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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

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