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Friday, 29 April 2016

Laikipia Governor launches tree planting exercise in Sipili

By Bob Aston
April 28, 2016 marked a new beginning for environmental conservation in Sipili area of Ol-Moran Ward, as Laikipia County Governor H.E Joshua Irungu led the area residents in launching tree planting exercise at Sipili Health Centre.
The launch is part of the tree-planting week in Laikipia County, which kicked off on April 25, 2016. The culmination of the exercise will be the launch of the national tree-planting day on May 4, 2016 at Nyambogichi Primary School in Ngobit Ward by Prof Judy Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Regional Development Authorities.
Laikipia County Governor H.E Joshua Irungu planting a tree at Sipili Hospital

In attendance besides the governor, community members, county, and national government officials, included Mr. Duncan Mwariri, County Executive Committee Member for Treasury, and Economic Planning, and Mr. Joel Wamichwe, County Executive Committee Member for Water, Environment and Natural Resource Management.

Speaking during the launch, Governor Irungu said that the County government targets to plant 40 million trees during a 4-year period. He said that he would personally lead the exercise, which will see 10 million trees planted before end of the year.

“I will personally take lead in ensuring that we increase our forest cover to 10 percent. I will be out of the office until 15th May to ensure that we reach out target and that people understand the importance of environmental conservation,” said Governor Irungu.
He urged farmers to ensure that for every 5 acre land at least a quarter of the land has trees. He noted that climate change is having a negative effect in the County and increasing the tree cover would help in mitigation measures.
He said that forest cover is currently 6.9 percent of the County and he intends to ensure the attainment of 10 percent forest cover as required in the Kenyan Constitution and economic blueprint vision 2030.
He said that the County government would purchase tree seedlings from local tree nursery owners. He urged tree nursery owners and farmers to register their names with the ward administrator so that they can know the tree varieties and quantity available in the ward and the number of trees required by farmers.
He urged farmers to invest in agroforestry by planting high value fruit trees like avocado, mangoes, and macadamia as the County government has been subsidizing the cost of the fruit trees.
Community members planting tree at Sipili Hospital,Laikipia West,Kenya
“Returns from trees like macadamia can ensure that farmers increase their income. One should not fear the duration that it takes for the trees to grow as they will realize that it is a lucrative enterprise once they start to harvest fruits,” said Governor Irungu.
Earlier on, the Governor had led the residents in a tree planting exercise. He planted Markhamia Lutea “Muu.” The tree is renowned for its medicinal value as it helps in treatment of skin infections, sores, and itch. The tree is also important in controlling soil erosion, providing mulch, acting as a windbreaker, and it important in timber production, as it is resistant to termites.
The residents then planted 730 tree seedlings. Some of the varieties planted included acacia sayal, olea Africana, mukinduri, and eucalyptus. The tree planting exercise will continue across the 15 wards of Laikipia County in order to reach the 10 million trees target. Launching of the exercise started at Solio, Umande, and then Rumuruti.
The Laikipia County Development Authority (LCDA) is implementing the tree-planting project in collaboration with the Kenya Forest Services (KFS), and Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) among other partners.

