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Saturday, 28 February 2015

Improving welfare of Yiaku community through sustainable livelihoods

By Felister Mparei
The Mukogodo Forest in Laikipia North Sub County is one of the major indigenous forests in Kenya covering 74,000 acres and providing a life line to 30,000 plus Yiaku community members. The community has always relied on the forest for their livelihood but rise in population and environmental degradation has affected their single source of livelihood.
In order to uplift the livelihood of Yiaku Community, some community members registered Yiaku Laikipiak Trust to champion the interest of Yiaku community.
Yiaku Laikipiak Trust has been striving to see the realization of sustainable livelihoods through efficient and effective resource management and broadening of equal democratic space for participation of all persons.
The CBO realized that due to the different roles of women, men and young people in the households their needs and uses of the natural resources differ. When these resources are degraded, the impacts are gender-differentiated with the women and girls bearing the brunt especially if springs and water catchments are destroyed.
Women and girls have been observed walking for mile on end in search of water during drought seasons in Mukogodo thereby affecting other activities like education for girls and home chores for mothers.
Men are forced to move deeper into Mukogodo forest when the pasture grounds get depleted due to overstocking and drought. This leads to destruction of the forest and its water catchments making the situation worse and recurrent. As a result, pastoralists suffer huge losses due to livestock deaths.
When the economy plummets, young men turn to unsustainable activities like charcoal burning and wild harvesting of medicinal herbs.
The CBO has been supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) through its Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Program (SGP) in helping the community to adapt Sustainable Land Management (SLM) as a means of securing improved livelihoods which will in turn ease pressure on Mukogondo Forest.
The CBO believes that SLM coupled with a shift from over reliance on natural resource based livelihoods and embracing alternatives can ensure improved livelihoods of the community which will in turn ease pressure on Mukogodo forest and also contribute to global climate change mitigation.
Through the UNDP GEF SGP support, the CBO has constructed a low cost training centre at the forest while three women groups have been capacity built in improved livelihood skills and SLM.
The women groups have also been capacity built in modern bead work designs, packaging, business skills, water harvesting technologies, kitchen gardening, construction and use of energy saving jikos and book keeping.
Yiaku Laikipiak Trust has also trained the women groups in modern ranch management and breeding methods. This has helped to regulate livestock numbers and the grazing patterns leading to a sustainable natural resource utilization and management.
Some of the projects that Yiaku Laikipiak Trust has successfully implemented include; women land rights advocacy project with financial support of the Netherlands Centre for indigenous, people, construction of a rock water catchment tank with support from UNESCO, participatory 3 Dimensional model and mapping (P3DMM) with financial support of IPACC and Shalinry-Finland and construction of a dam with support of Alborzgot Denmark and an anti FGM project with support of Mellemfolkligt Sanwirke-Kenya (MS-Kenya).

KOAN and ELCI adopt blogging as a means of sharing project activities

By Bob Aston
The Kenya Organic Agricultural Network (KOAN) and Environmental Liaison Centre International (ELCI) have adopted blogging as a means of sharing their project activities. The two organizations were trained on blogging by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) on February 24, 2015 at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi.
Some members of KOAN and ELCI during the training
The training was conducted to complement an earlier training for United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Program (SGP) grantees from Laikipia County.
Mrs. Wanjiru Kamau from KOAN noted that they are planning to use the blog to promote the organic growth of tea tree and also promote organic farming in Kenya.
“I would sincerely like to thank ALIN for taking time to capacity build us on blogging. I appreciate the fact that we were trained from the basic level and now I can successfully create a blog. The information that we have learned will be put into good use at KOAN,” said Mrs. Kamau.
The work that the grantees are doing is expected to help enhance online visibility of UNDP GEF SGP project as well as helping in closing knowledge gaps, improving accessibility of indigenous knowledge as well as ensuring that the communities are better informed about Sustainable Land Management (SLM).
Some officials of KOAN and ELCI during the training
Dennis Ong’ech from ELCI said that they will seek to enhance their goals and values through online journalism.
“We will use this networking tool to share our experiences and what we do to strengthen environmental governance for enhanced livelihoods and sustainable development. Our appreciation goes to ALIN team for making that possible,” said Ong’ech.
ALIN has been training UNDP GEF SGP grantees from Laikipia County on news writing, creative writing, feature writing, photography, interviewing, blogging and media law and Ethics.
This has enabled the grantees to capture and document indigenous knowledge relevant to SLM practices for posterity. The trainings have also been helping in enhancing content creation for the quarterly newsletter called Laikipia Mali Asili which was started by the grantees.
In today’s internet-based society, having an online presence is one of the most powerful ways of sharing knowledge. Fostering a knowledge sharing culture among organizations will go a long way in enhancing synergy amongst different stakeholders involved in similar projects.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Understanding Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease

By Bob Aston
Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) is a serious disease of maize which has adversely affected maize production in Laikipia County. A government survey conducted in Laikipia West in September 2014 indicated that the disease had destroyed 2,952 out of 35,604 hectares of maize in the sub county.
MLND is said to be caused by a mixed infection between Maize chlorotic mottle virus (MCMV, genus Machlomovirus) and potyviruses infecting maize. In Kenya and other countries, most frequently it is Sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV) in synergism with MCMV causing MLND. 
Initial stages of MLND
MLND is mainly spread by a vector, transmitting the disease from plant to plant and field to field. The most common vectors are maize thrips, rootworms and leaf beetles. Hot spots appear to be places where maize is being grown continuously.
The disease is known to naturally affect varieties of maize resulting in chlorotic mottling of the leaves, severe stunting and necrosis, often leading to plant death. In mixed infections, early infected plants appear stunted and show a general chlorosis, leaf bleaching and necrosis.
Virus diagnosis
Identification of MLND and the viruses involved in the disease complex is generally by observation of symptoms in the field. However, because single infections of the viruses and early stages of the disease are often inconspicuous and resemble physiological disorders, specific diagnostic tests are to be applied to confirm virus presence and to adequately detect/identify the viruses in the mixed infection.
Control of MLND
The most effective control of MLND is through integration of cultural practices, control of vectors, host resistance and best farming practices.
Advanced stage of MLND
Insect vector control can normally be done by seed treatment that covers the plants at the seedlings stage and application of foliar sprays with systematic pesticides from three weeks.
Adopting good agricultural practices like use of certified seeds, avoiding use of recycled seeds, early planting and applying adequate soil amendments including manure, basal, foliar and top dressing fertilizers to boost plant vigor and hence tolerance to pests and diseases.

Enhancing crop diversification to improve soil fertility and reduce risks caused by over reliance to one crop is also an effective agricultural practice. Crop rotation with non-maize (Graminae) crop has also been shown to reduce the incidence of MLND.
Practicing cultural control like ensuring field hygiene by removing affected plants and cultivating nearby weedy areas before maize emerges to reduce potential of thrips build up is also important. It is also important to implement a closed season programme by documenting planting calendar for each area. Beyond this period it is advisable to plant an alternative crop.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Laikipia Governor launches an online Data Management System

By Bob Aston
February 20th, 2015 Laikipia County achieved a key milestone in Kenya and set pace for other counties to emulate as the County Governor, Hon. Joshua Irungu launched an online data management system for Laikipia County Education and home grown school feeding programme at Sportsman Arms Hotel in Nanyuki.
This was a culmination of an initiative started by SNV- Netherlands Development Organization in partnership with Laikipia County Government, aWhere and Ministry of Education in June 2014 and covering 278 public primary schools and ECD. The technical expertise in design of the platform was provided by aWhere. The online data platform was initiated to address the challenges of lack of data for effective planning and decision making in education and home grown school feeding programme.
Participants being shown how the platform works

 The launch was attended by besides the key partners and the governor,  the County Minister for Trade, Tourism and Enterprise Development, Chief Officer Education, Director ICT, Gender, Youth, Sports and ICT and Chief Officer Health and Sanitation, sub-county administrators, Ministry of Agriculture, farmer organizations, Ministry of Education and NGOs.

