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Thursday, 29 January 2015

KICTP launches free ICT training in Sipili

By Bob Aston
The Kenya ICT Training Programme (KICTP) on January 27, 2014 launched a free ICT training programme for communities in Sipili town, Ol-Moran ward in Laikipia County. The event which took place at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre will see community members begin the free ICT classes today at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre for a period of one month.
The programme is sponsored by Wildlife Research and International Expedition (WIRIE) which is a public benefit organization based in Kenya.
Present during the launch included representatives from the Ministry of Education Directorate of Adult Education and Continuing Education (DACE), KICTP, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), WIRIE, representative from the office of Sipili Assistant County Commissioner and local area leaders.
Dr. Wambugu launching the ICT training
“The realization of this programme will lay a foundation for embracing ICT in development and implementation of various programmes in the County. This will also foster cooperation with the program partners in ensuring sustainability by developing community learning resource centres as well as e-learning centres within the county,” said Dr. Samuel Wambugu, Director, KICTP.

The Directorate of Adult and Continuing Education has established collaboration with Kenya ICT Training Programme (KICTP) in order to bridge ICT knowledge gaps which is currently a primary need as Kenya strives to be a knowledge based economy.

The objectives of the ICT programme include; To provide opportunity to Laikipia Community to acquire basic ICT skills, improve ICT skills, appreciate role of ICT in development and to provide ICT job creation.
Some of the areas set to be covered during the training include; Introduction to ICT, end user packages (Ms Word, Ms Access , Ms Excel and Ms PowerPoint), information application systems, information security and ICT intergration to e-learning, e-commerce and e-government.

The KICTP is set to provide trainers and computers during the training period. This will be facilitated by WIRIE and other programme partners. On its part ALIN has availed the venue for the training.

“We will strive to provide quality literacy training to public servants drawn from both the national and county government, teachers and tutors and also the general public,” said Dr. Wambugu.

The ICT training will be offered free and it will be open to all community members. The Programme is currently underway in the whole of Laikipia County. Already more than 20,000 Kenyans have been trained.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Water harvesting boosts farmer’s yields

By Bob Aston
Water scarcity and climate change form a dual challenge to food and environmental security. Although water is a basic necessity, it is one of the most challenging resources for communities to access.  Very few farmers have adopted modern water harvesting technologies and as a result are unable to supplement water sources.
In Wangwaci area of Ol-Moran Ward, Laikipia County, the sparse and intermittent rainfall in the region has negatively affected most farmers and households as most of the water sources in the area have dried up. Despite the scarcity of water, Francis Kirago Njoroge has not yet started feeling the impact of lack of water as he has heavily invested in water harvesting technologies.
Kirago next to one of his water tanks
“I have been investing in water harvesting technologies for quite some time. I wanted to be able to have enough water for domestic use and also to be able to do irrigation. This led me to start developing new sources of domestic water supply using affordable rainwater harvesting technologies,” said Kirago.
He worked with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation from 1978 to 2014 as a water supplies operation and maintenance officer. During this period the knowledge and experience that he gained and specifically on water harvesting helped him to start harvesting rain water at his homestead from 2012.
He has been actively teaching farmers in the area on how to utilize the little water resource available. So far he has spent more than Ksh 250,000 in implementing the water harvesting technology.
He said that of late the area has been receiving low, erratic and poorly distributed rainfall and climate change is set to make matters worse. This has increased water scarcity in the area and many people are now walking long distances to fetch water for domestic use.
“The increase in water stress in the Country has been exacerbated by lack of knowledge and skills in rainwater harvesting and storage. The water storages that I have put in place will be particularly important to cope with climate change and more variable rainfall,” said Kirago.
Kirago admiring his underground tank
He believes that water management for domestic use and agricultural purposes can be improved using various interventions.
“Water harvesting has really helped me. It has reduced going to look for water. Now I am using that time to do other things,” said Kirago.
He has been capturing both ground water runoff and rooftop rainwater. In order to harvest water using roof catchment he had to invest heavily in corrugated iron sheets roofed surface on which the rain falls, a concrete tank, gutters, pipes and a filter for removing dirt.
“In order to ensure that I get clean water I have ensured that the drain pipe has mesh filter at mouth and first flush device followed by filtration system before connecting to storage tank. The tank also has excess water over flow system which diverts the excess water to the underground tank,” said Kirago.
He is using water from his tank for domestic use while an underground tank and a water pan are used for irrigating his crops and feeding livestock’s.
Most farmers in Laikipia County rely on seasonal rainfall for their subsistence agriculture but with the increasing impacts of climate change their livelihood system is becoming unsustainable. Farmers like Kirago are now able to adopt against such challenges through improved utilization of available rainwater to reduce water stress.
Francis Kirago Njoroge can be contacted through +254725733329.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Weather risk management and agricultural finance