Youth group making a difference through breed improvement

By Bob Aston
Youths have the potential to contribute to food security, economic development, social inclusion, and stability. Youths particularly from arid and semi-arid areas can play an active role in empowering communities through promoting improved breeds.
In Nyabolo area of Ildigiri, Laikipia North Sub County, the Kijabe Integrated Youth against Aids and Poverty (KIYAAP) has been improving the livelihood and health status of Ildigiri community by promoting youth initiatives through pooling resources together, engaging in income generating activities, environmental conservation, and livestock breeding.
Members of KIYAAP with agriculture officers admiring some of the group Galla goats
Although the youths formed the group in 2010, they only registered it in 2014. The 30-member group, 18 men and 12 women has enabled 100 community members receive training on leadership skills and natural resources management.
The members have also been training Ildigiri community on cash management, and entrepreneurship development. In addition, two group members have received Trainer of trainers (TOT) in apiary management by Bees Abroad UK.
Mr. Paul Manyas, Secretary KIYAAP Youth Group said that the group has laid a lot of emphasis on empowering communities through breed improvement. This has mainly been through improving sheep’s through crossbreeding with dorper rams and improving goats through crossbreeding with Galla goats.
He said that crossbreeding helps in heterosis as the crossbred sheep and goats are more vigour, more fertile and grow faster than pure bred. Crossbred sheep and goats are also able to utilize breed complementarity.
He noted that dorper ram is a suitable sheep breed in Laikipia County as they do well in arid areas. They are also fast growing meat producing sheep that does not require a lot of care. The Galla goats are resilient as they can cope with tough climatic conditions. They are also the milk queen of the Kenyan arid and semi-arid areas. In addition, they carry better milk genes and give better opportunity for genetic selection for this trait.
“The demand for galla goats and Dorper rams is high. We are not even able to satisfy the market,” said Mr. Manyas.
He noted that inbreeding in the area had resulted in small sheep and goats that take long to mature and fetch lower prices.
Last year the group procured and distributed 30 sheep and 30 goats to 60 households through a grant from East Africa Wildlife society in collaboration with Laikipia County Natural Resource Network (LAICONAR). They have also been providing 64 Galla goats and 10 dorper rams for communities to crossbreed. The group also has 41 rams that they are using to expand their business.
ECO-Agriculture also supported the group by providing 33 Galla does and 3 bucks as well as 51 dorper rams.
 “We aim to enhance the health and economic livelihood of IL-Digiri community by involving the youth in sustainable environmental management and income generating activities,” said Mr. Manyas.
Mr. Manyas said that limited finance has prevented the group from achieving a lot but despite that, more than 250 community members have benefited through the group initiatives. They have been using the member’s monthly contribution and sourced funds to finance most of their operations.
Mr. Munyes believes that the future of the group as well as the Ildigiri community is bright and the increased income through crossbred sheep’s and goats will ensure they improve their livelihood.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The unpredictable weather pattern causes delay in planting

By James Mwai
The unpredictable rainfall during the March-May 2016 “Long-Rains” Season has caused delay in planting in most parts of Ol-Moran Ward in Laikipia West Sub County. Although some farmers had planted early and some are even weeding, majority of farmers started planting during the last week of April.
Mr. James Kamau, Ol-Moran Ward Agriculture officer urged farmers planting late to go for early maturing seed varieties as they are tolerant to drought conditions and low nitrogen in the soil. Early maturing varieties include KATCB,DH01 to DH10,WS102,PH1, PAN 4M, WS204,WH003,WH101,WH105,SC DUMA,MH04,  and SC PUNDA MILIA.
Farmers planting in Mlima Meza in Sipili, Laikipia West
Medium attitude varieties are also ideal in the County as they take 4-5 months to mature. The varieties include WH507, WH504, WH505, KH500-33A, KH500-31A, KH500-49A, H624, H512 to H526, DK8031, WE1101, PAN 7M, and PHB30G19.
He noted that although most farmers in Ol-Moran Ward prefer the high altitude varieties like H614, H6213, H626, H629, H628, and H6218, the varieties are not ideal for late planting as they take up to six months to mature.
“Many farmers usually plant the wrong seed varieties ending up with poor yields. Farmers should always seek for advice from agricultural officers when they are not sure of the varieties to plant. Quality of seed is paramount for successful crop production,” said Mr. Kamau.
According to the Kenya Meteorological Services, forecast for Laikipia County indicates that Igwamiti, Marmanet, Githiga, Sosian, Salama, Segera, Ngobit, Nanyuki, Thingithu, and Ol-Moran will receive between 114-227 mm, which is below normal rainfall. Mukogondo West and Umande prediction indicates that the areas will receive normal rainfall at 228-341 mm, while Tigithi and Mukogondo East will receive between 342-456 mm, which is normal rainfall. Rumuruti area will receive the lowest rainfall at 1-113 mm.
The Kenya Meteorological Services forecast had also indicated cessation of rainfall in most parts of Laikipia apart from Igwamiti to be end of May.
He said that the significant climate variability in the ward has huge implications on maize yields and food security. He said that the number of rainy days has reduced and it is important for farmers to adopt appropriate water harvesting technologies.
“We need to develop adaptation strategies and increase awareness of climate change and its impacts on agriculture, and develop appropriate mitigation measures to enhance resilience maize production,” said Mr. Kamau.
He noted that unlike other seasons the changing weather pattern prevented most farmers from planting early. Early planting usually helps to ensure harvesting of crops before depletion of soil moisture, as there will be less water loss by evaporation. It will also ensure there is better response to fertilizer.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Let us enlist the Paris climate deal to build resilience

