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Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Dairy cooperative increases smallholder farmers’ access to animal feeds

By Bob Aston
Sabatia Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd in Eldama Ravine Town is slowly gaining its status as the most successful cooperative in Baringo County. Established in 1953 the cooperative once hosted a delegation led by the founding president Jomo Kenyatta.
The collapse of Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) in late 1990s affected the cooperative as milk prices reduced. Things only started improving after revival of New KCC and entrance of Brookside Dairy in Eldama Ravine.
Community members buying yoghurt and mala at Sabatia Farmers cooperative milk bar

Mr. Peter Kasaon, Vice Chairman Sabatia Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd said that the organization has a milk bar, milk-processing plant, and a dairy meal-manufacturing outfit. The organization mainly draws its membership from the agricultural rich Sabatia Settlement Scheme.

The 3,490 members of the cooperative supply nearly 8,500 litres of milk per day. Installed at the cooperative premises is a 10,000-litre and 5,000-litre capacity milk cooler. In addition, the cooperative has a satellite cooler at Kiboron. The cooperative charges the members 18 percent of their sales to enable them pay salaries for its 34 employees, cater for transport as well as other expenses.
Mr. Kasaon said that a 3.9 million loan from the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) helped to revive its dairy meal manufacturing plant.
“The dairy meal manufacturing plant has not only helped to increase access to livestock feeds but farmers are now able to buy animal feeds at lower prices,” said Mr. Kasaon.
The loan was as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Baringo County Government and KCB Foundation, which aims at enabling dairy farmers’ access credit services including interest free loans, training in proper livestock production, development, and management of the value chain.
The dairy meal-manufacturing plant produces an average of 2,500 kgs of dairy meal a day. The members buy the dairy meal in packs of 10 kgs, 20 kgs, and 70 kgs.
Next to the dairy meal manufacturing plant is a milk bar and a milk processing plant. The Society does not have a boiler hence they have to boil milk-using firewood.  The cooperative does value addition at the milk processing plant by producing yoghurt and Maziwa Mala.
Laikipia Maize farmers at Sabatia Farmers Cooperative during an exchange visit
Mr. Kasaon said that the members receive farm inputs at the agrovet and dairy meal manufacturing plant through a check-off system. This has ensured that other traders do not exploit the farmers and at the same time enabling them to increase milk production.
Use of Information and communication technologies (ICT) has enabled the cooperative to use digital weighing scales and farmers electronic pay slip. The farmers’ milk deliveries are stored on their proximity cards and they get printed receipts of the daily weighed kilos. Members are also able to receive monthly milk deliveries as well as other reports.
“We also have an ICT training centre where members and their families receive training in basic ICT skills.  Payment is through deductions from member’s milk sale,” said Mr. Kasaon.
The cooperative has outsourced Artificial Insemination (AI) services in order to ensure that members improve their breeds. The members pay for the service through a check-off system as the members are deducted the cost when they deliver milk. The cooperative is planning to outsource transport services although they have a pickup and a lorry.
Joining the cooperative requires a Kshs 500 registration fee and daily delivery of milk. The cooperative can also deduct registration fee from the first month’s milk payment when a farmers does not have cash.
To be eligible to vie for any elective post in the cooperative one must be delivering at least 15 litres of milk a day. Elections are after every three years with each of the three administrative units of Sabatia scheme producing three-management committee member.
The cooperative is also a member of Baringo Agricultural Marketing Services Cooperative Society Limited (BAMSCOS).The umbrella organization formed in August 2012 is helping to facilitate farmer’s access to profitable markets for their farm produce as well as provision of production support services and championing farmer’s interest through advocacy.
Mr. Kasaon believes that despite the high cost of dairy meal products and fluctuating milk price the cooperative is on track to regain its status as one of the most successful cooperative organizations in Kenya.

Monday, 27 June 2016

As droughts worsen, Kenyan herders revive ancient grazing system

By Anthony Langat
KINNA, Kenya - In 2011, Aden Boru, a Borana pastoralist in northeast Kenya, lost 12 of his 60 cows to drought. Herders in other parts of the province were unluckier still, and lost their entire herd.
"It feels terrible when even a single cow dies but to lose all your animals means you are nothing," said Boru.
Arid Isiolo County is battling increasingly frequent and longer droughts, which can wipe out communities' entire herds. That poses serious challenges for a region where pastoralism is the main source of income.
Two Borana community leaders at Kinna in Isiolo County, Kenya. TRF/Anthony Langat

