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Monday, 29 February 2016

Empowering women through social protection

By Bob Aston
The Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) on February 24-25, 2016 at Nyaki Hotel in Nyahururu, Laikipia West Sub County held a Social protection linkage forum between financial service providers and 60 women groups drawn from maize, dairy, sheep, and goat value chains.
Among the financial institutions present included Women Enterprise Fund, Uwezo Fund, Equity Bank, Laikipia County Enterprise Fund, and Faulu Bank.
Speaking while opening the forum, Hon. Anne Chumo, Laikipia CEC Trade, Tourism and Enterprise Development thanked the financial institutions and ASDSP for organizing the forum.
Hon. Anne Chumo addressing the women drawn from various farmer groups
She noted that the forum would come up with various interventions that would overcome the challenges faced by women farmers. She called on financial institutions to come up with services that are easily accessible to women.
“As women we should stop fearing applying for loans. We can only prosper when we seek for financial services without fear of defaulting,” said Hon. Chumo.
She urged women to avoid procrastinating but instead seek for timely interventions when faced with challenges. She said that the County government is working towards empowering women by ensuring that they benefit through the County Enterprise Fund.
Mr. Nyapola Atenya, ASDSP-Laikipia Environmental Resilience and Social Inclusion officer noted that social protection aims at ensuring that all communities live in dignity and are able to use their capabilities for their own social and economic development.
He noted that social protection services reduce risks and vulnerability and can improve productivity. He said that few women are involved in decision making in the three prioritized ASDSP value chains.
The workshop looked at financial products accessible to women and major investment opportunities along the maize, dairy, sheep, and goat value chains.
“Helping women to invest in production, processing, mechanization, input supplies, research, and extension can ensure that women play an active role in the three value chains,” said Mr. Nyapola.

The women noted that inadequate knowledge, lack of access to information, inadequate capital, lack of access to market, fear of defaulting, low confidence, and lack of surety are major constraints affecting them in the County.

Sipili records lowest Uwezo Fund uptake in Laikipia West

By Bob Aston
Ol-Moran Ward accounts for the lowest uptake of Uwezo Fund in Laikipia West Sub County. Speaking during a social protection linkage forum between financial service providers and women groups convened by the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) on February 24-25, 2016 at Nyaki Hotel in Nyahururu, Ms. Agnes Wambugu, Sub- County youth, and gender officer said that no youth group has benefited from Sipili since formation of Uwezo Fund.
She said that 18 women groups have benefited from Ol-Moran Ward while no youth group or persons with disability have benefited.
Ms. Agnes Wambugu addressing women drawn from different farmer groups

The 18 women groups have received Kshs 1,050,000 thus accounting for 6.47 percent of the disbursed amount.

“We are deeply concerned that youth groups from Sipili are not applying for Uwezo Fund. The ward has received the lowest amount because of the low number of applicants,” said Ms. Wambugu.
She said that Uwezo Fund is a flagship programme for vision 2030 aimed at enabling women, youth, and persons with disability access finances to promote businesses and enterprises at the constituency level.
Igwamiti ward has received the highest amount at Kshs 4,345,110. The amount accounts for 26.16 percent of the total disbursed amount. Other disbursements include Githiga 4,230,120, Marmanet 3,200,106, Rumuruti 2,150,066, and Salama 1,150,042.
A total of 52 youth, 186 women groups, and 2 persons with disability groups have benefited from Laikipia West. Total disbursed amount is Kshs 16,225,000. Laikipia West received Kshs 21,447,000 million for Uwezo Fund.
Some of the groups that have benefited from Sipili/Ol-Moran include Gitio Self Help Group, (S.H.G), Jiinue Sipili S.H.G, Kiriko Sipili Women S.H.G, Kiriko Wendani Group, Sipili Poultry Keepers, Nyakio S.H.G, Githima Spiners, Weavers S.H.G, Minjore Mwireri S.H.G, Naibrom Women Group, Songambele S.H.G, Malezi S.H.G, Sipili Handicapped, Kipkelion S.H.G, Wangwachi Mwangaza, and Ahotani 2013 Women group.
Women making handbags
She said that training is a pre-requisite to applying for the fund and it focuses on four key areas that include general information on Uwezo Fund, business development services and mentoring; table banking concept; and access to government procurement opportunities for youth, women and persons with disability.
”The minimum amount that groups can receive is Kshs 50,000 while the maximum amount is Kshs 500,000. Groups have a grace period of six months while repayment period is a maximum of 24 months from the end date of the grace period,” said Ms. Wambugu.
She said that groups must be in existence for more than three (3) months in order to receive funding. 
Other areas include groups doing table banking, registered groups with the department of social services or the register of societies, groups operating within the constituency, and groups with an operational bank account.

