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Counties in joint effort to control livestock diseases

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Rai Kaingu standing next to his cows near Tsangasini Livestock sales yard at Kaloleni in Kilifi County on November 1,2021. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG

Summary

  • Challenges facing the control of animal diseases include the inadequate capacity for sustained disease surveillance and control programmes as well as poor enforcement of existing laws.
  • Some of the common animal diseases in the region include African Swine Fever, brucellosis, foot-and-mouth disease, Peste des Petits Ruminants, sheep and goat pox and rabies in cats and dogs.
  • If uncontrolled, the economic blocs argue, diseases could hinder livestock production and hurt the income of farmers and pastoralists.

For the thousands of pastoralists making a living out of livestock in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas, eradicating animal diseases remains the biggest headache.

Challenges facing the control of animal diseases include the inadequate capacity for sustained disease surveillance and control programmes as well as poor enforcement of existing laws.

Now, as counties under the North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb) and Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) continue to see more pastoralists go fully commercial in their ventures, they have unveiled a joint policy framework to eradicate livestock diseases within the region.

The Notifiable and Transboundary Animal Diseases Control Policy 2021 outlines how the counties will collaborate in the control of transboundary animal diseases (TADs), which has been difficult given that each devolved unit had been reading from a different script after agriculture services were devolved.

“Previously these disease outbreaks have been managed in a coordinated programme by the director of veterinary services. After devolution, veterinary functions were devolved to the county governments, each county had different priorities and animal disease management programmes are uncoordinatedly carried out even in neighbouring counties, thereby becoming ineffective,” reads the policy in part.

“The prevention and control of TADs is a key factor for increasing market access and facilitating trade, particularly for LREB and Noreb counties, which are major breeders of sheep and goat, among other animals.”

North Rift Economic Bloc consists Uasin Gishu, Samburu, Baringo, Turkana, Nandi, West Pokot, Trans-Nzoia and Elgeyo-Marakwet, while Lake Region Economic Bloc comprises Bungoma, Busia, Homa Bay, Kakamega, Kisii, Kisumu, Migori, Nyamira, Siaya, Trans Nzoia, Kericho, Bomet, Nandi and Vihiga.

The policy outlines the limited awareness by the public of their obligation on disease reporting, compromising the effectiveness of disease control and prevention.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) also threatens the effectiveness, prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses.

Some of the common animal diseases in the region include African Swine Fever, brucellosis, foot-and-mouth disease, Peste des Petits Ruminants, sheep and goat pox and rabies in cats and dogs.

Others are lumpy skin disease, anthrax, Rift Valley Fever, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and Newcastle disease in poultry.

The presence of livestock diseases in these counties has led to productivity decline due to increased mortality and morbidity leading to losses, including lower milk and egg production, poor wool quality, slower weight gains or abortions.

If uncontrolled, the economic blocs argue, diseases could hinder livestock production and hurt the income of farmers and pastoralists.

Uasin Gishu governor Jackson Mandago said the policy would help the region in ensuring that no livestock market is shut down due to disease outbreaks.

“Livestock is an important sector in the two economic blocs and contributes to 30 percent of the regional gross domestic product (GDP) and amounts to about 40-60 percent direct or indirect employment,” he said.

“The policy considers the constitutional obligations of each level of government, national and county with regard to the development of animal health and outlines functional relationships.”

The counties have developed policies such as strengthening the legal framework for disease control and delivery of animal health services in line with the World Organisation for Animal Health guidelines for veterinary services and legislation.

The two blocs have also resolved to establish an information system for disease control, saying that timely and good-quality information about disease events are needed to better assess any disease outbreak situation, support decision-making, prevent potential disease incursion and respond quickly in an emergency.

“LREB and Noreb counties are also interested in developing a regional electronic platform for information sharing and document exchange to improve disease intelligence and enhance data-driven trade-relevant risk management decisions,” reads the policy.

Animal registration, identification and product traceability are also going to be improved, given that it is a critical tool in production, breeding and census planning, disease surveillance, food safety certification and food defence assurance, productivity improvement and facilitation of access to local and export markets.

Elgeyo Marakwet governor Alex Tolgos added that the blocs have also agreed on joint funding to procure animal vaccines, create a committee of the veterinary secretariat and embrace regional identification in the battle against cattle rustling.

The blocs have also agreed to recruit more veterinary officers in preparation for any disease outbreak, and improve their abattoirs to an international level to ensure the meat from those facilities meet global standards for export.

They are also seeking joint animal vaccination programmes, and also harmonised procurement for the vaccines and other veterinary medicine.

Noreb chief executive Dominic Biwott observed that most counties in the region struggle to conduct vaccinations due to financial constraints.

“North Rift region alone, devolved units require Sh400 million to Sh600 million annually to vaccinate the livestock against foot and mouth disease and East Coast Fever. We need to marshal the resources to contain the disease spread,” said Dr Biwott.

The economic blocs also agreed to form a task force to facilitate a smoother transition in terms of agriculture policies when new county administrations take office, to prevent the erosion of gains made in the preceding period.

The blocs hope that the new policy, once it is functional, will increase revenue among the member counties while increasing sales of livestock and livestock products banking on reduced disease outbreaks in the region.

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Counties in joint effort to control livestock diseases
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Title deed issuance gathers pace ahead of Uhuru 2022 exit

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President Uhuru Kenyatta presents title deeds at Kenyatta International Convention Centre on November 3, 2020. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

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Summary

  • Households and businesses in Meru County top the list of beneficiaries under the government’s efforts to issue title deeds and end perennial land disputes that hurt investments.
  • In a country where households and businesses need collateral to secure credit, title deeds offer a major form of security that banks and micro-lenders can use to issue loans.
  • Businesses and households in the northeastern and Coastal counties are the lowest beneficiaries of the ambitious programme launched 18 years ago.

Households and businesses in Meru County top the list of beneficiaries under the government’s efforts to issue title deeds and end perennial land disputes that hurt investments.

A report from the Ministry of Land shows that the government has issued 418,966 title deeds to residents of the county since the start of devolution followed by those in Kiambu County who have received 361,050 title deeds.

The State has issued 5,316,975 title deeds under its National Titling Programme — one of the major planks of the Jubilee administration’s promises when it rose to power in 2013.

Issuance of the land ownership documents is also aimed at affording households the chance to build permanent homes, enabling them to practice crop farming and animal keeping free with the comfort that they are sitting on land that is free from ownership disputes.

“This (titling programme) has in effect doubled the number of people who have the security of tenure and have collateral for loans,” Land Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney says in the report tabled before Parliament.

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Ministry of Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NMG

“The titling programme, therefore, plays a critical role in boosting the Big Four agenda by empowering landowners and businesses to access credit facilities from financial institutions.”

In a country where households and businesses need collateral to secure credit, title deeds offer a major form of security that banks and micro-lenders can use to issue loans.

Additionally, the process is key to ending the perennial land clashes that have for years clouded preceding general elections mainly in the Rift Valley, Coast and northeastern region.

The State reckons that the programme will fast-track registration of unregistered land and clean those whose records are marred by irregularities and unlock credit where people without title deeds and lack other collaterals find it hard to access bank loans.

The report shows the three Ukambani counties compete for the list of the top five beneficiaries under the national titling programme led by Kitui with 338,414 title deeds, Machakos with 314,973 and Makueni with 201,569 titles.

Businesses and households in the northeastern and Coastal counties are the lowest beneficiaries of the ambitious programme launched 18 years ago.

The report from the Ministry of Land shows that the State has processed and issued 16,819 title deeds to businesses and households in the Samburu (8,597), Garissa (6,328), Isiolo and Marsabit with a combined 1,894 title deeds.

Lamu is the least beneficiary of all coastal counties with 34,157 title deeds followed by Kwale at 60,271, Kilifi (84,467) and Taita Taveta with 109,116.

Mombasa County is the biggest beneficiary of all coastal counties with 145,840 title deeds processed and issued since Jubilee came to power.

The county, however, ranks eighth in the list of the 47 devolved units that have benefited from the issuance of title deeds since 2013, signalling that businesses, households and learning institutions in the Coastal county are a mark off from enjoying the benefits of the process.

Coastal and northeastern counties have long-standing land ownership disputes that the Jubilee administration had promised to resolve through the issuance of title deeds once it came to power in 2013.

ownership disputes

Taita Taveta County, for example, has endured land ownership disputes with historical disputes pitting private owners against residents that have in turn left thousands of locals landless.

In June, a Senate committee investigated the controversial renewal of the lease for Machungwani Farm that expired in January 2013.

The committee directed the National Land Commission (NLC) to adjudicate the lease renewal dispute within six months for the parcel that spans 2,970 acres.

The lawmakers added that the NLC should make a decision in favour of the more than 5,000 farmers and residents who have occupied the farm for over 12 years.

The farm belonged to former Taita Taveta MP Basil Criticos who has for years sought renewal of the lease.

Despite the low number of beneficiaries in the coastal counties, the State has spent Sh755 million to purchase land to settle an undisclosed number of squatters in Mikanjuni (Kilifi) and Mafisini in Mombasa.

Other squatters targeted for resettlement are those in the eastern part of the Mau Forest. The ministry started profiling them in September last year and the Ogiek community is set to be one of the biggest beneficiaries.

The Jubilee administration says it had issued 5.3 million title deeds to households, businesses, learning institutions and other entities since 2013, compared to the six million issued in the first 50 years since independence.

The issuance of title deeds is in addition to the Ardhisasa platform launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in April to ease get rid of fraud in the land acquisition and transfer processes.

Ardhisasa provides paperless land transactions, a shift aimed at curbing the high number of fraudulent cases and painfully slow processes on land sale, transfers and leases that had characterised the physical transactions.

But the ministry says that budgetary cuts and late release of funds are major hurdles that are derailing the government’s efforts to process and issue title deeds, a move likely to hurt President Kenyatta’s ambitious programme ahead of his exit next year.