Speaking while launching the platform, Laikipia County Governor ,Hon Joshua Irungu lauded the efforts made by the partners in coming up with the platform. He urged various County departments to utilize the platform as it was a good management tool that will be useful for county planning.
“We want to model our county so that others can learn from what we are doing. Most of the time people are usually resistant to new technologies. I will start using this platform immediately and influence my team to do so. At a click of a button I will now be able to get information about schools in this county without even going there,” said Hon Irungu.
He committed himself to ensuring that the platform succeeded. He said that as a county they had made a decision to heavily invest in schools and this platform would be able to provide data to guide in the county investment in education and home grown school feeding.
“I will be happy to use the information from the system to ensure public primary schools in the county receive title deeds. Data from the platform will also help us to establish schools which are understaffed and those that require our attention,” said Hon Irungu. He also said that the platform should in future include secondary schools.
Mr. Chiuri addressing participants
The launch covered the demonstration of the platform as well as reporting on the status of the schools and home grown school feeding programme in areas such as background information of the school, School background and whether they have land titles, school infrastructure; enrolment; number of teachers; students health; school feeding data such as the amount of food bought in 2014 and the main suppliers in this market and the total disbursement by the government; food procurement modalities and participation of parents among others.
The data collected revealed among others that Laikipia is almost achieving gender parity in access. Most of the schools did not have land title deeds and hence are vulnerable to land grabbing; though there are many smallholder farmers, they had limited access to school feeding market as it was heavily dominated by traders; inadequate and erratic funding for home grown school feeding programme. For instance in 2014 schools fed for 120 days instead of the planned 197 as they did not receive any funds in third term.
In addressing some of the issues, the governor committed that his government would make sure schools get title deeds and that funds for school feeding programme are set aside to supplement financing from national government.
Mr. Ndiritu Chiuri, Chief Officer, Gender, Youth, Sports and ICT added that the County government is the host for the platform and that this is a public platform. He invited the communities and partners to visit the platform regularly. He said the platform would be updated on termly basis in February, June and September.
Hon Irungu awarding a certificate to the ICT officer
“The County government will have a platform that will provide data for planning and allocation of resources and data to guide development partners. Our education data is now officially accessibility to the public at no cost,” said Mr. Chiuri.
He noted that there will now be improved reliability and accessibility of school data including Grown School Feeding data and the versatility of the platform makes it easy to analyze data depending on what one needs.
On her part, Hon Jane Putunoi, Laikipia County Minister for Trade, Tourism and Enterprise Development noted that Laikipia County is the first to implement such a platform. She said that the data will help various County ministries to synergize their operations. ”Laikipia county is proud to be the pace setter in developing an online management system in the county. By click of a button one is now able to access a lot of information which will help us as a county when planning,” said Hon Putunoi.
Similarly, Leah Njeri, SNV Senior Governance Advisor, Procurement Governance in HGSF noted that the platform is one of the solutions of empowering communities. She said that SNV decided to pilot the online data system in order to improve data collection, storage and retrieval for effective evidence based planning, monitoring and evaluation of HGSM programme.
Participants pose for a picture with Laikipia Governor
However the interest from the stakeholders led to the expansion of the original idea from HGSF to other education data. Leah said that lots of effort has been put by SNV and partners in strengthening the capacity of the smallholder farmers to supply food in this market. She requested the county government to intervene and link this to their household economic empowerment so that farmers could have increased income from selling food from the market. Collaborative approach between county government and development partners would eliminate the challenges that limit farmers from supplying food in the school market.
Leah mentioned that partners in this activity had exhibited tremendous team spirit. Among others, she thanked MOE head quarter, Directorate of Planning and in particular the Chief Economist and his deputy for guidance and support, the County Director of Education and County Quality Assurance and Standard office for support and mobilisation of District Education officers and teachers.
Teacher also played an instrumental role in collecting data while school feeding officers coordinated the data collection and verification. Two school feeding officers, Patrick and Hassan worked tirelessly to ensure data was keyed in and that they could manage the system. The director of ICT who is the administrator of the system has been useful in coordinating his team and understanding the system so that he could be able to manage it.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Tackling post-harvest maize losses in Laikipia West

By Bob Aston
Post-harvest maize management has been a major challenge in Kenya’s agricultural sector as farmers have been experiencing high post- harvest losses. In Laikipia County, farmers lose up to 30 percent of maize harvest due to pests, diseases and rotting. 
This usually leads to lower incomes among smallholder farmers and for many households such losses threaten food nutrition and income security. Tackling post-harvest maize losses through improved post-harvest technologies could play a big role in making food production and storage more sustainable and could make a significant contribution in ensuring Laikipia County is food secure.
In a bid to address this problem, the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) organized for a maize concept inception meeting at Agricultural Machinery Services (AMS) Hall in Nyahururu, Laikipia County on February 18, 2015 to deliberate on implementation of a project titled “Formation, Legalization and Training Maize Value Chain Groups On Post-harvest Management. “
The meeting which was attended by among others the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) and various Value chain groups in Laikipia West deliberated on the importance of addressing the high post-harvest losses in maize in Laikipia County.
Farmers sun drying maize
Peris Mutua, Value Chain Development officer with ASDSP noted that the maize value chain lacks adequate and effective co-ordination due to lack of organizations to champion the collective interests of the value chain players leading to ineffective post-harvest management strategies.
She said that the maize concept note project seeks to improve Maize value chain organization and co-ordination and reduce post-harvest losses of maize to below 15 % in Laikipia County.
“The essence of the project is to train farmers in order to reduce post-harvest maize losses. Most farmers in Laikipia West usually grow maize but they always experience high post-harvest losses. We want to address this challenge,” said Peris.