She urged youth groups particularly from Sipili to collect application forms at the Constituency Uwezo Fund Management Committee office or the Uwezo Fund website.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

In Kenya, honey sweetens resilience

By Esther Kahinga, Kenya Climate Innovation Center
"The business terrain is rough and bumpy and only meant for those who can raise again when they fall," says Kathy Mbondo an entrepreneur who speaks from her own experience.
Mbondo was exporting flowers in 2011 when the euro crisis happened and her business was wiped out in two months. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, in 2014 she ventured into traditional vegetables farming which did not work out well either. In March 2015 after thinking about what to pursue, she realised there was a resource in her home village that had a lot of potential but had not been exploited.
Mbondo comes from Makueni County, Kenya an area that receives low rainfall which translates to low agricultural productivity. Climate change is taking its toll in the region as unpredictable rainfall patterns have led to shifts in planting time.
Traditionally communities in Makueni kept bees but many farmers gave up on the trade due to poor honey prices. Brokers would buy the honey for as low as Ksh 50 (50 cents). Mbondo realised that farmers could fetch better prices for honey if only she would get a market for them.
Bee hives hanged in an Acacia tree in Makueni County,Kenya.CREDIT:Proactive Merit
In her village, people cut down acacia trees to make charcoal which contributes to deforestation. To conserve the trees, Mbondo came up with the "every acacia for a hive" project that encourages farmers to put hives on acacia trees instead of cutting them down. "I sell the economic value of the beehive to the farmers," Mbondo says.
What she tells them is this: "When you cut down an acacia tree and convert it to charcoal, you make a maximum of four bags which in total fetch Ksh 1000 ($10). When you put a single bee hive on the same acacia tree, you will harvest 20kgs of honey each year. Each kilogram of honey sold to Proactive Merit goes for Ksh 250 which translates to Ksh 5000 ($50) per year.’ she explained.
Proactive Merit is the company founded by Mbondo that buys honey from farmers.
Mbondo started by putting bee hives on the acacia trees on her parents' farm and urging farmers to stop cutting the acacia trees and instead consider suspending bee hives on them. Farmers began to buy the "every acacia for a hive" idea and so far 40 farmers have put up 120 hives. Mbondo has 50 hives on her parents’ farm – a number that she has built over the last seven months. Her goal for 2016 is to purchase 10 tonnes of honey from farmers, package it and sell it. The honey goes by the brand name "Nature and she is now selling through several retail outlets in Nairobi.
The honey by Proactive Merit is "raw honey" that is collected straight from the hive into the honey jar. It is totally unheated, unpasteurised and unprocessed. This ensures that all the natural vitamins, living enzymes and other nutritional elements are preserved. 