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Title deed issuance gathers pace ahead of Uhuru 2022 exit
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Mega infrastructure project delays hurt intra-Africa trading

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African Union High Representative for the continent's Infrastructure Development Raila Odinga. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

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Summary

  • Some of the projects that have been delayed include the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor.
  • There are 61 projects in transport, nine in energy, 14 in ICT and five in transboundary waterways under IGAD infrastructure master plan short-term priority projects prepared last year.
  • The projects are estimated to cost $34 billion (Sh3.8 trillion) and are expected to be completed by 2024.

Delays in cross-boundary infrastructure projects have been caused by a lack of cooperation among countries, slowing down intra-Africa trade.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga says derailed investment of infrastructure projects in transport, energy and ICT in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region has interrupted the completion of planned priority projects among member states.

The IGAD fosters the implementation of specific infrastructure projects for job creation and regional integration across its eight member states — Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

Some of the projects that have been delayed include the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor, Kisumu-Malaba-Kampala standard gauge railway, Nairobi –Mogadishu fibre optic link and Ethiopia-Sudan Power Transmission Interconnector.

“LAPSSET is a good example of a regional project whose implementation has been paralysed by the lack of national ownership and failure by regional economic communities (RECs) to prioritise it,” Mr Odinga, who is also the AU representative for infrastructure development in Africa, said.

“Continental free trade will only be realised if the RECs are effective in their role of facilitating regional economic integration between members of the region.’’

He was speaking during the opening of the IGAD conference yesterday in Nairobi set to push member states to raise their investment levels and drum up new financing following the start of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Lamu Port first berth, part of the LAPSSET corridor project is complete but there are still construction works for the other two berths, highways and crude oil pipeline.

Other projects like international airports and inter-regional SGR railway lines under the project are yet to be delivered.

In May, Uganda signed a Sh5 billion deal with a Chinese firm to revamp its century-old metre gauge railway line between Malaba and Kampala.

Lack of commitment

The line links the SGR track through Naivasha to Malaba that Kenya is also upgrading, further opening the landlocked country to Mombasa port.

The project had slowed due to a lack of commitment by the two countries over concerns of its economic viability and financing.

Mr Odinga also decried the low exploitation of resources in the eight states such as blue economy, oil and gas and geothermal and solar energy that could support economic growth by leveraging the 300 million population in the region.

There are 61 projects in transport, nine in energy, 14 in ICT and five in transboundary waterways under IGAD infrastructure master plan short-term priority projects prepared last year.

The projects are estimated to cost $34 billion (Sh3.8 trillion) and are expected to be completed by 2024.

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Mega infrastructure project delays hurt intra-Africa trading
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Fuel prices in Kenya: Myths and realities

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Customer attendant serving a client at Rubis Petroleum Station along Koinange Street in Nairobi on Sunday, November 14, 2021. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Summary

  • The debate on the cost of fuel overlooks critical factors that determine the final pricing, especially due to the silence by experts resulting in half-truths.
  • Myth one is that oil firms are responsible for price increases and make a lot of money when prices go up.
  • It is incomprehensible that many stakeholders both in industry and in government continue to take price stabilisation as a solution.

Politics aside, nothing causes more animated discussion among Kenyans than high fuel prices. The recent increases in pump prices to more than Sh130 per litre for petrol has led to widespread consternation.

Parliament, the media, and other commentators are all proffering their views as to the cause of the high prices, their impact on the cost of living and a myriad of possible solutions.

Industry experts have been largely absent from this debate. This is nothing new, in contrast to other sectors such as banking or manufacturing both of whom have vigorous and effective industry lobbies, the petroleum industry has historically shied away from public debate on industry matters.

The unfortunate outcome is that many of the relevant facts that would inform public debate are remain unheard and several myths have taken hold. This article seeks to correct some of these misunderstandings and propose workable solutions to managing high pump prices and the trade-offs required. Let us first look at the myths:

1. Myth one is that oil firms are responsible for price increases and make a lot of money when prices go up.

This is factually incorrect. Month-to-month price adjustments are done by the regulator Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) through a pre-determined formula that simply adjusts prices based on changes in the landed price of products in Mombasa and the prevailing exchange rate to the dollar. This formula is publicly available and any Kenyan wishing to access it can do so and do the calculations for themselves.

The Epra fixes the gross margins for petroleum companies at only Sh8 per litre regardless of the pump price. For a pump price of Sh120, this represents a margin of six percent.

After deduction of distribution and operating costs petroleum companies have a net margin of between Sh1.50 and Sh2 per litre or a net margin of about 1.6 percent.

One would struggle to find other businesses operating with such thin margins in the country.

The reality is that petroleum companies make less money when prices go up, simply because the sales volume often decline and the investment required to keep the same amount of stock goes up.

To illustrate this, consider a petrol station operator selling 75,000 litres per month. He or she needs Sh7.5 million for one week’s stock cover if the price is Sh100 per litre.

The value of one week’s cover goes up to Sh9 million if the price is Sh120 per litre while the margin remains fixed, and the volume may even decline.

2. That the process of importation of oil products is opaque and could allow petroleum companies to make some of their profits offshore before the product gets into the country.

The reality is that the Open Tendering System operating in Kenya is exactly what it states on the label, an open tendering system. Every one of the about 30 cargoes of petroleum products shipped into Kenya every year is openly and competitively tendered for, allowing Kenyans to enjoy one of the lowest landed prices of petroleum products in Africa.

Needless to say, such an open and transparent system has its detractors, most of whom would like it changed for reasons that have everything to do with their selfish interest and not those of Wanjiku. Fortunately for Kenyans, their selfish lobbying has so far not borne any fruit.

3. This myth, which is linked to those above, is that oil marketers in Kenya have parent companies in the upstream petroleum sector that benefit from high prices, and they should therefore accept lower margins in the country.

Except for TotalEnergies, none of the petroleum companies’ operations in Kenya is a subsidiary of an oil major.

All others are independent distribution and marketing companies that buy oil products at world market prices and make a profit only from their business conducted in Kenya.

In any event, investors would expect a local business to be profitable in its own right, and not be cross-subsidised by investments elsewhere.

It is worth noting that many of the oil majors that had subsidiaries in Kenya including Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil all disinvested partly as a result of the insufficient return on their investments. The one exception, TotalEnergies Kenya is quoted on the Nairobi Securities Exchange and has local shareholders who no doubt expect an adequate return on their investment.

The current debate is correctly centred on the impact of taxes and levies which, depending on the product, constitute between Sh50 and Sh60 of the pump prices.

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The Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited in Changamwe. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The problem was made worse by tax increases on petroleum products effected during the Covid-19 period to take advantage of lower global oil prices and help close government revenue gaps that were not subsequently removed after global oil prices rose again.

Unfortunately, the solutions being proposed are completely off the mark and in fact risk making the problem worse.

The concept of a price stabilisation fund or a so-called “subsidy” is a very bad idea and will not work.

First, it is incorrect to talk of a subsidy when the product is already taxed. That aside, price stabilisation funds work on the basis that funds are collected when global oil prices are low and deployed to cushion pump prices when prices rise.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when oil prices fell below $40 per barrel the government set an anchor point price of $55 a barrel. This effectively meant that the pump prices would reflect the price of $50 even when the actual price was $40.

The difference of $15 per barrel would be kept in a price stabilisation fund. When the barrel price rose above $50, the price would remain unchanged and oil marketers would be compensated by the fund for selling at below the real cost. That is the theory.

The practice though, is that the billions collected into such a fund invariably end up being used by the exchequer for unrelated expenditure, pilfered by the fund managers or both.

This concept has been tried in many other African countries before has always ended in tears!

In Kenya, it has turned out that the exchequer dipped its hands into these funds even before the ink dried. Even if the fund were to be fully safeguarded, it is still impossible to determine an accurate anchor point.

If, for example, with an anchor point of $55 per barrel, prices stayed at $40 for six months then the funds collected are enough to cushion consumers for another six months if, as the case today, the price rises to seventy dollars per barrel.

After this period the fund will then be fully exhausted, and prices would immediately rise to reflect the true cost exposing consumers to an enormous price shock. The price stabilisation mechanism would thereafter be effectively dead until prices fall below $55 again.

It is incomprehensible that many stakeholders both in industry and in government continue to take price stabilisation as a solution. They should wake up and smell the coffee!

An even more disastrous outcome awaits Kenyans if we allow current efforts by Parliament and other political bodies to meddle in the price adjustment or the tender process for the importation of petroleum products.

Their interventions will, without doubt, be determined more by short term political calculus or by vested interests than by creating a workable system that balances the interest of all stakeholders.

However well-meaning, Parliament should “stay in their lane” and avoid emulating another important arm of government that seems to think it is their mandate to make decisions on every aspect of our lives and may soon be telling Kenyans, which side of the bed to wake up from.

Three possible options to address the high pump prices are: First is to remove the additional taxes that came into effect last year. This would reduce prices by about Sh8 per litre. Pump prices would, however, continue to rise and fall each month depending on input costs.

A second option would be to cap pump prices by applying a variable tax formula in which a part of the taxation on petroleum products can be reduced when prices go above a predetermined ceiling.Let us assume that the ceiling was set at Sh100 a litre and Sh120 per litre for diesel and petrol respectively. If applied today, then the taxes on both products would be reduced by about Sh10 per litre to keep prices within the cap.

In doing this it is important to articulate levies such as road maintenance levy that must remain untouched. This option avoids the pitfalls associated with collecting money into a stabilisation fund with all the risks entailed.

The Treasury mandarins will not like the uncertainty this brings to their revenue forecasts, but Covid-19 has shown that it is possible to deal with much larger revenue collection gaps without the country coming to standstill.

Kenyans must off course bear in mind that there is no free lunch, and the revenue gap must be filled, most likely in form of other taxes or a reduction in spending.

A third option is to do nothing and leave taxes as they are while allowing pump prices to fluctuate monthly based on input costs. Before readers throw stones at me, this is not as ridiculous as it sounds.

A price of Sh130 for petrol may look exorbitant until you remember that prices reached Sh123 in 2013 before going down again.

