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Friday, 22 July 2016

Drought-hit Kenyan herders turn to new money-maker: hay

By Anthony Langat
MANDERA, Kenya - As a boy, Abdirahman Hillole Musa would spend long hours roaming the scrubland of Kenya's northeast with his father's cows and goats, often venturing into neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia in search of fodder for the animals.
At the best of times, grazing land is in short supply in this arid corner of Kenya dotted with thorny bushes, but in times of drought it is even scarcer - with devastating consequences for pastoralists.
"In those days, we could lose a lot of livestock since some died on the way due to the long distance and lack of pasture," Musa recalled.
Abdirahman Hilole Musa standing next to the community facility.TRF/Anthony Langat
Last month, the 50-year-old was among a group of men arranged on the verandah of the area chief's office, away from the burning glare of the sun.
Engrossed in discussion, they discussed not lack of pasture for their livestock, but a more pressing matter: lack of storage for the hay they'd baled.
More than a decade ago, Musa, now 50, and other farmers in Bula Haji, in Mandera County, attended a government training course on crop irrigation where they learned how to plant, harvest, dry, bale and store hay.
They now plant grass to feed their animals during long dry seasons and during droughts, which are more frequent and harsher due to climate change. Some now make a living selling their surplus hay to the government and other farmers.
Good hay harvests have left them with an unusual problem: lack of storage.
Since learning about irrigation techniques, Musa, a tall, turban-clad man, has grown Sudan and Columbus grass and has never run out of hay for his eight cows and 40 goats.
"I plant maize, beans and vegetables which I sell but I store the grass to feed my livestock. They fatten and when I sell them they fetch a better price," he said.
Up to 1,500 farmers living along the River Daua are using irrigation to produce hay, according to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), a state body set up in 2011 to coordinate drought management in arid areas.
"There has been huge adoption by farmers in the recent past and right now there isn't a single parcel that is not under cultivation along the river," Hussein Mohamed, the authority's county drought coordinator, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Every three months, the NDMA provides training on different farming methods on a government farm in Mandera. Guidance on crop irrigation is considered a priority subject, especially for farmers living along the River Daua. At least 100 farmers are trained at a time.
"This is an arid area and our people are generally pastoralists, so crop irrigation is new to them. They are taught to plant grass and make hay so that they can have enough feed for their livestock in drought," said Mohamoud Adan, who manages the government farm.
The drought management authority provides five kilos of seeds to first-time grass farmers in order to motivate them. When there is a drought, the farmers also receive fuel.
Some farmers like Abdi Mohamed Haji, 60 are already buying their own fuel and extra seeds. "I get five kilos from the NDMA and I buy five more so that I can plant on one acre," Haji said.
He has 400 bales of Sudan grass from his March harvest in a communal storage facility in Bula Haji.
Unlike Musa, Haji, who has seven camel and 50 goats, sells most of his hay.
"I do not need a lot of hay because I have camels and goats. I am looking to sell at between 350 shillings ($3.50) and 500 shillings ($4.95) a bale," he said.
The River Daua usually dries up between December and February. Recognising that it is during this dry season that stored hay is most needed, the drought authority buys hay from farmers at between 450 shillings and 500 shillings a bale to distribute to farmers in other parts of Mandera.
NDMA's Mohamed hopes that, in the long run, the agency will not have to distribute hay free of charge to those in need of it. With more funds he said, the authority would like to build dams across Mandera County, to help farmers practise irrigation in the hinterland too.
When the dry season ended earlier this year, Haji and Musa planted their Sudan grass and harvested it six weeks later. After the March harvest, the river burst its banks and flooded many farms.
But this time the father of 11 is optimistic he can recover and make ends meet by selling hay, not his animals.
"I do not have to sell my camels to pay school fees for my children. I make enough from selling hay," Haji said.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Enhancing adoption of record keeping through improved marketing skills

