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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Importance of timely harvesting in reducing post maturity losses

By Bob Aston
Farmers have been urged to ensure timely harvesting in order to minimize post maturity losses in the field. Speaking during a workshop organized by Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre, Laikipia West Sub County on May 26, 2015, Mr. James Kamau, Ol-Moran Ward Agriculture Officer said that maize should be harvested at the right stage depending on the intended use.
“Although time of harvesting fall under pre harvesting period, its effect has direct linkage to post harvest challenges. During harvesting, care should be taken to make sure that the produce is not affected in quality or quantity,” said Mr. Kamau.
Dry maize ready for harvesting
He said that physiological characteristics for mature maize include: yellowing of most of the leaves; leaves drying up; yellowing and drying up of the husks; maize cobs begin to droop on the stalk; maize grains acquire a shiny surface; grains becomes too hard and uncomfortable to chew when it is roasted for eating; and black layer develops at the base of grains.

“Maize harvesting should start once the maize attains its physiological maturity. This is usually between 90-180 days depending on the variety and agro-ecological zone,” said Mr. Kamau.
Delayed harvesting after physiological maturity increases chances of storage pest infestation, shattering, damage by birds, wild animals and losses due to theft, thus reducing the quality and quantity available for consumption and sale. Delayed harvesting may also cause a problem as the fields need to be prepared for the next crop.
Harvesting should be timed to coincide with dry weather as wet harvesting enhances rotting of produce. During the wet season break the stem just below the cob and hang it downwards to prevent water entry into the cob. Use of maize varieties with ear rot resistance, ear dropping traits and closed husk cover is also recommended to reduce maize ear rot.
Stooked maize in field
“Early harvesting as soon as the crop reaches physiological maturity will be heavier than if left in the field to dry longer. This results in significant damage to the grain and makes it more difficult to market commercially,” said Mr. Kamau.
Method of harvesting
Cut the maize stalks and stack them in pyramid-shaped heaps (stooking). At this time the grain moisture content is around 26%. Stooking is important before ears are removed from the stalks to allow sun and air to dry the cobs for easier dehusking. Stook maize for two or more weeks to dry in the field (grain moisture will reduce to 18%).
Ensure that stooked maize does not overstay in the field because of theft cases. In such cases, stack the cut stalks in pyramids near your house. After the maize has dried, remove the ears from the stalks and dehusk the ears manually
During harvesting, avoid dropping of dehusked cobs on the bare ground because it increases the chances of fungal/Aflatoxin contamination. Dehusked cobs should be placed in clean containers, mats, tarpaulins or directly into bags to avoid contamination. Separate clean maize from rotten or pest infested cobs. Make good arrangements of transporting clean cobs from the field to the store.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Water resources in Ilmamusi Mukogodo Forest facing extinction in the future

By Samali Letai
The majority of the population in Mukogodo area of Laikipia heavily relies on wood fuel as the household source of energy. This over dependency is a threat to the forest. Fossil based fuels are expensive and not environmentally friendly. Therefore, impacts on the environment and natural resources need to be closely monitored.
Mukogodo Forest ecosystem is well endowed with a rich variety of resources. Located in Laikipia North and sitting on a total land area of 280 square kilometres, the forest is famous for impressive biological diversity, socioeconomic and cultural significance.
It is a vital water catchment area, has high potential for tourism and recreational facilities and supports livelihoods of the adjacent communities through fuel wood, fodder for livestock, honey and herbs, and serves as an important resource for scientific research.
Mukogodo Forest ecosystem constitutes an important reservoir for biodiversity. Despite these attributes, the forest has faced threats over the last two decades from a range of human-related activities. These activities include illegal harvesting of timber, charcoal burning, and improper grazing.
A section of Ilmamusi Mukogodo Forest
Unsustainable tree harvesting leads to the destruction of the forest’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide. Other factors include: poverty, inappropriate/ineffective government policies, erosion of traditional values and ignorance.
The impact of forest destruction is evident through drying up of formerly permanent water sources and changing of microclimatic conditions of the area. Over exploitation of the forest’s resources where extraction appears to exceed the rate of natural replenishment of the ecosystem, is largely to blame for the rapid rate at which the rangelands ecological integrity is being eroded.
In Makurian Group Ranch, increased dry climatic variations have led to inadequate water for domestic use and livestock watering. Most earth dams are silted because of increased erosion and sedimentation as a result of improper land use practices. Scarcity of water is also resulting in increased human-wildlife conflict.
Development of water points in the group ranches will bring about reduction of pressure on the usage of natural springs found within the forest reserve. Furthermore, the time will be limited for pastoralists taking their animals to drink water; they move to the forest early when pasture is still available in the group ranch.
There are eight water sources in the forest which are highly depended on by the community during dry seasons. Mostly, a large quantity of water from the sources is contaminated and is unhealthy for people and livestock. Through protection of these sources, clean water is guaranteed throughout the year for the four group ranches: Ilngwesi, Makurian, Mukogodo, and Sieku Group ranch, surrounding the forest.
Samali Letai, is the Project Manager Ilmamusi Mukogodo Forest Association, Tel: 0724 740283 Email:

Friday, 29 May 2015

Celebrating the achievements of PELUM Kenya during 2015 AGM

By Bob Aston
The Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Association Annual General Meeting (AGM) held at the Sustainable Agriculture Community Development Programme (SACDEP-Kenya) Training and Conference Facility in Thika on May 28-29, 2015 brought together 70 participants from more than 40 member organizations.
Speaking during the AGM, Mr. Charles Nyakora, Chairperson, PELUM Kenya Board thanked all stakeholders for the roles that they had played in the development and growth of PELUM Kenya in 2014. He noted that the network will continue to believe in partnership and networking as well as working hard towards the realization of PELUM Kenya vision, mission and goals.
“PELUM Kenya was started to address African problems so that we move forward. This is a network that can help us sort out our issues. Let us support PELUM Kenya because of the support that we are giving small scale farmers,” said Mr. Nyakora.
Mr. Charles Nyakora addressing participants
Summary of achievements in 2014 included: establishment of six networking zones based on geographical location; increase of membership to 46 organizations; establishment of three distinct national thematic networking committees; development of policy and strategy documents; strengthening of the monitoring and evaluation systems; and development of eight work plans in the priority value chains of cassava, honey and indigenous chicken.

Other achievement’s included: Over one million consumer segments reached with information of sustainable consumption; formation of the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative (EOAI); hosted and still hosting two like-minded and learning networks; launching of phase 2 of promoting elum and Networking for Livelihood Improvement; and prepared and submitted a winning concept and thereafter proposal to Siemenpuu Foundation.
“ Various  reflective meetings and evaluations held and carried out in 2014 have revealed that PELUM Kenya is strong in various dimensions and that it is moving towards becoming a more vibrant network realizing the expectations of its member organizations. PELUM-Kenya wants the network to be more member-driven,” said Mr. Zachary Makanya, County Coordinator, PELUM Kenya.
Mr. Makanya noted that over the past three years, PELUM Kenya has played a key role in promoting the sustainable management and governance of Environment and Natural Resources in Kenya. This has been possible through support from Act! Change! Transform! (Act!). This has helped to improve involvement of smallholder farming communities in governance, management and efficient utilization of environment and natural resources in the country.
Participants pose for a photo
PELUM Kenya delivers its work through 4 main strategic approaches namely: Research, Information Management and Marketing (RIMM); capacity enhancement and networking programme (CEP); campaign, advocacy and lobbying (CAL); and result based management (RBM).
Some of the projects undertaken in 2014 included: promoting elum and networking for livelihood improvement (PENELI) 2 programme; Global green action week; ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) initiative in Africa; and Strengthening Community Engagement in Governance and Management of Natural Resources.
During the AGM, members were presented with a summary progress report from PELUM Kenya for 2014 and some updates for 2015 as well as statement of financial position. Members were also able to elect new board members, ratify admission of two new members and appoint the auditors of the company for the year 2015.
PELUM Kenya promotes people-driven development towards sustainable land use management. The organization facilitates learning networking and advocacy on sustainable natural resource management for improved livelihoods.
The organization has also been promoting sharing of information of development experiences, innovations and best practices, strengthening linkages and collaboration through action learning among partners and members as well as increasing the visibility of the small-scale farmers.

