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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Empowering smallholder farmers through grain bulking and marketing

By Simon Munyeki
Collective aggregation and marketing of cereals usually ensures that farmers have better negotiating power for better terms of trade as well as easy access to large and structured markets outlets.
Despite the many benefits of grain bulking, most warehouses in Laikipia County are operating under capacity.  Ndurumo Cereal Bank, Sipili Cereals and Marketing Cooperative Society, Ol-Moran Cereal Bank, Ng’arua Cereals and Produce Cooperative and Ng’arua Millers have a combined capacity of 26,000 bags although currently less than 2,000 bags are in the warehouses.
In order to improve grain storage in Laikipia West the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) in collaboration with the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, organized for a training on grain bulking at Kinamba Catholic Church in Githiga Ward for eight maize value chain groups on May 26, 2016.
Mr. Kipyegon Kipkemei,EAGC training farmer representatives on grain bulking
Speaking during the training Mr. Kipyegon Kipkemei, EAGC urged farmer organizations to aggregate their cereals instead of selling cheaply to traders. He said that EAGC is working with cereal banks in the ward to ensure that they receive Warehouse Receipt System certification.
He noted that Ng’arua cereals and Produce Cooperative Society is already enjoying the benefits of warehouse receipt system. This has helped to mobilize agricultural credit by creating collateral for the members.
“Utilizing the available storage facilities would reduce post-harvest losses as it would reduce cases of pest infestation, aflatoxin and cereals would be dried to the correct moisture content,” said Mr. Kipyegon.
Members of the cooperative are able to access better storage facilities as well as reduced risks in the agricultural markets. He said that the members of the cooperative have the option to sell when they can get the best price for their cereals.
This reduces exploitation during the harvest season when the farm gate prices are low. He said that while waiting for prices to appreciate, the depositor could access loan from financial institutions of up to 60-80% of the current market value of the grains stored.
He said that good and sustainable bulking requires adequate stocks, quality stocks, proper storage facilities, proper grain handling equipment, proper records, and good disposal.
“Bulking is about quality as it would ensure that the stored grains are cleaned and graded. It also helps to access both the home grown school meal market and other structured demand markets,” said Mr. Kipyegon.
Mr. Bob Aston, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) addressed the challenges faced by farmer organizations. He cited governance, lack of entrepreneurial skills, poor financial management skills, and lack of sustainability mechanisms as some of the issues that has prevented the utilization of cereal banks in Laikipia West.
“We hope that through such trainings the warehouses will be utilized next season. On-farm storage facilities are a challenge as most farmers lose their cereals through post-harvest losses,” said Mr. Aston.
During the training, the management committee of the warehouses agreed to formulate plans that would ensure communities benefit through the warehouses. A starting point is to ensure that all the warehouses receive warehouse receipt system.
Training communities on bulking and marketing of cereals can play a critical role in ensuring farmers receive better prices for their cereals. Most farmers who usually sell as individuals always sell at low prices thus failing to benefit from their enterprises.