By Bob Aston
Sokopepe Ltd, a social enterprise supporting the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information through SOKO+ and farm records management service through Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS) is holding a two-day training for Production Information Agents (PIA) at Methodist Bio-Intensive Agricultural Training Centre in Meru County on July 18-19, 2016.
The training seeks to equip the PIAs with marketing skills to ensure enhanced adoption of FARMIS by the farmers. In addition, the forum has provided a platform for the PIAs to share experiences, challenges and to lay strategies on how they will surpass the target of profiling 16,290 farmers by the end of March 2017.
The FARMIS Innovation roll out in the nine sub counties in Meru County is being supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Kenya Feed Innovation Engine (KIE)
Ms. Roseline Ngusa, one of the Sokopepe Ltd directors addressing the PIAs
Speaking while opening the training, Ms. Roseline Ngusa, one of the Sokopepe Ltd Directors said that the organization is keen on enabling farmer’s view their farming as a commercial business and helping them make right farming decisions for increased production and profitability.  
She said that KIE commissioned Short term technical assistance (STTA) to support the organization in developing a business model and Marketing and distribution plan thus the reason for holding the PIA training.
Training the PIAs would equip them with information that would help them support smallholder farmers who are the majority in Meru County and rarely keep farm records to develop and nurture a culture of record keeping.
In addition, training them would ensure that they provide extension services to farmers and training them on how to keep accurate primary data as such data can inform many aspects of planning that can empower the farmers to improve their incomes, livelihoods, and enhancing food security.
FARMIS innovation seeks to enable the creation of a complete documentation of the farming enterprise resulting in a comprehensive digital database available in a central server and online. This will enables agriculture stakeholders such as the County and central government, agro-input providers, providers of agriculture credit and development partners to get an accurate perspective of the status of agriculture at any given time.

The PIA’s are instrumental in providing farm record keeping data, demand driven extension services, boosting farmer’s access to information and acting as intermediaries between the innovation and farmers.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Companies now liable for climate change damages in Kenya

By Edna Odhiambo
Climate change lawsuits are gaining momentum as citizens are increasingly turning to domestic courts to hold governments and corporations accountable for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With the passing of its 2016 Climate Change Act, Kenya is among the few countries globally to directly regulate on climate change, signaling strong political will to pursue low-emission development.
The act allows citizens to sue private and public entities that frustrate efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.
Solar carport at Garden City Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
The law establishes the National Climate Change Council, which has the power to impose climate change obligations on private establishments, including regulations on the nature and procedure for reporting on performance.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), on behalf of the council, is charged with monitoring, investigating and reporting on compliance. An organisation that fails to comply may incur a fine of up to a million Kenyan shillings ($9,900) and officers risk five years imprisonment if they withhold or gives false information to NEMA.
An interesting feature of this law is the lenient standard required to prove liability. It is enough to prove that a corporation is not doing enough to address climate change without having to also demonstrate that a person has suffered loss or injury.
Traditionally, in public interest environmental cases, though the law waives the requirement of demonstrating direct harm, there is still a requirement that an applicant establish that a section of society will suffer harm. Perhaps the indulgence granted to climate suits demonstrates the severity and urgency that we should all exercise when tackling a global crisis that threatens the survival of humanity.
The consequences of liability may be exceedingly costly for corporations as Kenya’s Environment and Land Court has the power to order compensation for climate victims where it deems appropriate. Once a company becomes included within a climate change regime, the likely substantial compliance requirements will entail significant, related ongoing costs of operation and management that could affect returns and competitiveness.
An example of liability arising from climate change disclosures is the Volkswagen scandal. "We've totally screwed up," said Volkswagen’s America boss Michael Horn, when the car-manufacturing giant ran into serious problems in 2015 for falsifying carbon dioxide emission tests of their vehicles.
Recalling and modifying the vehicles has resulted in massive losses of approximately $2.8 billion and likely fines of up to $20 billion may be incurred.  Additionally, VW stated in its quarterly report that it anticipates facing criminal and civil charges from national regulatory authorities and lawsuits from customers and investors.
So how do you navigate the pitfalls of climate change liability? In the corporate world, companies and their shareholders are increasingly addressing climate change by conducting research and adopting explicit policies and practices as part of sound environmental and risk management practices.
Shareholder proposals submitted to major corporations such as Phillips, Gillette and Reebok state that corporate boards of directors and managers have a "fiduciary duty" to be informed, and to inform shareholders, about potential climate change risks and opportunities.
This involves careful assessment and disclosure to shareholders of information on significant risks associated with climate change, and warrants precautionary, prudent and early actions to enhance competitiveness and protect profitability in a world moving away from fossil fuels.
Public disclosure of uncertainties that are likely to result in significant changes in a company's liquidity because of climate change is essential. Furthermore, factors affecting sales or revenues that may have a current or future effect on the company's financial condition, results of operations, liquidity, or capital resources are equally important to consider.
Nevertheless, it’s not all gloom and doom, as the act creates opportunities for the private sector by advocating for incentives to pursue low-carbon development and promotion of research and development on clean technologies.
This indicates that there will be significant financing channeled towards tax reliefs to promote uptake of clean energy, energy efficiency, and to encourage sustainable architecture. Consequently, the future promises numerous business prospects for members of the private sector who are willing to embrace sustainable development pathways for posterity.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Farm records helps farmer to increase investment in profitable enterprises

