Archive for April, 2014

Happy Girls in ICT day!!!!!!!

ICT girls’ day! A day we all ICT girls ought to commemorate and do so by sharing good stuff either by us or people we know have done with help of ICT. I definitely have a whole list of things ICT has helped me achieve but am not going to enumerate them here. Instead, am going to use an ICT tool to share a friend’s achievement grâce à ICT.

I can recall very well. My friend and neighbor in the village used to complain a lot about how the middleman connecting her to the market for her dairy cattle feeds was fleecing her. She used to pay double for any stock of feeds she got through him. AI services were double the actual cost too and this she did not realize until when she acquired her first smart-phone. I helped her to register with service providers like M-Farm, The Biovision Farmer Communication (FCP) and iCow and as I write this blog now, she receives information updates on her phone and if she requires any services or info she easily asks these people who readily provide it to her.

My neighbor also used to struggle in order to get adequate and high quality feeds for her animals – through one of the websites she uses for her information needs, she discovered about the calliandra, trichandra, mulberry and tree Lucerne and she attests that her milk production has increased. This does not only benefit her milk needs but also she saves a lot of time and energy – that which she could have used searching for and collect forage far from home; it has saved her money as no buying of the commercial protein supplement anymore.

ICT helped her to eliminate the costly burden of middlemen and now she’s all smiles to the bank. Happy Girls ICT Day!!




The Turkana community is group of people inhabiting northwest regions of Kenya. These people are mostly nomadic pastoralists who depend on cattle keeping as their only economic activity. As such, they remain vulnerable given their overdependence on cattle under adverse Arid and Semi-arid climatic conditions which does not allow growth of pasture. Once bitten, twice shy – so they say but for the Turkanas the biting by drought has been done too many times. This community has suffered greatly under the pangs of drought leading to loss of lives of both humans and animals. This has conscripted the community members to adopt alternative economic activities or risk starving to death. That alternative is agriculture.


Pastoralists look after their cattle

Till recently, this region was crippled by insecurity emanating from cattle rustling cases. Now, death of cattle rustling and the return of peace in the region has seen more than 100,000 residents embrace irrigation farming. The interest in furrow and drip irrigation by the inhabitants has followed the revival of 12 schemes, including Elliea, by the government and aid agencies. This poses a great step towards reducing food insecurity in this region. Also, these projects will motivate farmers to venture into horticultural and invest in drought resistant crops.

The bumper harvest realized at Lotubae irrigation scheme last season has served to motivate most families in the area to invest in agriculture. The government of Kenya seeks to increase the area under irrigation in Elliea from 400 to 800 acres. This scheme produced 8,000 and 2,000 bags of maize and sorghum respectively last season. For Lotubae irrigation scheme it is set to be expanded from 750 to 1,200 acres while Morrulem will beexpanded from 1,500 to 2,000 acres.

The National Irrigation Board has launched feasibility studies on irrigation schemes in Turkana South and East Districts in the region to rehabilitate stalled irrigation schemes and initiate new ones. The government allocated approximately Sh60 million for irrigation projects in Turkana County. Among those to benefit from the funds is Katilu irrigation scheme that has been allocated Sh45 million to put 650 hectares of land under irrigation.


One of the farming projects being done under irrigation

Another Sh20 million has been set aside for proposed Lotubae irrigation scheme in Turkana East and Sh38 million for Nakwomoru scheme on the downstream of Turkwell gorge. The government with support of Italy has developed Wei Wei irrigation scheme in West Pokot with more than 275 hectares set for irrigation .This programme is expected to benefit over 7,000 people in an area that has experienced perpetual food shortage. The plan is to plant over 100 acres of land with drought resistant crops aimed at enabling the community members to attain food sufficiency.


A Turkana woman looks after her crops

Another tremendous activity taking place is that most families living along Rivers Kerio and Turkwell are producing vegetables, bananas and drought resistant crops like sorghum and millet. This programme supported by the World Food Program (WFP) targets placing more than 75,000 acres of land under agriculture. According to The National Irrigation Board (NIB), Kenya has more than 600,000 hectares suitable for irrigation but only a quarter of them have been exploited. What would happen if more youths were encouraged to pick up farming in these regions alongside cattle keeping? There would no more starvation caused deaths.