Consumers in many other countries, including some of our neighbours, pay higher pump prices without any calamities befalling them. It is also interesting to observe that prices of fresh food from the farm goes up and down by much bigger percentages than petroleum products based on season and rainfall patterns without provoking anything more than mild comments.

Maybe the difference is that most Kenyans have an implicit understanding of the dynamics of food production. With the electoral season upon us, this option may, however, prove to be politically unpalatable.

All said I would recommend option one as best the way to go.

A sober evaluation of these and other options will, however, only happen if petroleum industry players wake from their slumber and learn to articulate industry issues more clearly and more loudly to Kenyans.

Having worked for a combined total of more than 30 years in both the manufacturing and the downstream petroleum industries in Kenya and across Africa gives me sufficient perspective to say that the industry is sleeping on the job and allowing parties without sufficient industry knowledge to steer the ship into turbulent waters.

Mureithi is a former executive vice president at Vivo energy in charge of the East and Southern African region

Fuel prices in Kenya: Myths and realities
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Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot bank on special grass to end landslides

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Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos makes a point accompanied by county officials during a visit to Mr Samuel Teimuge’s farm in Kapsoo village. PHOTO | ONYANGO K'ONYANGO | NMG

Summary

  • Vetiver has a deep root system that holds the soil firmly together. Unlike other grass whose roots spread loosely horizontally, its roots grow downward to a depth of two to four metres.
  • According to the National Environment Management Authority Integrated National Land Use guidelines, there should be no cultivation at all on slopes beyond 55 percent gradient (slope).
  • Elgeyo Marakwet’s county disaster department indicates that over 50,000 households live on the escarpment with 4,000 families inhabiting high-risk zones.

For decades now Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties have experienced catastrophic landslides. Every year they lose tens of people and millions worth of property to these storms.

It is a precarious situation that is attributed to unbridled human activities in Kerio Valley where residents have encroached on restricted zones to cultivate, leaving the ecosystem fragile.

Over time, the ground has been left bare and whenever it rains deep gullies form leaving the land unproductive and desolate.

But the residents are starting to combat the rampant soil erosion and reclaim the gully-ridden escarpment using a most ingenious solution-vetiver, a type of grass.

Vetiver has a deep root system that holds the soil firmly together. Unlike other grass whose roots spread loosely horizontally, its roots grow downward to a depth of two to four metres. It grows up to 1.5 metres high and can withstand flooding as it slows the surface runoff water.

It also has an expansive pattern and grows in bunches with its leaves expanding up to 150cm growing from the underground crown making the grass fire-resistant and enduring heavy grazing and droughts.

Mr Samuel Teimuge’s farm, in Kapsoo village-Elgeyo Marakwet, has become a model after he established vetiver grass. The landscape is changing from gulleys into grass bushes and the once bare ground is now productive.

“Before nobody would dare venture into my farm for fear of falling into the deep gulleys. In fact, I lost several of my animals to the gulleys, but when I planted vetiver, the gradient on my farm is now gentle with the gulleys steadily filling up,” said Mr Teimuge.

He said the root system spreads and penetrates soft rock and is finely structured compacting the soil against any form of erosion.

“The grass also acts as animal feed when the leaves are still tender and I am pleased the gulleys, which had been a nightmare are gradually being filled up,” added.

When the grass was introduced to them at Cheptebo rural development centre following a series of sensitisation forums on land reclamation, Mr Teimuge, at first skeptical, figured he had nothing to lose by giving it a try. After all, he reasoned, nothing else had worked thus far.

Today he is among the most devouted evangelists of the vetiver soil reclamation gospel. "I urge residents to grow vetiver to help mitigate soil erosion and bring to an end the frequent landslides," he said.

And his gospel has found receptive ears with other residents planting the grass after seeing the extraordinary transformation of Me Teimuge’s land.

Mr Peter Komen said: “The grass is very strong and it withstands heavy downpours. Since we adopted growing this grass we have witnessed deep gulleys steadily being filled up.”

Mr Komen and Mr Teimuge said besides planting the grass, residents should also heed the directives of government officers to ensure that their practices to do not contribute to further environmental degradation, he urged.

According to the National Environment Management Authority Integrated National Land Use guidelines, there should be no cultivation at all on slopes beyond 55 percent gradient (slope). It instead advises that such areas should be planted with trees and protection offered to exist vegetation.

Cognisant of the dangers of cultivating on the escarpment, the colonial government had come up with a boundary, referred by the locals as the ‘Spencer Line’ beyond which no activity should take place.

‘Spencer Line’ was coined after colonial administrator William Spencer who demarcated the boundary on the escarpment.

But today Elgeyo Marakwet’s county disaster department indicates that over 50,000 households live on the escarpment with 4,000 families inhabiting high-risk zones.

At Sangat village in West Pokot Mr Solomon Adongonyang who has adopted the growing vetiver grass said it was proving to be a lasting solution.

“Initially an Italian firm had constructed gabions by using cement which was washed away by floods, but vetiver grass has adaptive characteristics that make it hard to be easily washed away,” he said.

Mr Adongonyang, a member of a community-based organisation in the area, said that the residents are receptive to the new intervention and have embraced planting the grass.

He added that environmental protection was everyone’s responsibility, noting that because people living on the highlands had destroyed the environment, those on the lowland also paid the price when mudslides came.

Elgeyo Marakwet governor Alex Tolgos said with the initiative, landslides could soon be a thing of the past, enabling residents to participate fully in the development of the region.

“The use of vetiver has indeed proved to effectively combat soil erosion that is synonymous with the escarpments. We are encouraging locals to emulate those who have planted vetiver grass to mitigate the effects of mudslide and erosion on their farms,” appealed Mr Tolgos.

Farming practices

The governor said a huge chunk of Rift Valley escarpment traversing Nandi, Samburu, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma and Turkana counties is prone to landslides but unfortunately the environment on these precarious areas has been wantonly destroyed.

“Poor farming practices have worsened soil erosion making deep gulleys in times of heavy rains, resulting in mudslides. The majority of these counties are hilly and the residents do not practice safe farming like terracing and with the vetiver grass, this issue could be mitigated to act as a lasting solution,” he said.

Mr Tolgos, however, said the region has huge agricultural potential because of favourable climatic conditions for Agriculture but soil erosion was a threat.

Environment Principal Secretary (PS) Dr Chris Kiptoo rued the degradation of the escarpment cutting across the two counties revealing they have put in place an integrated master plan for the rehabilitation and restoration of the Elgeyo-Cherang’any hills ecosystem which covers the two landslide-prone counties and forms part of the five country’s water towers.

According to Dr Kiptoo, the country should plant seven million trees by the end of this year and another eight million by the end of 2022 for the sake of achieving the 10 percent forest cover objective.

"2030 was set as the year that our country was to achieve 10 percent forest cover but our President revised it to 2022. Therefore, we plan to plant 7 million trees next year and another 8 million in 2022," said the PS at a past function in Kaptagat forest.

He also revealed that the government has already approved the expansion of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) from the current six centres to 16 as part of efforts to attain the required minimum tree cover.

“Through expansion we want KEFRI to train more staff and provide the necessary expertise that will enable us to implement the strategy we have,” he said.

Dr Kiptoo said the state is working with all counties in the plan to plant more trees. Each has been given a target of planting more than 43 million trees as part of the collective efforts to get to 10 percent tree cover.

According to the 2018 report on Land Degradation Assessment in Kenya, soil erosion risk mapping revealed that almost all the counties are at risk from one form of land degradation or another.

The problem is serious because high land degradation is likely to occur in about 61.4 percent of the total area of Kenya, while very high degradation affects 27.2 percent of the land.

The report says that land degradation affects especially the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), where the soils are highly erodible and combined with high-intensity storms, creating conditions for excessive runoff and soil erosion.

The most affected counties include Samburu, Kitui, Garissa, Tana River, Mandera, Turkana, Marsabit, Baringo, West Pokot, Kajiado, Kilifi, Wajir and Makueni.

“Even some relatively wetter zones also have a high propensity for soil erosion, especially on steep slopes of Mt. Kenya and the Aberdares, including parts of Muranga, Nyeri, Meru and Tharaka-Nithi. On the contrary, low degradation risks were found to be on protected areas and those with relatively flat terrains yet having adequate rainfall.

These include the forest zones, national parks, tea-growing areas and plateaus such as Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia and parts of Lake Victoria basin,” explained the report.

It added that: “Meanwhile, the causes of land degradation in Kenya are both natural and human-induced. They include biophysical (natural) factors related to climatic conditions and extreme weather events such as droughts and floods and catchment factors such as steep slopes and highly erodible soils.

However, it is the human activities that pose the greatest threat, and these include unsustainable lands management practices (anthropogenic) factors such as destruction of natural vegetation, over-cultivation, overgrazing, poor land husbandry and excessive forest conversion.”

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Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot bank on special grass to end landslides
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Eldoret steps up the pace in fourth Kenyan city race

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A section of Eldoret town in Uasin Gishu County on November 17, 2021. The town is in the process of acquiring a city status. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Summary

  • It is a pace that its administrators and officials are hoping will propel it to attain the bragging rights of becoming the country’s fourth city ahead of Nakuru.
  • Uasin Gishu County Executive Committee (CEC)Lands and Planning Nelson Maritim said that the devolved unit was working on an Integrated Development plan as per the Urban Areas and Cities Act 2011.
  • Eldoret is surrounded by prime agricultural lands with large-scale grain, dairy, and horticultural farming.

Eldoret town, which prides itself as the home of champions owing to its high concentration of world-beating athletes, is undergoing a massive face-lift in a race to elevate its status from a town to a city.

From emerging skyscrapers to improved road network, the municipality has recorded general infrastructure and service improvements, so much so that it was recently voted among the best investment destinations.

It is a pace that its administrators and officials are hoping will propel it to attain the bragging rights of becoming the country’s fourth city ahead of Nakuru that is also implementing several projects to enable it cross the threshold.