Friday, 26 February 2016

Efficacy of weed control: Ensuring successful cultivation of crops

By Bob Aston
Adopting an Integrated weed management helps to ensure successful cultivation of crops. Speaking during a Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop convened by the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) on February 22-23, 2016 at the Agricultural Machinery Services (AMS) Hall in Nyahururu, Mr. Lincoln Njiru, Laikipia County Crops officer said that lack of a weed control plan leads to low production.
He said that weed control during the first four to eight weeks after planting is crucial, because weeds compete vigorously with the crop for nutrients and water during this period.
Mr. Lincoln Njiru emphasizing a point during the training
“The first critical requirement for effective weed control is correct weed identification. Weeds have special characteristics that tend to put them in the category of unwanted plants,” said Mr. Njiru.
He said that weeds have special characteristics that tend to put them in the category of unwanted plants as they can withstand adverse conditions in the field and can germinate under adverse soil moisture condition.
In addition, weed seeds remain viable for longer period without losing their viability and they have a short period of plant growth.
“Weeds that emerge at the time of crop germination or within a few days of crop emergence cause greater yield loss than weeds emerging later in the growing season,” said Mr. Njiru.
He urged farmers to adopt integrated weed management, as it reduces weed interference with the crop while maintaining acceptable crop yields.
Integrated weed management approach ensures selection of adapted variety or hybrid seeds with good early season vigor and appropriate disease and pest resistance. He urged farmers to ensure weed free farm through cultural, mechanical, biological, or chemical management.
Cultural weed control entails early weeding, proper inter cropping, crop rotation, use of cover crops, improved soil fertility and reduced environmental stress including pests and disease management.
Mechanical weed controls involves pre-plant tillage, in row cultivation, and flaming weed control by use of propane burners to kill the weeds by denaturing the proteins in the cell membranes hence desiccating them.
Biological control entails reuniting weeds with their natural enemies, although it is important that they do not become pests themselves. Example is use of turkeys in fruit orchards, commercial bio-herbicides, and tick berry against couch grass.
One of the participants contributing during discussions
Chemical weed control involves use of pre-emergence and post-emergence herbicides. Use of more than one herbicide usually ensures a season long weed control.
“ High weed infestation increases the cost of cultivation, lowers value of land, reduces the returns of maize producers, reduce yield, make harvesting difficult, and lowers the quality of grains,” said Mr. Njiru.
He said that some harmful effects of weeds include loss of agricultural produce; reduced crop yields as weeds compete with crops for water, soil, nutrients, light and space; some like witch weeds are parasitic to maize; and some act as alternative hosts that harbor insects, pests, diseases and other micro-organisms.
Other harmful effects of weeds include reduction of quality of marketable agricultural produce, and release into the soil inhibitors of poisonous substances that may be harmful to the crop plants, human beings, and livestock by some weeds.
He said that some annual maize weeds include black jack, gallant soldier, double thorn, wandering Jew, marigolds, saw thistle, spiny pigweed, and jimson weed. Perennial maize weeds include couch grass, nut grass, Johnsons grass, star grass, and field bindweed.
He noted that despite the many harmful effect of weeds, some are beneficial as they help conserve soil moisture and prevent erosion, and can be valuable indicators of growing conditions in a field like water levels, compaction, and PH.

In addition, presence of weed cover may be a factor in increasing effectiveness of biological control of pests and reducing pest damage.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Integrated pest management: A balanced approach to pest control

By Bob Aston
The Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP)-Laikipia, is holding a two day Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop for 30 agriculture extension officers on integrated pest management. Hon Jane Putunoi, Laikipia County CEC for Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries Development opened the training at the Agricultural Machinery Services (AMS) Hall in Nyahururu, Laikipia County on February 22, 2016.
Hon. Jane Putunoi giving the opening remarks

Speaking during the training, Mr. Lincoln Njiru, Laikipia County Crops officer noted that it is important to institute an Integrated pest management to help keep a balanced ecosystem, to promote a healthy environment, to save money as it focuses a lot on prevention as opposed to control, to ensure pesticides become ineffective and to maintain a good public image.