Scaling Support for Green Innovations

By Edward Mungai
Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries urgently require new economic models that integrate green growth in decision-making and development planning. This is because the region is among the most vulnerable to negative impacts of climate change and has limited adaption capacity because of resource constraints and over reliance on natural resources.
The media is always awash with stories of how SSA countries are being affected by intense weather related natural disasters such as droughts, floods, and storms.
Hydroponic system of agriculture. TRF/Climate Innovation Centre
These events have wide ranging consequences, often directly destroying, or limiting the gains from economic growth. Infrastructure is damaged, crops are destroyed, yields are reduced, homes destroyed and sometimes communities are displaced.
Green economy provides an economic case for addressing climate change through promotion of green innovations. The transition to a Green Economy is unlikely to be straightforward. It requires strong leadership particularly from the government and a collaboration of all stakeholders and more so the private sector.
The government will need to take the lead in creating the right enabling environment to support the up-take and diffusion of green technologies. The investment and innovative capabilities of the private sector are crucial for the transition to a green economy.
With climate change as a reality, it poses a threat to resource availability; an innovative private sector that can develop disruptive products, services and technologies to adapt to climate change is required.
Unlike mitigation technologies, which are concentrated in a few sectors such as energy, industry, and transport, adaptation technologies are dispersed across all socio-economic sectors including water, health, agriculture, and infrastructure. In addition, they should be more adaptable to local circumstances, which mean that in addition to being socially acceptable they can be made less capital intensive compared to mitigation technologies.
This makes them more amenable to small-scale interventions and can therefore be easily promoted by small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Some of the green innovations required for adaptation range from water efficient irrigation systems; water recycling and purification; resilient building technologies; water management systems; drought-resilient crops; insurance tools and early warning systems.
The role of SMEs in promoting green innovations for climate change cannot be ignored. In Kenya for instance, SMEs employ up to 80 per cent of the population and accounts for about 45 per cent of the GDP.
This is a common trend in other countries in Africa and hence the SME sector is very important to the economic development. SMEs are closely integrated into their communities allowing them to get products and services to hard-to-reach populations, they have local knowledge of consumer demand and supply, and they can easily upgrade their current products to adapt to their customers’ need and changing climate unlike large corporations.
However, they face multiple challenges when trying to grow their operations including difficulties in accessing finance, lack of specialist knowledge and excessive regulatory burdens. Incubation centers like the Climate Innovation Centres (CICs) have been set up to specifically support entrepreneurs circumvent these challenges.
The CICs, supports enterprises that are developing green innovations to address local climate change challenges. The centers offer a suite of services key among them being access to financing through various stages of the technology growth cycle.
At the early stage, CIC provides proof of concept grants aimed at establishing technical and commercial viability of the idea or business models through moving the technologies and products across the stages with high risk of failure.
After the Proof of Concept the enterprises are assisted to access other forms of financing as the business requires chief among these being seed financing. This is aimed at supporting companies in the next stage of their development where they require financing for further market testing and business model validation, leading to a full market rollout.
The other services that CICs provides SMEs include business advisory services and training; access to technical and office facilities; access to information and policy advice and advocacy.
The Kenya CIC for instance was the first of the CICs to be established and is an initiative supported by the World Bank’s infoDev and funded by Danida and UKaid. It is one of the CICs being launched by infoDev’s Climate Technology Program (CTP). The other CICs are in Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, Morocco, Vietnam, and the Caribbean.
The role of developing partners in supporting the development and deployment of green technologies is of utmost importance.
Development agencies can best support countries to make a transition to green economy effectively through supporting SMEs, providing policy advice to design and implement effective green growth policies; building human and institutional capacity; establishing international and regional cooperation; facilitating stakeholder involvement; and, communication to support green economy measures and encourage behavior change; and technical support.
Innovation is key to green growth. It helps separate growth from natural capital depletion and contributes to economic growth and job creation. Business is the driver of innovation, but governments should provide clear and stable market signals, for example through carbon pricing, better standards for green growth as well as providing mechanism for information the citizenry on the various options available to green their consumption and production.
Edward Mungai is the Chief Executive Officer Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (CIC). His E-mail address is
Article available in Joto Afrika edition 17. Download a copy of the newsletter here

Monday, 30 May 2016

It is time for the rich to learn from the poor

By Saleemul Huq, ICCCAD
Technology transfer to tackle climate change is a major issue in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and includes both technology for mitigation (reducing emissions) as well as for adaptation (adjusting to the changes climate change is bringing).
However, there are significant differences in both the types of technology as well as direction of transfer for mitigation technology versus adaptation technology.
Members of a women group in Bangladesh.TRF/Laurie Goering
With mitigation technology, transfers generally have to do with physical technologies such as solar panels or wind turbines, which need to be transferred from one country (usually a developed country) to another (usually a developing country).
In this case, the transfer is deemed to have occurred once the hardware is installed at its destination and switched on.
However, when it comes to adaptation technology such hard technologies are the exception rather than the rule.
While there are indeed engineering-type technologies (the classic example being building dykes for protection against floods), the vast majority of adaptation technologies involve sharing knowledge based on experience or sharing information on how to get different institutions to interact and cooperate with each other.
Thus, when it comes to addressing adaptation it is less about constructing things and more about sharing knowledge based on actually doing things. Adaptation is a classic learning-by-doing activity where what has been learned, based on experience, is the key thing that needs to be transferred.
For mitigation, the direction of transfer of technologies (at least so far) has been from developed countries that have the capacity for research and development to developing countries (although increasingly some of the transfer is going the other way, such as for solar panels from China to America and Europe).
But with adaptation technology it is actually the poorer and more vulnerable developing countries (such as the Least Developed Countries) which have the most of value to share.
They have planned and carried out pilot adaptations for longer and have built up a base of knowledge that they can share – and not just South-to-South but also South-to-North.
A good example of this is the recently held 10th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation in Dhaka, where nearly 200 participants from all over the world spent a week travelling to and seeing community level adaptation in practice in Bangladesh and learning from the practitioners themselves.
Finally, the form in which technology (including knowledge) is most effectively transferred is also different between mitigation as adaptation.
Whereas mitigation technology transfer often involves a classic North-to-South transfer of hardware, adaptation technology (and knowledge) is much more effectively transferred by having the people who need the knowledge visit those who have experience of tackling the problem, so they can learn by spending time with them.
Such face-to-face knowledge exchange visits, to the places which have already gained knowledge of tackling different adverse impacts of climate change, is by far the most effective means of transferring know-how.
Given that the poorest countries have been tackling climate change impacts longer than the richer countries, when it comes to transfer of adaptation technology and knowledge, the best option may be for the rich to learn from the poor.