But loss of livestock among the Borana - who own land communally - is now being reduced, thanks to the reintroduction of a centuries old but abandoned traditional grazing management system, said Ibrahim Jarso, who works in Kinna - Boru's home village - for the Adaptation Consortium, an initiative funded by the U.K. Department for International Development that aims to support climate change adaptation in Kenya.
Before Kenya's independence in 1963, the Borana organised their grazing land in "Dedha" units, managed by a council of elders that worked to maintain social and political order in the group, and to resolve resource disputes among herders.
When told by herders that a pasture at a given grazing area was depleting, for example, the Dedha council would summon fellow elders to decide whether to move animals to the next grazing area, and what water sources the livestock should drink from.
This system ensured that the community had enough pasture and water to withstand droughts, Jarso said.
When the country became independent in 1963, however, the Kenyan government refused to acknowledge the Dedha councils, and instead used police to manage resource disputes, he added.
With the authority of the councils waning, Boru and fellow farmers were free to take their livestock wherever they pleased. The result was often pastures and water depleted before the end of the dry season, he said.
By about 1970, the Dedha system had largely disappeared, Jarso estimated.
A revival
But in 2011, after a series of consultations enabled by the Adaptation Consortium aimed at building resilience to climate shocks, members of the Borana group decided to reintroduce Dedhas to manage grazing areas and water points.
At first, not all Kinna residents welcomed the return of the Dedha and its rules, Jarso said. But their skepticism dissipated as they saw the system's benefits, he said.
"Cases of non-compliance by Kinna locals with the Dedha are isolated," he said. "If you don't comply with community decisions you may not get protection for your livestock."
Since the Dedhas were reinstated, pastoralists in Kinna have not reported any livestock losses due to drought, Jarso said.
The Kinna Dedha council has divided its grazing fields into three areas - one for the wet season (March-May), one for the dry season (May-October), and one to tap in periods of heavy drought (if there is a lack of rainfall for two consecutive wet seasons).
In 2014, the Dedha council, with support from the Adaptation Consortium, even installed a water storage dam as a backup in case all other water options are exhausted - though Kinna residents have not yet had to use it.
The Dedha system, however, has not brought an end to all of the pastoralist community's worries. Among the biggest is the encroachment by other pastoralist communities from outside Isiolo County onto their carefully protected land.
Trouble with outsiders
According to Jadhan Waqo, a 78-year-old community leader, "herdsmen from [the counties of] Wajir, Mandera and Garissa come all the way to our land and graze their livestock without even asking us."
He recently received a phone call from a Kinna resident informing him of Somali herdsmen crossing into Kinna from Wajir County with hundreds of camels.
"The pasture they use is what we have set aside for our livestock to feed on when the drought comes," Waqo complained. "Yet when we report the matter to the District Officer we are told this is a free country and they are free to graze here."
Resource conflicts between communities in Kenya's Eastern and North Eastern provinces are common. Isiolo County, however, is in the process of passing legislation that will officially recognise the authority of Dedha councils, after lobbying from the councils and non-governmental organisations that support them.
"Once the legislation passes we hope that we'll legally be able to protect our pastures from encroaching communities," Waqo said.

Friday, 24 June 2016

How to survive crop failure? Swap with the neighbours

By Kagondu Njagi
KANJAU, Kenya, June 20 - On a sunny morning, Millicent Makena is sifting two bags of beans for storage, the flakes of chaff clinging to her black top and navy skirt.
However, the beans are not from her farm. Instead, she swapped two bags of maize for them, trading with Helen Cianjoka, another farmer who lives eight kilometres away, in another village in eastern Kenya.
After favourable rains, Makena’s maize did well last season, and her harvest in January netted her six bags of maize, twice what she normally grows in a season. However, the prolonged rainfall also destroyed her entire crop of beans.
Millicent Makena sifts grain for storage.TRF/ Kagondu Njagi
“When it rains a lot, we get a good maize harvest but the beans are destroyed because they cannot withstand much rain when they are maturing,” Makena explained. “When there is little rain, we harvest beans but the maize wastes away.”
Erratic weather, she explains, has been a growing pain for farmers the past few years. Nevertheless, a number of farmers like her are discovering new ways to bridge the grain gap: by swapping with neighbours.
Bartering of crops, without any cash changing hands, has probably existed as long as farming has. Nevertheless, such trades have increased in recent years as farmers struggle to cope with worsening weather conditions, said Eustace Thiginski, a Kanjau village elder.
“In the past, farmers would trade livestock for grain,” he added. “But that is no longer possible because the value of livestock has gone up, so bartering is done with grain only.”
According to Cianjoka, whose maize dried up and failed this year while her bean fields thrived, just a few kilometres of distance can make the difference between a lack of rain or an abundance of it.
 “This is affecting how we grow crops, because we do not know what to plant,” she said.
To prevent crop losses to erratic weather, Cianjoka now plants different varieties of grain, including maize, beans, sorghum and millet. She hopes that at least one of the crops will survive if nature “plays tricks on her.”
However, that strategy can go wrong if “some farmers end up planting the wrong crops because they do not receive reliable information about seasonal weather patterns,” said Ashok Khosla, co-chair of the International Resource Panel (IRP), an arm of the U.N. Environment Programme that focuses on using world resources more sustainably.
Still, Makena and Cianjoka say swapping grain has been a useful way to build resilience to climate extremes.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Cooperative empowering farmers through milk bulking

By Bob Aston
Mumberes Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd in Maji Mazuri Ward, Eldama Ravine Sub County is changing the lives of more than 4,500 farmers in Baringo County.
Registered in 1982, the organization has been marketing farmer’s milk, providing farm inputs and artificial insemination services through check-off system, training farmers on best agricultural practices, providing transport services to farmers and market research and development.
Laikipia maize farmers at Mumberes cooperative during an exchange visit

Mr. Isaac Tubei, Chairman Mumberes Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd said that milk bulking accounts for 90 percent of their business activity. The cooperative collects an average of 12,000 litres of milk per day, which they sell to Home Cow Creamers and the local community. In 2016 the cooperative recording milk intake of 3 million litres.