Water Resources and Sustainable Land Management in Laikipia

Source Laikipia Mali Asili
Laikipia County has been categorised as one of the water scarce counties in Kenya. The main water sources are Ewaso Narok and Ewaso Nyiro rivers and their tributaries. The Northern part of the County in areas such as Dol Dol is mostly semi-arid while lower parts near Nyahururu are wetter and more agriculturally productive.
The rivers’ system support two major forests namely Rumuruti and Ewaso Narok forests. They also support a large populations of wildlife. According to agencies involved in protection of water catchment sites in Laikipia County, such as the Kenya Wetlands Biodiversity
Section of Wangwaci dam in Ol-Moran Ward
Research Group (KENWEB), there is an urgent need to conserve the water catchment sites of Laikipia. The national Government, County and civil society bodies are working with water users’ associations in order to preserve water catchment and riparian areas. These efforts have included raising communities’ awareness about the need for sustainable use of scarce water resources, afforestation through tree planting and sustainable utilization of forest and forest products.
Only 20 per cent of Laikipia’s land is arable with most small scale farmers owning an average of two acres. The County also has a significant population of pastoralists.  A significant part of the land mass is occupied by conservancies, with Laikipia having 43 registered ranches larger than 10,000 acres, which also double as cattle production enterprises.
Key economic activities in the County: agriculture, livestock rearing and tourism are heavily water dependent. According to the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP), most arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya will become hotter and dry over the next 30 – 50 years.
Already, communities are noticing that the regularity of rainy and dry seasons to which they have become used has changed in recent years, already pointing to increasing incidences of climate variability.
During time of water stress, incidents of human wildlife conflict become common as animals invade farms in search of pasture. In some instances, larger animals, particularly elephants, encounter farms as they follow historical migratory corridors. Ways and means of sustainable use of water in Laikipia and indeed in Kenya will have to be the concern of all members of the society: leaders, women, men, young people and even children.
You can download a copy of Laikipia Mali Asili here

Climate Smart Agriculture and gender

By Bob Aston
Improved climate services can enhance adaptive capacity and resilience among vulnerable people and women. An acute gender-sensitive response from agriculture extension service agents and local governmental officials is important in ensuring women adopt climate-smart practices.
The smallholder farmers particularly women and vulnerable community members risk being overwhelmed by the pace and severity of climate change yet they are the mainstay of food production in the country.
Climate smart agriculture involves using technologies that can assist farmers in transitioning from traditional farming strategies to new climate-aware ones. These technologies focus on improved water management through water harvesting and use of drip irrigation, soil and water conservation measures, mulching, intercropping, introduction of drought tolerant crops and practicing agroforestry among others.
Farmers practicing Climate Smart Agriculture
According to Food and Agriculture Organization, climate smart agriculture consists of three main pillars namely: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes (food security); adapting and building resilience to climate change (adaptation); and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), where possible.
Women are increasingly playing an important role in food production, notably in small scale farming which plays an important role in achieving greater food security. Despite their contributions to the global food supply, women farmers are often undervalued and overlooked in agricultural development strategies.
Focusing Climate Smart Agriculture information, resources, technologies and practices on women is an important strategy for catalyzing adoption and ensuring rapid and flexible adaptation to climate change.
According to a World Bank report titled Levelling the field: improving opportunities for women farmers in Africa, a key hindrance to agricultural development and broader growth is a wide and pervasive gender gap in agricultural productivity. The report argues that tackling the barriers that hold back the productivity of female farmers could both enhance gender equality and usher in broader economic growth.
Targeting women and other vulnerable groups with Climate Smart Agriculture increases the likelihood of achieving the sustainable development goals. But, a focus on women will only be successful when gender norms that are currently inhibiting change are addressed.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), providing female farmers access to the same resources as men could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million. Women also produce between 60 and 80 percent of the food in most developing countries but despite this their involvement in selection of suitable crops and adoption of innovative and good management practices, is very low.
If climate smart agricultural practices are to be accepted in farming communities they must be viewed as beneficial to both men and women farmers. A gender sensitive approach is crucial to achieving climate smart agriculture. The roles, responsibilities and capacities of both men and women need to be well understood to ensure that both men and women benefit from climate smart agricultural practices.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Smallholder farmers urged to aggregate maize in order to access market outlets