By Maarten van Aalst
As world leaders convened in New York on Friday to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, the key question on everyone’s mind was: How will this unprecedented global commitment translate into action on the ground?
A core ingredient for the success of the Paris Agreement was, in fact, that a big show of concrete action led the way for the world leaders - action not just by national governments or U.N. institutions, but by companies, civil society organisations, mayors and local government, youth groups, farmers - you name it. With the Paris Agreement now on its way to full implementation, we should focus on taking those actions to scale.
Huts destroyed by floods in Yemen's Red sea Province of Houdieda.REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad
Which brings me to the second key ingredient of the success of Paris: the vital balance between ambitious mitigation on the one hand; and support for the building of resilience on the other, especially for the world’s most vulnerable people.
The risk does still exist that this balance may be lost as we start to implement the Paris Agreement, through the already-huge (and growing) concentration on the transition to renewable energy. Paris sent a strong signal on this to markets and private investors, and the world is now adding more capacity for renewable power each year than coal, natural gas and oil combined.
Where is the equivalent commitment to resilience? It’s there in theory, with a very strong mandate, not just in the Paris Agreement but also across the new Sustainable Development Goals, as well as last year’s Sendai agreement on disaster risk reduction and next month’s World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.
But how are we really following up on those commitments?
Adaptation finance is increasing, albeit slowly. Investments in climate services are on the rise, and initiatives like the IFRC’s One Billion Coalition for Resilience, the UK-funded programme Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED), Partners for Resilience, the Global Resilience Partnership and others are aiming to link together work at different levels by various actors.
We are starting to address the root causes of rising risks and the lack of accountability for how we manage them, becoming gradually more reluctant to accept ‘natural disasters’ as natural events we could not have predicted. 
But we are nowhere near balancing resilience with mitigation - we are simply not scaling up fast enough to keep up with the rising challenges.
The secret is not just channeling more global climate finance into adaptation, but also getting local information about risk and how to build resilience integrated into development and official planning across all sectors, and into the screening of major new investments.
We are seeing some exciting examples, but it’s now up to us to leverage Paris to take these to scale. We really don’t have a choice. Politically, failing to step up to both sides of the overall commitment — mitigation and resilience — would endanger the credibility of the entire global climate deal.
More importantly, it would also mean we’d fail to address the massive climate impacts already unfolding, with increasingly serious implications for our lives and economies in the coming years and decades, regardless of how much we reduce greenhouse gases.
So let’s make sure we take bold action to live up to the Paris ambitions - not just by transforming energy markets but also by building resilience, especially for the most vulnerable. As Ban Ki-moon said at the Paris deal signing ceremony: “All hands on deck, from the local to the global.”
Maarten van Aalst is director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. He was at U.N. Headquarters in New York for Friday’s signing ceremony.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Laikipia County embarks on planting 10 million trees annually