Tea tree success launches women's battle for cash in arid Kenya

By Caroline Wambui
NANYUKI, Kenya - Near this market town in Laikipia County, a breath of wind disturbs the stillness of the day and the rows of pale green tea trees sway.
The two-and-a-half acre plantation – with nearly 30,000 well-watered and mulched young trees – stands out in the desert-like area.
A tea tree farmer in Nanyuki, Laikipia County,Kenya.TRF/Caroline Wambui
Charles Mwangi, 76, and his wife Mary Anne Wangui, 69, are busy tending it, Mwangi cutting boughs for harvest and his wife gathering them into heaps. But the scene wasn’t always so bucolic.
When tea tree farming first arrived in the area, as a way to protect rural incomes in the face of worsening drought, it set off a showdown between women, who did much off the initial work on the tree farms, and men, who owned the land and wanted the unexpectedly promising income for themselves.
“Initially when tea tree was being introduced in Laikipia, most farmers and especially men were highly reluctant to embrace (it),” remembers Teresia Ndirangu, a tea tree production and training adviser for the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN).
An earlier scheme to introduce borage, a herb that produces valuable oil, had foundered after birds ate many of the seeds and collecting and storing the rest of the harvest proved difficult.
So when KOAN advisers urged communities to try tea tree, many farmers were reticent – and it was largely women who stepped forward. Of the 460 farmers initially registered to grow tea tree, three-quarters were women, Ndirangu said.
This proved a problem, as the farmers needed to sign an agreement with the oil buyer – Earth Oil Extract Company – but “it is fathers and husbands who are seen as the signatories in such documents making many women pull out despite being interested,” said Martin Wainaina, manager of the company.
Wangui, who learned about the tea tree opportunity from a friend, asked her husband if she could get involved and “he half heartedly allowed me to farm as he wasn’t quite certain about the project,” she remembers.
But when she got her first harvest, about 18 months after planting, the paycheck was good.  Then “Mwangi realized that the project wasn’t a scam to milk farmers of their money (and) he embraced the project whole heartedly and to date he has never looked back,” she said with a chuckle.
But for many other women, it wasn’t so easy. In an area where men own most of the land, women had to pester their husbands for a bit of land to farm – and were often given the worst areas, where other types of farming didn’t work, said Faith Wairimu, one tea tree farmer.
“Luckily for the women, no matter what section was allocated, the tea tree would thrive as it is hardy, resilient to climate change, performs well in extremely harsh, dry weather conditions, requires little work and is neither affected by pests or diseases nor eaten by domestic animals,” she said.
The other advantage was that costs were low, as no fertilizers or chemicals are needed to produce the organic oil, she said.
The crop seemed particularly suited to woman as they could build in the harvests, every six months, around other household chores. Company workers also picked up the branches and took them to the Earth Oil processing unit at Nanyuki, where oil is extracted by a steam distillation process, rather than requiring the women to transport the tea tree themselves.
But when the cash began flowing in, another storm broke out.
“When the first payments were processed, they were channeled to the registered individuals, the majority of whom were women,” Ndirangu said. “Being a patriarchal society, men challenged (this), claiming that the payments should have been channeled to their accounts instead of their wives, as they were the legal owners of the land.”
Battling families ended up at the gates of the Earth Oil offices.
“Conflict arose and couples started storming the Earth Oil offices to change the contracts to the male figure in the family,” Wainaina said. That, for a time, “turned the company into a counseling one rather than farming one,” he said.
To try to calm the storm – including about 50 threatened divorces – KOAN stepped in to launch training sessions on the importance of women’s inclusion in decision-making and land ownership.
“The trainings were on gender, training all farmers to understand the importance of women’s land ownership, land management and ownership,” Ndirangu said. Eventually the work paid off, as all but one of the threatened divorces were called off, she said. Wainaina said the percentage of women signing oil contracts, on their own, rose from 10 percent in 2010 to 50 percent in 2013.
Today, more couples, like Wangui and Mwangi, are working together on their tea tree plantations, and are happy with the results.
“From the last season’s harvest we managed 10 tonnes and a kilo was paying 15.50 (Kenyan) shillings, (so we) managed Ksh. 155,000 ($1,500),” Mwangi said. That money, he said, has helped pay for everything from renovating their house to upgrading their livestock.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Livestock drives resilience in drylands