She said that some of the activities set to be undertaken include; Identification and recruitment of facilitators and scheduling of trainings, mobilization, training and demonstrations on post-harvest maize management., linking the value chain groups to four cereal banks, training four cereal bank committees on management and warehouse receipting, sourcing of markets and holding maize market linkage meetings.
Mr. Joseph Mwati, Chairman Maize Value Chain Core Group (VCCG), Laikipia County said that a participatory approach will be used to mobilize and legalize twenty (20) new value chain groups and mobilize 20 existing value chain groups.
He said that each value chain group will consist of 20 members as it is easier to deal with a group of 20 farmers during training on post-harvest grain losses. He noted that mobilization meetings in Laikipia West will start from February 25, 2015 to sensitize farmers about the maize concept note project, importance of group formation, agree on a training plan and identify value chain core groups.
Reducing post-harvest maize losses is of high importance in Laikipia West. Efforts to combat hunger, raise income and improve food security and livelihoods of smallholder farmers through reducing post-harvest maize losses will go a long way in enhancing food security in the County.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Ol-Moran ward public participation on preparation of MTEF held at Ng’arua Maarifa

By Murigi Ndung’u
The Ng’arua Maarifa Centre in Olmoran ward, Laikipia County on February 18, 2015 played host to a public hearing on preparation of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) budget 2015/16-2017/18. The public hearing which was organized by the County government of Laikipia through the County treasury was attended by among others the County Revenue officer, Ol-Moran Ward Administrator and Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) project Manager.
Ol-Moran ward administrator addressing the public
Members of the public were invited to take part in the hearing and also to air their views on the functioning of the county government. This was aimed at informing the citizens on the need to participate in developmental forums that could help improve their lives and those of the entire nation.
The public participation is in line with Section 117 of the Public Finance Management Act, 2012, which provides for an effective management of public finances by the national and county governments. This will facilitate finalization of County Fiscal Strategy Paper, 2015.
“Public participation is important as it allows the citizens to participate in bill making which is beneficial to the county growth. It also allows revolution in the county matters that involves the usage of the finance allocated and gives the citizens first hand opportunity to utilize the county funds by raising issues that need a check in,” said Mr. Charles Keru, Ol-Moran Ward Administrator.
He said that the public can contribute in different sectors like education, health, infrastructure, security, agriculture and marketing, research, transport and communication.
Mr. Nelson Ochungo, the county revenue officer requested the participants to raise their ideas on the areas they would like the county government to attend to. He said the issues raised by the public would be deliberated by county committees and the results relayed to the public after implementation.
Mr. Noah Lusaka,ALIN Project Manager giving vote of thanks
Residents of Wangwaci were particularly keen on water rehabilitation during dry spells and provision of fertilizers at subsidized cost. Sipili residents raised issues on provision of farming seeds and fertilizers.
The public was informed that during the 2013/2014 financial year, two projects were implemented in Ol-Moran ward. These included construction of ECDE centres at Chemi Chemi Primary School at a cost of Ksh 533,333 while construction of 2 boda-boda trading sheds at a cost of Ksh 393,200 is ongoing.
MTEF is expected to help in improving the management of public finances by providing a link between the allocation of budget expenditures according to policy priorities and the fiscal discipline required by budget realities. It will help to build fiscal policy credibility and predictability via a more strategic, multi year, budget planning perspective.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Olmoran agriculture stakeholders set to hold a field day in Dimcom