By Bob Aston
The Laikipia County Government led by Governor Joshua Irungu has embarked on an ambitious plan that will see 10 million trees planted annually in the county. The County targets to plant 40 million trees over a four-year period. The county government has earmarked April 25-29, 2016 as tree planting week across the 15 wards in Laikipia.
The culmination of the tree planting week will be the launch of the national tree planting day on May 4, 2016 at Nyambogichi Primary School in Ngobit Ward by Prof Judy Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Regional Development Authorities.
Tree nursery owner in Sipili, Laikipia West assessing her trees
The Laikipia County Development Authority (LCDA) is implementing the project in collaboration with the Kenya Forest Services (KFS), and Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) among other partners.
The Kenya constitution and economic blueprint Vision 2030 requires the country to work towards achieving a forest cover of at least 10 percent of the land area to ensure sustainable resource use, growth and employment creation.
According to Laikipia County Government, the County needs to plant an additional 38 million trees in order to reach the 10 percent target. The county data indicates that forestland stands at 6.9 percent of the County.
The County government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries has also been promoting farming of high value fruit trees in the County, which helps to increase tree cover. In addition, farmers are encouraged to practice agroforestry in order to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, and sustainable land-use systems.
Increased population, demand for fuel wood and building materials as well as other land uses in Laikipia County has led to massive deforestation as well as dwindling water resources. This has had an overwhelming impact as indigenous forest cover within the forest reserves of South –West Laikipia (Marmanet, Lariak, Ol Arabel, Rumuruti, and Uaso Narok) has reduced considerably.
Trees are important in providing oxygen, improving air quality, conserving water, preserving soil, supporting wildlife, creating green jobs, and increasing capacity for climate change resilience and mitigation.
Indiscriminate cutting down of trees has contributed to climate change. This has had a direct impact on forest resources and ecosystems. Planting more trees through forest restoration and agroforestry can help restore healthy and productive ecosystems and landscapes as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation.
According to the Kenya Forest Service, restoration of 5.1 million hectares of forests in the Country is already underway. This follows a commitment by the Kenyan Government through the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Regional Development Authorities.
Forests rank high as some of the most important national assets in terms of economic, environmental, social, and cultural values.  The forest sector contributes nearly Kshs 7 billion to the economy and employs over 50,000 people directly and other 300,000 indirectly.

Monday, 25 April 2016

World Bank ramps up help for poor to adapt to climate change

By Megan Rowling
BARCELONA - The World Bank Group plans to invest more of its funds to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, in an effort to stop extreme weather and rising seas from making poverty worse.
In a climate change action plan released late Thursday, the bank said it would bring early warning systems to an extra 100 million people in 15 developing countries, and social safety nets to protect an additional 50 million people by 2020.
Farmer tend their fields near Lilongwe, Malawi.REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
The bank will also develop plans for adjusting agriculture to climate shifts in at least 40 countries through measures like hardier seeds, farming methods that capture carbon, and energy-efficient irrigation systems.
"If we don't act, climate change threatens to drive 100 million more people into poverty in the next 15 years," said John Roome, World Bank Group senior director for climate change.
"The action plan will allow us to help developing countries more quickly, and in the areas where support is most needed, such as disaster preparedness, social protection, and coastal protection."
Other activities in the plan include providing five more countries with national-level insurance against disaster risk.
The bank will also pilot a new approach in 15 cities to make them safer by integrating infrastructure, land use planning and disaster risk management.
Rebalancing Investment
Over the last five fiscal years, the group has committed more than $50 billion to climate-related activities through over 900 projects.
Of that sum, 73 percent was allocated to reducing emissions through investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and changes to urban transport and railways.
Only 27 percent was focused on helping people and countries adapt to a changing climate.
The split reflects a common bias in climate finance that many development experts say needs to be corrected.
In the action plan, the bank said its climate portfolio would be rebalanced, "putting a greater focus on adaptation and resilience,” although it did not state a specific proportion.
The bank reconfirmed plans to increase the climate-related share of its overall investment from 21 to 28 percent by 2020, with total financing of potentially $29 billion per year by that date, including $13 billion leveraged from the private sector.
Its new strategy seeks to help developing countries deliver on national plans to curb emissions and adapt to a warmer world, which they submitted for the Paris climate deal agreed in December.
"We are moving urgently to help countries make major transitions to increase sources of renewable energy, decrease high-carbon energy sources, develop green transport systems, and build sustainable, liveable cities for growing urban populations," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.
The bank said it aims to support developing nations in adding 30 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2020, enough to power 150 million homes, and will design sustainable forest management strategies for more than 50 countries.
The group, which has been criticized in the past for backing fossil fuel infrastructure, will adopt a new approach to considering climate change in its work, extending screening for climate risk to all its operations in early 2017, it said.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Laikipia County project enables vulnerable families receive indigenous poultry