He said that integrated pest management reduces the use of pesticide inputs, which offers improved operator safety, reduced environmental impact, reduced risk of exceeding the minimum residual levels and reduction of pesticide resistance.
“Integrated pest management aims to suppress pests like weeds, invertebrates, disease agents, and vertebrates to below economic injury levels. It is an ideal way of controlling pests without relying solely on pesticides,” said Mr. Njiru.
He urged farmers to observe the three components of integrated pest management that include monitoring and identification of pests, selection of best management practices and recording and evaluation of results.
Identification and monitoring of pests involves surveillance or scouting on a regular basis to identify and monitor pest populations or the resulting damage or losses.
Selection of the best management tactics ensures use of methods that are effective, economical, practical, and environmentally sound.
Recording and evaluation helps to determine how well an integrated pest management programme tactics are working and their impact on the environment before implementing them.
He said that integrated pest management is site specific as it involves taking actions to anticipate pest outbreaks and to prevent potential damage.
Mr. Lincoln Njiru during the training
He noted that prevention and suppression techniques are the main pest control goals. The techniques help to coordinate the use of multiple tactics into a single integrated system. 
The pest control tactics or strategies chosen depend on the nature of the pest, the pest environment, and tolerable or economic considerations.
“When using an IPM program, it is imperative to use the most effective methods which are least harmful to people and the environment,” said Mr. Njiru.
He noted that continuous use of pesticides from the same class of chemicals such as organophosphates or pyrethroids increases the likelihood that resistance will develop within the insect pest population.
“An integrated pest management programme must endure to manage pesticide resistance by employing tactics that delay or discourage pesticide resistance,” said Mr. Njiru.
He said that integrated pest management like biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, chemical control, and use of resistant varieties ensures the protection of the ecosystem.
ASDSP-Laikipia is keen in ensuring maize value chain groups adopt climate smart production technologies through use of adaptable seeds, soil fertility analysis and integrated pest management. Developing the competence of the extension officers would enable them train 30 farmer groups in the County.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Solar powered wells ease conflict over water in Kenya's Rift Valley

By Anthony Langat
CHEPKRAM, Kenya - With her year-old baby strapped on her back, Christine Lenganya, 25, lifts and balances a 20-litre jerrycan of water on her head.
The mother of four leaves the borehole and follows a rocky footpath that weaves through dense acacia trees uphill to her home. This is the second of two trips she makes daily to the nearby communal well, fitted with a solar-powered pump.
Before the well was drilled, Lenganya had to make a long trip morning and evening to a dam 7 kilometres (4 miles) away.
"Life was so hard, and I could hardly do any meaningful work at home. I arrived tired, and the little water I brought was not even enough for use in the family," Lenganya said.
Her husband used to walk the same distance each day to take his seven cattle to the dam to drink.
At other times, when the area's rivers and dams dried up, Lenganya's family - and many others in Kenya's West Pokot County - were forced to go and look for water in neighbouring counties. That often led to conflict with the Turkana, Tugen and Samburu people over scarce pasture and water in the north Rift Valley.
Christine Lenganya fetches water from a borehole in Chepkram,West Pokot,Kenya
But now tensions are abating as a result of the new well the West Pokot County government put in at Chepkram. The borehole, equipped with drinking troughs for livestock, is one of more than 30 drilled in the past two years.
The county, which bought its own well-drilling rig, has also fixed over 100 disused boreholes, and fitted the best-yielding wells with solar-powered pumps that make it quicker and easier to access the water.
The project has focused "on places where there were no boreholes and (that) had water shortages", said Alfred Tulel, West Pokot County's chief water officer.

Now the semi-arid county has a more reliable supply of water - a change Tulel believes will bring greater peace to its pastoralists.
"Most of the people in this county keep livestock, and if they have water for their cattle and sheep, they will not cause any trouble," he said.
The wells have brought other changes too. Pokot herders who habitually moved in search of water and grass have begun staying in more permanent settlements, Tulel said.
Lessening of tensions in the Uganda border area also has led to the construction of more homes, said Samwel Kosgey, director for water in West Pokot County.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Promoting conservation agriculture through field days