By Bob Aston
Smallholder farmers have been urged to aggregate maize together in one place in order to access market outlets easily. Speaking during a workshop organized by Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre, Laikipia West Sub County on May 26, 2015, Mr. James Kamau, Ol-Moran Ward Agriculture Officer said that smallholder farmers will be able to get better returns than selling as individuals.
He said that smallholder farmers need to be encouraged to form farmer group organizations for aggregating maize. The farmers can then contribute different quantities of maize to the farmer group organization and can put a group store before delivering the maize to a certified warehouse or selling maize to traders.
The aggregation will help farmers to negotiate for better prices due to large maize volume and benefits from warehouse receipting system. When the maize is in the warehouse receipting system certified store, farmers can access loan financing from banks to meet their needs and repay the loan after selling the maize.
Maize aggregated in a warehouse
“During harvesting season the price of maize is usually low due to high supply. When harvesting season is over the price will increase. This is usually the best time to sell as farmers will be able to get higher returns from their maize,” said Mr. Kamau.
He mentioned different market outlets for maize which include: maize flour and animal feed millers; wholesale and retail grain markets; export markets to other countries; village markets; and consumer markets such as schools, hotels, hospitals, prisons and red-cross.
He said that price mapping is important as it helps farmers to know when the prices are good and can make decision when to sell their maize. He noted that Eastern African Grain Council does market price mapping across major markets and border markets in Kenya.
Before selling maize, farmers should consider factors such as production, transport, storage costs and expected profit per bag. He said that maize prices usually depend on factors like farm-gate price, retail market price and wholesale price.
“If farmers can calculate these costs and combine them with price mapping, they can plan easily when to sell and markets where they will sell their maize,” said Mr. Kamau.
He said that the East African Community (EAC) has set standards for maize trading across the region. Also there are recognized maize grades while the maximum acceptable packaging for maize is 50 kg bags.

Water resources and the importance of preserving catchment sites

By Anthony Mugo
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is pleased to present the second issue of Laikipia Mali Asili newsletter. Contributors to this Newsletter are mainly partners working in Laikipia County under a project sponsored by United Nations Development Program under its Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program (UNDP GEF SGP).
In this second issue of Laikipia Mali Asili, we focus on water resources and the importance of preserving catchment sites as a crucial element of sustainable land management. Laikipia is relatively water stressed county with large areas of the northern part being semi-arid. Yet the County’s main economic activities namely tourism, agriculture and livestock keeping are highly water-dependent.
Noah Lusaka’s article about a project that is demonstrating use of drip irrigation as a climate smart agriculture technology at Matwiku in Laikipia West gives promising insights that farmers can begin practicing agriculture that uses water more efficiently.
With climate change taking place, it is predicted that many areas of Kenya, including Laikipia are likely to become drier. At the same time, extreme events particularly droughts and floods will become more frequent.
That is why the article by Njenga Kahiro about how to harvest water from a Manyatta (traditional Maasai house) provides a new perspective about water harvesting, a practice that needs to be adopted by all communities.
The Children’s Corner once again demonstrates the amazing potential of the young to play their part in protecting their environment. The illustrations, poems and articles reveal that children are indeed aware of the role that they can play to protect their surroundings and support their parents in practicing sustainable agriculture and livestock keeping.
Laikipia Mali Asili is a tool for sharing information between initiatives focused on preserving Laikipia’s landscapes and enhancing communities’ resilience while improving their livelihoods. A listing of organization’s supported by UNDP GEF SGP, their contacts and where they operate from is provided in this issue as a way of making it easier for them to share and receive information.
You can download a copy of the second edition of Laikipia Mali Asili here.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