By Elizabeth Carabine and Catherine Simonet, ODI
Maitera Saitoti, a Maasai warrior from Kajiado, Kenya, knows what it is like to have to rely on increasingly irregular rainfall for his livelihood.
During prolonged periods of drought in 2009 and 2010, he saved his family’s livestock herd by navigating seasonal rivers, fenced ranches, and new tarmac roads to reach Nairobi’s grazing lands and livestock market.
Herder in Tessekre,Senegal.Credit:Elizabeth Carabine
In the past, interventions by governments, NGOs and donors aimed at helping pastoralists like Saitoti cope with drought were based on inaccurate assumptions about the ecological and social dynamics of drylands, which often led to negative outcomes. For example, the installation of fixed water points throughout drylands can lead to overgrazing and soil degradation, as pastoralists are encouraged to settle their herds in these locations.
As evidence emerges about the value of livestock and capacities of pastoralists to build resilience to drought, the narrative around pastoralism in Africa has shifted.
Policymakers and donors are increasingly recognising that drylands can drive inclusive and climate-resilient economic development in some of the world’s poorest countries. But before this can be achieved, we need to know more about how pastoralism works.
The Pathways to Resilience in Semi-arid Economies (PRISE) research project led by the Overseas Development Institute, among other organisations, and funded by the International Development Research Centre in Canada and the UK Department for International Development, is examining effective adaptation interventions in African and Asian drylands through ecological and economic analysis.
The three-step approach – called Value Chain Analysis for Resilience in Drylands (VC-ARID) – seeks to identify adaptation options and opportunities for private investment in Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Pakistan, specifically for sectors where production is rooted in drylands, such as livestock and cotton.
Drylands cover 40% of the world’s surface and have highly variable ecological and climatic conditions. Around 2 billion people are estimated to live in these tough environments.
Drought is currently gripping the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, as it did in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Dryland agricultural systems globally will face increasing vulnerability as climate change is compounded by other trends like population growth and depletion of natural resources.
This will profoundly impact the wellbeing and livelihoods of people living in these areas. Growing populations will increase the demand for water and food, and prolonged droughts will put pressure on these resources while maize, millet and sorghum production declines across Africa.
This is why VC-ARID considers climate risks – such as increasing temperature and changing rainfall patterns – along each step of the value chain, from production and processing, to products being sold in domestic and international markets.
By understanding how each person and business in these value chains might be affected by climate risk, we can identify options to help them adapt to climate change, and ultimately allow dryland economies to grow in an inclusive and resilient manner.
Dryland areas are nearly always marginalised, both politically and economically, so VC-ARID positions these areas at the centre as drivers of growth in key national economic sectors.
Recognising the specific characteristics of drylands, VC-ARID considers seasonal effects on value chains, for example how markets function during the rainy and dry seasons. Our approach incorporates informal activities in value chains, such as the significant amount of underground trade of livestock that takes place in Africa’s drylands.
VC-ARID also explicitly explores gender dimensions by analysing, for example, how the livestock value chain can be diversified to benefit both men and women.
VC-ARID is replicated by seven research teams in five countries, offering unprecedented opportunities for comparison between dryland regions: What can Burkina Faso’s nationalised cotton sector learn from the more liberalised Pakistani cotton trade? What can Senegal’s domestic livestock market learn from financial and pharmaceutical services to the livestock sector in Kenya?
These questions will be explored in our VC-ARID PRISE report, due to be published in September 2016.
Step 1 of VC-ARID – mapping the value chain – has already taken place. In Step 2, our teams will work with actors identified in Step 1 such as pastoralists, butchers and traders, to identify climate risks.
Bringing together private and public sector stakeholders, Step 3 will identify opportunities for adaptation and investment in these value chains. In this way, PRISE will contribute a roadmap towards economic development that is both climate resilient and based on solid evidence.

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

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Learning from nature to increase resilience

By Getrude Lungahi, Mercy Corp
More than 80 percent of farmers in East Africa use chemicals to increase farm productivity and keep weeds and pests from destroying their crops.
The Kenyan government imported $1.3 billion’s worth of chemical fertilizers and $578 million worth of pesticides during 2004-11, for agricultural production.
Farmers in Wajir,Kenya add compost and mulch around trees.TRF/Abdifatah Abdikadir
Chemical-intensive agriculture, however, creates a cycle of economic dependency between farmers and chemical manufacturers, discouraging biodiversity and degrading soils and landscapes, making them more prone to drought and floods.
A design philosophy called permaculture can be used as an alternative to the use of chemicals in agriculture. It involves sustainable ecological systems that are self-maintained and regenerative.
By observing and simulating the features observed in natural ecosystems, permaculture replicates productivity patterns that exist naturally in the environment.
As such, it stimulates the cultivation of several crops rather than a single crop. By returning any organic waste (including food waste and manure) into the system, it also nurtures soils and biodiversity.
Techniques include using perennial plants – which live for more than two years, as opposed to annual crops – to create a permanent network of roots that help prevent soil erosion, for example.
While permaculture comes with many benefits, it doesn’t necessarily follow that farmers know how to use it.
As part of the Building Resilience to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme, Mercy Corps is training communities – including farmers and government officials – on permaculture farming with the Permaculture Research Institute of Kenya in Wajir, Kenya, and Karamoja, Uganda.
“In an age where corporations are marketing drought-resistant seeds, it is really landscapes that need to be drought-resistant, not seeds’’, said Natalie Topa, Mercy Corps’ BRACED programme director.
Abdifatah Abdikadir, a farmer from Wajir and one of the trainees, has himself adopted several permaculture techniques such as banana circles, a way to grow fruit and vegetable crops by using up excess water and organic waste.
He is now showing other trainees how to apply permaculture principles in their farm work. “It’s important for more farmers to understand and adopt permaculture,” he said.
Joseph Letunyoi, a young Maasai man from Laikipia, central Kenya, and a trainer from the Permaculture Research Institute, is teaching both Kenyans and foreigners such as NGO workers how to strengthen their land and food production through permaculture.
His pastoralist background in the Kenyan drylands has helped him connect with the Wajir community and advise them on how to make their land and food production more diverse and resilient.
“No matter where you are based, permaculture can contribute to sustainable economic development," he said.
But permaculture isn’t just for adults. Abdikadir and other trainers are developing a permaculture curriculum to be rolled out in primary and secondary schools in Wajir.
Mercy Corps has also built partnerships with educational institutions such as Makerere University in Uganda: its agriculture curriculum now includes permaculture courses.
“Permaculture, agroecology and agroforestry can help mitigate the land degradation and erosion that has been caused to environments by poor land management practices,” said Shuaib Lwasa, a geography professor at the university.
Through the BRACED programme, two of the university’s graduate students conducted field work that involved assessing farms’ soil acidity as well as training farmers on permaculture with Mercy Corps.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Boost to agroforestry as Laikipia County distributes tree seedlings