Bob Aston
Agriculture stakeholders in Olmoran ward, Laikipia West are set to hold a field day on February 26, 2015 starting at 10:00 am at Mr. Edward Muriu’s farm in Dimcom village which is about 1.5 kms from Sipili town. The theme of the field day will be:”Good seeds for improved yields.” The chief guest is expected to be Sipili Assistant County Commissioner (ACC).
Also expected at the field day will be various organizations that include; Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), Pioneer Hi-Bred, Pure Circle Kenya Ltd, Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society, International Small Group and Tree Planting Program (TIST), Syngenta, Osho Chemicals Ltd, Elgon Kenya Ltd and Twiga Chemicals.
Mr. James Kamau, Olmoran Ward Agriculture Extension officer has urged the public to turn up in large number during the celebration. He said that the open day will provide the public with an opportunity to learn more about important use of using certified seeds and the best variety of seeds to use in Olmoran ward.
An agriculture officer displaying crops during an earlier field day
“There has been a lot of complaints about seed use and low yield amongst most farmers. The field day will provide an ideal opportunity for farmers to not only learn about such issues but also about best agricultural practices,” said Mr. Kamau.
Seeds are a basic input that sets the potential for crop yield. Certified seeds come with a guaranteed germination, less risk of seed borne diseases and improved yield. The use of good quality seed is a prerequisite for the satisfactory production of good quality crops.
On behalf of ALIN we would like to welcome members of the public to the open day which will be held at Mr. Edward Muriu’s farm in Dimcom village on February 26, 2015 from 10:00 am. The event will be graced by among others Sipili ACC.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

TILT donates an incubator to two Sipili groups

By Samuel Nyaga

Sipili Upendo and Makutano B women group were lucky to be beneficiaries of an incubator donated by Tree Is Life Trust (TILT) to help boost their chicken rearing projects. The two (2) groups received the incubator on February 11, 2013 at the Olmoran Member of County Assembly (MCA) office in Sipili, Laikipia West.

Speaking while presiding over the donation, Mr. Thomas Gichuru, Director TILT said that the donation was intended to help the two groups empower their members through improving their livelihoods. He advised the group members to use the incubator to uplift their economic status by engaging in a profitable business.

He said this is the second step in chicken business and reminded the two groups that the first one was building brooders and was expecting each and every member to have at least one.
Picture of the incubator

“We hope that the incubator business will be successful. We will help in marketing and in addressing any other issue that will come up along the way,” said Mr. Gichuru.
The incubator which is worth Ksh 75,000 is capable of hatching 264 eggs. Hatching is in three (3) phases as each tray carries 88 eggs. The incubator also has a hatching tray that carries 88 eggs.

Esther Kiama, Chairlady Sipili Upendo and Makutano B Women Group, noted that they had received the incubator at an opportune time as all the members had already prepared brooders and they were also ready to invest more in poultry farming.

She said that they had agreed that group members as well as the general public will each pay Ksh 20 in order to have their eggs hatched while a day old chick will be sold at Ksh 50. She noted that they will lay a lot of emphasis on production of indigenous poultry as they are more tolerant to diseases which reduce veterinary costs.
Already a member of the group has been trained on handling incubators, hatching and brooding together with general poultry production by Eco Chicks.

Monday, 16 February 2015

ALIN trains Laikipia CBO on blogging to aid in knowledge sharing

By Bob Aston
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) on February 12th and 13th, 2015 trained four (4) members of Yiaku Laikipiak Trust (YLT) on blogging and basic journalism skills. The training which took place in Nanyuki, Laikipia East is set to spur knowledge sharing as YLT will now be able to document and disseminate their project activities.
The training was conducted to complement an earlier training for United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Program (SGP) grantees from Laikipia County.
The CBO was also trained on news writing, creative writing, feature writing, photography, interviewing and media law and ethics. This is one of the additional ways that is being used in aiding knowledge sharing amongst the grantees.

This is expected to not only enhance their online visibility but also help in closing knowledge gaps, improving accessibility of indigenous knowledge as well as ensuring that communities are better informed about Sustainable Land Management (SLM).
Hon. Jennifer Koinante, Executive Director, YLT and also a nominated Member of County Assembly (MCA) in Laikipia County, noted that the training will enable the organization share knowledge emanating from their work for a wider dissemination.
Two members of Yiaku Laikipiak Trust creating a blog
“I am glad that ALIN decided to train some members of Yiaku Laikipiak Trust on blogging. This is a great opportunity for us as we will now be able to share our project activities with our partners and the general public,” said Hon. Koinante.
Risper Raisan, 21, a student at Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) noted that the training has enabled her to acquire valuable knowledge in blogging which she is eager to share with her friends. She has already created her own blog called Empowering Maasai Girls.
 “I have managed to create my own blog called Empowering Maasai Girls. I will be using the blog to fight against cultural practices like Female Genital Mutilation. The training has given me a perspective on how I can enlighten my fellow girls on such practices,” said Raisan.
She has been passionate about the fight against FGM and she has been attending various seminars organized by YLT on FGM. She has already started training other girls about blogging so that they can share information about some of the challenges faced by girls from pastoral communities.
On his part, Rodgers Muchina, an avid motorsport enthusiast has already created a blog called Rmuchina Motorsport for his soon to be established business. He intends to use the online community to promote his business as well as blog about motorsport.
YLT is an organization that is primarily geared towards uplifting the welfare of Yiaku people, a forest dwelling ethnic minority of Mukogondo Forest, Laikipia North.  The CBO has been supported by UNDP GEF SGP in helping communities adapt Sustainable Land Management (SLM) as a means of securing improved livelihoods which will in turn ease pressure on Mukogondo Forest.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Ng’arua Maarifa to host Olmoran public hearing on preparation of MTEF budget

