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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.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Joto Afrika edition 17 is out

By Bob Aston
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is pleased to present edition 17 of Joto Afrika newsletter.  The edition is a joint effort between ALIN and the Ministry of Environment Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities (MENRRDA) through the Low Emission and Climate Resilient Development (LECRD) Project.
Funding for the LECRD Project is by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this is within the framework of the US Government led effort on Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategy (EC-LEDS).
Joto Afrika edition 17
Joto Afrika, meaning “Africa is feeling the heat’ in Kiswahili is a series of printed briefings and online resources about climate change mitigation and adaptation actions in sub- Saharan Africa. The series helps people understand the issues, constraints, and opportunities that people face in adapting to climate change and escaping poverty.  
ALIN started producing Joto Afrika in 2009 in an 8-page A-4 format. The newsletter usually carries simplified but peer reviewed briefings on climate change research by African scientists.
Issue 17 looks at Green Growth: An overview of the Framework for Development. As a concept, green growth advocates for complimenting actions between how we utilize our natural resources and our daily development endeavors. In addition, it orients policy and associated subsequent actions about climate change issues.
At national level, an assessment report on green growth done in 2014 by the UNDP concludes that Kenya is already implementing various green economy initiatives. The fundamental challenge is to mainstream and align green economy activities across the social, economic, and environmental spheres of society.
This requires an integrated approach through the development of a strategy that identifies the costs, opportunities, tradeoffs, and range of policy instruments that support the transition to a green economy.
It is commendable that research has led to various innovations and technologies in the energy, water, agriculture sectors and value-chain supply as illustrated by articles in this issue of Joto Afrika.
Issue 17 highlights include scaling support for Green innovations; Transition towards an inclusive Green Economy Based on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) practices; Women and Green Energy: Mitigation impacts at household level; Practicing Education for sustainable Development through Eco schools.
Others include Green Growth and Renewable Energy Development in Kenya; Pico Hydro Electricity Innovation Lighting Homes in Murang’a County; Green Building standards and codes; and capacity building for Transformative Business-driven Green Growth.
It is our hope that readers will find the 17th edition of Joto Afrika as informative and that it would add value to their work on addressing the challenges and opportunities that come with climate change as well as give them a deeper understanding of Green Growth. You can download a copy of Joto Afrika issue here.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Sipili cooperative benefits through G-SOKO training and computer donation

By Bob Aston
The Sipili Cereals and Marketing Cooperative Society benefited through G-SOKO training as well as a computer donation from the Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC). EAGC through Virtual City took five management committee members of the cooperative through the training on May 7, 2016 at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre.
The Maarifa Centre has been a resource for the cooperative as they have been accessing free Information and Communication Technology services as well as capacity building in agriculture.
Members of Sipili Cereals and Marketing Cooperative Society during the training
The committee members learned how to use the platform when receiving cereals in the warehouse, weighing, grading, inventory, asset, store, and route management.
Mr. Kelvin Tallam from Virtual City noted that through the online platform, farmers are able to aggregate their produce through a certified warehouse and access financial services using their grains as collateral. The platform performs astructured trade function that integrates the entire grain trade from farm to market.
He said that Sipili cereals and Marketing Cooperative Society would be able to trade their grain competitively and transparently by integrating the entire grain value chain from farm to market.
Mr. Kipyegon Kipkemei, EAGC Central Rift Program Officer said that use of G-soko would strengthen Sipili Cereals and Marketing Cooperative Society warehouse and that they would enjoy the benefits of structured trade once they start using warehouse receipt system.
He noted that the innovation would not only enhance traceability of grains from individual farmers but it would also enable the cooperative to access information on market opportunities, track goods and connect them with buyers.
He said that use of warehouse receipt system would ease collateral constraints for the cooperative members, as banks are able to accept receipts as collateral.
“The platform will improve the cooperative knowledge and use of quality grades and standards for cereals. This will ensure that the cooperative supplies good quality produce due to standardized and proven grading,” said Mr. Kipyegon.
Mr. Douglas Githaiga, Chairman Sipili Cereals, and Marketing Cooperative Society thanked EAGC for organizing the training and for donating a laptop and modem to the group. He said that the equipment’s would help the 100-member cooperative to automate their operations from grain intake to dispatch.
EAGC has installed G-soko software in the laptop. This will help to link the cooperative warehouse with grain actors including traders, banks, suppliers, and agro-dealers.
The EAGC in partnership with Virtual City with the support of FoodTrade East and Southern Africa (Food Trade ESA) is using the G-Soko to connect grain bulking/aggregation centres and certified warehouses, linked to a virtual trading platform, as well as participating banks for settlement and clearing and trading houses all regulated and administered by EAGC.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Kenyan Blog Awards: Preparing to recognize quality content creators