Notable achievements of the cooperative include purchase of 10,000-litre capacity milk cooler and other accessories at a cost of Kshs 7.5 million shillings, monthly produce advance facility to members worth kshs 600,000, and setting up of three agrovets and two milk bars.
Others include employment of 25 permanent staff, office modernization at a cost of Kshs 450,000, erecting a new building worth Kshs 1.2 million shillings. The building has housed a modern kitchen, washing bay and two milk coolers.
Mr. Tubei said that the cooperative has computerized all its operations through use of Management Information Systems (MIS), digital weighing scales, swipe cards, and bulk sms.
Use of Information and communication technologies (ICT) has reduced time for payments from 15 to 3 days. In addition, milk recording and handling has improved member’s confidence, as the digital weighing scales are more accurate as they weigh to a decimal place.
“We have laid a lot of emphasis on information sharing at the cooperative society. Every three months all the directors are required to hold an information day in order to brief members on the progress of the cooperative. We are also using our website and Facebook page to keep in touch with our members,” said Mr. Tubei.
The cooperative has stocked animal feeds, milking salves, mineral supplements, and farm equipment’s at the agrovets.
Mr. Tubei said that they have set aside a demonstration farm with various fodder crops and fodder trees. Extension officers usually train farmers at the demonstration farm on fodder production and management. In addition, the cooperative has a zero grazing unit fitted with biogas digester. Extension officers are using the unit to train members on feeding and management of dairy cows.
To ensure that members improve the quality of their breeds, the cooperative has outsourced Artificial Insemination (AI) services. The members pay for the service through a check-off system as the members are deducted the cost when they deliver milk.
Mumberes Farmers cooperative demonstration plot
To improve saving culture amongst the members, the cooperative has established Village Savings and Loans Association. The cooperative has also linked members to Skyline Sacco to enable them access affordable credit.
Mr. Tubei said that they have an elaborate succession plan through formation and professionalization of a youth council. The council has been actively involved in recruiting more youths to the cooperative as well training them on dairy farming.
The cooperative mode of election is slightly different, as contestants have to apply for any elective post. A subcommittee then vets the list of aspirants. Each of the nine administrative unit of the cooperative then elects one representative.
Mr. Tubei noted that water shortage used to affect milk bulking and chilling but the situation has since improved after the County government improved water supply in the area.
The cooperative has also constructed a 20 m by 4 m water tank as well as investing in other water harvesting technologies. The tank can serve the cooperative for a period of 3 months when there is no water.
The cooperative intends to collaborate with local banks to offer Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) services through Sacco-Link and M-Banking Networks that will enable the members to access their accounts using mobile phones and make deposits using assigned pay bill numbers.
He said that the cooperative is also planning to establish a community-learning centre. The centre will enable farmers to access farming innovations, market information, and development issues. The cooperative also intends to start an animal feed mill.

Mumberes Farmers Cooperative Society is a strong testament that a well-managed cooperative can help reduce farmer’s production cost as well as ensuring that farmers enjoy the benefits of bulk producing.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Forest dwellers turn paralegals to keep ancestral land