By Bob Aston
Many farmers in most parts of Kenya are exposed to severe income losses due to weather calamities such as drought, floods and extreme high or low temperatures. Rural smallholder farmers are the ones who are mostly vulnerable as most of them are unable to adapt and mitigate against the adverse effects of climate change.
The frequency and intensity of extreme weather arising from climate change has been on the rise over the years. Many rural smallholders’ farmers have been rendered vulnerable as they often face serious crop failures, income losses and livelihood collapse due to extreme weather events. Bad weather is a serious risk for low-income farmers whose livelihood depends on the natural resource base.
A farmer tending to his tomatoes
It is clear that farmers can only increase their ability to adapt to climate change by undertaking active risk management. Losses due to too much rain, too little rain and excessive heat or cold can be mitigated by using appropriate weather risk management tools.
The increase in extreme weather is highlighting the ability of the financial service to spur climate change adaptation particularly through insurance. Although agricultural weather risk products are growing in importance, most farmers are reluctant to voluntarily pay for insurance.
The correlation between crop volume and both seasonal and regional variability in weather can result in a successful yield or a financial disaster. This indicates that insuring crops against weather risk is extremely important.
One of the agricultural weather risk products that has been growing in importance is Index based insurance. This is an innovative financial product that allows individual smallholder farmers to hedge against agricultural production risks such as drought or floods.
An example is drought-index insurance, which reduces the financial risk of crop failure. This can go a long way in protecting farmers, agro-processors, rural banks and financial institutions, input dealers and others from extreme weather conditions.
Another common type of index based insurance is weather based index insurance. This is an attractive approach to managing weather and climate risk because it relies on weather data and there is no need to track yields, crop or financial losses.  Weather based index insurance can help farmers invest in new technologies even in the face of increasing drought and floods. It is also less expensive to administer since contracts are uniform and no on-farm inspection or loss assessment are required.
Another risk management mechanism involves providers accepting labor that contributes to climate change adaptation as payment for insurance premiums. This can be done by allowing subscribers in drought prone areas to work on projects that build resilience to climate change. Financial institutions and agricultural officers have also been urging farmers to purchase drought resistant seeds that can be resilient during irregular rainfall seasons.
Many micro insurance services for farmers have payouts structured on indexes registering weather that is likely damaging for land and crops. Micro insurance can also provide a weather-linked safety net so that crop failure does not affect the livelihood of farmers.
Farmers' capacity to repay loans is directly correlated to their yields but extreme weather conditions coupled with lack of crop insurance can result in massive crop failures which can lead to many farmers defaulting.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Matwiku Horticulture Group set to host an open day