By Thomas Ngaruiya
An innovative solution targeting smallholder farmers in Meru County has helped Mr. Nkanata Mwitari, a 75 year old farmer from Karindine village, Imenti Central to improve his agribusiness.
Mr. Mwitari started farming in 1963 after quitting alcohol and drug addiction. However, he only started keeping farm records from January 2016 after joining Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS). The innovation by Sokopepe Ltd supports the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information through SOKO+ and farm records management services through FARMIS.
Production Information Agents (PIA) automating FARMIS records
“I heard about Sokopepe a year ago but I did not see the need to subscribe to FARMIS since I felt like I had enough farming experience. For over fifty years, I never kept farm records," said Mr. Mwitari.
His interest rose when FARMIS Production Information Agents (PIA) visited his farm early this year and took him through the benefits of joining the innovative service. The visit enabled him to see the value of his farm and the importance of concentrating on high value crops.
“I had to talk with my son who lives in Nairobi to send me the subscription fee. After joining FARMIS I was given a farm book and the PIA also opened my online account,” said Mr. Mwitari.
His journey in farming started at a tender age after he lost his father, which prevented him from going to school. Although he has never had a formal employment, he has managed to educate his eight children through proceeds from his farm.  Two are graduates while the rest have college and secondary education.
He believes that only hard work can make people live a better life. He always spends a minimum of six hours a day tending to his farm together with one permanent employee and casual farm workers or attending agricultural forums.
In August 1961, he started contract farming for French bean companies. However, after some few years, he shifted to banana and coffee farming due to reduced French beans prices caused by increased production.
Mr. Nkanata Mwitari applying fertilizer to his onions
He said that good coffee and banana prices during 1970-1980 enabled him to purchase a 3-acre farm. He then increased the number of coffee trees to 700 but the number reduced in 1990.
“Farming lost its meaning around 1990 due to low and fluctuating prices. Since then I have been shifting from one crop to another and each season prices of commodities always varies,” says Mr. Mwitari.
He is glad that Sokopepe is providing market information, as he is now able to query for market prices across different towns in the County.  He noted that lack of market information led to the formation of Karindine Horticultural Group to enable farmers aggregate and source for markets for bananas, tomatoes, onions, and cabbages.
He said that the group has a ready market for bananas as they are selling a kilo at Kshs 15. He hopes that Sokopepe will help them find market for their crops.
Through FARMIS, Mr. Mwitari is monitoring the progress of his dry onions, which is on an eighth of an acre. He has invested over Kshs 30,000 but he expects to harvest over 4,000 kilograms in August. He hopes that the market information that he is able to access through Sokopepe will enable him to earn close to Kshs 400,000.
“I wish I had joined FARMIS in 2014 when it was piloted in Meru. I am sure my agribusiness would have really grown by now. However, I believe that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and I have embarked on that journey,” said Mr. Mwitari.
He said that the extension services provided by PIAs has enabled him to know how much he is investing in each enterprise and projected income from each crop. In addition, every week a PIA visits him to check the progress of his crops and to assist him fill the farm book.

He has urged other farmers to join Sokopepe and embrace record keeping as a way of determining profitable crops and the enterprises that are ‘eating’ into their profits. In addition, the record keeping data would enable them to plan their farm enterprises.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Achieving Green Economy in Africa: What are the Options?