By Bob Aston
Vulnerable families drawn from Sipili area of Ol-Moran Ward in Laikipia West Sub County received Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) improved indigenous chicken through Laikipia County Household Economic Empowerment Programme (HEEP).  The beneficiaries received 600 improved indigenous chicken at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre on April 21, 2016.
The County government through the County Development Authority is implementing HEEP under the principle of creating empowerment and self-reliance among beneficiaries. The project intends to address socio-economic challenges facing the population of Laikipia County.
One of the beneficiaries receiving her one month old chicks
Among the beneficiaries included 17 vulnerable families that the project identified as people living below the poverty line. The vulnerable families received five chicks each.
The other beneficiaries received the chicks at subsidized cost. Instead of paying Kshs 250 each for a month old chick, they paid Kshs 150 while the County paid the remaining cost as well as transport.
Mrs. Elcy Kigano, Laikipia West HEEP Technical Officer said that the project targeted people living below the poverty line. She said this would help to reduce the poverty level in the county, which stands at 47 percent.
She said that they decided on indigenous poultry due to low cost of production compared to exotic poultry. She noted that cost of feeds is lower as they can free range. They are also tolerant to many diseases, which reduces veterinary cost. The KALRO improved chicken also weigh more compared with other breeds.
“The County government decided to empower communities at the household level as it deemed it as the best way of eradicating poverty.  We are promoting profitable agribusiness in Laikipia County which can help vulnerable communities improve their income,” said Mrs. Kigano.
She said that the project adopted a group model and cost sharing approach with beneficiaries to ensure sustainability of the various initiatives. The enterprises involved include dairy goat, indigenous chicken, rabbit rearing, and kitchen garden.
She said that after six months the beneficiaries would be able to manage 50 birds. In case they get 30 hens, they can manage as much as 300 chicken afterwards. She noted that this would ensure that the beneficiaries are not only food and nutrition secure but are also able to support their families through proceeds from poultry farming.
“We expect that after six months the vulnerable people in the community will improve their income from less than Kshs 100 per day to Kshs 300 per day,” said Mrs. Kigano.
Part of HEEP implementation involves community mobilization, capacity building, acquiring, and distribution of HEEP components as well as monitoring and evaluation. Various groups across the 15 wards of Laikipia County have so far benefited through the various components of HEEP.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Farm technology helps clean up Nairobi's drinking water

By David Njagi
MURANG'A, Kenya - Samuel Kinuthia knows how to make the most of technology. Using a technique called basin terracing, he has boosted his income at his farm in Murang'a county, and helped provide Kenyans as far away as Nairobi with better access to clean drinking water.
Kinuthia and a group of 300 farmers in Kiaruta village are turning hilly land into more productive farmland through basin terracing. It also reduces soil erosion, which can choke central Kenya's rivers and pollute drinking water.
Basin terraces being dug at Kiaruta village in Muranga County,Kenya.TRF/David Njagi
On a sunny morning, Kinuthia and two employees are preparing a fresh strip of land to sow crops on his three-acre farm.
First they dig across a hilly patch to make it into a flat terrace. They then dig square holes to form basins on the strip, where Kinuthia will plant vegetables.
"I used to plant maize and beans but I could not harvest much," he said. "With basin terracing, I can plant fresh produce like tomatoes, kale and onions. Both the harvest and the resulting income improve because there is a ready market."
Fred Kihara, water fund manager in Kenya for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an international environmental organisation, explained that the technology reduces the amount of soil being eroded away into rivers.
"It also increases the amount of water that is being retained in the soil," he added.
A 2015 study by TNC says the Upper Tana basin - which provides water to an estimated 9 million Kenyans - is a watershed under pressure.
About 65 percent of the farmers questioned by the group said the productivity of their land had declined even though they use more fertilisers than five years ago. Overall, 80 percent reported a decrease in rainfall in recent years.
From Kinuthia's farm in the Upper Tana basin, the view is of stretches of hilly terrain that have been stripped bare of trees. The red soil is easily blown away or eroded.
Farming on hilly land has increased the amount of soil ending up in rivers that feed the country's largest water reservoir, the Ndakaini dam, in central Kenya.
In Nairobi the dam supplies alone, 85 percent of water - or 70 million cubic metres -, around 80 kilometres away, according to officials from the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company. More sediment turns the water cloudy, they say.
Soil runoff can include manure and fertiliser used on farms, which may pollute drinking water and make people sick, said Philip Muthui, the company's production manager.
He hopes that the use of basin terracing by farmers will reduce erosion into rivers, thus protecting Ndakaini water.
Currently, the cost of removing the sediment and treating water at Ndakaini ranges between six and seven Kenyan shillings ($0.06-$0.07) per cubic metre, which Muthui says is too high.
"Reducing sediment load into rivers has cut the cost of treating water by about three percent," he added.
Efforts to reduce erosion in the Upper Tana basin have been supported by the Nairobi Water Fund, a $10 million public-private partnership between TNC, the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company and the Kenyan government, among others.
"Water security is likely to pose a bigger challenge as climate change leads to less water in the dry season and heavier deluges in the rainy season," said Eddy Njoroge, the fund's president.
"This is compounded by population growth that reduces the amount of water available per head," he said, adding that the fund was set up to tackle these issues.
The project aims to improve water quality in the Tana basin, safeguard Nairobi's main water source and improve the incomes of thousands of people through sustainable land management, he said.
Kinuthia has been using basin terracing for just over a year. He is grateful it has opened up a new revenue stream for his family through fresh produce farming.
On a good day, for example, he can harvest 8kg of kale. A 5kg bundle of kale can fetch him 1,000 shillings ($10), while the rest is eaten at home.
When he was farming maize and beans, "the little that I harvested would end up being consumed by the family," leaving him with nothing to sell, he explained.