By Bob Aston
The Ng’arua Maarifa Centre in Olmoran ward, Laikipia County, is set to host a public hearing on preparation of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) budget 2015/16-2017/18. The public hearing which has been organized by the County government of Laikipia through the County treasury is set to take place on February 18, 2015 from 10:00 am.
The public participation is expected to provide residents of Olmoran ward with an opportunity to contribute towards the preparation of the MTEF.
The MTEF consists of a top-down resource envelope, a bottom-up estimation of the current and medium-term costs of existing policy and ultimately, the matching of these costs with available resources.
MTEF is expected to help in improving the management of public finances by providing a link between the allocation of budget expenditures according to policy priorities and the fiscal discipline required by budget realities. It will help to build fiscal policy credibility and predictability via a more strategic, multi year, budget planning perspective.
The County Treasury seeks to take views and inputs from members of public, professional groups and interested persons or groups as a public participation requirement in line with Section 117 of the Public Finance Management Act, 2012, which provides for an effective management of public finances by the national and county governments. This will facilitate finalization of County Fiscal Strategy Paper, 2015.
Contributions or proposals can also be submitted in writing to the County Executive Member-Finance and Economic planning through or P.O. Box 1271-10400-Nanyuki.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Agriculture officer urges farmers to embrace Conservation Agriculture

By Bob Aston
Soil is the most valuable and widespread natural resource which supports agricultural based livelihoods. However, there is a general decline in land productivity due to declining soil fertility.In Kenya, the yields of food crops per acre are on the decline partly due to continuous farming without adequate soil nutrients replenishment. This indicates the need for better soil management practices.
The declining soil fertility particularly in Ol-Moran Ward, Laikipia County has prompted Mr. James Kamau, Ol-Moran Ward Agriculture officer to advice farmers to adopt Conservation agriculture as it reverses the effect of soil degradation caused by mechanical tillage.
He noted that the United Nations (UN) declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils (IYS) in recognition of the importance of soil.
He noted that Conservation Agriculture ensures that the soil remains undisturbed from harvest to planting except for nutrient injection. Planting or drilling takes place in a narrow seedbed or slot created by coulters, row cleaners, disk openers, in-row chisels or roto-tillers. Weed control is primarily by herbicides with little environmental impact.
Farmers being shown maize planted through Conservation Agriculture
“Soil under conservation agriculture has very high water infiltration capacities thus reducing surface runoff and soil erosion which in turn improves the quality of surface water leading to a reduction of soil erosion and an enhancement of ground water resources,” said Mr. Kamau.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, conservation agriculture is a concept of “resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment”.
“This year we are going to lay a lot of emphasis on Conservation Agriculture. It is clear that Climate change has led to a drastic decline in food production in Ol-Moran Ward. Conservation Agriculture is one of the ways in which we will use to mitigate against the adverse effects of Climate Change,” said Mr. Kamau.
He said that the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries intends to reach farmers through field days to urge them to adopt Conservation Agriculture. He also said plans are under way to set up demonstration plots that can be used for training farmers.
According to FAO, healthy soils are the foundation for food, fuel, fibre and even medicine. FAO approximates that 33 percent of the global soil resources are degraded due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification and pollution.
Conservation agriculture holds tremendous potential for all sizes of farms and agro-ecological systems, but its adoption is perhaps most urgently required by smallholder farmers, especially those facing acute labour shortages. It is a way to combine profitable agricultural production with environmental concerns and sustainability