By Sophie Mbugua
SESIMWANI, Kenya – Birds sing, feet shuffle, as women and men of all ages emerge from spreading canopies of green.
Dressed in gumboots and carrying umbrellas, they hurry towards the Olodomut Nursery School in Sesimwani village, in Kenya’s Mau Forest. The community land mobiliser has called a meeting for the entire Ogiek community to discuss its by-laws.  
The Ogiek, a hunting and gathering community, have been living in the Mau Forest complex – Kenya’s largest block of forest cover, at the centre of the Rift Valley province – for decades.
A woman fetching firewood in Mau Forest, Kenya.PHOTO/Sophie Mbugua
 “The forest is very important for our community,” said Veronica Ngusilwa, one of the school’s teachers. “We collect wild fruit, firewood and use particular trees and shrubs for medication.”
The Ogiek, however, have lacked recognition since colonial times, leading to their political, social and economic marginalisation, according to Daniel Kobei, executive director of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Programme (OPDP).
The Mau Forest lost great chunks of land through excisions by the Kenyan government for agricultural and settlement purposes, with the land now replaced with maize plantations. The UN Environmental Programme reported the destruction of over 100,000 hectares between 1990 and 2001 – the latest figures available.
“The government periodically hives off large chunks of forest land, allegedly for ‘landless’ Kenyans but actually for distribution to powerful, well-connected individuals,” said Kobei.
Securing land rights
The OPDP, supported by the Namati Community Land Protection Programme, is training the Ogiek to map and document their ancestral land and create by-laws that will govern them in preparation for the passing of the 2015 Community Land Bill.
 “We believe that if the Ogiek are recognised as co-managers of the land by the government, destruction of the Mau forest complex will be reduced significantly,” said Kobei.
When the bill is enacted – which is expected for August 2016 – the 67 percent of the country’s community land will be officially registered. This will enable communities such as the Ogiek to secure land rights and be issued with a title deed, believes Kobei.
The OPDP has been educating the Ogiek on various legislation such as the Constitution, the Community Land Bill and the Kenya Forest Services Act – among others – as well as on international legislation like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The community votes on by-laws once they have passed legal checks to ensure they abide by existing local, national and international laws. The laws are then adopted if they reap two-thirds of votes.
Ngusilwa hopes that the documentation of the by-laws will strengthen the traditional values of the Ogiek community. “The by-laws serve as a reminder of traditions, especially to younger generations,” she said.
She also sees an opportunity to develop by-laws safeguarding women and girls’ rights, and hopes the community will be issued with a title deed to help them improve their infrastructure.
For example, a bridge over the Sigider River would shorten children’s daily walk to school, currently standing at three kilometres.
However, Mac Odera, assistant Ecosystem Conservator at the Kenya Forest Services in Nakuru County, believes the Ogiek’s lifestyle is a threat to conservation and wishes they were allocated land outside of the forest.
“They are now farming using modern practices such as pesticides, which threatens forest recovery,” he said.   
He suggests the Ogiek join other Community Forest Associations to help monitor illegal activities in the forest, while living on its periphery.
Kobei, however, believes that “allocating land outside of the forest to the Ogiek would imply the government doesn’t want them to be part of the forest.”
“All we are asking is for the government to give us back our home where our ancestors live, let us own it, and we will protect it as we have always done,” he added.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Resilience pays off as cooperative finally finds its footing

By Bob Aston
Sigoro Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd from Lembuskwen Ward in Eldama Ravine Sub County is emerging as one of the fastest growing cooperative in Baringo County. Registered as an agricultural marketing cooperative organization in October 18, 1984, the cooperative has faced its major share of challenges including suspension of its activities during a leadership struggle.
The year 2006 marked a major turning point for the cooperative as the 912-member organization elected new office bearers.
Milk being offloaded from the cooperative pickup

Mr. William Kiptum, Chairman, Sigoro Farmers Cooperative Society said that reviving the cooperative was a difficult task after previous management committee members had embezzled all the cooperative finances.

“Gaining members trust was difficult as they thought we would also squander their money. We initially had to take a loan to ensure farmers were paid every week,” said Mr. Kiptum.
The organization is helping farmers through aggregation and marketing of cereals, milk marketing, agrovet, and extension services.
Ten years later the cooperative has managed to build an office block through a loan from Skyline Sacco worth Kshs 300,000. The cooperative also has a 3 million shillings lorry. Members contributed Kshs 1 million for purchase of the lorry while 2 million shillings was a loan from Skyline Sacco.
Mr. Kiptum noted that they have been trying to integrate youths and women in the cooperative to ensure continuity. New members pay a registration fee of Kshs 200 while share capital is Kshs 6,000 per farmer.
In 2014, the cooperative took a 2 million shillings loan in order to start an agrovet. The members receive seeds, fertilizer, and other services through a check-off system. This has ensured that other traders do not exploit the members while at the same time enabling them to increase production.
The cooperative has employed a staff of four to manage their agrovet, cereals store, and dairy unit. The members supply nearly 2,500 litres of milk per day. Installed at the cooperative premises by New Kenya Co-operative Creameries Ltd (KCC) is a 5,000-litre capacity milk cooler. New KCC pays the cooperative Kshs 4,000 per month as rent.
The four staff members are ensuring that the cooperative promotes sustainable agricultural development and reconstruction through joint bulking and marketing of milk and cereals in order to have a strong bargaining power for better prices. The cooperative has also been facilitating provision of production services such as farm inputs.
Mr. Kiptum said that they have laid a lot of emphasis on membership, investments and returns, organization growth, Information and communication technology (ICT), policies and procedures, service to producers and internal control procedures.
Mr. Kiptum said that market for cereals is not a problem as they have cultivated a strong relationship with school in the area thus they have been receiving homegrown school meal programme tenders.
They also have four buying centres. They have rented four stores in the centres and a subcommittee manages each centre.
Farmers from Laikipia County during an exchange visit at Sigoro Farmers cooperative
In order to ensure that cereals are in the store throughout the year, they have devised a way of rewarding committee members by giving them 10 shillings for every bag of maize that they bring to the store.
The cooperative is also a member of Baringo Agricultural Marketing Services Cooperative Society Limited (BAMSCOS).The umbrella organization formed in August 2012 is helping to facilitate farmer’s access to profitable markets for their farm produce as well as provision of production support services and championing farmer’s interest through advocacy.
“We are building liquidity and we hope soon we will not only be a voice for farmers but we will also be a reputable agricultural marketing society in Baringo County,” said Mr. Kiptum.
To ensure all the members remain active, the cooperative has been organizing open learning days, and exhibitions aimed at building the capacity of members on milk and cereal production. Awarding active members during annual general meetings has also helped to ensure most members remain active.
The group has been keeping different accounts for each of its enterprises to help in tracking profitable enterprises. A subcommittee manages each business.
Sigoro Farmers Cooperative Society is a strong testament that strong leaderships can ensure that farmer groups can play a critical role in empowering farmers. The cooperative is among the few that pay the highest returns to farmers in Baringo County.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Small-scale farmers go online to find market for their produce