By Bob Aston
The Laikipia County Government through the Laikipia County Development Authority (LCDA) continued its efforts at forest restoration and agroforestry by issuing 10,000 tree seedlings to 200 farmers from Ol-Moran Ward in Laikipia West Sub County on May 20, 2016.
Some of the beneficiaries from Kahuruko area with some of the tree seedlings

Mr. Charles Keru, Ol-Moran Ward Administrator, oversaw the disbursement of the tree seedlings at Kiriko Borehole, Sipili Primary School, Ng’arua Maarifa Centre, and Kahuruko Centre. The beneficiaries drawn from Sipili, Wangwachi, Kabati, and Dimcom Sub Location each received 50 seedlings.

The Laikipia County Development Authority (LCDA) is implementing the 4-year tree-planting project in collaboration with the Kenya Forest Services (KFS), and Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) among other partners.

The project aims to respond to the dwindling forest cover in the County and to mitigate against the effects of climate change by ensuring communities in Laikipia County plant 40 million trees. The program has ensured that communities plant trees in individual farms, education facilities, as well as gazetted forests.
The Ward Administrator said that planting more trees through forest restoration and agroforestry could help create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, and sustainable land-use systems.
He urged the beneficiaries to plant the seedlings in areas that are free from grazing, trampling, or other foreseen risks by having a fence around them. In addition, they must pit holes, follow the right spacing and orientation, as well as conduct gapping to ensure that they maintain the number of trees.
“It is important that farmers take good care of the tree seedlings. You are now Laikipia County Ambassadors in environmental conservation,” said Mr. Keru.
He urged farmers to either practice agroforestry, boundary planting, mixed boundary or establish woodlots. He said that this would ensure that farmers get timber for building and fencing, firewood, fodder, windbreak as well as conserving the environment.
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.
Andrew Kinyua, A.K Gatimu Tree Nursery Owner, thanked the County government for purchasing the seedlings from local nursery owners. He said that promoting local entrepreneurs would uplift the livelihood of many community members.
He said that this year has been the best as he has managed to sell more than 4,000 seedlings to the County government. He noted that lack of recognition had previously demoralized most nursery owners.
Some of the tree seedlings beneficiaries at Ng'arua Maarifa Centre
He urged the County government to continue giving local nursery owners priority when purchasing seedlings as most of the nurseries are certified.
“I have always been keen on environmental conservation. I am glad that the County government wants us to plant 10 million trees this year. This noble initiative will not only empower us but would also ensure that we protect our environment,” said Mr. Kinyua.
Similarly, Mr. Johnstone Ndiritu, from Spenco Tree Nursery thanked the County government for purchasing seedlings from local nursery owners. He said that the initiative has motivated them, as it is always hard to sell large quantities of tree seedlings like this year.
On her part, Mrs. Damaris Kamau noted that most farmers do not take the issue of environmental conservation seriously. She said that the County government has enabled most farmers to appreciate the importance of trees in increasing the capacity for climate change resilience and mitigation as well as preserving the soil.
“I am passionate about environmental conservation. I will ensure that I take good care of the 50 tree seedlings. We have to unite to ensure that we help the County government to plant 10 million trees this year,” said Mrs. Kamau.
The tree seedlings disbursement follows last month’s tree planting launch in Ol-Moran Ward by Laikipia Governor Joshua Irungu at Sipili health centre in which community members planted 730 trees.
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 has reduced considerably.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Sipili Turkey farmer recognized as a hero for her innovation