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

High Performing FARMIS Agents Feted

By Anthony Mugo
A one-day meeting that brought together Production Information Agents (PIAs) implementing an innovation known as Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS) was held on Friday, February 6, 2015 at a Meru Hotel. In attendance were 27 of 28 PIAs working in Meru’s five sub-counties of Buuri, ImentI Central, Imenti North, Imenti South and Tigania West.
The aim of the meeting was four fold, to: review the work so far; provide an opportunity for PIAs to appreciate themselves for the good work done so far;  identify challenges they are encountering; and lay strategies on how they will surpass the target of profiling 5,000 farmers by the end of March, 2015.
The FARMIS innovation is being implemented by Sokopepe, a new company being incubated by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN). It aims to inculcate a culture of record keeping among small scale farmers in Meru. Without records, farmers are unable to determine whether the farm enterprises in which they engage are profitable or not. With this information, farmers are able to choose enterprises that bring better income. Ultimately this should lead to increased production, household income, food and nutritional security.
Initially, FARMIS is focusing on three value chains namely banana, maize and Irish Potato. Other than cash crops, most farmers in Meru grow these crops and sell surplus. Banana growing is practiced in all the sub-counties of focus except Buuri, where most small scale farmers mainly grow potatoes.
Roseline Ngusa, FARMIS Director addressing PIAs in Meru
Nearly 100 per cent of small scale farmers involved in the innovation report that they never keep records for the three crops. Farmers participating in the innovation are required to capture information about inputs and labour throughout a season namely; land preparation, planting, treatment (or weeding); harvesting; and post-harvest services. By the time of the meeting, more than 3,500 farmers were applying the innovation.
At the end of the meeting, the best performing PIAs were recognised and given some gifts. “We want to be fair and ensure that PIAs performing exceptionally well are awarded while those whose performance needs to improve are provided a chance to learn how their counterparts have dealt with challenges preventing them from achieving set targets,” noted Roseline Ngusa, a Director of Sokopepe.
Those who were feted were: Rose Karwitha (Meru Central), Nicholas Mwirigi (South Imenti), Hariet Marangu (Central Imenti) and Lilian Gitonga (South Imenti).
At the end of the meeting, all PIAs rededicated themselves to ensuring that they will meet agreed targets before the project comes to an end of March 2015. Sokopepe staff present were: Martin Murangiri (Training and Recruitment Officer), Anthony Mugo (Deployment Coordinator) Dennis Mutwiri (Technical Officer) and Roseline Ngusa (Director). Also in attendance was Mr. Victor Mirori who is the Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine (KFIE) Monitoring and Evaluation (M& E) field officer based in Meru.
FARMIS is supported by Land O’ Lakes through the KFIE with funding from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed The Future (FTF) Initiative. FARMIS is among the 14 innovations being implemented in Meru.

Friday, 6 February 2015

FARMIS-Kenya improving lives of farmers in Meru

By Bob Aston
The importance and value of record and information management has been neglected by most smallholder farmers in Kenya. Most smallholder farmers rarely keep farm records and in most cases those who keep farm records do not use it to monitor their farm activities.
It is due to this fact that Sokopepe introduced Farm Records Management Information System-FARMIS-Kenya in Meru County in April 2014 to address this challenge. Since its introduction about 4,000 farmers in five sub-counties in Meru namely: Buuri, Central Imenti, North Imenti, South Imenti and Tigania West are applying the FARMIS-Kenya innovation.
FARMIS Kenya is a farm management and diagnostic tool based on the use of farm records aimed at identifying productivity trends, profitability of different farm enterprises and producing evidence for use in decision making at the farm, County and National levels.
Farmers registering to join FARMIS
Joyce Muhindi from South Imenti narrated how she used to plant without keeping any record. At the end of each season she would harvest and sell her produce without knowing whether she had made a profit or loss.
“I never had any documentation about how my farm was performing. Each season I would just buy farm inputs and cater for other farm expenses but I never knew how much I used to spend on farm expenses,” said Joyce.
Last year when FARMIS-Kenya was launched in Meru she was visited by a Production Information Agent (PIA) who encouraged her to join FARMIS-Kenya. After a thirty minutes training on importance of farm records and the many benefits she would enjoy she decided to join FARMIS-Kenya.
Since then she has now realized what she used to miss out on. She is now able to keep up to date farm records. She said through FARMIS-Kenya she is now able to capture her farm’s profile and record her Irish potatoes, bananas and maize enterprises.
“I wish FARMIS-Kenya would have been introduced a bit earlier. I have now embraced agri-business. Each season I can now capture cost of tilling, inputs, labour, harvesting and post harvest operations,” said an excited Joyce.
On her part, Lucy Gatobu from Kainginyo, North Imenti, noted that the trainings that she has been receiving from PIAs has really helped her as she is now better informed on record keeping.
“Every week a PIA officer usually comes to my farm to check how my farm is and to assist me in filling the farm book. I am now able to fill the farm book and give it to the PIA to digitize it without any problem. I am also able to tell which crop is doing well,” said Lucy.
Farmer being trained on how FARMIS works
Similarly, Joseph Munyua from Central Imenti noted that the fact that FARMIS-Kenya has focused on Irish potatoes, bananas and maize value chain has enabled many farmers in the area to enjoy the various benefits offered.
Joseph said that he is now able to capture records and truly practice farming as a business. He has ensured that he is keeping up to date records of his maize and bananas. He is now planning to use his progress report for possible linkages to partners or stakeholders.
In order to ensure that farmers continue to enjoy the benefits of FARMIS-Kenya, Martin Murangiri, FARMIS-Kenya Recruitment and Training Officer has ensured that Meru County has thirty two (32) PIAs who train farmers on record keeping as well as recruit more farmers.
He said that the Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine (KFIE) which is being supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has supported Sokopepe to roll out FARMIS-Kenya in Meru.
“We are trying to ensure that farmers improve their economic gains and increase profits. It is clear that effective record keeping and information management is key to the running of a successful agri-business,” said Murangiri.
FARMIS Kenya enables farmers to: Generate on-demand customized reports on the status of their enterprises, produce seasonal profit and loss statements, project the income potential of their farming enterprises, access input and other service providers, develop a farm activity calendar and link with peer farmers for aggregating produce to sell in bulk.
Record keeping is an essential tool to any farmer. In the present day farm management is becoming more and more business oriented. In order to become a successful farmer in the modern days, one needs to be a good producer as well as a good financial manager. This can only be achieved when a farmer keeps good and accurate records.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