By Agnes Aboo
Small -scale farmers in Meru County have adopted an online platform to monitor and find markets for their produce.
Sokopepe Limited, a social enterprise supporting the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information and farm records management services, operates the online platform.
The company has two services namely; Farm Records Management Information System (Farmis) and SOKO+ which helps farmers keep online farm records and get market for their produces.
Martin Murangiri,Sokopepe officer explaining how FARMIS operates
Farmis is a farm management and diagnostic tool based on the use of farm records. It was developed by diverse stakeholders in the agriculture sector and is aimed at identifying productivity trends, profitability of different farm enterprises and producing evidence for use in decision making at the farm, county and national levels.
Farmis is based on the idea that with farm records a farmer or other stakeholders can access to various reports, which highlight husbandry practices, market trends, weather conditions and on-farm challenges.
Risk assessment
It is used in risk assessment, insurance, extension, and access to finances. Due to its ability to aggregate reports and analyses, one can also carry out bulk marketing of farmers’ produce.
These reports include production (yield, identification of profitable lines), market reports (farm gate prices) and profit and loss accounts used when making decisions.
On the other hand, SOKO+ provides commodity prices from major markets around the areas of operation and beyond. SOKO+ is designed to address transactions and extension needs along the entire value chain from farm inputs to the buyer of the final products.
This enhances farmers’ incomes whereby they by-pass numerous brokers. The reason is that farmers reduce their transaction costs, and through commodity aggregation, they have more negotiating power for better prices, bulk discounting of inputs and further reach desirable markets.
The programme was started in 2014 and today more than 7,000 small scale farmers have embraced the technology which they say is working well for them.
Most of the farmers in the programme have access to bigger markets after being trained on how to use the online farm record management system.
The company’s field team leader Martin Murangiri said the platform is meant to help small scale farmers embrace IT as a way of monitoring the progress of their produce.
“Many farmers live in poverty because they do not understand how to manage their farming records, which leads to losses after every harvest season,” said Mr Murangiri.
Farmers pay a Sh500 annual fee for the services. They are advised on the kind of crops to plant and the type of fertilisers to use each planting season.
Farmers in Tigania West, Buuri, Imenti North, Imenti Central and Imenti South sub counties have adopted the online platform. Mr Murangiri said that they hope to train more Meru County farmers by the end of this year.
He said that with the record keeping system farmers can easily access loans from banks and other government institutions and get market information from different areas.
“With the online system, farmers get messages on their mobile phones indicating the prices of different commodities in markets countrywide.
“We are designing another application which will help farmers to get prices of commodities in local markets in Meru,” he added. Farmer Fredrick Kinoti said that he used to mak loses before he started using the online record keeping system.
“I farm a variety of crops like maize, beans and coffee alongside animal keeping. Before I was introduced to the system I could not pay for my children’s school fees due to huge loses. Since I started using this system I can comfortably pay school fees and earn profit too,” said Mr Kinoti.
He added that before he started keeping records he used to harvest two to three bags of maize but after the new system he harvests up to 15 bags from his two-acre land.
Another farmer, Jane Nturibi, said that she plants maize, sorghum, mangoes, beans and peas on her five-acre piece of land.
“I am a beneficiary of the Sokopepe initiative. I hope that by the next two years I will have developed more, courtesy of Sokopepe,” she said.
The farmers urged their colleagues to adopt the new technology, which will help them earn more.
Gakii Marango, an agricultural extension officer in Mwanganthia Ward, said that many small-scale farmers were literate and that expansion of the technology to remote areas would help them earn more.
“Farmers do not know the importance of keeping records but if the programme is introduced to them they will learn its importance,” she said.

The Daily Nation previously published this article in its original version on April 21, 2016.  Access the original article here

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Striving for land degradation neutrality during World Day to Combat Desertification