By Noah Lusaka and Bob Aston
Rahab Githumbi, an innovative poultry farmer from Kahuruko in Sipili, Laikipia West Sub County was last week recognized by Food Tank among 17 heroes from around the world, working for innovation, sustainability, the environment, and local economy, and doing more than putting food on our plates.
Her work shows that she goes beyond cultivating the land, acting as employers, experimenters, keepers of tradition, and contributors to healthy lifestyles. In her village, she earned the nickname “Mama Turkey” because of her success in rearing chickens and turkeys together.
Rahab Githumbi during the EAFIF in 2013
According to Food Tank, farmers are not just food producers. They are businesspersons, they are teachers in their communities, they are innovators and inventors, and they are stewards of the land who deserve recognition for the ecosystem services they provide that benefit everyone.
Food Tank features innovative ideas that are already working on the ground. Such innovations need more attention, more research, and funding to enhance replication.
Mama Turkey was motivated in 2004 to start production and nurturing of turkeys during a farmer- to – farmer exchange visit organized by the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre.
She is now an expert in production and nurturing turkeys and chicken for the local market. She distinctively discovered that the two birds have a great mutual benefit to each other. She started by buying two poults one female and a male turkey to join her backyard chickens.
During a three year period, she had experimented a lot and made observations in managing a mix of both chicken and turkeys focusing on brooding, hatching and tending of the young chicks and their feeding patterns. She found that raising turkeys and local chickens together increased her chicken egg-hatching rate from 70 to nearly 100 percent because the female turkey brooded the eggs.
Due to her success in this venture, ALIN profiled her as an innovator and nominated her to participate at the Eastern Africa Farmer Innovation Fair (EAFIF) in 2013. The innovation fair brought together farmer innovators from Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
The Promoting Local Innovation (PROLINNOVA)- Kenya hosted the event which sought to raise awareness and share information about how smallholder farmers are innovating, to encourage innovation, to disseminate smallholder farmers innovations, to identify and draw attention to more endogenous innovations that are currently known as well as to influence policy to promote smallholder farmer innovation.
Food Tank believes that as much as we need new thinking on global food system issues, we also need new doing. Around the world, people and organizations have developed innovative, on-the-ground solutions to the most pressing issues in food and agriculture.
Sometimes it is amazing at some of the small things that people do not knowing that in the end they will have a global impact and recognition. The recognition of Rahab Githumbi among the 17 heroes globally just confirms the power of information sharing.  Join ALIN in celebrating this noble achievement by Mama Turkey.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Kenya in a froth as drought spurs switch to "camelcinos"

By Hannah McNeish
ISIOLO, Kenya – It took 70 dairy cows dying from repeated droughts to convince Fatuma Yousef to try a new business model: camels.
As increasingly fierce, frequent, and lengthy dry spells hit northern Kenya, raising dairy cattle has gotten ever harder. However, after seeing her initial five camels thrive while eating just tree branches and leaves, Yousef sold 100 cows to buy more expensive camels, whose milk now never dries up.
A Kenyan nomadic herder walks near camels drinking water.REUTERS/Antony Njuguna
Now she owns 60 of the beasts, something she considers a good investment as climate change brings more extreme weather. And as more camel milk comes on the market, “camelcinos” are cropping up in Nairobi’s cafes, alongside the usual cappuccinos.
"Camels are the number one thing round here right now," said Yousef, waiting at a camel milk collection centre in the northern town of Isiolo, amid her collection of heavy yellow jerry cans.
"The cows can't cope with the drought," she added. But now she produces 60 liters of camel milk a day, from about 20 long-legged “milkers”.
More extreme weather in Kenya's arid and neglected northern rangelands – and surging demand for cattle milk in Kenya’s cities – are leading growing numbers of the region’s nomadic herders to see camels as a drought-safe business investment.
That has led to what people in Isiolo call a “camel rush,” as demand outstrips supply. Prices for both the milk and the camels that produce it are on the rise, with a good milk camel going for between $400 and $1,000 in the region.
"I get more for my camel milk,” explained Yousef, above the din of dozens of women getting their camel milk tested for impurities and doing business on their phone or chatting to friends. “I used to get 60 shillings ($0.60) per litre (for cow’s milk). Now I get 110 shillings ($1.10)."
Piers Simpkin, a camel expert who has studied then for over 30 years and runs his own milking business in Elmenteita, about 130km from the capital, said that he has seen “a huge change in the range of camel keeping” in recent years.
Herds are growing fastest among the Maasai tribe in southern Kenya, where people have traditionally only kept cows, he said, but are growing in other places as well.
"I think we'll be seeing an increase in camel milk consumption with climate change,” said Simpkin. “Drier conditions and global warming are better suited to camel production."
With 60 percent of the world's camels, East Africa produces most of the world’s camel milk, almost all of which is consumed domestically.
Demand for the milk in the capital Nairobi – where cafes in the bustling business district serve "camelcinos" (a cappuccino made with camel milk) – is so high that it has spawned a booming camel milk industry in the neighbouring Kajiado county.
Further north, the surge in camel herding is coming as families watch a warming world turn grasslands to dust and bring a traditional livestock industry to its knees.
"Drought can kill between 50 and 80 percent of cattle herds,” said Simpkin. “At the same time, you'll probably only get a 10 to16 percent mortality in camel herds."
He has been training herders on the best camel milking practices in the counties of Samburu and Turkana for years, he said. A camel there, he said, can produce four to five times the volume of milk as a local cow.
While demand for camel milk is growing, the supply of quality product is still low. In Kenya, yearly production is estimated at around 1 million metric tonnes, worth about 54 billion shillings, or $534 million.
But a lack of government interest or investment in camel milk, which is still not recognised under Kenya's dairy act, has hampered efforts to create industry standards or an export market.
"The demand is so large locally, there probably won't be enough for export", said Simpkin. "I could sell 10 times as much in the local town nearest to where I'm producing the milk," he added.
Camel milk producers in Isiolo 10,000 litres of milk a month to Holger Marbach's Vital Camel Milk factory in Nanyuki, about an hour away.
"I estimate demand is probably double," Marbach said.
Kenya today has triple the number of camels it did in 2005 – when Marbach started his business – or around 3 million, with the surge largely a response to unpredictable weather patterns.
"The weather has seriously changed – the rains are no longer predictable," he said.
Since 2007, Dutch development agency SNV has been working with women in Isiolo to try to commercialise the local camel milk industry and boost communities' resilience to climate change.
SNV and partners helped around 100 women form a camel milk cooperative in 2010. Using about $200,000 in donor money, they built freezers to chill milk, installed a 3,000-litre cooling tank and set up milk testing equipment.
Livestock specialists have also trained women in nearby communities on milking hygiene and camel-keeping, and linked them to nearby markets to get better prices.
The cooperative has increased its production sixfold from 2008 – and now produces 3,000 litres of camel milk a day.
The women's profits also have increased by a third since 2014, even as operating costs have dropped by more than 40 percent.
"For a minimal amount of investment, it seems that by linking high-demand urban areas with drought-prone rural areas, we can help communities adapt to a changing climate," said Brian Harding, SNV's climate change specialist.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Women reign supreme during BAKE Awards