Article originally published at Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED).

Monday, 18 April 2016

Laikipia farmers benefit through improved access to subsidized fertilizer

By Bob Aston
Farmers from Laikipia County are experiencing improved access to subsidized government fertilizer during the March-April-May “Long Rain” season through support from the Laikipia County Government.
Laikipia County Government has already helped farmers access close to 2,000 bags of subsidized government fertilizer.
Fertilizer being offloaded from a truck in Sipili
The County government has been providing transport to farmer groups to enable them disburse the fertilizer to their members at Kshs 1,800. Improving access to the subsidized fertilizer has enabled most farmers to save Kshs 1,200 per bag as most private traders sell the 50 kg bag of DAP at Kshs 3,000.
According to Mrs. Jane Putunoi, County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, the County government is keen in ensuring more farmers are able to purchase the subsidized government fertilizer.
She said that to ensure most farmers in the County access the input at shorter distance, the County government lobbied the national government to allow some cooperatives from the county to purchase fertilizer from the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
She said that the fertilizer situation in the County would improve as the national government has now approved the appointment of some cooperatives in the county to become NCPB agents. This will ensure that farmers do not incur transport cost and they are able to save time spent seeking for fertilizer in either Nanyuki or Nyahururu.
The government has allowed Ng’arua Dairy Farmers cooperative, Muhotetu Dairy Cooperative Society, Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society, Nyambogichi Farmers Cooperative Society and Ng’arua Cereals and Produce Cooperative Society to purchase 2000 bags of 50 kg DAP fertilizer and 3,300 bags of CAN fertilizer from either Nyahururu or Nanyuki NCBP depots.
Mr. Francis Kanja, Chairman, Laikipia Maize Value Chain Development Network noted that the steps taken by the County government has helped more farmers access fertilizer. He noted that previously farmers who are lucky to get the subsidized government fertilizer had to contend with high transport costs.
This has always demoralized most farmers who end up growing impatient and thus decide to buy fertilizer from other businesspersons who sell to them at exorbitant prices.
“Access to subsidized government fertilizer has always been a challenge, as most farmers have to travel long distances to NCPB to purchase fertilizer. They then have to wait for long duration before receiving fertilizer and some cases they even miss,” said Mr. Kanja.
The government reduced prices of subsidized fertilizer to spur productivity and close the cycle of food shortages.  The high cost of the input usually prevents most smallholder farmers from using fertilizer.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Subsidised insurance bolsters Kenyan herders against drought