Bob Aston
The Matwiku Horticulture Growers Self Help Group is set to host an open day on January 30, 2015 at their demonstration farm in Matwiku, Laikipia West. The group is implementing a Climate Smart Agriculture project implemented by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) with financial support from Act Change Transform (Act!). The project aims to strengthen communities’ resilience to impacts of climate change while conserving natural resources in Laikipia County.
Members of the group planting in their demonstration plot
Matwiku Horticulture Growers S.H.G was formed in January 2014 to champion the interests of farmers in Matwiku village. The group comprises 22 members, nineteen male and three female.
Mr. Peter Gatheru, Chairman, Matwiku Horticulture Growers S.H.G said that the open day will provide farmers from Matwiku and the County government an opportunity to learn more about Climate Smart Agriculture, drip irrigation and water harvesting technologies.
“We are already practicing Climate Smart Agriculture and it will be a privilege to share with other farmers what we are doing. We want other farmers to also adopt drip irrigation technology because of its many benefits,” said Gatheru.
He said that farmers will be able to see how they have used drip irrigation to water their tomatoes, capsicum and cabbages. He said farmers will also learn from the members about the different irrigation techniques and the benefits of drip irrigation system.
He said that he hopes that through interaction with the County government during the open day the County government will be able to replicate the project to other parts of the country in order to mitigate against the effects of climate change which has affected food production in Laikipia County.
Members of the group laying out drip irrigation tapes
Samwel Nyaga, a resident of Naibrom is among the farmers anxiously anticipating the open day. Nyaga said that he has heard a lot about the project both from ALIN and members of the group.
“Last year I attended the Laikipia County stakeholders meeting on Climate Change adaptation which was organized by ALIN. During the meeting I learned about the vulnerability study conducted in the area. Now I will get the chance to see for myself what they are doing,” said Nyaga.
Climate smart agriculture entails reducing emissions at the farm level, conserving natural resources like soils and water while increasing nutritious food production at household level and at the same time increasing family incomes.
On behalf of ALIN we would like to welcome members of the public to the open day which will be held at Matwiku Horticulture Growers S.H.G demonstration farm in Matwiku, Laikipia West on January 30, 2015 from 9:00 am. The event will be graced by officials from the County government of Laikipia.

Fire guts down building in Sipili town

By James Maina

A huge fire engulfed a building in Sipili shopping Centre, Ol-Moran Ward on Sunday afternoon.The building commonly referred to us “Kwa Maina Daktari” housed four business premises and residential houses.
Curious onlookers at the scene
Heavy smoke billowing from the burning building attracted residents who rushed to the vicinity with buckets,basins, jugs and anything that could hold water to try and extinguish the fire.The residents played a big part in controlling the fire which was threatening to spread to the neighbouring Eden Tea Hotel and Moses M. Kagwe Joy House.Owners of adjacent buildings were forced to evacuate their belongings as they feared that the fire would spread.
Several people, who arrived at the scene to assist in the rescue mission, were forced to demolish the roof of Eden Tea Hotel to prevent the fire from spreading to the hotel.

Eye witnesses said that it was not easy to put out the fire because the wooden structures, strong winds and lack of firefighting equipments aggravated the situation.The situation was only salvaged when a water truck arrived at the scene.
The affected premises included; a private clinic, a cereal store, fruit and yoghurt shop and residential houses. Businesses and livelihoods of the traders and their families have been badly affected as most of them were unable to salvage anything.
Some of the residents trying to extinguish the fire
“This has been a common occurrence in this area. Disaster management and preparedness mechanism to counter and control fire outbreaks have never been put in place here yet fire outbreak is a common occurrence in Sipili,” said Ephantus Ngatia, a concerned resident.
The cause of the fire which lasted for more than half an hour has not been established yet. It is a mystery that needs to be unruffled to the residents as each one gives out a different story from the other. No injuries were reported.
The Sunday fire outbreak adds to the grim statistics of fire incidences occurring frequently in Sipili. Though fire incidents have been on the rise in the area, nothing has been done to avert the same from happening in future.
The question that is now lingering in resident’s mind is what and how will the County government control or prevent any further fire outbreaks in the future. The residents are now calling on the Laikipia County Government to buy firefightingequipment’s as well as a fire truck to prevent future occurrence.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Experiences in vegetable farming by Noontoto Women Group