Uasin Gishu County Executive Committee (CEC)Lands and Planning Nelson Maritim said that the devolved unit was working on an Integrated Development plan as per the Urban Areas and Cities Act 2011 to enable them apply for the city status.

According to the Urban Areas and Cities Act 2011, to qualify as a city, an urban area must have a population of at least 250,000 based on the last census.

As per the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census, Eldoret is the fifth most populated urban area in the country after Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, and Ruiru with 475,716 residents.

This county has been upgrading the roads within the town to meet the requisite conditions set for it to attain city status.

The County Assembly had approved the Municipality and Eldoret is currently being managed by a Municipal board and a manager.

When completed, the road will give the town a different face with anticipation of traffic jams being reduced.

Upon completion, the bypass project is expected to open up the North Rift for more business opportunities and solidify Eldoret Town as the capital investment hub in the region.

The town, which is key to trade—especially for trucks ferrying goods—in western Kenya and neighbouring Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, connects with the Trans-African highway that passes through the CBD.

Eldoret is a key player in the growth of the economy and is centrally placed as a town that has direct flights to all the cities in the country and currently international cargo lands in Eldoret before transportation via road to the rest of the country.

New ideals of urban life are changing as environmental and economic pressures on cities grow and are currently undergoing a face-lift that will see to it that people adapt to the pressures of growth in the town.

Eldoret is surrounded by prime agricultural lands with large-scale grain, dairy, and horticultural farming.

The town hosts a number of government agencies like the Energy Regulatory Authority (Epra), Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA), Auditor General among others.

The town is famously referred to as ‘The City of Champions’ because most of the elite athletes from the North Rift region reside there.

The CEC also said that the town had the required population and they are working on infrastructure and social amenities requirements as stated in the Act.

“We are also rehabilitating our dilapidated houses. We are also constructing roads to the estates within the town with the help of the Kenya Urban Support Programme (KUSP),” he said.

Governor Jackson Mandago’s administration is going on with town beautification, increased water supply, security with both street and floodlights being installed across the town, waste management and  improvement of walkways.

With local leaders pushing for the town to be elevated into a city status, elaborate plans have been put in place to ensure the amenities are improved.

In September 2017, the Cabinet approved the elevation of two more towns to cities under the Urban and Cities Act which includes Nakuru and Eldoret.

According to Municipal Manager Mr Tito Koiyet, Municipality of Eldoret is ripe for the status and has met most of the requirements for consideration of award and hence the need to fast track the few unmet conditions.

“Currently, the Municipality of Eldoret has met almost all the conditions required and this team is mandated to deliver a report for onward forwarding to the executive and the assembly so that we can get the award soon. City status comes with great advantages including increased funding from the Government hence the need to work on status immediately. With the guide of the Urban and Cities amendment act, and the law we shall get the city status soon,” he elucidated.

Mr Tito Koiyet said that Eldoret is well placed and once it attains the city status, it will attract more investors, conference facilities, growing tourism sector, which also creates a demand for road linkages, expanding airlines to international spaces, especially Europe.

On ensuring that the town has a good drainage system, Environment Executive Mary Njogu said the county is currently constructing stormwater drainages that will help to manage water flows by integrating mechanical solutions with natural features, which will divert the stormwater from major drainages along Uganda Road and reduce flooding during heavy rains.

Similarly, the devolved unit has embarked to connect sprawling estates of Langas among others to its main Kipkenyo sewerage plant, said Ms Njogu.

“We do not have any crisis. In fact, we have not utilised and currently, we are trying to do connections so that the existing one can be utilised fully. We are targeting the upcoming estates like Langas, Kipkorgot and other areas,” said Ms Njogu adding that the county has two sewer systems.

For the residents in Kimumu and its environs, the devolved unit is planning to build a sewerage system because the slope does not favour them in using the existing ones.

“We are trying to pursue one for Kimumu and its environs because the gradient cannot allow them to use the current ones. Residents, there are currently using pit-latrines, exhausters and bio-digester,” she told the Business Daily.

Recently Governor Mandago admitted that with the growing population of the town, sewage was becoming a headache.

“The town is growing tremendously…population growth is also being witnessed. Sewerage is a big challenge and we are focusing on fixing the menace” he said.

“We’re looking forward in the future to improve the transport system as we seek the elevation of Eldoret town into a city,” added the governor.

He further expressed the need to work together with stakeholders to make Eldoret the best.

“Garbage collection is still a big challenge. Dumping waste in undesignated areas, how do we get people to change their attitude, being difficult to change people through enforcement. We need to sensitise locals. we really need to find a lasting solution,” he said.

With the aim of fast-tracking the elevation process, rehabilitating parks within is becoming one of the priorities aimed at promoting tourism activities in the soon-to-be city.

The Mandago administration has rehabilitated Nandi Park, a once dilapidated scene, into what has turned out to be the town's most ideal venue to relax and contemplate.

As a result of the positive outcome of the park, it has attracted a lot of people who relax at the park due to its serenity, creating more need to come up with another park as the existing (Nandi Park) is becoming congested.

With the huge daily changes experienced from technology, economy and environment due to climate change and urban population growth, the county government has devoted its effort and resources to devising a strategy to achieve “smart” urban growth.

ICT Executive Dr Emily Kogos said that there is a need to have an integration of concepts from Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to provide real-time data collected from people, assets in the city, traffic, power, Water supply systems, waste management, crime detection, schools, hospitals and other facilities.

“With a click of a button, we will be able to access data from the systems installed. This will enable the government to use the data gathered to manage assets and resources efficiently. With a click of a button we can be able to access data instantly” said Dr Kogos.

Roads Executive Gideon Birir said the smart city technology will allow leaders to interact directly with both community and city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city and how the city is growing.

“ICT has a major role of enhancing quality performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption as well as ensuring increased contact between citizens and government. The Country is heading to full digital access as witnessed on the Huduma Number registration that was recently carried out,” said Mr Birir.

Uasin Gishu has been collecting over Sh900 million in revenue.

Nakuru Municipality will now be the fourth city in Kenya after the Senate voted to support its elevation recently and now awaiting President Uhuru Kenyatta to award it a charter.

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Eldoret steps up the pace in fourth Kenyan city race
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Irony of 2.4m Kenyans facing starvation as grain farmers grapple with market hurdles

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Harvesting season: A specialized combine harvester pours maize harvested from demonstration plots at a farm in Soy, Uasin Gishu County onto a truck on October 24, 2020. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Summary

  • The farmers are staring at heavy losses due to the deteriorating prices of the cereals — maize and wheat — caused by the ongoing harvest of this season's produce and the arrival of cheap imports.
  • According to the latest report by the National Drought Management Authority, a decline in production coupled with the pandemic affected household food security in the country.
  • The report says maize production reduced by 70 percent, adding that households have limited stocks of 60 percent with the rest relying on market purchases.

Ironically, more than 2.4 million Kenyans face acute starvation while cereal farmers in the North Rift region, the country’s food basket, are experiencing market challenges for their produce.

The farmers are staring at heavy losses due to the deteriorating prices of the cereals — maize and wheat — caused by the ongoing harvest of this season produce and the arrival of cheap imports from neighbouring countries under the East African Common Market Protocol.

Maize prices have dropped to Sh2,400 down from Sh3,200 per 90-kilogramme bag in most parts of the region. The supply of the foodstuff to most households is likely to plummet further as farmers in Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties continue to harvest the crop.

The flour prices have stabilised at an average of Sh80 down from Sh102 per two-kilogramme packet in most retail outlets in the region

“We expect the maize prices to improve once the National Cereals and Produce Board and millers start purchasing the crop,” said Lucy Koech from Sergoit, Uasin Gishu County.

She has 40 bags of maize, which are more than sufficient for her family before the next crop is ready.

“I consume an average of 10 bags annually but I have to keep the rest as security,” she says.

According to the latest report by the National Drought Management Authority, a decline in production coupled with the pandemic affected household food security in the country.

“In the marginal agricultural areas, the poor performance of the long rains coupled with effects of Covid-19 impacted negatively on household food security and considering this being the second successive failed season,” states the 2021 Long Rains Season Assessment Report.

The report says maize production reduced by 70 percent, adding that households have limited stocks of 60 percent with the rest relying on market purchases.

The report also noted that the high cost of food would persist.

“High food prices are expected to continue until the end of the year, further impacting on household food security,” said the report.

Thousands in Marsabit, Isiolo, Samburu, Baringo and Turkana counties face food scarcity as a result of the unrelenting drought. They have to travel several kilometres in search of water and pasture for their animals.

With the country witnessing biting famine, the nutrition situation in places like Turkana, Samburu, Mandera, Garissa, Wajir, Isiolo and North Horr and Laisamis will continue to deteriorate.

“Nutrition situation is projected to worsen in Turkana, Samburu, Mandera, Garissa, Wajir, Isiolo and North Horr and Laisamis given the projected worsening food security situation and will further worsen...if the 2021 short rains perform poorly.

The malnutrition levels though within the same phase are still unacceptably high mainly attributed to poor child feeding practices and reduced milk availability for children’s diet,” the report says.

“Other contributing factors include stock-out of essential supplies for management of acute malnutrition, sub-optimal coverage of health and nutrition programs and high morbidities. Multiple and recurrent shocks coupled with pre-existing factors such as poverty and limited livelihood sources aggravate the problem.”

Despite the harvesting season kicking off in maize growing counties of Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, the National Drought Management Authority in the report predicts that maize production would reduce by eight percent.

It blames the deterioration of inadequate rainfall tied with poor distribution in both space and time, which has affected the breadbasket regions.

“The 2021 long rains production estimates for maize from medium and high rainfall areas of western and the Rift Valley is projected to decline by eight percent below the long term average due to the late onset of rain and dry spells during the critical stages of growth which has resulted in reduced production per unit area in most counties. The rains received were also not adequate coupled with poor distribution in both space and time,” explained the report.

“Maize production for the 2021 long rains in the country is projected to be approximately 32 million (90-kg bags), which is approximately five–10 percent below the five-year average for the same period.”