By Anthony Langat
MARSABIT, Kenya - At 7am, the Kubi-Qallo borehole near Goro Rukesa village in northern Kenya is already a hive of activity, as dozens of herders line up for their animals' turn to drink at the watering trough.
Five years ago, it didn't rain for a whole year in this part of Marsabit County. Scarcity of forage and water wiped out Ali Kula's stock of 50 cattle and around 100 goats.
A female herder holds up her livestock insurance contract in Marsabit,Kenya.TRF/AnthonyLangat
"It was painful to see my cattle and goats die in the field for lack of grass," he said. The government bought his few remaining cattle for 2,000 shillings ($20) each.
By the time he received a payout for his two insured cows, it was too late. He couldn't save his cattle, and his family ended up depending on food aid.
But the next time the rains fail, things will be different for Kula, now queuing at noon with his 10 cattle and 30 goats for water from the solar-powered borehole.
Unlike in the past, when he didn't know what he would do if drought hit, the 38-year-old is confident at least some of his livestock would survive.
That is because he has spent around $30 to insure one of his cattle and 10 goats through a new livestock insurance product.
It uses satellite imagery to determine forage availability, with payouts triggered when a lack of rain shrinks grazing to less than 20 percent of ideal conditions.
The index-based insurance programme is run by the Kenya-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and funded by the British, U.S. and Australian governments and the European Union. The donors subsidise the cover to make it affordable for pastoralists.
A range of insurance companies sell policies to herders across northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia.
ILRI first piloted index-based insurance in Marsabit in 2010. Then, clients received payouts after a drought, at the end of a failed rainy season, to help them replace their assets.
By the time payouts were made, some or all of the clients' cattle, sheep, goats and camels had died, causing households like Kula's to lose their entire source of income.
According to the Kenya Post-Disaster Needs Assessment for the 2008-2011 drought, there were substantial livestock deaths in that period, mostly in the north, worth an estimated KSH 56.1 billion ($561 million).
That situation pushed ILRI to adjust the insurance product to pay out faster. "We are now providing asset protection," said Andrew Mude, the principal economist in charge of the ILRI project. "The idea is to intervene before loss."
With the new product, livestock owners are compensated when satellite imagery reveals poor rains have caused forage to become scarce, meaning they receive the money before their animals starve to death.
That has persuaded more herders to purchase the insurance, Mude said.
Marsabit County again served as the test ground for the improved product. Edin Ibrahim, an insurance coordinator with APA Insurance there, said he had seen a significant increase in sales after the launch.
Prior to the first payout under the new product in 2015, his agents made sales to 644 clients. This year, they have already sold 1,000 contracts.
"Our clients now understand the concept better. When rain fails, they get payouts to sustain their livestock until the rain comes," Ibrahim said.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

To make good decisions, Africa needs its own climate knowledge

By Sophie Mbugua
There seems to exist a great disconnect in the dissemination of information on climate change issues in Africa.
“A large mix of quality information is not tailored to the needs, issue and questions related to Africa,” says Bruce Hewitson, a climatologist at the University of Cape Town.
A woman counts Ethiopian birr notes.REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
Geoff Barnard, chair of an international Climate Knowledge Brokers group and knowledge management adviser to the UK-backed Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), agrees.
 “Africa has rich experiences and knowledge but there are gaps in connecting it and making it accessible globally,” he says. This is a key contributing factor to why most of Africa’s climate services are being sourced outside the African continent.
To effectively design and implement climate adaptation and mitigation strategies, Africa’s communities, policy makers and organisations need to develop and strengthen their skills and abilities. This will require access to a wealth of information and knowledge.
“There’s need to build a community whom we can trust to guide the continent’s decision making and that community does not exist,” Hewitson notes.
A new global agreement to tackle climate change, agreed in Paris last December, emphasizes the need for country-driven capacities for climate action based on and responsive to national need. Climate knowledge brokers – people who sit between knowledge producers and knowledge users – can help filter and improve the quality of information available across disciplines and sectors.
Late last month, a group of potential African climate knowledge brokers gathered in Addis Ababa, organized by the UK-based Climate Knowledge Brokers group, to look at what information Africa needs and how the ability to produce and broker it might be developed. The meeting brought together 30 researchers, government representatives, climate change organisations, non-governmental organisations, media, civil society and consultants from 10 countries.
Brokers can bring together different players, such as policy makers and researchers, to provide a safe space where they can engage, participants said. Fiona Percy, coordinator of the adaptation learning programme for Africa at CARE International, says it is important to bring together different knowledge sources, from researchers to policy makers and local communities, to make informed decisions.
“Climate science is available in many African countries, though complicated. Many institutions do not know how to make it useful for decision-making processes” she notes.
Robi Redda, who leads CDKN’s work in Ethiopia, says he believes climate change knowledge brokers are essential to ensure that projects and programs being designed, implemented and funded are well-informed and built on the knowledge already in place.