By Faith Kisiangani and Monica Soila

On the bottom of Oldonyo-orok Mountain in Maili Tisa, Kajiado County, there lays a two and half acre land owned by a vibrant women group called Noontoto. Noontoto Women Group is made up of 25 women who grow tomatoes in a green house for food security. 
The group was formed in 2003 as a merry-go-round with the main objective of supporting each other economically.  Among one of their successful activities was buying and selling cows. This was a very profitable venture and many group members benefited from the profit. They would collectively contribute a given amount of money, buy and fatten cows for sell. They then used some of the money to pay school fees for children, buy household items for themselves and save the rest of the money.
The group's green house and elevated tank
In 2013, the group was lucky to get some support from Dupoto-e-maa, a Non-governmental organization (NGO) that works in Kajiado County. According to Mr. Simon Sitelu of Dupoto-e-maa, the project objective was to empower women in the county with relevant skills and tools so as to improve their livelihoods. So far they have supported 13 other women groups in the county. 
The package to the women groups included; a green house 5m x 16m, a solar powered water
pump, a tank with capacity of 2000 litres and drip liners. The group opted to farm tomatoes and sell them because of their high demand in the region.
The area experiences inadequate rainfall and most community members are pastoralist, keeping large herds of cattle. This fact has ultimately affected the groups’ tomato farming green house project because the first time they planted tomatoes, the plants failed due to lack of water.
The group then employed drip irrigation on the greenhouse by using water pumping technique. Despite this fact, the tomatoes failed the second time after being affected by a disease. Regardless of the two failures from the tomato project, the women are very resilient, hopeful and hardly discouraged. 
“This is the third time that we have planted the tomatoes in the greenhouse. We are very hopeful and we trust God that the plants will not fail us again. The good thing is that we have learnt where we went wrong the first and second time and made the necessary corrections,” said Mrs. Joyce Nairraba, Chairperson, Noontoto Women Group.
The group's underground water tank
The group has untapped potential to undertake many projects on their farm. They are endowed with two and half acres of land on which they have a green house project initiated by Dupoto-e-maa. The group got support from some Swedish donors hand put up a house that is leased to people for various activities. 
Noontoto’s main source of water is from a natural stream from the mountain nearby. This source is not stable since area experiences prolonged dry spells therefore affecting agricultural activities. The water collects into an underground tank and then solar pump is used to thrust water into the elevated tank then into the drips.
“Water is the hardest problem to tackle right now though we still trust God for the rains to fall soon. The reason why we cannot change what we plant in the green house is because of the high demand of tomatoes in our region compared to other plants. More so, Tomatoes are more profitable compared to kales,” said Mrs. Nairraba.
Solar powered water pump system has saved the women a lot of hustle and time. They were initially using donkeys to fetch water for the farm. At times they would use generator to pump the water; which was quite a challenge given the price of fuel. The introduction of this technology has lessened the burden especially because solar energy is free, clean, readily available and plenty in the area.
The group has big plans for the future. They plan to keep dairy cows on their piece of land. They also plan to start a chicken rearing project.

Our men continue to be weak and short changed

By Regina Wokabi 

All is not well, if surely it does not seem to end well! Though regarded as the superior gender, the flag bearers, most of our men, really need help. Surely nothing has been left of them, let alone their pride and chauvinist nature. Something has really gone awry and action has to be taken to change this state of affairs as un-divinely ordained.
It pains my heart to see of what is left of our fathers, partners and brothers. Some men have taken their irresponsible act to far.
My hometown Sipili in Laikipia County is a full depiction of this. Our rather small town is decorated by crowds of idle, disoriented and jobless men. Both the youth and elderly people are always seen screaming hysterically out of nothing. Chanting dirges, countless of them sleeping in ditches and others somewhere in a dilapidated bar. Drinking themselves to sleep or cheering a losing team from a white and black display television box.
They have become slaves of the bottle. This hypotonic concoction has sucked out their brains, manners, self image and respect. They are shamelessly being laughed at by junior school kids, who pass by on their way to school early in the morning to find this”big babies” lying in water soaked ditch by the road. Surely, there’s a leak from the bottomless pit in one of hells many.
Judging by the number of street children begging and residing in the streets darkest corridors and paths, it shows that there are many irresponsible men around. You just don’t become a true African man by fathering a whole lot of children but rather by being able to feed them.
Some of our backward, heathen and primal traditions are to blame. Manhood really got into their heads that it displaced some of their moral values.
Any man being fed by the sweat and efforts of his wife, when all he does is idle around and call it a day, should be totally ashamed of himself. You just leave home in the morning to catch up with your friends, idle in the streets, play pool games , drink a crate or two of cheap beer(the kind that causes sudden blindness), then show up the following morning, having soiled your pants , and demand for food. Where do you expect it to come from? Manna or quails from the heaven you know nothing about!
Anyway, let us hope there is light at the end of this hollow, dark tunnel, because something has to be done and better it be quick because these souls are perishing!