By Dr. Benard Muok
As the world journeys to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the question remains: how prepared is Africa to achieve SDGs? Will it be a missed target like the MDGs? Is Africa on the path of green economy?
Why Green Economy?
Green growth is described as a path of economic growth that uses natural resources in a sustainable manner. Green economy can be defined as one that results in “improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities” (UNEP 2010).
Pupils at Lesiredai Primary School in Isiolo County display solar products.TRF/James Ochweri
In its simplest expression, a green economy is low-carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive development approach. In a green economy, growth in income and employment are driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Critical to attaining objectives of this approach to development, is to creating conditions for public and private investments to incorporate broader environmental and social criteria. In addition, the main indicators of economic performance, such as growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should be adjusted to account for pollution, resource depletion, declining ecosystem services and the distributional consequences of natural capital loss to the poor.
A major challenge is reconciling the competing economic development aspirations of rich and poor countries in a world economy that is facing increasing negative impacts ofclimate change, energy insecurity and ecological scarcity.
The world population continues to rise rapidly, by around 75 million people per year. Soon enough there will be 8 billion by the 2020s, and perhaps 9 billion by the early 2040s. These billions of people are looking for their foothold in the world economy.
The poor are struggling to find basic food, safe water, health care, and shelter for survival. Those just above the poverty line are looking for improved prosperity. Those in the high-income brackets hope that technological advances will offer them and their families even higher levels of well-being.
However as we celebrate the progress made in economic growth, it is also important to understand that such growth is based on economic trajectory that relies heavily on fossil fuel and other natural resources yet for a species that depend on the beneficence of nature, or on what the scientists call “environmental services,” we are doing a poor job in protecting our natural capital.
A green economy can meet this challenge by offering a development path that reduces dependence on fossil fuel, promotes resource and energy efficiency and lessens environmental degradation. As economic growth and investments become less dependent on liquidating environmental assets and sacrificing environmental quality, both rich and poor countries can attain more sustainable economic development.
The concept of a green economy does not replace sustainable development; but there is a growing recognition that achieving sustainability rests almost entirely on getting the economy right. Decades of creating new wealth through a “brown economy” model based on fossil fuels have not substantially addressed social marginalisation, environmental degradation and resource depletion. In order to achieve green growth, Africa must avoid carbon lock-in. For decades Africa development has been hugely based on the abundant natural capital base of the continent.
During the past two decades, Africa has embarked on a process of economic transformation. In almost every county and region, white papers have been developed to transform middle level economy as their new vision. For example in Kenya there is Vison 2030, Vision 2025 in Tanzania and Vision 2063 of the African Union.
It is argued that industrial economies have been locked into fossil fuel-based energy systems through a process of technological and institutional co-evolution driven driven by path-dependent increasing returns to scale. It is asserted that this condition, termed carbon lock-in, creates persistent market and policy failures that can inhibit the diffusion of carbon-saving technologies despite their apparent environmental and economic advantages.
The notion of a Techno-Institutional Complex captures the idea that lock-in occurs through combined interactions among technological systems and governing institutions. While carbon lock-in provides a conceptual basis for understanding macro-level barriers to the diffusion of carbon-saving technologies, it also generates questions for standard economic modelling approaches that abstract away technological and institutional evolution in their elaboration.
Studies indicate that after coal and gas power, lock-in of personal, oil-based passenger transport (gasoline and diesel cars) is the most troublesome globally. Policy-makers, especially at the urban scale, need to avoid planning sprawling, car-based infrastructure.
Policy-makers at all levels can adopt stringent fuel economy or CO2-intensity standards for new vehicles. However, there is a major governance deficit in natural resources management around the world. This deficit is largest in countries that depend heavily on natural resources for development and growth.
There is need to address specific needs, opportunities and challenges of the private sector with respect to green growth. Promoting entrepreneurship, addressing the investment constraints faced by women and young entrepreneurs and supporting micro, small and medium enterprises can scale up adoption of green growth policies.
Dr. Benard Muok is the Director of Centre for Research Innovation and Technology at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST). Email 

Article is available in edition 17 of Joto Afrika Newsletter. Download a copy here