By Bob Aston
The Kenyan Blog Awards 2016 winner’s gala event at Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi on May 14, 2016 provided a glimpse of the growth of the Kenyan Blogosphere and particularly the rise of women bloggers as they scooped majority of the 19 awards presented during the evening.
BAKE Awards winners pose for a photo
The day arguably belonged to Jackson Biko who won Kenyan Blog of the Year Award as well as Best creative Blog through Since 2012, the Kenyan Blog Awards has annually recognized and awarded exceptional Kenyan bloggers and good content creation in the Kenyan blogosphere.
Safaricom Ltd was the title sponsors for this year’s awards. Other sponsors included EatOut Kenya, Xpose, Samsung, Coca Cola, Kenya Bankers Association (KBA), Uber, and Meta.
In attendance included Dr. Kate Getao from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. She is also the author of Flakes in the Daily Nation Saturday Magazine. Others included Dennis Itumbi, Director of Digital Communication in the office of the President, Blogger Boniface Mwangi, and social entrepreneur Zawadi Nyongo.
Besides feting exceptional bloggers, the gala event also sought to promote and highlight the fantastic range of Kenyan culture through the African dress code. Most of the bloggers donned Kitenge, kanzu, khanga, kente, Nigerian fashion, Ankara among others.
Host Mr. Bonney Tunya, CNBC Africa (East Africa) noted that the award dispelled his earlier notion that bloggers mostly wear hoodies and spend a lot of time looking for internet bundles.
Each of the winners received Samsung Gear VR, Kshs 5,000 worth of airtime and either Samsung Galaxy A5, Samsung Galaxy J7 or Huawei GR5 phone. Some of the winners also received Meta membership. which was the best Food Blog also received dinner for two invite at Tatu Restaurant Fairmont, the Norfolk, and two round trip tickets to Mombasa on Jambo Jet.
The Best Kenyan Blog winner received a Huawei Mediapad 10 tablet, Samsung Gear VR, Kshs 10,000 worth of airtime and Meta membership.
As the evening progressed one thing became clear, most bloggers do not have time for small talk. Either they prefer the comfort of their mobile phones or laptops. This was particularly obvious as most of the bloggers spent more time on their phones tweeting about the event and ensuring that #BAKEAwards was trending throughout the evening.
Most of the winners exhibited preference to writing than small talk, although, the winner of Best Environmental/Agricultural Blog took it a notch higher by only greeting the bloggers during his acceptance speech and disappearing from the podium as fast as he had arrived.
In keeping with the tradition of entertainment, representative received the best Entertainment/Lifestyle Blog Award while donning sandals and an African attire that resembled pajamas.
Host Bonny Tunya  reading the names of the Best County Blog nominees
The Best County Blog of which Laikipia Rural Voices had also been shortlisted went to This marked the first time that a blog from Mombasa County has won the award. The highlight of the Best County Blog was Host Bonny Tunya struggling to pronounce the name
The Kenyan Blog Awards has been a journey that kicked off with the launch of the submission phase on January 8, 2016. Kenyans online were required to submit their blogs or those of their favourite bloggers for consideration in the award. With the close of the submission phase on February 10, 2016, a group of judges sifted through 4,899 blog submissions in 19 categories. The judges then selected five blogs per category.
Voting for the five blogs per category then started on 1st march and concluded on 1st May. The culmination of the awards was the gala event, which saw 19 bloggers rewarded for their exceptional work.
The Kenyan Blog Awards is an initiative of Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE). The award recognizes the efforts of exceptional bloggers by rewarding those who post on a regular basis, have great and useful content, are creative and innovation.
Below is the full list of the 2016 Kenyan Blog Awards winners
  1. Best Technology Blog- 
  2. Best Photography Blog-
  3. Best Creative Writing Blog-
  4. Best Business Blog-
  5. Best Food Blog-
  6. Best Environmental/Agricultural Blog-
  7. Best Fashion/Beauty/Hair/Style Blog-
  8. Best Political Blog-
  9. Best New Blog-
  10. Best Corporate Blog-
  11. Best Topical Blog-
  12. Best Sports Blog-
  13. Best Entertainment/Lifestyle Blog-
  14. Best Education Blog-
  15. Best Travel Blog-
  16. Best Health Blog-
  17. Best County Blog-
  18. Best Religious or Spirituality Blog-
  19. Kenyan Blog of the Year-

