on Sokopepe trainings which he has received at the Maarifa centre. He said that he has been getting market information and he is also able to use SOKO+ sms query services to inquire about market prices and look for farming tips.
Mrs. Veronica Kemunto talked about the challenges that most farmers used to face before ALIN initiated the formation of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society. She said that the formation of the co-operative has been a blessing to most farmers in the area and they now intend to expand and serve the whole of Laikipia County.
” We used to have a big problem with access to certified seeds, fertilizer and lack of market. Most of the times our yields used to be very low yet we were still being exploited by middlemen. The cooperative and Sokopepe has now addressed this challenges,” said Mrs. Kemunto.
She said that through various trainings organized by the ALIN and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries they have been able to improve their farming activities and have also been able to learn about the importance of soil analysis. Most of the cooperative members were also able to have their soil analysed.
She noted that the demonstration farms established by ALIN, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries together with Kenya Seed Company Ltd also provided an opportunity for farmers to learn about good agricultural practices.
Mr. Gregson being shown tangerine by Mr. Kiarahu
The visit culminated in a field visit at Mr. Francis Kiarahu’s farm, a long time user of the Maarifa Centre. This was preceded by as short visit to the office and store of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society.
Mr. Kiarahu showed the visitor how he has been applying the knowledge that he has been receiving to improve his farm. He said that the effect of climate change has not affected him much as he has planted drought resistant crops.
He showed Mr. Gregson his FARMIS-Kenya farm book and how he has been filling the book. He noted that the various field days, open days and seminars organized by ALIN has helped him to acquire invaluable knowledge and as a result he has also been able to share knowledge with other farmers and as well as training more than 400 farmers on what he has been learning
The IDS Knowledge Services has been supporting the production of Joto Afrika by ALIN up to 2011. Joto Afrika, meaning “Africa is feeling the heat’ in Kiswahili is a series of printed briefings and online resources about adapting to climate change in sub- Saharan Africa. The series helps people understand the issues, constrains and opportunities that poor people face in adapting to climate change and escaping poverty.
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