By James Mwai
Farmers from Naibrom area of Ol-Moran Ward in Laikipia West Sub County on February 11, 2016 learned about conservation agriculture and specifically its many benefits to smallholder farmers during a field day organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries at Mrs. Naomi Ngonyo’s farm.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has collaborated with Laikipia County Government to implement FA0-Institutional Procurement Programme (IPP) and Conservation Agriculture/Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) project. The project aims to ensure sustainable production and environmental protection in conservation agriculture.
The demonstration plot enabled an evidence based learning, as farmers were able to see how different crops like maize, sunflower, dolichos, cowpeas and desmodium perform under conservation agriculture.
Farmers were able to learn about weed management, soil fertility management and soil cover and cover crops. In addition, they learned about minimum tillage, direct seedlings, weed management, and cover crops equipment.
Some of the farmers being shown how a ripper works
Speaking during the field day, Mr. James Kamau, Olmoran Ward Agriculture officer urged farmers to replicate what they learn and to teach others so that more farmers can also adopt conservation agriculture.
“Conservation Agriculture is one of the ways in which we can use to mitigate against the adverse effects of Climate Change. We are using demonstration plots and field days to ensure farmers adopt it,” said Mr. Kamau.
He said that conservation agriculture enables farmers to combine profitable agricultural production with environmental concerns and sustainability.
He informed farmers that adoption of conservation agriculture would enable them to reduce soil degradation caused by mechanical tillage, minimize effects of drought, reduce produce cost, and enhance ecosystem services.
“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 and an enhancement of ground water resources,” said Mr. Kamau.

He said that conservation agriculture is a holistic approach that comprises three key principles namely use of crop residue, crop rotations, and minimum tillage system.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Ensuring good quality of agricultural inputs through empowering seed stockists

By Bob Aston
The Kenya Plant HealthInspectorate Service (KEPHIS) - Nakuru through support from Standards andMarket Access Programme (SMAP) held a training for seed stockists drawn from Kinamba, Sipili, and Ol-Moran at Olivia Court Motel in Sipili, Laikipia West Sub County on February 10, 2016.
In attendance also included representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries led by Mrs. Emily Kioko, Laikipia West Sub County Agriculture officer, and an officer from Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN).
Speaking while opening the training, Mrs. Kioko said that seed stockists are the first contact with farmers thus empowering them can go a long way in ensuring farmers receive good quality seeds.
She noted that the Ministry has worked with KEPHIS for a long time in empowering stockists and eliminating sale of fake seeds.
 “Farmers depend on us in getting quality inputs. Such trainings are important in equipping you with knowledge on how you can advise farmers on best crops to cultivate. We have to help farmers increase production,” said Mrs. Kioko.
Mrs. Emily Kioko addressing the stockists
She noted that the department of Agriculture has put deliberate efforts and strategies to modernize agriculture. 

Some of the efforts include commercialization of production for marketing off-farm for profits and fair returns to labour and capital investments.

Others include improving agricultural innovations, mechanizations, agro industries, issuing equity, and provision of inputs and credit facilities.
She said that currently either the County Director of Agriculture or Sub County Agriculture Officer approves potential agents and stockists.
“Previous structures were nullified by the devolution of the agriculture functions to the County governments. Most of the applicants for seed selling are producer groups and this has empowered them to bulk purchase and in marketing,” said Mrs. Kioko.
Mr. Ephraim Wachira, Head Inspectorate -KEPHIS Nakuru, said that the aim of the training was to enhance awareness of seed stockists on various aspects of seed quality and compliance with regulatory requirements.
“Seed stockists are the frontline extension officers. Training stockists on how to handle seeds in store and equipping them with knowledge would help improve agriculture in Laikipia County as they can advise farmers on how to improve production,” said Mr. Wachira.
He said that the government regulatory organization under the Directorate of Agriculture provides an effective and efficient science-based regulatory service for assurance on the quality of agricultural inputs and produce.
He said that KEPHIS- Nakuru serves eight counties namely Nakuru, Laikipia, Samburu, Baringo, Kericho, Bomet, Narok, and Nyandarua.
He took the stockists through the process of seed certification. The process involves registration of seed dealers, field inspection, seed processing, seed testing, labelling and sealing and post control.
He informed the stockists that KEPHIS would continue random inspections of their premises to ascertain that they only sell certified seeds. He warned stockists against selling carry stocks-seeds remnant at the end of planting season. He said all seeds must have KEPHIS-generated lot numbers.
He warned the stockists against selling vegetables, herbage grass, legumes, root crops, and stimulant crops seeds that exceed 6 months from the date of packaging. In addition, Cereals, oil crops and fibre crops should not exceed 1 year from the time of packaging.
He added that KEPHIS and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries always address issues of fake seeds when they are informed.
Mr. Samwel Migwi showing the participants different varieties of hybrid seeds
“Ensure that farmers are issued with a receipt with lot numbers when they purchase seeds. This would make follow up easy when seeds do not germinate. It is important to always keep the receipt until after germination,” said Mr. Samwel Migwi, KEPHIS-Nakuru Field Inspector.
He urged stockists to avoid selling suspicious looking seeds and opened seed packets. He said that utmost care is required while handling seeds to avoid breakage. In addition, it is ideal to store them in wooden pallets.
“Ensure that you do not expose seeds to sunlight and rainfall as seed is living and must remain alive until planting. Also do not mix seeds with fertilizers, chemicals, food stuffs and hardware items,” said Mr. Mr. Migwi.
Similarly, Mr. Jonah Kahwai, KEPHIS-Nakuru Field Inspector said that only licensed seed sellers are allowed to procure seeds and they are required to renew their licenses annually.
He said that they do certification in accordance with Seeds and Plants Varieties Act Cap. 326. The process ensures maintained seed quality during multiplication (bulking) in the field and assures the quality of seed in sale outlets by continuous post certification monitoring.
“Contravening the seeds and plants varieties Act 326 is an offense that can attract a fine not exceeding one million shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both,” said Mr. Kahwai.