By Bob Aston
Inclusive cooperation for achieving Land degradation neutrality is the theme of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification. The national celebration in Kenya is at Pap Sori Grounds, Karungu Township in Migori County on June 17, 2016.
Effects of climate change. PHOTO: Bonface Njenga
The celebration will address the importance of comprehensive participation and cooperation in working towards achieving land degradation neutrality.
According to NEMA-Kenya, Karungu Township in Migori County is semi-arid and has all the characteristics of an emerging desert, with prolonged dry spells. In addition, deforestation particularly in Nyatike and Got-Kachola forest has led to decreased water supply to major rivers in the County.
Environmental degradation in the County has resulted in severe climatic changes. This has affected the agricultural sector directly and indirectly resulting into reduced crop productivity and subsequent food deficits in Migori County.
The main activities during the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) celebrations include tree planting, a procession, exhibitions, media talk shows, and a visit to selected rehabilitated areas in Migori County.
The culmination of the event will be the various messages by dignitaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary Prof. Judi Wakhungu of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Regional Development Authorities. Others will be Prof Geoffrey Wahungu, the Director General of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA-Kenya) and the representatives of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)  and United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Desertification is the result of a cycle of land degradation, turning once fertile soils into sterile land because of over-exploitation by intensive farming, forest exploitation for fuel and timber, and overgrazing.
According to Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, without a long-term solution, desertification and land degradation will not only affect food supply but also lead to increased migration and threaten the stability of many nations and regions. This is why world leaders made land degradation neutrality one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
WDCD 2016 event advocates for the importance of inclusive cooperation to restore and rehabilitate degraded and contribute towards achieving the overall SDGs.
In order to ‘leave no one behind’ as proclaimed in the new Sustainable Development Goals, achieving land degradation neutrality needs to be in the forefront to meet our requirements and develop sustainability.
In 1994, the UN General Assembly declared June 17 the WDCD to promote public awareness of the issue, and the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.
The slogan: “Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People” provides a strong reminder that strengthening community participation and cooperation at all levels can play a significant role in combating desertification. Join the efforts to deal with desertification and land degradation by planting trees and involving yourself in environmental conservation.

Follow the hashtag #WDC2016Ke on Twitter and Facebook to stay informed on the activities of the World Day to Combat Desertification.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Learning through knowledge sharing exchange visits

By Bob Aston
Farmer representatives drawn from 30 groups in Laikipia County on June 8-9, 2016 visited four cooperatives from Baringo County to measure their performance with other cooperatives and seek ways of improving their products and services.
The farmers being trained on seed multiplication at Marigat
The Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) supported the knowledge sharing exchange visit in order to enable the farmer representatives to share knowledge with Mumberes Farmers Cooperative Society, Sabatia Farmers Cooperative Society, Sigoro Farmers Cooperative Society, and Marigat Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), and Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) joined the farmer representatives and ASDSP during the knowledge sharing exchange visit.
Mrs. Peris Mutua, ASDSP-Laikipia Value Chain Development officer said that they decided on Baringo County to enable the farmers learn how to improve on management, resource mobilization, how to integrate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in business operations and how to run grain business hubs.
Mrs. Mutua noted that they are keen to ensure that farmer groups from Laikipia County adopt check-off system.  The system ensures that farmers access inputs and other services while the service provider receives payment for the goods or services delivered to the farmer on credit.
“We hope that our farmers would learn how their Baringo counterparts manage joint marketing, mobilise funds and engage with financial institutions and how we can ensure that our warehouses are utilized,” said Mrs. Mutua.
She noted that most farmer groups in Laikipia County have not adopted ICT in their operations. This has prevented most groups from becoming successful and running sustainable agribusiness enterprises.
Farmer representatives from Laikipia at Mumberes Farmers cooperative
“We hope that the discussion with Baringo cooperatives will enable our farmer’s close the knowledge gaps that hold them back. They will now be able to introduce new business services by tapping into ICT,” said Mrs. Mutua.
During discussions with their Baringo counterparts, the farmer representatives learned that embracing use of ICTs could help them provide knowledge-based services to their members. This would enable them to coordinate their planning and monitoring of production and marketing systems by virtually aggregating data and use of check-off system.
Interestingly, all the cooperatives that the Laikipia County team visited are running different business enterprises and are using Management Information System software.
At Marigat Farmers Cooperative Society, the group learned that instead of relying on maize production they can diversity by investing in seed multiplication business. Most of the Marigat Farmers cooperative members prefer doing seed multiplication as the returns are better than maize production.
Mr. David Githinji, Laikipia West Crops officer noted that exchange visit are more productive compared to normal training as farmers are able to hear from their peers. He noted that the exchange visit was beneficial to farmer groups from Laikipia County as they learned more about marketing, linkages, and increasing accessibility to investment capital.
“We hope that the exchange visit will help the farmer organization leaders strengthen their business hubs as well as enhance their capacity to sell grains more efficiently and profitably,” said Mr. Githinji.

The exchange visit was part of the implementation of the ASDSP maize second concept note titled: “Promotion of environmentally resilient and socially inclusive maize production, post harvesting and marketing through Strengthening of Institutions in Laikipia County.”

Monday, 13 June 2016

Africa Agriculture Science Week: Applying science to improve livelihoods

By Bob Aston
Agricultural stakeholders from all around Africa and other stakeholders with interest in African Agriculture science, technology, and innovation (STI) are converging in Kigali, Rwanda from today to June 16, 2016 to attend the 7th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW7) and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) General Assembly. The theme of the event is “Apply Science, Impact Livelihoods.”
The conference provides the African Agriculture STI stakeholders with an opportunity to reflect on their achievements over the past three years and come up with strategies and actions directed at enhancing the contribution of Agriculture STI towards facilitating the continent’s economic and social transformation during the next three years.

