Category: ICTs


habitat111 photoUrban youth face unprecedented challenges, from climate change to unemployment to multiple forms of inequalities and exclusion, particularly for youth belonging to vulnerable or marginalized groups. To provide an open space for critical exchange between urban researchers, professionals and decision makers who believe that urbanization is an opportunity and can lead to positive urban transformations, the UN Habitat III organized a conference in Nairobi.
The UN Habitat III Urban Youth Campus conference took place on 10th and 11th February 2016, at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, Kenya. It brought together key partners and stakeholders that support urban youth initiatives as well as 173 youth from diverse backgrounds to voice their ideas. I was privileged to be part of this conference.
Objectives
The conference, dubbed “The City You Need, the World they want”, was part of a series of other 25 Urban Thinkers Campus’ held between June 2015 and February 2016. The following were its objectives;
• To recognize and build on young people’s present capacities and the valuable contributions they are already making.
• To recognize and listen to youth voices and respond to their challenges and priorities, touching on human rights, migration, displacement, conflict and post-conflict areas, disaster and risk reduction and refugees
• To examine existing policies and programmes so as to assess the extent to which they are sufficiently oriented towards creating a better urban future.
• To make recommendations to the UN-Habitat with respect to the ways that it engages with and exercises its mandate in relations to urban youth especially in developing countries and its engagement with youth in its efforts towards the new urban agenda.
Thematic areas
We were allowed time to openly discuss and learn, share and debate of preselected themes; Youth and Urban Governance; Youth and Livelihoods; Youth and Urban Planning/Public spaces; Youth and Risk reduction and Rehabilitation; and Youth and environment. All the participants deliberated on these themes and outputs provided in Kenya would be used together with those from other conferences conducted in build up to the main event (To take place in Quito August).
Best insights as a youth in agriculture
The subthemes tackled under the Youth and environment theme included; Youth and Agriculture; Climate change; Renewable energy and Green jobs. Under these subthemes participants discussed challenges affecting the youth and gave recommendations.
Youth and Agriculture
As brought forward by the participants, the challenges facing youth in agriculture include; a poor mindset, climate change, lack of access to quality and timely information, insufficient access to financial services, Lack of involvement in policy dialogues and customary laws. Participants brought forward suggestions on how to address these challenges as; Mindset change among the youth, amendment of inheritance laws, provision of credit facilities to youth, youth inclusion in policy dialogues and implementation of policies.
Climate change
The challenges emerging in this sector included; lack of awareness on environmental conservation, nationalization of environmental programs which render them ineffective(Case of Kenya), insufficient finance in capacity building with regards to climate change and environmental conservation and constant and ongoing deforestation, trees being the major source of energy. In tackling them, participants suggested that; individuals should use alternative sources of clean energy as well as taking up individual responsibility on environmental conservation and waste recycling at more extensive levels.
Renewable energy and Green jobs
Some of the challenges that hinder the youth from adopting green energy include; high costs of equipment and lack of knowledge in this field. To tackle them, it was suggested that taxes be excluded from equipment that promote renewable energy (solar panels), to encourage expandability of the practice.
The UN Habitat III Urban Youth Campus conference, being part of a series of other 25 Urban Thinkers Campus’ was very informative.

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ICTs are boosting agricultural production in many developing countries. New communication strategies that integrate conventional media, the Internet and other ICTs, have transformed the agricultural extension and changed the way information is disseminated.

In Kenya, this transformational process of change is already in full swing. The government of Kenya is currently rolling out an e-extension programme where agricultural extension officers are being trained and provided with smart phones, laptop and airtime for accessing agricultural information the internet.

The project in Kenya started with the national government but with devolution, the same is being devolved to the country governments. This is basically aimed at  ensuring that farmers at the local level benefits from the project.

Given this new wave of ICT4Agri, policy makers in all the developing countries should identify promising and appropriate ICT applications and promote their usage as part of daily routines. Above all, they should come up with policies that encourage their use among the people who matter most, the farmers themselves.

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.

Nanjala milking her cow

Nanjala milking her cow

Women play an important role in family farming; while men are busy farming for cash, they farm to provide their families with nutrition. As they farm, women are confronted with a myriad of challenges the worst of which is diseases. For this reason, there is a necessity for women to ensure prevention of diseases in their animals. Mastitis is one of the diseases that is causing havoc in their livestock and should be avoided by all means.

Mastitis is the most prevalent and atrocious disease that decimates many herds every year, yet it’s easy to prevent – as it was explained by one farmer, Nanjala. Mastitis is characterized by the inflammation of the mammary glands and udder tissue involving one or more quarters of the udder-the udder is divided into four quarters each with a teat. Mastitis that is characterized by the swelling of the whole udder or any of the quarters of the udder, firmness, increased temperature of the udder or palpation and changes in milk consistency and colour is termed clinical Mastitis. Another type of mastitis may not show these signs and is termed non-clinical. Continue reading

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