Other areas covered during the training include seed procurement, handling, selling, quality marks, and documentation; seed sellers’ application, premises inspection and licensing; and role of KEPHIS in ensuring quality produce through phytosanitary inspection.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Importance of soil sampling in agricultural decision-making

By Bob Aston
The Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP)-Laikipia, held a training workshop for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society on soil sampling. The training on February 9, 2016 at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre in Ol-Moran Ward, Laikipia West Sub County, looked at the importance of soil sampling in decision making on crops to plant and fertilizer use.
Speaking during the training, Mr. James Kamau, Ol-Moran Ward Agriculture Officer said that soil sampling ensures proper management of all crop inputs for optimal yields and quality. He said that soil are analyzed for macro and micro elements such as nitrogen, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, Sulphur, iron, copper, manganese and Zinc.
He urged farmers to do soil sampling before preparing their farms. This will help to indicate what nutrient reservoir the soil would provide at the beginning of a crop.
In addition, doing this would permit its analysis and allow fertilizer purchase and addition in the field for early planting.
He said that before taking a representative soil sample, one needs to consider soil type or texture, soil conditions, colour of top soil, topography, crop appearance, and trouble spots. He said that soil sampling and analysis looks at soil PH, citation exchange capacity, soil structure, and nutrient deficiencies.
Mr. Kamau emphasizing a point during the training
“The most suitable soil reaction for majority of crops is in the range of 6.0-7.0 with a certain tolerance to a more acid or slightly alkaline condition,” said Mr. Kamau.
He said that the best tools for soil sampling are panga, spade, shovel, or soil auger. Soil bags and plastic buckets are also required. It is ideal to collect the samples in plastic bags.
He noted that accurate analysis, identification of nutrients deficiencies and building the humus and microbial diversity, helps in ensuring correct sampling techniques.
He took the farmers through simple random, stratified, and systematic sampling. He noted that simple random sampling is more precise and less subject to the bias of the sampler although it is time consuming.
The stratified random sampling has good precision, as it is relatively faster and less cumbersome than the simple random sampling method. In addition, the method is preferred in routine soil testing programmes.
Systematic sampling ensures better coverage of the field as selected sampling spots are at a regular interval away from each other in one or two dimensions, thereby forming a grid.
He said that heterogeneity of the sample itself and seasonal variation usually affect the representatives of a soil sample.
“The composition of soil may change under the influence of diverse processes over time like leaching, microbial activity, precipitation, and mineralization,” said Mr. Kamau.
He said that topography, colour, field conditions, and other types of analysis dictate samples per unit. A depth of up to 30 cm for top soil and up to 45 cm for sub soil is ideal for fertility evaluation samples.
He noted that dry samples keep better while immediate analysis of wet samples is important. In addition, samples should not be stored for more than one week because of microbial activities. He said that the recommended sample for 5 acres is one while it is important to separate sampling for different soil types and topographical characteristics in the farm.
 “It is important to mix soil cores to form homogenous samples then dividing into four quarters and taking the end 2 samples and mixing them thoroughly before forwarding soil for analysis,” said Mr. Kamau.