Biodiversity conservation poem

By Brenda Wanjira

The land of our birth we pledge to thee,
Our love and toil in the years to be,
When we grow and preserve and,
Not destroy as men of our generation.

Father in heaven help us control,
Ourselves always and protect,
Our environment,
Help the children when they call,
And may build them from age to age.

Teach us to control ourselves always,
To find delight and keep our joy,
Our mountains, animals, valleys
And under filled Heritage.

Give us the strength to care,
For everything that surrounds us,
To make it our duty to preserve,
Our Beauty!

Our environment our faith our mother land,
And I am proud of it,
To delight and keep joy in our hearts.

Brenda Wanjira is a student at Ol Jabet Primary School
Original source: Laikipia Mali Asili

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Communities trained on green charcoal production technology

By Samwel Nyaga

The Tree Is Life Trust (TILT) on January 20, 2014 trained members of Sipili Community Forest Association (CFA) at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre on green charcoal production technology as a way of changing forest adjacent communities’ attitude on wood use for charcoal production.
Speaking during the training, Thomas Gichuru, Director TILT informed CFA members that they aim to empower community members to mitigate and adapt to climate change and also to improve livelihoods around forests in Laikipia County.
Thomas showing Sipili CFA members the 3 parts of the charcoal kiln

He said that the charcoal kiln has three (3) parts. It consists of a 200 litres drum which acts as the combustion chamber, an adaptor made up of half a drum which has slits at the bottom and a chimney.

Green charcoal production process
Fill the kiln with farm biomass-maize cobs and maize stalk in layers of four (4) inches until it is full. Put the maize stalk at the base of the drum. They should be reduced to the desired size without pressing them. Maize cobs should then be added. The two should then be alternated until the drum is full. The top of the drum should be covered with maize stalk.
The same process should be followed when using other farm materials like tea leaves. Fire should then be lit at the top. After it has spread evenly at the top, the adaptor should then be placed on top of the drum followed by the chimney.
The process will then take at least forty (40) minutes. After this period all the biomass will have been carbonated into charcoal. When the carbonization process is over there will be ash at the base of the drum.
The drum being filled up with maize cobs and stalk
The adaptor should then be removed and the drum covered with a lid for the charcoal to cool down for about fifteen (15) minutes. The charcoal can also be cooled down using water by splashing it from the top.
“A good charcoal kiln produces a white smoke. It is also important to ensure that you use dry materials and that you also keep away materials that can catch fire,” said Thomas.
 The maize combs charcoal can be used in a jiko or added value by making charcoal briquettes.
Charcoal briquette making process
Crash the charcoal and mix with a binding agent like: Clay soil, cow dung, soaked waste paper or the gum Arabic.
Use a binding agent to ensure that the briquettes are intact and cannot crash. After mixing thoroughly, pick the mixture and mold using the hands or press using a pressing machine.
The biomass after being carbonated into charcoal
When drying, the molded briquettes should be placed on a drying rack under a shade for a day to avoid wet surface. Once the briquettes are dry they are easy to use and can be packed in bags of 2-50 kgs for sale.
The indiscriminate felling of trees for charcoal has left huge sections of forests in Laikipia bare leading to deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and reduced land productivity.

The green charcoal production technology empowers community members to mitigate and adapt to climate change and also improves livelihoods of communities living around forests in Laikipia County.