Friday, 13 May 2016

Impact of procurement governance for Home Grown school feeding

By Bob Aston
The five-year Procurement Governance for Home Grown School Feeding (PG-HGSF) project by the Netherlands Development Organization-SNV is finally coming to its conclusion. The organization organized for a stakeholders Workshop on May 10, 2016 at IBIS Hotel in Nanyuki, Laikipia County to brief them on the impacts, challenges, and lessons learned during the implementation of the project.
Aside from SNV, other stakeholders included representatives from Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society, Mount Kenya Produce and Marketing Organization,  Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), Kilimo Biashara Promoters, and head teachers.
Mount Kenya PMO receiving a moisture meter from Mr. Makongo during the workshop
PG-HGSF was a 5-year program that SNV was implementing in Kenya, Ghana, and Mali. SNV USA launched the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) funded project in 2011.
Mr. David Makongo, SNV Advisor-BMGF Project, and PG-HGSF Kenya said that the organization aimed to develop a more inclusive and responsible relationship between smallholder farmers through farmer based organizations and school feeding buyers in Kenya.
“SNV and its partners worked hard to remove barriers to smallholder farmer’s inclusion in the school meal programme. Initially most farmer groups were not benefiting but this is now changing,” said Mr. Makongo.
He noted that 815,000 pupils drawn from 2,114 primary schools benefit through Home Grown School Meals (HGSM) programme annually. This has incentivized pupil enrollment and retention across the County.
The Kenyan government introduced the Home Grown School Meals (HGSM) programme in 2009. The programme has the dual objectives of improving children’s participation in education while simultaneously supporting local agricultural production by procuring foodstuff from local smallholder farmers.
Notable achievements of the PG-HGSF project included 6,513 farmers, 3935 male and 2,578 female drawn from 11 farmer based organizations managed to sell directly to schools. The project also helped 3,050 farmers to sell their cereals through structured demand (SD) markets. The markets by public or non-profit entities have a predictable and reliable demand for food products.
The project enabled SNV to pilot interventions in procurement, supply chain, and social accountability processes that helped remove obstacles to smallholder farmer’s access to school feeding markets. Between 2013 and 2015, the project oversaw the completion of 227 social audits.
“Social accountability helped in creating a more transparent and participatory assessment of the health and performance of school feeding programmes,” said Mr. Makongo.
In Laikipia County, the program addressed the challenge of lack of data for effective planning and decision making in education and homegrown school feeding programme through an online data management system.
Mr. Makongo said that SNV developed and expanded Grain Business Hubs as farmers lacked capacities in finance, storage, and management skills. The hubs strengthened the linkages and capacities of farmer based organizations. This enabled Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society and Mount Kenya Produce and Marketing Organization to sell grains more efficiently and profitably.
“HGSM programme is a viable market for farmers as the quantities required are manageable. Most schools have also indicated that quality of cereals from farmers is usually higher than from other traders,” said Mr. Makongo.
The workshop also enabled the two farmer based organizations to share experiences, challenges and deliberate on how best they can take advantage of the homegrown school meal market.
The two groups learned that despite the conclusion of the SNV project, opportunities for smallholder farmers still exist and the groups can still take a stronger role in their local school meals programmes by applying for tenders from local primary schools.
The two farmer groups have managed to supply cereals to five schools namely Chumvi, Sanga, Lukusoro, Olkinyei, and Kangumo Primary school. Representatives from the two farmer groups agreed to come up with strategies that would ensure that their farmers supply cereals to more schools as currently 106 schools in Laikipia County receive HGSM money.
The two farmer groups narrated how the SNV support has helped to empower their members and that the Grain Business Hubs have enabled them to sell grains more efficiently and profitably.
They promised SNV that the conclusion of the Procurement Governance for Home Grown School Feeding Project has re-energized and provided them with an added motivation to ensure that they grow their grain business hubs.