He noted that achieving and maintaining appropriate levels of soil fertility, especially plant nutrient availability, is of paramount importance if agricultural land is to remain capable of sustaining crop production at an acceptable level.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Youth farmers journey in green peas production

By Bob Aston
Youths are the future of food security in Kenya. Despite this, few young people see a future for themselves in agriculture. In Ol-Moran Ward, Laikipia West Sub County, attempts to integrate youths in agriculture have started to bore fruits as interest amongst youths has increased.
Mr. Peter Nderitu, 24, graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor in Psychology from Egerton University. Instead of travelling to Nairobi to look for white-collar jobs, he decided to request his parents to give him a two-acre piece of land so that he can engage in agriculture.
Mr. Nderitu has been a frequent user of Ng’arua Maarifa Centre. He started seeking for information at the Maarifa Centre about different agricultural enterprise that can succeed in Naibrom area.
Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) founded the Centre to enable farmer’s access information related to agriculture, natural resource management, and climate change among others.
Researched information on growing green peas at the centre equipped him with knowledge that enabled him to start his project. Equipped with Kshs 15,000, he started a journey that few graduate youths contemplate.
Mr. Peter Nderitu harvesting green peas at his farm
“I decided on green peas as I learned that they mature fast and also do well in this region. I initially targeted the December market but this was not possible as I planted in late November,” said Mr. Nderitu.
He noted that peas produce best yields and quality in moist growing conditions while the well-drained soil in the area is also ideal for peas. He said that peas are one of the most nutritious leguminous vegetables. They contain phyto-nutrients, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and anti-oxidants.
He said that he used 6 kilograms of seeds per acre thus investing Kshs 1,800 in seeds alone. Mr. Nderitu noted that the limited knowledge in best agricultural practices has affected his production, as he should have used around 10 kilograms per acre.
He used a spacing of 45 cm between plants and 1 metre between rows. Later on after researching at the Maarifa Centre, he realized that his spacing was not ideal. He is now planning to improve on the spacing during the next season.
Although he did not stake the crops, he said that he learned that staking is important for good quality fresh market peas. Due to the high cost of fertilizer, he has not been using recommended quantity as he only used one bag of DAP in the two-acre farm.
He has been taking his green peas to Sipili market. He had expected the peas to retail at Kshs. 100 per 2 kg tin but due to oversupply in Sipili, the price is not good as a 2 kg tin currently retails at Kshs. 50. 
He noted that lack of a stable market is a major hindrance. On a good day, he makes Kshs 1,000 per day by selling 40 kgs of the peas.
Mr. Peter Nderitu  at Ng'arua Maarifa after collecting mango seedlings
He is now looking for an alternative market. Initially a buyer from Nairobi had promised to collect all the produce from his farm but as this took long, he decided to start selling the peas before they lose their nutritional value. He said that he expects to continue harvesting for the next one month.
Pests and diseases particularly Aphids have been a major setback. Despite spraying, the aphids still caused distortion and wilting of the plants thus leading to stunted and smaller pods and seeds. He had to spray the peas twice to get rid of the pests.
He said that the notion held by some youths that farming is old fashion and those involved in agriculture are normally peasants are inaccurate.
“I have learned a lot and I expect that I will be a better farmer during the next season. I realized that embracing new agricultural technologies can go a long way in ensuring that one succeeds as a farmer,” said Mr. Nderitu.