Most farmers in the North Rift region are contemplating reducing acreage under crop production due to the high cost of farm input as agriculturalists warn of food shortages due to unreliable rainfall.

“A lack of adequate capital will force some maize farmers to scale down acreage under cultivation of the crop due to high production costs,” said Peter Boit from Uasin Gishu County.

The Rift Valley region produced an average of 16 million bags of maize last season compared to about 21 million the previous year.

“It is no longer profitable to invest in maize and wheat cultivation as it requires heavy investment yet the returns are low,” said Joel Kiprop, a farmer in Moiben, Uasin Gishu.

But the prices of beans have remained high in the region with 90-kg going at between Sh6,400 and Sh7,000 due to declined production of the crop last season.

The Rift Valley has an annual bean consumption of about 1.7 million bags.

“What farmers require is sufficient capital to enable them to invest in modern crop production and not to sell our maize produce on credit as in the new NCPB (National Cereals and Produce Board) system,” says Julius Too, a farmer from Ziwa, Uasin Gishu.

A decline in acreage under the staple crop and erratic rainfall are expected to complicate food security.

“The drought will reverse the gains of high crop and dairy production following plentiful rainfall last year,” said William Too, a farmer in Trans-Nzoia County.

The farmers petitioned the government to reform the agricultural sector to enable them to increase crop production to boost food security.

The harvesting is going on at a time when the NCPB faces financial challenges buying maize from farmers due to unpaid debt of Sh12.7 billion by various government ministries and agencies.

The Ministry of Agriculture tops with a debt of about Sh8.1 billion while the State Department of Devolution owes Sh860 million, impacting negatively on the board’s ability to continue delivery of relief services to the department.

The NCPB is owed an estimated Sh1.1 billion by other State agencies, including Sh73.4 million by sugar millers and Sh39.4 million by Muranga County for the supply of subsidised fertiliser but has committed to pay.

According to a report tabled by NCPB chairman Mutea Iringo to the parliamentary Departmental Committee on Agriculture and Livestock, the Treasury has paid Sh2.6 billion to partly offset the Sh8.1 loan by the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Included in the fertiliser subsidy programme is Sh3.6 billion due to Kenya Commercial Bank. The National Treasury granted concurrence for NCPB to use Sh2,657,852,918.29 towards partial payment to the loan. It also directed that negotiations be held between the Ministry of Agriculture, NCPB and KCB to agree on the settlement of the balance as well as giving waivers on interest and penalties charged to the loan account while they continued holding some funds in current accounts,” explained Mr Iringo in the report.

The bank granted a waiver of Sh400 million that had been charged as penalties and Sh30 million on negotiation fee.

“Pending bills on the fertiliser subsidy programme include ETG Sh1.52 billion and NCPB reimbursable Sh1.68 billion,” added the report.

The board is, however, seeking Sh10.3 billion to purchase emergency food stocks as it faces stiff competition from millers and traders who offer better prices and prompt payments due to the anticipated shortage of the staple caused by declined yield this season.

The NCPB plans to purchase three million bags of maize at Sh7.56 billion and 50,000 bags of beans at Sh405 million to stock its National Food Reserve.

According to Mr Iringo, the board plans to buy 100,000 bags of 50-kg of rice at Sh600 million, 30,000 bags of green grams Sh270 million and 20,000 bags of 25 kilogrammes of powdered milk at Sh340 million.

The board is seeking Sh150 million for quality management of National Food Reserve commodities, including aflatoxin laboratories, upgrade of grading equipment and capacity building of staff on quality management among other issues.

The government through the NCPB has not opened its stores to farmers to supply their produce as it faces stiff competition from millers who are offering attractive prices.

“We are still waiting for guidelines to begin receiving maize from farmers,” said NCPB communications manager Titus Maiyo.

Millers and traders in the North Rift region are offering between Sh2,800 per 90-kilogramme bag of maize due to projected shortage after the yield dropped by 11 million bags — from 44 million to 33 million last season.

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Irony of 2.4m Kenyans facing starvation as grain farmers grapple with market hurdles
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High-yielding GMO cotton wins over Tana River farmers

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Mr Zachariah Guyo, a farmer at Bura Irrigation scheme in Tana River tending to his cotton. PHOTO | POOL

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Summary

  • Initially skeptical, growers are warming up to the new variety, helped by market linkages that guarantee good earnings.
  • The farmers are enjoying a ready market after signing a contract with Makueni Ginneries that readily buys their crop once it’s ready.

In 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta under his Big Four Agenda made an announcement that caught scientists unawares after allowing the cultivation of Genetically Modified cotton to boost the manufacturing sector in the country.

The announcement superseded a 2012 ban that had been put in place, prohibiting importation or cultivation of GMO crops in the country, unless it is done under confined trials for research purposes.

Three years later, Zachariah Guyo has emerged as one of the big beneficiaries of Mr Kenyatta’s announcement having doubled his crop with the cultivation of the new biotechnology cotton.

Mr Guyo had been farming cotton for years in Tana River County but stopped because of diseases and insects that ate into his production.

However, with the introduction of Bt cotton, the farmer has only ever seen his yields go up.

“I can attest to the benefits that come with growing this new variety of cotton. I have seen my production double since I embraced the GMO cotton,” said the farmer who is doing the second round of the crop.

Mr Adhan Umuru, another farmer in Tana River says he is also impressed by the performance of the Bt cotton. Its yields and resistance to pests and diseases, he says, makes it appealing for farmers to plant.

“Previously, we could lose a lot of crops to pests and diseases. Boll worms were a major threat to cotton farming. However, with the introduction of this new variety, we are no longer facing the problem of pests,” said Mr Umuru.

The farmers are also enjoying a ready market after signing a contract with Makueni Ginneries that readily buys their crop once it’s ready.

National Irrigation Authority Hola schemer manager James Kirimi said farmers, who grow the crop within the settlement, are selling a kilo of cotton to the ginnery at Sh54 a kilo.

“These farmers are assured of the price because they have already signed a contract to supply the crop to the ginnery,” said Mr Kirimi.

The performance of this GM cotton, which is four times more yielding than the conventional one, has been a driving factor towards the adoption of Bt cotton.

One stem of Bt cotton produces 40 bolls while conventional varieties produce 15 to 20 bolls, making the new variety superior.

The government is projecting that by 2022 between 40,000 and 200,000 farmers will have taken up GMO cotton as it seeks to revive the textile sector that collapsed for lack of raw material.

Market demand

Kenya produces less than 12 million square metres of woven fabric per year, against a market demand of approximately 171 million square metres.

Because textile mills are operating at less than 40 percent capacity, even if all textile factories were to operate at 100 percent capacity, this would produce 26.7 million square metres of fabric, which is only 15.6 percent of the demand.

Scientists have argued that the Bt cotton is resistant to pests and diseases and have the ability to withstand drought.

“This GM cotton is pest-resistant and drought-tolerant and it is the solution to the notorious bollworms that have been affecting the production of the crop in the country,” said Charles Waturu, a senior scientist with Kenya Agriculture Livestock and Research Organisation (Kalro).

Under the big four agenda, the government is targeting manufacturing, especially through textile production, which has been dwindling over years, to create more jobs in the country.

Rivatex revival

In 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta re-commissioned Rivatex Company to promote the production of locally made products using cotton that has been produced by the local farmers. Cotton production has been falling in the country since the 1980s with Kenya relying on imports to bridge the deficit.

According to a report titled The State of Second-Hand Clothes and Footwear Trade in Kenya, published on March 4, 2021, by the Institute of Economic Affairs, Kenyans spent Sh197.5 billion in 2019 on clothes and footwear.

“Some 2.5 percent of private consumption in Kenya was spent on clothing and footwear for the year 2019. This spending amounts to Sh197.5 billion which comes to an average of Sh4,150 per person per year for all purchases of second-hand garments, new clothes, and footwear,” reads the report.

The government has since 2014 pumped almost Sh5 billion in modernising Rivatex, creating over 3,000 jobs and providing fabrics to over 30,000 tailors across the country.

It has taken scientists years of research to have the GM cotton approved for cultivation in Kenya. However, the approval of maize is still pending.

This research, which has so far been recalled, formed the basis upon which the ban was placed.

Kenya has been conducting trials on GMO maize at the confined fields for the last 10 years but the government is yet to allow commercialisation of this variety.

“Kenya is losing this technology because the donor is not going to pump more money on this research when the current policy has barred commercialisation,” says James Karanja, Lead Scientist at Kalro for this project.

Former Health Cabinet Secretary Beth Mugo placed a ban on GMOs in 2012 after a journal published that consumption of the crop had been found to cause cancerous tumors in mice.

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High-yielding GMO cotton wins over Tana River farmers
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Not so fast: Why Kenya is likely to abandon variety

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Summary

  • Ms Anne Maina, the national coordinator of biosafety and biodiversity coalition Kenya (Biba Kenya) says based on the history of what happened in Burkina Faso, GM cotton will not be successful in the country.
  • Farmers in Burkina Faso were forced to abandon GMO cotton in 2015 on the back of challenges associated with the marketability of the shorter fiber length of the crop.

The failure of GMO cotton in Burkina Faso has provided a ready fodder for the anti-GMO groups in Kenya to advance their opposition to this variety.

Ms Anne Maina, the national coordinator of biosafety and biodiversity coalition Kenya (Biba Kenya) says based on the history of what happened in Burkina Faso, GM cotton will not be successful in the country.

“It will not be different from what happened in Burkina Faso. The same scenario is likely to repeat here in Kenya and that is why we are opposed to GMO cotton,” said Ms Maina.

Farmers in Burkina Faso were forced to abandon GMO cotton in 2015 on the back of challenges associated with the marketability of the shorter fiber length of the crop.

The authorities were forced to stop the growing of the Bt cotton because of the losses that farmers made, leading the West African state to revert to the conventional variety.

The Bt cotton introduced by agricultural firm Monsanto (now Bayer) succeeded in controlling pests on Burkina Faso cotton farms, reducing the use of pesticides by up to 70 percent.