The conference is organized around five key sub-themes that include Institutional systems and policies for making science work for African agriculture; sustainable productivity growth, value chains and profitable agribusinesses; human capital development and the Youth; sustainable financing of Science, Technology and Innovation for African agriculture; and megatrends in African Agriculture.
The four-day conference and exhibition focuses on the operationalization of the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa at country level. This is through discussing African Positions and building consensus on key issues concerning African Agriculture STI. Others include discussing contemporary evolutions in STI for agriculture and mapping out a broad agenda for repositioning STI for African agriculture over the next three years.
The event will feature distinguished keynote speakers, plenary sessions, an exhibition / trade fair, parallel side meetings, the Rwanda day (when the host country will showcase its achievements in agricultural research and innovation) and a business session of the FARA General Assembly.
According to Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo, FARA Executive Director, integration of science and technology in agriculture is the lowest in the world thus it is incumbent on African governments to support efforts to develop holistic agricultural policies that encompass science and technology.
Dr. Akinbamijo notes that support for research in agriculture has become critical to ensure the integration of science, technology, and innovation in the continent’s agro practices to achieve the sector’s goals.
The conference precedes an e-discussion on June 6-11, 2016 themed: “Youth and agriculture sciences in Africa.” The CTA, YPARD, FARA, and GFAR organized the discussion around the first three themes of the conference in order to build the capacity of 200 youths who will be reporting on the proceedings of AASW7.
Follow the hashtag #AASW7 on Twitter and Facebook to stay informed on the activities of the science week. Follow @ardyis_cta , @FARAinfo, and @GFARForum for live tweets. Conference reports from the social reporters are available at FARA Blog, CTA Blog and the GFAR blog.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Equipping primary school pupils with agricultural skills

By Bob Aston
The Laikipia County Household Economic Empowerment Programme (HEEP) and the International Small Group Tree Planting Program (TIST), on June 7, 2016 partnered with Bondeni Primary School in Ol-Moran Ward to set up a kitchen garden and a tree nursery.
Members of the schools ‘Kuungana, Kufanya, Kusaidia, Kenya’ (4K Club), Swahili for ‘Coming together, to Act, in order to Help Kenya,’ are overseeing the two projects.
Bondeni Primary School 4K club members preparing the kitchen garden

Mr. Joseph Mwangi, Bondeni Primary School Headmaster said that the school decided to contact the HEEP technical team after learning about the importance of kitchen garden from some of the project beneficiaries.

He said that the school is supporting the 4K Club through provision of kitchen garden materials and seeds to ensure that the project succeeds. The school is planning to plant mixed vegetables in the 20 by 1 metre kitchen garden.
Kitchen garden is a simple method of farming that produce fresh fruits and vegetables’ for delicious, healthy meals. Materials required include dam liner, stones, hardcore, ballast, dry grass, and manure.
Mrs. Elcy Kigano, Laikipia West HEEP Technical Officer said that training members of 4K club is part of a broad attempt by HEEP to equip the young generation with hands on skills in kitchen garden and other agricultural skills. She noted that it is the first time that the project is collaborating with a school.
She said that the establishment of the kitchen garden would ensure the pupils are food and nutrition secure, the 4K Club members are able to train their parents and teachers, and that the 4K club can receive an income through sale of vegetables.
“HEEP will continue to provide technical support to the school. We expect that the pupils will transfer the knowledge gained to their homes. They will also be able to have vegetables in school throughout the year,” said Mrs. Kigano.
She trained members of the 4K club on establishment of wet garden as they are less capital intensive, uses less water, are easy to manage and the school will receive a higher production.
Bondeni Primary School 4K club members with some of the potted seedlings
The Laikipia County Government through the Laikipia County Development Authority (LCDA) is implementing HEEP under the principle of creating empowerment and self-reliance among communities.
Part of the programme implementation involves community mobilization, capacity building, acquiring, and distribution of HEEP components as well as monitoring and evaluation.
On his part, Mr. Joseph Muthee, TIST Trainer said that the organization has been empowering small groups of subsistence farmers to reverse the devastating effects of deforestation, drought, and famine. He urged the school to continue conserving the environment through planting and maintaining trees.
He said that TIST is promoting on-farm and community tree nurseries, as they would provide income to the school and would ensure sustainable land use systems. He said that trees would help the school to get timber for building, fencing, firewood, and fodder.
He noted that the difficulty of procuring tree seeds and the rising cost of tree seedlings make it necessary to establish tree nurseries as they provide the necessary control of moisture, light, soil and predators and allow production of healthy and hardy seedlings.
He took the students through site selection, layout of seedbeds, preparation of germination beds, sowing, and potting seedlings. He expects that the training would help the students to learn the importance of agroforestry, environmental conservation and importance of trees.
“The increased population and demand for wood and building materials has led to massive deforestation.  We hope you will share with your parents the importance of environmental conservation,” said Mr. Muthee.
The 4K club aims to teach pupils sustainable agricultural techniques through various projects in the school. The pupils will soon grow vegetables and practice agroforestry.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Renewable Energy Innovations at Household Level