Read the full story at Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED). 

Friday, 8 April 2016

Embracing Participatory Scenario Planning in Laikipia County

By Bob Aston
The onset of the March-May 2016 “Long-Rains” Season presents an opportunity for farmers to use Participatory Scenario Planning advisories to agree on agricultural options, make decisions, develop, and plan for climate-resilient livelihoods and disaster management.
Participatory Scenario Planning empowers farmers to take advantage of opportunities that climate presents, which is a key part of adapting to climate change. In addition, it enables local stakeholders to have better access to seasonal climate forecasts from the Kenya Meteorological department and local forecasting experts.
Farmers planting in Sipili area of Laikipia West Sub County,Kenya
Most farmers rarely use Participatory Scenario Planning action plans to decide on the best type of crops to plant and have contingency plans in place to mitigate against any eventuality. This usually leads to lower yields and in some cases crop failure.
In Laikipia County, a joint initiative by the Kenya Meteorological Department and the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) has been helping dairy, maize, sheep and goat farmers to  plaassess likely hazards, risks, opportunities, and impacts caused by the March-May “Long-Rains” and October-December “Short-Rains.”
The advisories have been targeting agro input suppliers, agro-producers, agro-transporters, agro traders, and agro-processors with both meteorological and traditional weather forecast.
According to the Kenya Meteorological Services, most parts of Kenya will experience depressed rainfall during the March-May 2016 “Long-Rains” Season. The Kenya Meteorological Department forecast indicates that the long rains would end in most parts of the Country by end of May apart from the counties in the Lake Basin, highlands west of the Rift Valley, Central Rift Valley, and the Coastal strip, which will receive rainfall in June.
Forecast for Laikipia County indicates that Igwamiti, Marmanet, Githiga, Sosian, Salama, Segera, Ngobit, Nanyuki, Thingithu, and Ol-Moran will receive between 114-227 mm, which is below normal rainfall. Mukogondo West and Umande prediction indicates that the areas will receive normal rainfall at 228-341 mm, while Tigithi and Mukogondo East will receive between 342-456 mm, which is normal rainfall. Rumuruti area will receive the lowest rainfall at 1-113 mm.
The potential impact of the forecast in areas like Mukogondo East, Mukogondo West, Tigithi and Umande Wards are improved pasture, increased livestock diseases, good animal body condition, upsurge of respiratory diseases, reduced milk prices and increased milk spoilage for dairy, sheep and goat farmers.
Maize farmers in the area would realize increased yields, enhanced income and increased incidences of field and storage pests.
Agro producers in the wards are urged to vaccinate livestock against diseases, enhance disease surveillance, deworm animals, regularly dip and spray animals, and enhance pasture and fodder production, invest in water harvesting structure for livestock production, and establish hay storage facilities.
Others include conserve pasture as hay or silage, practice integrated pest management, adopt post-harvest technologies, promote legume and cereals aggregation, and plant crops that require more rainfall like hybrid H6 series, fruit trees, legumes like Canadian wonder and Rosecoco,
The potential rainfall impact in Ol-Moran, Sosian, Rumuruti, Igwamiti, Marmanet, Salama, Githiga, Tigithi, Ngobit, Nanyuki and Segera include reduced yields, pests and disease infestation like maize stoke borer and maize streak, reduced farmer income, reduced milk production, spread of livestock diseases, increased conflict over water and pasture, inadequate pasture and fodder production and deteriorated livestock body condition.
Dairy, Maize, sheep and goat farmers in the areas are urged to vaccinate livestock against diseases, improve on feeding and grazing management, strategically destock livestock, practice conservation agriculture, plant legumes like Katumani and other local varieties, plant drought resilient crops like sorghum, millet and dolichos, invest in water harvesting technologies and strategically manage pasture from last season El-Nino rains.
Collective sharing and interpretation of climate forecasts through Participatory Scenario Planning can go a long way in ensuring farmers not only make informed decisions but they also improve their income as they are able to take advantage of the various opportunities available during the short and long rain season.