Conventional cotton in Burkinabe, Africa’s largest producer, was highly sought the world over because of its quality. However, the production was significantly impacted by the notorious bollworm pests that nearly wiped everything from the farms.

It is because of the negative effects of the bollworms that Monsanto provided the solution of the GMO cotton, which significantly cut on the pests, but failed to address the quality issue.

Ms Maina also argues that the cost of GMO seed is prohibitive to the farmers and this will make it hard for them to access it for planting.

“Access to seed is a very key aspect in farming, the cost of GMO seed is simply too expensive and this could lock out a lot of farmers,” says the activist.

Biba Kenya is an association/network of farmer organisations, animal welfare networks, consumer networks, faith based organisations, local Non- governmental organisation; and community-based groups. All have an interest and work in the areas of environment, agriculture, health, food safety and biodiversity

Apart from the campaign against genetically engineered crops, the coalition has broadened its mandate to issues related to soil fertility and has also been advocating on the ban of chemicals and synthetic fertiliser in the country.

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Not so fast: Why Kenya is likely to abandon variety
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Nairobi County road map to unlocking traffic in city centre

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The Green Park Bus Terminus at Railways, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Nairobi is the second most congested city in Africa and the fourth in the world with several reports showing that the traffic congestion cost an estimated Sh100 billion annually in lost productivity.
  • Top of the plan is to come up with a pricing strategy in the medium term which will suppress demand for on-street parking as it will make it more expensive to park in the city.
  • NMS has already begun implementing the NMT strategy in the city centre which has seen most of the on-street parking slots that had dotted the streets replaced with cabros to create pedestrian and cycling lanes.

Nairobi is the second most congested city in Africa and the fourth in the world with several reports showing that the traffic congestion cost an estimated Sh100 billion annually in lost productivity.

The heavy traffic does not only cause pollution, it also leads to reduced productivity due to hours wasted on the road with Nairobi residents taking an average of 57 minutes to travel in the city.

This results in Kenya losing an estimated Sh50 million a day due to time wasted on the road, according to a 2012 IBM research.

Over the years, traffic congestion has worsened in the city and the situation has been blamed on a rapid increase in car ownership and use.

Contrary to popular belief that traffic congestion is due to public service vehicles, the bulk of the gridlock is caused by private motorists who shun alternative modes of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport and stick to personal vehicles even over short distances.

To put this into perspective, a 2017 research by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra) titled Nairobi Metropolitan Region Transportation Challenges revealed that despite private vehicles accounting for 64 percent of the traffic volume in Nairobi, they only carry 22 percent of the passengers using Nairobi roads.

But a 2007 report by the Ministry of Roads and Public Works was even more damning indicating that although only 15.3 percent of commuters in Nairobi use private cars, they account for 36 percent of vehicles in the capital city roads compared to 29 percent of commuters using matatus who account for only 27 percent of vehicles on the roads.

Subsequently, City Hall and the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) have laid out an elaborate plan to suppress the availability of on-street parking as part of a strategy to reduce the number of private cars competing for the 12,000 parking slots in the city centre.

The two entities target to have a congestion-free city in which pedestrians have safe walkways and public transport is seamlessly connected in a manner that ensures private cars are unnecessary in most parts of the city.

Top of the plan is to come up with a pricing strategy in the medium term which will suppress demand for on-street parking as it will make it more expensive to park in the city.

The other strategy is to invest in building four main park and ride stations to serve private motorists who use Thika Road, Mombasa Road, Ngong and Waiyaki Way so that motorists do not have to get to the city centre with their cars.

Further, on-street parking will be removed and multi-storey and sunken car parks introduced in their place. This will be coupled with rolling out of non-motorised transport (NMT) corridors, further eating into on-street parking spaces.

Phase one of the project, which is part of the Nairobi Urban Mobility Plan, follows the Nairobi River from Donholm all the way to Westlands through Eastlands so that people can walk or cycle into the city centre, Industrial Area and Westlands.

The second phase joins phase one at the city centre and goes to Lang'ata via Nairobi Central Railway station while phase three is from the city centre to Roysambu through Ngara.

NMS has already begun implementing the NMT strategy in the city centre which has seen most of the on-street parking slots that had dotted the streets replaced with cabros to create pedestrian and cycling lanes.

Kenyatta Avenue, Wabera and Muindi Mbingu streets are now dotted with cabros acting as pedestrian and cycling paths.

Kenyatta Avenue NMT will be connected to the new Ngong Road which already has the same corridor. The other side of Kenyatta Avenue will be linked to Moi Avenue which will further connect to Railway Station where construction of both cycle and footpaths is already at the roundabout of Haile Selassie and Moi Avenue.

On Haile Selassie Avenue, the NMT will connect to Jogoo Road through Landhies Road with Jogoo Road already having NMT that terminates at the roundabout near City Stadium.

For the terminus in Ngara, already construction of an NMT from Fig Tree, connecting the terminus to Race Course Road then to the city centre has already begun.

A report by the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) in 2004 indicated that non-motorised transport is still the dominant mode in Nairobi accounting for over 40 percent of the total trips made per day.

The survey showed that out of 4.82 million trips made per day to Nairobi, 2.32 million trips were made by walking and bicycles.

Interestingly, 64 percent of all the trips originating from Eastland along the Jogoo Road corridor and terminating in the Industrial Area and the city centre were made by walking and by cycling, giving some indications on the order of magnitude of the importance of NMT in Nairobi.

NMS director for roads and transport Michael Ochieng explained that the NMT will offer safe walking and cycling space for residents who would want to walk from the termini in the city centre outskirts as they will be linked to the station being constructed on the outskirts of the city centre.

“The new cycling and footpaths are being provided to link those termini to the city centre. If you go to Green Park, it will be linked with the paths covered with a shade through Uhuru Highway into town,” said Mr Ochieng.

The NMS, led by Lieutenant General Mohamed Badi, is putting up six termini out of the city centre as part of the capital’s decongestion strategy.

They include Desai and Park Road termini in Ngara for all matatus currently using Tea Room and Accra Road plying Thika Superhighway and long-distance matatus from Mt Kenya.

Muthurwa-Ladhies terminus for matatus plying the Jogoo and Lusaka Roads routes and the Fig Tree terminus for matatus using Waiyaki Way and Green Park terminal serving as a drop-off and pick-up point for matatus plying the Ngong and Lang’ata routes.

Then there is another terminal located between Bunyala and Workshop Road for matatus plying Mombasa Road, South B, South C, Industrial Area, Imara Daima, Athi River, Kitengela and Machakos routes.

In terms of pricing strategy, City Hall announced last month that it is drafting a parking policy that will see motorists charged hourly for parking in Nairobi.

According to the policy, motorists will be charged between Sh75 and Sh100 every hour for parking within the Nairobi city centre, a departure from daily parking charges.

Currently, motorists are charged a flat rate daily on-street parking fee of Sh200 in the city centre.

This is meant to make the most of the highly competitive slots while easing traffic congestion.

One will part with Sh90 for every hour for on-street parking slots south of Kenyatta Avenue and west of Moi Avenue — areas described as the most sought-after by motorists.

For parking in other areas apart from the two prime spots, an hourly parking fee of Sh75 will be charged. Currently, motorists are charged a flat rate daily on-street parking fee of Sh200 in the city centre.

Parking in hubs outside the city centre will cost Sh50 every hour, with the other areas attracting a charge of Sh40 an hour.

One will also pay Sh100 for parking on off-street spaces, attractive for the relative safety of vehicles from theft and vandalism.

The policy also roots for the removal of season tickets option for parking in the city centre and offer the same outside the city centre at Sh6,000 per month.

It will also see the regulation of parking in mixed areas with high traffic volumes (apart from the highways that pass or cross these areas) and high demand areas (hubs).

The areas include Upper Hill, Community, Westlands, Yaya Centre, Eastleigh, Karen, Gigiri, Ngara, and Hurlingham.

“In these areas, regulation is needed to guarantee urban quality and to provide chances of sustainable means of transport,” says the policy document.

In the regulated areas, the price will reflect the demand and to what extent the supply can meet the demand.

“In the regulated areas, parking on public spaces has a price. The price is higher, the longer the parking duration,” says the policy document.

Regeneration committee

Driving out even taxis that private motorists could opt to use as an alternative, the policy is rooting for the provision of tailor-made solutions for parking for taxis by reducing the number of taxis being idle in the city centre and providing taxi ranks.

Further, specific areas for parking of “official” vehicles will be defined by City Hall while for loading or unloading bays, they will be designated close to commercial premises.

In 2018, the defunct Nairobi Regeneration Committee failed in a plan to make every Wednesday and Saturday car-free days in the Central Business District (CBD) and Westlands.

This would have seen private car owners in Nairobi required to leave behind their cars during the two days and use public transport as part of plans to decongest the city.

The ambitious proposal by Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary Mr James Macharia — who was part of the committee — aborted before it could even see the light of the day.

In terms of the introduction of multi-storey and sunken car parks, Mr Badi said they had earmarked Machakos Country Bus for conversion into an underground multi-storey parking area where motorists will be charged hourly for parking. The project will also see underground parking developed at Sunken Park.

He said the move is part of a bigger plan to integrate an hourly parking regime in Nairobi where the national government agency intends to convert a number of parking areas in the capital into underground parking bays.

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Nairobi County road map to unlocking traffic in city centre
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Water projects cut human-wildlife conflict in the Mara

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Geoffrey Ntaiya, community Olderkesi liason officer, posing close to the water pan. He has a predator-proof boma to keep his herds safe from wildlife predation. PHOTO | POOL.

Summary

  • Women and girls now don’t have to risk life and limb by competing for the scarce commodity with wildlife.
  • The biggest predicament for Maasai women and girls who traditionally bear the burden of searching for water has been their safety, especially from wild animals.

It is Monday morning in Ol pusimoru, a small village a few metres from the Kenya–Tanzanian border in Masai Mara.

Here, Noorkisaruni Selempo, a 40-year old mother of five has just arrived at the Olkinyei water pan, one of the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature initiative within the vast wildlife conservancy.