ALIN launches Matwiku Horticulture project

By Bob Aston

The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) on January 30, 2015 launched Matwiku Horticulture project in Githiga Ward, Laikipia West. ALIN in partnership with Act Change Transform (Act!), with financial support from Department for International Development (DFID) and Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA) is implementing a climate smart agriculture project in Laikipia County. The project supported Matwiku Horticulture Growers Self Help group to set up a drip irrigation system for horticultural production.
Matwiku Horticulture Growers Self Help Group has planted tomatoes, capsicum and kales in a one acre demonstration farm. They have already been taught about plant protection, harvesting, value addition and marketing. They are now learning how to use drip irrigation technology to produce nutritious food.
Farmers being trained on best agricultural practices

Speaking during the project launch, Mr. Noah Lusaka, ALIN Project Manager said that the launch and field day aimed to demonstrate to communities and stakeholders the various opportunities in food production using minimal water resources and appropriate technologies as an adaptation strategy to climate change.

He noted that the project which is also being implemented in Kajiado and Baringo counties has already started producing positive results particularly in Kajiado County. He said that the Kajiado county group has already harvested once and the group members have now started improving their livelihood.
”The group has realized a drastic reduction in use of fuel for pumping water. This has reduced emissions and also reduced time spent irrigating the farm,” said Mr. Lusaka.
He urged the county government to replicate the project in other parts of the County in order to mitigate the effects of climate change as well as increase food production. He said that the project has so far cost in excess of Ksh 300,000 and is set to end by March of this year.
On his part, Mr. James Kamau, Ol-Moran ward agriculture officer, stressed on the importance of drip irrigation as a way of conserving water resources. He noted the importance of Climate Smart Agriculture as a way of mitigating against the effects of climate change.
Farmers being shown how drip irrigation works
He thanked ALIN for supporting the group noting that the project will act as a benchmark for other farmers in the County. He urged farmers to turn up in large number during such events in order to gain information which they can apply in their own farms.
“Climate change is real. Currently many sources of water have dried up in Laikipia County. It is now ideal to embrace modern irrigation technologies like drip irrigation as it does not waste a lot of water,” said Mr. Kamau.
During the launch and field day, farmers had the opportunity to learn more about Climate Smart Agriculture and best farming practices. Members of the group also taught farmers about the use of drip irrigation as compared to other types of irrigations being used in the area. Community members also had the opportunity to tour the demonstration farm and see for themselves what the group is doing.
The Matwiku Horticulture group activities focus on practicing Climate Smart Agriculture. This is agriculture aimed at reducing emissions at the farm level, conserving natural resources like soils and water while increasing nutritious food production at household level at the same time increasing family incomes. The project aims to strengthen communities’ resilience to impacts of climate change while conserving natural resources in Laikipia County.