He believes that support from the Kenyan government in addressing challenges faced by youths in agriculture particularly difficulty in accessing credit facilities and markets can help entice more youths to embrace agriculture as a profession.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Leveraging on climate information to increase food production

By Nyapola Atenya and David Wanjohi
Increasing smallholder farmer’s access to information on weather and climate change is essential in mitigating the effects of climate anomalies and ensuring that farmers are able to plan, manage weather risks, and maximize production.
The need to ensure farmers receive timely and effective weather information, prompted the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) in Laikipia County to collaborate with the Kenya Meteorological Services (KMS) to raise the awareness of farmers on the benefits of using weather information in decision-making.
The initiative involved combining both the conventional and traditional forecast. Until 2014, the Kenya Meteorological Services was the sole responsible agency for production and dissemination of climate information. Channel for dissemination were limited to emails and radio thus few farmers received the advisories.
Mzee Ole Kisio (In a hood) rolls out indigenous weather forecast in Laikipia North
The information was generalized and in a form that most farmers did not comprehend. This meant that majority of the value chain actors did not have access to the forecast - or if they did, they received the forecasts after the end of the season.
In addition, understanding and using the weather outlook to plan farming activities for the coming season was difficult, as the forecasts usually did not contain advisory messages to interpret the highly technical and bulky information.
Driven by its mandate to strengthen environmental resilience of the value chain actors, ASDSP stepped in by bringing together experts from government ministries, agencies, and civil society to formulate English and Kiswahili weather advisory. Dissemination of the advisories is through Short Messaging Services (SMS).
These advisories are instrumental in helping actors along the three ASDSP priority value chains take into account the weather and climate forecast information to adjust their farming plans and practices.
The enhanced quality and visibility of the downscaled seasonal climate forecasts and their packaging into simpler formats has enabled value chain actors to access climate information for decision-making. Most farmers now know when to plant, the seeds to plant, and when to conserve pasture.
Mr. Linus Mathenge, Chairman Tigithi Umoja Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society noted that the advisories informed his decision in establishing 5 acres of hay for dairy farming.
“I have been receiving climate information in a timely and simple way that is easy to understand,” said Mr. Mathenge.
On his part, Mr. Macharia Muiruri, a smallholder farmers from Muhotetu area said that the ASDSP advisories enabled him to realize bumper harvest. He was able to plant in time and use adaptable seeds as had been advised. He increased his yield from 15 to 25 bags per acre.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Nturukima dairy goes for milk value addition to increase income

By John Kimani and Richard Murigu
Years of supplying only morning milk to processors at low and unstable prices used to be a major hindrance to the growth of Nturukima Dairy Cooperative in Likii area of Nanyuki. Additional challenges like low production, marketing of milk specifically non-collection of evening milk, poor milk handling techniques and little value addition had seen most of the 135 cooperative members discouraged with the venture.
In 2015, the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) in collaboration with the Laikipia County government started addressing the challenges faced by Nturukima Dairy Cooperative as well as 44 other groups to ensure a competitive value added milk products in the county.
ASDSP ensured that the groups received training on clean milk production, group leadership, and practical value addition of raw milk. The groups also learnt environmentally friendly waste management technologies like biogas.
Some of the cooperative members making yoghurt
Mr. Jackson Kanyugo, Chairman Nturukima Dairy Cooperative noted that the knowledge sharing exposure visit which was supported by ASDSP enabled the cooperative to learn best practices and how they can increase their income through milk value addition.
He said that ASDSP also helped create linkage between the cooperative and the Kenya Dairy Board. This has helped in enhancing productivity, efficiency, and quality of member’s milk.
The cooperative is now retailing milk at their two Kenya Dairy Board approved milk bars at Kshs 60 per litre. Initially the cooperative used to supply milk to processors at Kshs. 27 per litre.
The cooperative has increase milk sales from 2,000 to 4,000 litres a day. Milk income has also increased from Kshs 162,000 to Kshs 720,000 per month.
Mr. Kanyugo said that the group has established yoghurt and cheese outlets. They are also producing fermented milk products.

He noted that increased interest in the dairy value chain in Laikipia County augurs well for the cooperative and farmers are seeing a bright future a head.