By Bob Aston
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 will be a gala event, which will also see the winners announced on May 14, 2016 at Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi.
The 2016 Kenyan Blog Awards logo
Since 2012, the Kenyan Blog Awards has annually recognized and awarded exceptional Kenyan bloggers and good content creation in the Kenyan blogosphere. The award is unique as it is one of its kind in the Country.
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.
Usually when people hear of bloggers in Kenya, the first impression is always of controversial people who are supporting different political parties and are using the online space to further their parties agenda. Unknown too many, there are Kenyan out there who are creating content on different areas and sharing knowledge with the general public.
Next Saturday will see 19 bloggers representing best technology blog, photography, creative writing, business, food, environment/agriculture, politics, new blog, corporate, topical, sports, education, travel, health, County, religious/spirituality, and best Kenyan Blog of the Year, rewarded for the quality of the content that they create.
The Kenyan Blog Awards has helped to enhance professionalism as well as build the Kenyan blogosphere. Among the blogs vying for the Awards include Laikipia Rural Voices. The blog is among the best five blogs under the County category.
The nomination itself is an achievement as it indicates that many people appreciate the work that Laikipia Rural Voices blog is doing in sharing information on agriculture, particularly on successes and issues faced by the youth engaged in agriculture.
The blog has also been highlighting the role and importance of family farming as well as issues pertaining to climate change, environmental conservation, sustainable land management, and natural resource management.
Many youth have been joining farming because of trainings, reading and consulting the various articles posted on the blog. They have been able to learn from what their peers are doing, as well as gathering information about different crops and farming practices.
Whether the Laikipia Rural Voices wins the Kenyan Blog Awards under the County category or not, this year is already, proving to be a great year as number of blog visitors has increased while feedbacks from readers indicate that the information shared is helping many people.
Mr. Bonney Tunya, CNBC Africa (East Africa) will host this year’s award. Safaricom are the title sponsors for this year’s awards. Other sponsors include EatOut Kenya, Xpose, Samsung, Coca Cola, and Kenya Bankers Association (KBA).
Follow @LAIKIPIAVOICES twitter handle to get live tweets during the gala event next Saturday at Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi. You can also follow the event live at #BAKEAwards

May forecast indicates reduced rainfall intensity in most parts of Kenya

By James Maina
The month of May marks the cessation of the “Long Rains” season over most parts of the country except the Western highlands, parts of central Rift Valley and the Coastal strip.  The forecast also indicates reduced rainfall intensity in most parts of the Country.
The outlook for May 2016 indicates that Mombasa, Mtwapa, Kilifi, Malindi, Msabaha, Lamu, and other parts of the Coastal strip are likely to receive above normal rainfall. Most areas in the Western highlands like Kitale, Kakamega, Eldoret, Kericho, Kisumu, and Kisii are likely to experience near normal rainfall with a tendency to above normal.
Spatial map of rainfall totals in Kenya for 25th April to 1st May 2016
Northwestern Kenya (Lodwar, Lokichoggio, Lokitaung), Central Rift Valley (Narok, Nakuru, Nyahururu, Kajiado), Central highlands including Nairobi area (Embu, Nyeri, Meru, Murang’a, Kiambu, Dagoretti, Wilson, Thika, Kabete) and northern Kenya (Marsabit, Moyale) are likely to receive near normal rainfall with a tendency to above normal (enhanced rainfall).
The Northeastern Kenya (Mandera, Wajir, Garissa) as well as Southeastern Kenya (Machakos, Kangundo, Makindu, Voi, and Taveta among others) are likely to receive near normal rainfall tending to below normal (generally depressed rainfall).
The Kenya Meteorological Department forecast indicates that the seasonal rainfall would continue to June over the western and coastal regions. It is however likely to cease between the third and fourth week of May over the central regions including Nairobi, Northwestern Kenya and southern Rift Valley. Most of Northeastern and Southeastern regions will experience the cessation during the second to third week of May.
May forecast indicates good crop performance in the agriculturally high-potential areas of Kitale, Eldoret, Kakamega, Kericho, Kisii, Nandi Hills as well as the Central region due to enhanced rainfall. However, the crop performance over most parts of southeastern Kenya is likely to be poor due to the expected depressed rainfall.
According to the Kenya Meteorological department, enhanced rainfall in Northwestern Kenya would lead to improved pastures for livestock. The situation is however likely to deteriorate in Northeastern Counties where depressed rainfall is forecasted. The problem of water scarcity for livestock is also likely to arise as time progresses.
Probability of lightning strike is high in Western Kenya especially within Kisii and Kakamega counties while flooding is highly probable along the coastal region, Budalang’i, and Kano area. Landslides in the prone areas such as Murang’a and Nyeri are still likely to occur especially during the first half of May. People living in such areas should be on the lookout to avoid loss of lives.
According to the Kenya Meteorological department, weather forecasts are unpredictable as the weather keeps on changing hence it is important to use 24-hour forecasts and regular updates from the meteorological department.
Regression of sea surface temperatures (SSTs), SST gradients and the expected evolution of global SST patterns as well as upper air circulations patterns on Kenyan rainfall helped in the formulation of the May 2016 rainfall forecast.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Laikipia Governor launches tree planting exercise in Sipili

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

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

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

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

Youth group making a difference through breed improvement

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

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The unpredictable weather pattern causes delay in planting

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

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Let us enlist the Paris climate deal to build resilience

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

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Laikipia County embarks on planting 10 million trees annually

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