By Dr. Pacifica Achieng Ogola
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change underpins the importance of increasing renewable energy in developing countries. The Agreement also adopts an ambitious emission reduction target consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C and while working towards 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels.
The high mitigation ambition calls for scaling up of clean technologies, which will strengthen growth of low carbon investments across different sectors.
A woman cooking using Biogas. TRF/ Brian Inganga
The preamble and sections of the Agreement on adaptation also calls for gender equality and women empowerment, as well as adoption of gender-responsive approaches in capacity-building efforts by countries.
In most developing countries and African countries in particular, opportunities to respond to energy crisis and gender needs are unexploited. Potential in renewable energy and in particular efficient use and conservation of biomass and green non-biomass solutions at rural household level is unexploited.
Over the centuries, a lot of progress has been made to exploit and to convert renewable energy resources into usable forms. Conversion methods and tools have also evolved over time but improvement of efficiencies is still evolving.
Despite this progress, 700 million Africans do not have access to clean and efficient cooking methods mainly due to high costs and culture. The consequence of this according to the World Health Organization is that globally, 1.6 million annual deaths are attributed to indoor air pollution from cooking using firewood, dung, and organic waste.
In Africa alone, over 600,000 women and children die every year from the impacts of indoor pollution. The goal of the UN-initiative on Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) inspires universal access to modern cooking solutions by 2030.
In particular, the Post-2015 framework on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires concerted efforts from all to lift women and children out of smoky kitchens and reduce time and money spent sourcing for fuel.
Particularly relevant to clean cooking is Goal seven on access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Universal access to clean cooking solutions is also essential to attainment of many SDGs such as Goal three on reducing global mortality and improving overall wellbeing; Goal four on inclusive and equitable education for all children; and environmental sustainability as stated in Goal 13 on Climate Change; Goal 14 on Water; Goal 15 on Land Resources and Goal 17 on International Cooperation.
The high population growth rate and energy demand for cooking requires a transformation in the way we produce, deliver and consume energy particularly at the rural household level. The current household energy system depends on biomass whose combustion according to Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) accounts for 25 per cent of global black carbon emissions.
Black carbon makes up a significant proportion of fine particulate matter, which is a pollutant most associated with premature death and morbidity. Non-biomass cooking solutions such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and biogas technology can offer renewable energy solutions in reducing organic pollutants.
Studies have shown that improved cook stoves can save between 35 per cent and 80 per cent of wood or charcoal compared to traditional cooking methods.
According to the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) for sub-Saharan Africa, the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) abatement potential is on carbon sequestration projects. About 70 percent of the sequestration is attributed to Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) and Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) as well as the use of biomass energy and household food security programs.
All these are areas predominantly in the domains managed by women and children especially in rural settings. The INDCs also have specific interventions for household energy systems and associated policies with e expected positive impact on both climate change mitigation and adaptation.
This calls for rigor in planning, management, investment and monitoring of actions in clean cooking as well as focused financial resource-mobilization, policies that promote resource use efficiency, development non conventional renewable energy, innovation and research as well as social equity and gender equality.
These initiatives must be supported with meaningful actions, leadership and partnership and should culminate in not only developing products and services that are cost and need efficient, but also scalable, sustainable and gender responsive.
It is therefore important for African Countries to take appropriate steps to develop national consultative mechanisms that are aligned to transition to clean cooking technologies and gender responsive low carbon investments. To achieve these, bold, transformative and adaptive leadership in formulating green growth policies and strategies is obligatory.
Concerted efforts must be made to deliver policies in all relevant sectors that incentivise and remove the biggest barriers to adoption and use of clean cooking methods. The idea is to have accessible least cost products with maximum impacts on household health, time and budget while reducing emissions and enhancing resilience.
One of the biggest barriers to adoption of clean cook stoves in Africa is culture. It is also worth noting that there is no one size fits all cook stove, and manufacturers must be encouraged to tailor their products to local culture to increase adoption rate.
Users must be the champions of this transformation as they are directly affected and understand the challenges and possible local solutions. Innovative payment systems such as easy mobile payments, household credit facilities, revolving funds as well as timely and coordinated technology transfer to users can have a significant impact in acquisition and use of clean stoves.
Successful adoption of solar technology such as Women Barefoot Solar Engineers, which includes some grandmothers, who are delivering energy in rural areas, can be emulated. Integration of benefits from clean stoves should also be included in education and curriculum to ensure awareness is increased and that people are equipped with skills and passion to implement at an early stage.
Training and awareness can also be effected using innovation and demonstration centres to train local entrepreneurs and build a pool of technicians of both genders. Clean cook stoves can enhance livelihoods through local production or maintenance as well as inclusive and equitable education for more children as articulated in Goal number four of the SDGs.
Dr. Pacifica F. Achieng Ogola is the Climate Change Director Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities. E-mail
Article is available in edition 17 of Joto Afrika Newsletter. Download a copy here