ALIN set to participate at the PELUM-Kenya AGM

By Bob Aston
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is set to be among the organizations that will be represented during the 2015 Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Sustainable Agriculture Community Development Programme (SACDEP-Kenya) Training and Conference Facility in Thika on May 28-29, 2015.
PELUM Association is a network of Civil Society Organizations / non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working with Small-scale farmers in East, Central and Southern Africa. The Association membership has grown from 25 pioneer members (in 1995) to over 250 members in 2014.  PELUM Kenya is the Kenyan country chapter of the PELUM Association and has a membership of 44 member organizations.
PELUM Kenya programmes include: Research and Information Management; Capacity Enhancement; Management and Development; and Campaign Advocacy and Lobbying.
ALIN joined PELUM Kenya in 2007 and has been involved in improving communities’ access to knowledge and skills for many years with a strong focus on small-scale sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation, sustainable land management (SLM), natural resources management (NRM) and other livelihood issues.
Farmers harvesting in one of the sites where ALIN is promoting Climate Smart Agriculture
The organization has also been involved in knowledge sharing for more than 22 years now, using various platforms that include the use of video documentations, exchange visits, open learning days and articles aimed at farmers and pastoralists. The organization has also been using three publications, namely Baobab, which features small scale sustainable agriculture, Joto Afrika, a climate change briefing highlighting case studies on adaptation and Laikipia Mali Asili, a newsletter on SLM in Laikipia County.
PELUM Kenya promotes people-driven development towards sustainable land use management. The organization facilitates learning networking and advocacy on sustainable natural resource management for improved livelihoods.
PELUM envisions self-organized communities in Kenya that are able to make choices towards improved quality of life that is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. The association endeavors’ to build the capacity of the member organizations and partners in Kenya to empower the local communities through participatory methodologies in ecological land use management and sustainable development.
The organization has also been promoting sharing of information of development experiences, innovations and best practices, strengthening linkages and collaboration through action learning among partners and members as well as increasing the visibility of the small-scale farmers.

Ol-Moran ward teachers learn ICT in anticipation of tablet

By Murigi Ndung’u
Primary school teachers, senior teachers and head-teachers drawn from Ol-Moran Ward, Laikipia West Sub County attended a one week Information and Communication Technology (ICT) workshop on May 18-22, 2015 at Lariak Primary School and Lariak Secondary school in preparation of ICT integration in primary schools. The workshop was organized by the ministry of education in conjunction with the county government of laikipia.
The workshop was attended by pedagogues from far and wide all the way from Magadi to Rumuruti and gathered into a common workshop dictated by their station situation. Participants from Ol-Moran area attended training at Lariak Primary School while those from Sipili area attended training at Lariak Secondary School.
Some of the participants during the Workshop
According to the facilitators, computer illiteracy is at shocking levels even among the teachers and wiping it will be equally tough but worth trying since the nation is gearing towards national digitization. This is the reason the government undertook the process to reach out the marginalized groups.
The one week workshop enabled the teachers to learn basic computer skills that included: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. The three packages are intended to help them in their daily work like in report writing, information sorting, dissemination and analysis.
“It is good that the government decided to change from laptops to tablets. We do not have power in our school and so we would have been disadvantaged but with tablets it will at least be manageable. Currently due to lack of power our learning is outdated to the point that pupils would fear change,” said Mr. Ndirangu from Magadi Primary School, a much marginalized school in one of the portions of Laikipia County.
The tablets are expected in July this year, the integration of this into the school functioning will help do away with the tedious paper work and maximize on the performance.
The government abandoned laptops for tablets after a tender raw that saw the issue taken to court. The government has now factored into the 2015-2016 financial year budget the supply of the tablets at a cost of Kshs. 17 billion which is lower than the initial Kshs. 24 billion budget that had been earmarked for the laptops.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Embracing indegeneous technical knowledge in grain storage and pest control

By Bob Aston
Embracing indegeneous technical knowledge(ITK) can play a big role in reducing maize post-harvest losses. Speaking during a workshop organized by Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society drawn from Dimcom area at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre, Laikipia West Sub County on May 26, 2015, Mr. Moses Lokwawi,Ol-Moran Ward Crop Officer urged farmers to embrace ITK to ensure effective storage of grains and pest control.
He noted that many farmers have been embracing modern post-harvest technologies while neglecting the traditional ones which in most cases are readily available and are also cheaper.
The cooperative members from Dimcom area during the training