With her, she has carried a heap of clothes on one side and some jerricans on the other. She expects to do laundry and thereafter carry some water both for her domestic use and for the livestock.

For the past four months or so, she has been lucky to walk just two kilometres, a 15-minute journey from her home, to fetch water.

Perhaps for many with piped water, a two-kilometre walk to fetch water may seem too much, but Selempo understands well just how lucky she is.

“Initially, I could walk up to 30 kilometres, a journey that would take me up to 12 hours, in search of water,” says Selempo.

Girls miss school

For Maasai women and girls here, one of the biggest challenges they have been facing has been getting this vital commodity, with some being forced to go for a whole day journey, just to come back with a 20-litre jerrican of water and sometimes nothing at all.

The water scarcity, which they experienced initially, came with long-distance travel, and with this, countless challenges. From girls missing out on school especially during menstruation, to mothers being forced to leave their children alone at home for hours, water scarcity posed a threat to many families here.

“My mother would go to fetch water far away, where she would leave at about 8am and return at around 3pm. Sometimes she would come home without any water because there were either long queues at the well, or had been chased away by the owners of the water reservoirs,” explains Jacob Ntaiywo, 20.

Besides the social consequences of the scarcity, there was even more danger. The biggest predicament for Maasai women and girls who traditionally bear the burden of searching for water has been their safety, especially from wild animals.

Dangerous trips

Neeopil Koitumet, a mother of five says she and her fellow women have encountered wild animals, especially leopards during their dangerous trips in search of water.

“We used to walk in groups, sometimes hitting our jerricans so as to scare the wild animals. There were times when we could encounter them at the water points and be forced to run for our lives,” she recalls.

According to Mathew Ntaiya, a community conservancy liaison officer, tales of women being attacked by wild animals, especially elephants, buffalos and leopards while in search of water, had become a normal occurrence.

But also young men weren’t spared, as many came face to face with the wild animals while escorting the cattle to water points within the Mara.

Main threats to conservation

According to a 2021 UNEP and WWF report, human-wildlife conflict is one of the greatest threats to wildlife species. The report says the problem is as much a development and humanitarian issue as a conservation concern and risks derailing the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

In Africa, conflicts between people and wildlife currently rank amongst the main threats to conservation, because wildlife survival needs often overlap with those of human populations.

According to Mohammed Awer, chief executive officer at WWF-Kenya (World Wide Fund for Nature)-Kenya, human-wildlife conflicts are often caused by human population increase, high livestock and wildlife population densities and changing land use and climate.

“These conflicts are typically most intense in human-dominated systems where people, livestock, and wildlife share the same landscapes during severe droughts,” he adds.

A 2020 report of the Task Force on Human-Wildlife Conflict Compensation Schemes in Kenya by the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, indicates that human-wildlife conflict in Kenya occurs frequently in the dryland areas which boast a majority of the wildlife population in the country, with Narok ranking among the top five counties which have had the highest human-wildlife conflict incidences, together with Taita Taveta, Lamu, Kajiado and Laikipia.

Human encroachment

Data collected by the Kenya Wildlife Service in Narok between 2001 and 2017 indicates that wildlife species contributed differentially to human-wildlife conflict, with elephants, buffalos, Burchell's zebras, leopards and hyenas occupying the top five positions.

According to the data, the elephant contribution to the human-wildlife conflict was at (46.2 percent), buffalo (10.6 percent), Burchell's zebra (7.6 percent), leopard (7.3 percent), and hyena (5.8 percent).

A research titled Human-Wildlife Conflicts And Their Correlates In Narok County”, published two years ago in the Global Ecology And Conservation Journal, indicated that Narok experienced substantial land use and cover changes between 2000 and 2014.

Agricultural expansion in Narok North and Trans Mara primarily entailed the conversion of wooded and open grasslands to farmlands, thus human-wildlife conflicts increased in the conservancy with increasing area under agriculture.

According to Dr Martin Mulama, Southern Kenya Landscape Manager at WWF-Kenya, one of the critical challenges to conservation is how to enhance and sustain coexistence between people and wild animals.

To deal with the conflict, he says, various mitigation measures have been put in place.

“These range from physical barriers such as electric fences and predator-proof bomas so as to lessen the conflict by reduction of the losses incurred by humans. Currently, we have given out 43 lion lights and 90 predator-proof bomas in the Mara, Amboseli and Tsavo conservancies,” he says.

Moses Karbolo from Tengut village in Olsiteti within the Mara conservancy is one of the beneficiaries of the lion lights.

Before he received the gadgets, he says, wild animals from the Mara would come attack and eat their animals. Their crops were also regularly destroyed by elephants and buffalos which ventured into human settlements looking for pasture.

“But ever since we started using the lights, we have kept the wild animals away and unlike last season where we didn’t plant any crops, we expect to start farming early next year.”

Apart from that, Dr Mulama adds that they have also drilled water pans to reduce contact between humans, their livestock and wild animals. “With this water reservoir, when there’s a lot of rainfall, water can be stored to help the communities in future.”

But even as they come up with solutions, they have to overcome the challenges especially those that result from climate change. For instance, the Olkinyei water pan is almost drying up since it hasn’t rained for quite some time.

According to Awer conservation initiatives have to work within the existing systems of the local communities.

“The conservation priorities in these places must be defined by the people who live within the biodiversity and going forward we will keep being innovative and change conservation tactics, especially in relation with climate change,” says Awer.

Water projects cut human-wildlife conflict in the Mara
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How a Turkana village has stayed unscathed despite biting drought

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Mr Ewas Ng’imojong’, one of the 42 beneficiaries of the 10-acre irrigation scheme, at his farm on September 21, 2021. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Summary

  • Not only are these foods a source of their nourishment, but also income through the sale of surplus produce.
  • According to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) Turkana County Coordinator Abdikadir Jilo, pastoral livelihood zones have gone into alarm drought status.
  • In the past, most residents relied on government food rations that were hard to come by, and when they did, did not last long enough to feed hungry families.

As drought continues to ravage the semi-arid Turkana county, John Lolelea from Kang’eregai village has had a constant supply of food.

“I embraced crop farming as a source of livelihood to beat hunger. My family in the past were [regularly] on the brink of death because of starvation until I turned to crop farming and reduced the number of animals,” he recalled.

He said a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) as part of perennial drought mitigation drilled a borehole, ensuring constant water supply, and inducted residents to crop farming. He has never looked back since embracing crop farming on the 10 acre-Kang’eregai irrigation scheme.

Forty families now directly benefit from the scheme, growing several crops including green grams, sorghum, cowpeas, maize, watermelons, tomatoes, and kales. Not only are these foods a source of their nourishment, but also income through the sale of surplus produce.

“For ages, as pastoralists, we faced waves of devastating hunger caused by failed rains but for us, the irrigation scheme has been a big relief,” Mr Lolelea told the Business Daily when we found him watering his tomato field.

According to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) Turkana County Coordinator Abdikadir Jilo, pastoral livelihood zones have gone into alarm drought status. He singled out Lakezone, Kaeris, Kaaleng/Kaikor and Lapur Wards in Turkana North sub-county as well as Kerio, Kalokol and Kangathota in Turkana Central as the high-risk areas.

Others include Kalapata and Lokichar wards in Turkana South, Katilia and Kochodin in Turkana East as well as border villages in Loima and Turkana West.

“More than 600,000 people are in dire need of relief food. Relevant stakeholders in the county are already taking necessary action through immediate response and we have requested for funds to mitigate the drought,” said the coordinator.

Apart from tomatoes, Mr Lolelea also grows maize ensuring food security for his family throughout the year, weather conditions notwithstanding.

Mr Thomas Lowapet, also engages in crop farming.

“After being taught how to handle the tools and clearing the bushes, a tractor was brought to help us till the land. We were issued with seeds and farm implements with an extension officer to offer technical advice because crop farming was alien to us,” he said.

In the past, most residents relied on government food rations that were hard to come by, and when they did, did not last long enough to feed hungry families. Severe droughts that have killed animals in the past also made life difficult for residents.

“Our families never lack food now and our incomes have also become better unlike before when we were used to moving from one place to another,” he said.

Another beneficiary, Ms Amase Ewoi said their overall nutrition had generally improved after embracingcrop farming.

“I have harvested green grams, cowpeas, sorghum and I expect more yields in two months’ time. Our population is not malnourished because of the reliable food supply and also a variety of foodstuffs,” she observed.

Kang’eregai villagers are part of the IMPACT Programme with funding from Bayer Fund that has been strengthening farmers’ resilience in Turkana through several interventions. Key among them is the improvement of farm water systems such as the sinking of boreholes and the construction of irrigation canals.

“As the effects of the prolonged drought in Turkana continue to be felt, rain-fed farms that would usually provide a lifeline to the communities during lean periods have dried up. We are glad that the investments such as drilling of the boreholes have been worthwhile. The farms that benefitted continue being productive as they are under irrigation” said Africare monitoring and evaluation official Henry Muigai.

He noted they intend to modernise farming in the project areas through the installation of drip irrigation system to economise water utilization.

“We are also building resilience among target women groups in Katilu and Turkwel wards. We are currently installing 100 cone gardens in homes to provide daily vegetables. The cone gardens utilise less water and are highly productive and we aim at improving nutrition and food security,” he said.

The programme targets at least 8,000 people who will benefit from direct nutrition support via community health outreach. Over 15,000 children under two years have been screened and treated of various ailments under the project.

Economic mainstay

Turkana, despite occupying 13 percent of Kenya’s landmass, is an arid region with poverty levels at 79.4 percent, according to the Kenya-Economic Report of 2020 by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) compared to a national average of 31.6 percent.

The report also notes that the county has the highest number of hardcore poor (571,000 individuals) accounting for 15 percent of the total hardcore poor in the country.

In the KIHBS 2015/16 Well Being Report, a household is in hardcore or extreme poverty if their monthly adult equivalent total consumption expenditure per person is less than Sh1,954 in rural and peri-urban areas and less than Sh 2,551 in core-urban areas.