The desire of any farmer is to succeed and in this context success is measured by how much one gets from the farm. However, as many of us struggle to attain this success, we are confronted with a myriad of challenges whose root cause is climate change. We can actually manage climate change related challenges and that’s why, I choose to share some of the ways we can adapt and mitigate them.
In this article, I share actions that we can take to cope with effects of climatic changes that cannot be avoided – actions aimed at reducing their negative effects. As farmers, we should prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change through adaptation actions and advocating for policies that are determined to tackle both present and future climate change threats. Adaptation measures include; prevention, tolerance or sharing of losses, change in land use activities, changes of location and restoration.
The agricultural sector is the most vulnerable sector but other sectors also susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change include; tourism, infrastructure, health and natural resources especially biodiversity. So how do we adopt and mitigate against these adverse effects?

Effects of climate change on crops

Effects of climate change on crops

Crop management
In Sub-Saharan region, rain-fed agriculture is the great contributors of Gross Domestic Product and yet the greatly threatened by the climate change effects such as prolonged droughts and unpredictable rain patterns. Given the reliance on weather, crop production will bear the brunt of climate variability and change. Interventions in this sector should include:


  1. Enhanced financial and technical support to the orphan crops programmes so that indigenous and more drought tolerant food crops such as cassava, millet, sorghum and sweet potatoes are re-introduced into the farming systems.
  2. Community based adaptation systems should be supported. For instance, building and enhancing systems for conveying climate information to rural population. The governments of these states and development partners need to provide support for the early warning system to facilitate the timely dissemination of weather information to farmers.
  3. Land degradation should be addressed by building soil and stone bunds, creating grass strips and contour leveling as well as incorporating trees or hedgerows. These will lead to an increase in rain-water infiltration, reduce run-off during floods, reduce soil erosion and help trap sediments including dead plant matter that improves soil fertility.
  4. Diversification of rural economies through value addition to agricultural products and financial support for aquaculture and apiculture with the aim of reducing reliance on climate-sensitive agricultural practices will play a big role in ensuring food security.

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In Kenya, the long rains season is setting in according to the warning by the weatherman and as usual, cases of common cold are expected to rise. As people seek to keep this viral disease at bay, one farmers’ group in Kakamega County has one of the best remedies. These farmers are growing and processing medicinal herbs that ward off common cold, among other ailments. This has attracted both local and international attention.
For the Muliru farmers’ group, it all started in 1996 when farmers turned their vegetable gardens into farms of a medicinal herb that the community has relied on for years to cure the common cold but was then diminishing. This herb, locally known as Mwonyi and scientifically known as Ocimum Kilimandschacum is well-known to communities around Kakamega forest for treatment of symptoms of common cold and measles.
Traditionally, this medicine has been prepared by plucking and boiling the leaves in a pot and then inhaling the vapor to cure the cold. Someone must have seen their struggle and thanks to the International Center for Insect Physiology (ICIPE), The University of Nairobi and The Kenya wildlife service, a research was conducted and better ways of exploiting the herb to benefit both the farmers and the environment were discovered. What followed was mass cultivation of the Ocimum plant and manufacturing value added products.

Balm produced from Ocimum Kilimandschacum

Balm produced from Ocimum Kilimandschacum

The group members contributed money and bought a piece of land to construct a processing plant and offices for their activities that became fully commercial. In 2000, they raised sh160, 000 and borrowed sh850,000 for construction of the processing plant and the offices. As we speak now, over 460 farmers have been engaged not only in Kakamega but also in the neighboring Vihiga County. The group has also learnt to diversify – they are engaging in organic production of vegetables.
Farmers admit the combination is paying off. They get Ksh10 for a kilo of wet Mwonyi herbs while dry ones fetch sh40.At the plant, a distillation machine installed in 2002 is used to extract oil and granules for making balm. Once the oil has been squeezed from the dry and wet leaves, the waste is converted into organic manure, which is then used in the cultivation of their traditional vegetables in a garden adjacent to the plant.
A kilogramme of the produced oil goes for Sh6,555. This sees the farmers selling about 7kg to 10 kg per week which they produce. Before this product is released into the market, it is sent to ICIPE for refining and packaging. Other products produced from Mwonyi and other herbs include Naturerub balm, which are sold in supermarkets and chemists. Actually, the work of these farmers has made them win international awards. This saw the group receive an award of $5000(Sh430,000) .They again bagged another award in the same year worth $5000.
Just like the moon, there are two sides to this story too. Despite these achievements, these farmers experience some challenges. They name high costs of production as the main one. This is exacerbated by lack of electricity on their facility leaving them with the costly option of using gas. This gas costs them up to sh57,000 a month. Also, they are facing competition from imported balm and those from established manufacturers.

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