“You should not forget the indegenous technical knowledge as they have been proven to be effective. This can help in reducing post-harvest losses and ensuring farmers realize high returns,´said Mr. Lokwawi.
Farmers noted that some of the ITK include; smoking, use of drum, use of ash, mexican merigold and rosemary.
He said that one way of reducing pest attack include admixing ashes or sand with threshed grains that are well dried.Then shake or stir to ensure good mixing. For this to be effective, large quantities of 20 percent or more by volume should be added to grain.  The ashes and sand form a layer over the surface of the grains, which prevents insect attack.They also fill the spaces between grains and act as a physical barrier preventing insect movement and reproduction.
 He said that insects can be killed by exposure to high temperatures during solanization. This can be done by spreading the infested grain in a thin layer of 2 cm in depth on an empty jute or hessian sacks or sheet of black paper.
The grains should then be covered with a sheet of clear polythene, held onto the  ground by stones. It should then be exposed to the sun for two to three hours during the middle of the day.
Ol-Moran Ward Agriculture officer addressing the participants
Insects can also be killed by admixing inert dusts or diatomaceous earths (DEs)  with threshed grains. Unlike sand and ashes, DEs only need to be applied in small quantities, up to 0.2 percent by weight. They work by absorbing the wax from the insect’s body, causing water loss, then desiccation and death.
Maize cobs can be stored on platforms or in the loft of the house above a fire. The smoke and heat from the fire may kill insects or drive them out of the grain. The method is not always effective; in particular the larger grain borer will not be killed.
ASDSP and other partners including; Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), SNV-Netherlands Development Organization and Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) are implementing a maize concept note titled “Formation, Legalization and Training Maize Value Chain Groups on Post-harvest Management.” The concept note seeks to address the high post-harvest maize losses in the county by reducing it to less than 15 percent.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Embracing kitchen garden to improve food security

By Bob Aston
Smallholder farmers in Naibrom area of Ol-Moran Ward in Laikipia West Sub County are embracing kitchen garden as a way of improving their livelihood. Through support from the County Government the farmers were on May 20, 2015 trained on how to set up a kitchen garden nursery.
In Laikipia County, the county government recognized promotion of Kitchen garden as a way of empowering communities at the household level. The County government through the County Development Authority is implementing Household Economic Empowerment Programme (HEEP) with an aim of reducing poverty level in the county.
Farmers preparing kitchen garden nursery

Kitchen garden is a simple method of farming that produce fresh fruit, vegetables’ and herbs for delicious, healthy meals. The objective of training farmers on kitchen garden include: to ensure households are food and nutrition secure; to ensure good management and profitable utilization of available resources is promoted in the county; to promote profitable agribusiness in Laikipia County.
“We want farmers to be able to have vegetables throughout the year. We expect that the farmers will be able to cut down on food costs, access fresh produce and get nutritive food,” said Mr. James Kamau, Ol-Moran Ward Agriculture officer.
He said that they are training farmers on establishment of wet garden as they are less capital intensive, use less water, one is able to realize high production and they are easy to manage.
He urged the farmers to use recommended spacing, keep weeds in check, plant crops in a place not susceptible to pests, do crop rotation, and remove things which can harbor pests as well as observe time of planting
The farmers prepared nurseries for Fanaka F1 cabbage, 1000 headed kale, Ford Hook Giant spinach, Amiran tomatoes and California Wonder capsicum.
The seeds being covered to reduce sunlight
He urged them to always consider selection of sight as it will determine the success of the kitchen garden. The garden should be near a source of water, should be away from shading tree, should not be water logged and weeds and grass should be cleared in the surrounding areas.
Planting and maintenance
The width of the kitchen garden should be 1 m while the length will depend on the availability of land. Well decomposed manure should then be added to the top soil to a ratio of one to one. That is one wheel barrow of top soil to one wheel barrow of decomposed manure.
The seeds should be planted in a row, the lines must face where the sun rises from. The lines should be spaced 15 cm apart using a string to make straight line. The lines should be 2 cm deep.
The nursery should be watered whenever necessary to avoid over watering the nursery bed for it can cause stress and compaction. The seed bed should be mulched to provide enough shade for the crops while weeding should be done regularly.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Post-harvest technologies manual to help reduce post-harvest losses

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.  In a bid to address this problem, the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP), organized for a two days’ workshop on May 14-15, 2015 at Simbas Lodge in Nanyuki, Laikipia County to develop a Post-Harvest Technologies Training Manual.
Present during the workshop included; Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP), Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), SNV-Netherlands Development Organization, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) and farmer representatives.
Mrs. Elizabeth Mwangi, Laikipia CDA addressing participants

Speaking while opening the workshop, Mrs. Elizabeth Mwangi, Laikipia County Director of Agriculture (CDA) said that the County government is currently developing Agriculture Service Bill and Livestock Bill to help improve the agriculture sector.
She said that maize farming takes a huge chunk of agriculture land in Laikipia County with Laikipia West Sub County being among the leading maize producing areas in the Country. She noted that with good agricultural practices farmers are able to get as much as 45 bags of maize per acre.
“I hope the manual will help reduce post-harvest losses. I hope it will be accessible to farmers and it will be something they can relate with. As a County, we are committed to reduce post-harvest losses to below 10 percent by 2017,” said Mrs. Mwangi.
She encouraged agriculture stakeholders in the County to also address issues dealing with storage and marketing as this has been a challenge particularly to smallholder farmers.
“Most farmers in the county depend on maize as staple food. It is also worth noting that maize from Laikipia West Sub County is considered among the highest grade,” said Mrs. Mwangi.
The manual is expected to help Maize Trainer of Trainers (TOT) to train 43 value chain groups in Laikipia on post-harvest management. ASDSP and other partners are currently implementing a maize concept note titled ““Formation, Legalization and Training Maize Value Chain Groups on Post-harvest Management.”
The concept note seeks to address the high post-harvest maize losses in the county by reducing it to less than 15 percent.
James Kariithi, ASDSP Laikipia County Coordinator said that they aim to transform Kenya’s agricultural sector into an innovative, commercially oriented, competitive and modern industry that will contribute to poverty reduction, improved food security and equity in rural and urban Kenya.
“We aim to achieve agricultural growth rate of 7 percent per year over the next five years. We are doing this by developing and managing key factors of production and increasing productivity, commercialization and competitiveness of the agriculture sector,” said Mr. Kariithi.
Participants following proceedings during the workshop
He noted that there are 37 agricultural value chains in Laikipia County while three value chains namely; maize, dairy and sheep and goats (Mutton and Chevron) had been prioritized by farmers in the County. He said that ASDSP had managed to form a County Steering Committee (CSC), Value Chain Platforms (VCP) and Value Chain Core Groups (VCCG) for the three prioritized value chains as well as thematic working groups (TWG).
The training manual has addressed various stages of post-harvest management that include: harvesting process; drying and shelling; storage and storage facilities at commercial level; storage and storage facilities at household level; markets and marketing; quantifying post harvesting losses; Indigenous technical knowledge (ITK) in grain storage and pest control; complaints system.
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.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Biodiversity for sustainable development and poverty reduction

By Bob Aston
The United Nations on December 20, 2000 proclaimed May 22 as the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The date designated for the day was chosen to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on May 22, 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Convention on Biological Diversity came into force on December 29, 1993, and each anniversary of this date was designated the International Day for Biological Diversity. However, it was difficult for many countries to plan and carry out suitable celebrations for the date of 29 December, given the number of holidays that coincide around that time of year.
IDB logo for 2015
The theme for 2015 is Biodiversity for Sustainable Development which reflects the relevance of biodiversity for the achievement of sustainable development. The theme reflects the importance of efforts made at all levels to establish a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda for the period of 2015-2030 and the relevance of biodiversity for the achievement of sustainable development. Sustainable development is a way to meet the needs of people all over the world and ensuring that the planet remains healthy and viable for future generations.
The day is part of a series of activities to focus attention on the Convention on Biological Diversity. The symbol of this convention is a stylized image of a twig or branch with three green leaves. Depending on the background, the leaves may be just outlines or green blocks.
Humanity’s fate is tightly linked with biological diversity – the variety of life on earth. Biodiversity is essential for sustainable development and human well-being. It is crucial to the reduction of poverty, due to the basic goods and ecosystem services it provides.
Habitat degradation and the loss of biodiversity are threatening the livelihoods of more than 1 billion people living in dry and sub-humid lands. Strategies to protect biodiversity must therefore be developed for achieving poverty reduction and sustainable development.
Biodiversity is a vital asset in global and local economies. It plays a major role in mitigating climate change by contributing to long-term sequestration of carbon.
You can twit about the day through #BioDiversityDay