This is now the group feeling the drought heat in Turkana and struggling to find food since the animals which are their economic mainstay are miles away.

At Kalouchelem village the situation is no different as hungry locals appeal for help as a matter of urgency.

Ms Ikalale Ngiminae, just like many other villagers who are going for days without a single meal per day, she the elderly, children, and pregnant mothers were hardest hit by the drought.

“We are suffering and we appeal for urgent relief food to rescue us from dying of hunger. The elderly, children and pregnant mothers are most affected, newborns have no milk to suckle making them stunted and malnourished,” she said.

Turkana Agriculture Executive Philip Aemun said that more than four million goats and sheep across the seven sub counties were at risk of being affected by progressively worsening drought that resulted from delayed March-April-May rains.

"Generally, most traditional and reliable grazing fields are depleted due to overgrazing, threatening pastoralism which is the main source of livelihood for majority of locals," Mr Aemun said.

The county official noted that due to lack of pasture, livestock are currently weak and are fetching little or no income for pastoralists opting to sell now.

"We urgently need concerted efforts from all stakeholders in the livestock sector to rescue our pastoralists by cushioning them with supplementary livestock feeding for the livestock that produces milk," Mr Aemun said.

Turkana has been historically battling drought and famine. Perennially when drought and famine are announced in the country, the county never misses being flagged.

Multiple irrigation projects meant to produce food for the hungry population have since gone under after a few years of yielding enough food to feed the earmarked beneficiaries.

For instance, the once vibrant multimillion-shilling Kiakor drip irrigation scheme which in 2013 provided a glimmer of hope in the fight against hunger now lies in ruins.

The project, an initiative of the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) and the Kenyans for Kenya Steering Committee, was primed as a permanent solution through building community resilience and enhancing food security.

It targeted three villages with a total population of over 15,000 people then producing an array of crops including maize, tomatoes, onions, watermelons and vegetables among others.

Locals’ narrative of hunger ravaging them parallels the nostalgic memories of plenty when the region enjoyed a good harvest.

“The irrigation scheme provided plenty of food and income for three years. But since its collapse, we have reverted to our old life of food dependence. For us to eat we entirely depend on relief food,” he said Nangole Lomuru of Nakinomet village.

He blamed lack of maintenance on the pumps which broke down leading to the drying up of their crops which were under greenhouses.

“Since the scheme collapse life is very challenging since we cannot grow food crops that also served as our source of income through the sale of surplus to various towns including Lodwar and Kakuma as well as across international borders,” he recollects.

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How a Turkana village has stayed unscathed despite biting drought
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How NYS battled to eradicate desert locust infestation

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An NYS worker sprays pesticides in Turkana County on June 7, 2020. PHOTO | AFP

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Summary

  • Two professionals working with the Ministry of Agriculture were trained by the UN agency on the use of eLocust3g.
  • A new unit was recently established at the University of Nairobi to support the control, elimination, and eradication of infectious diseases in Eastern and Central Africa.

In 2020, Kenya reported its first case of desert locust infestation in the arid and semi-arid areas of Wajir, Garissa, Baringo, Marsabit, among other counties.

The attack aftermath was an economic and social impact on pastoralist communities’ crops and pastures, which were destroyed on a grand scale.

A sigh of relief, however, appeared last year when the Kenyan Government in partnership with the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) rolled out ground surveillance and aerial spraying in three counties of Wajir, Mandera and Marsabit to contain swarms of locusts.

The measure controlled further spread of the swarms to unaffected areas, saving farmers millions in livestock and crop losses, which had already been witnessed in the affected areas.

Data from Food Security and Nutrition Working Group’s (FSNWG) East Africa Regional Desert Locust Impact Monitoring round two report showed that swarm attacks fell from 40 percent in June/July to 23 percent between October and December last year.

Also, crop losses dropped to 16 percent from 28 percent in the period. Equally, livestock rearing homes also reported a 23 percent decline in rangeland invasions to 32 percent. Losses from the invasion dropped from 44 percent to 24 percent.

But, the percentage of destruction was still high, beyond the Government’s threshold of zero.

So Kenya embarked on a partnership with FAO to train 500 National Youth Services (NYS) members, 140 county extension officers, 696 community scouts, 60 county agricultural officers as well as 25 environment, health and safety experts on control management.

“500 National Youth Service people and 20 NYS supervisors underwent training, including Sergeant Brian Odhiambo, who later oversaw a group of 200 trained service people deployed on desert locust control operations,” FAO says.

“The terrain in the remote parts of semi-arid northern Kenya is extremely rugged and getting around is a challenge. It was no easy task. The Covid-19 pandemic restrictions in place at the time made operations in these remote and rugged regions of the country much more challenging.”

Two professionals working with the Ministry of Agriculture were also trained by the UN agency on the use of eLocust3g, FAO’s handheld GPS-based data recording and transmission device designed for use in difficult and remote locations where monitoring is a challenge and there is no network.

According to FAO, the device consists of a robust GPS and custom-designed software, which enables those on the ground to gather standard data and transfer it via satellite from the field to the regional locust command centre in Lewa in northern Kenya.

The coordinates of sighted locusts are mapped and shared in real-time with air and ground-based locust control teams for targeting.

“We would wake up at around 5.30 am, by 6.30 am we were already out on the road. Other teams on the ground would share information on where the swarms are, how large they are, and how many swarms are in that area. So we would head towards that specific location, knowing how far we can go per day,” says Sergeant Odhiambo, who believes that if they had not stepped in, destruction would have been much worse.

“Our service people who went out gave 100 percent to the work. The feedback from the villagers and the government is always encouraging. Such encouragement and the impact of services we give to the community keeps us going,” Sergeant Odhiambo states.

Thanks to the effort of Sergeant Odhiambo and his team, the country is now free of desert locusts.

“In just over a year, the country has built a strong institutional capacity to tackle future resurgences and, in addition to the training of young professionals, a desert locust monitoring command centre was established with FAO’s support,” Sergeant Odhiambo notes.

“If it wasn't for the various partnerships, this whole success story would not have been realised.”

Sergeant Odhiambo is now helping to train more NYS volunteers in locust management best practices.

“I teach them to understand why this desert locust needs to be controlled and how to control them,” he says.

The eradication comes as a reprieve to thousands of Asal residents who were facing hunger amid prolonged dry periods due to poor performance of the long rain season between March and May this year.

Data from the Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station data (CHIRPS), a global rainfall database, showed that cumulative rainfall across the eastern and central parts of the country was below average, ranging from 50-80 percent of average.

Only last month, the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSG) 2021 Long Rains Season Assessment Report showed that two in ten (21 percent) of pastoral communities were in need of food assistance in 13 counties such as Turkana, Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo and Kajiado.

Out of these, Turkana County led with the number of those affected (40 percent) followed by Wajir (25 percent) with Mandera and Garissa both recording 20 percent.

This led President Uhuru Kenyatta to declare the ongoing drought affecting these areas a national disaster after meeting local leaders at State House Nairobi last month.

Among 85 leaders from the arid and semi-arid lands (Asal) who met with the President were five governors, Cabinet secretaries, chief administrative secretaries, principal secretaries, MPs and senators.

“The President has instructed the National Treasury and the Ministry of Interior to spearhead government efforts to assist affected households including water and relief food distribution as well as livestock update,” Kanze Dena Mararo, the President’s spokesperson, said last week in a statement.

Asal regions have also had to contend with animal viruses such as the Rift Valley fever (RVF) and East Coast Fever that saw tens of people die. Many animals also perished.

A new unit was recently established at the University of Nairobi to support the control, elimination, and eradication of infectious diseases in Eastern and Central Africa.

The 2020 Center for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (CEMA) sought to enhance data-driven decision-making to improve health in Kenya and in Africa.

Cabinet Secretary for Education Prof George Magoha hailed the launch of CEMA saying research plays a significant role in influencing policy.

Prof Magoha further noted that the training arm of CEMA under the University of Nairobi should be keen to mentor the next generation of young researchers through training.

“Genuine data is power and knowledge. Managing a public health emergency of such proportions calls for a lot of sobriety in making rapid and meaningful decisions. We must employ a multidisciplinary approach in tackling the pandemic using relevant data to make effective decisions,” said Prof Magoha.

“Such decisions must be supported by locally relevant data. The data should of necessity be generated locally by the scientists.”

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How NYS battled to eradicate desert locust infestation
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Degradation of the environment erodes Kerio Valley’s beauty

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Charcoal burning at Kocholwo on the escarpment in Elgeyo Marakwet on September 28, 2021. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Summary

  • The Elgeyo escarpment is famed for its beautiful scenery and is highly praised globally as a favourite training spot for athletes.
  • The county government’s disaster department indicates that over 50,000 households live on the escarpment with 4,000 families in high-risk zones that have fault lines.
  • Environment Principal Secretary Dr Chris Kiptoo said his ministry will coordinate stakeholders to ensure landscape restoration and other measures on climate change mitigation and adaptation are undertaken.

The Elgeyo escarpment is famed for its beautiful scenery and is highly praised globally as a favourite training spot for athletes due to its high altitude that optimises performance.

Despite this glamour, the escarpment is gaining notoriety as a threat to life and limb because of increasing catastrophic landslides, especially during the rainy season.

The landslides, which have killed over 500 people in the past two decades and left thousands of others landless, are largely attributed to unbridled human activities on the fragile ecosystem.

In Elgeyo Marakwet, for instance, thousands of residents have encroached beyond the ‘Spencer Line’ leading to wanton destruction of the delicate ecosystem.

‘Spencer Line' was coined after a colonial administrator William Spencer who demarcated a boundary on the escarpment beyond which no human activity was allowed.

Residents say when it rains on the highlands, it pours on the escapement as stormwater resulting in massive landslides that leave a trail of human and livestock deaths as well as property destruction.

The county government’s disaster department indicates that over 50,000 households live on the escarpment with 4,000 families in high-risk zones that have fault lines.

Memories of devastating landslides that rocked the region during the 1997/98 Elnino rains are still etched in the minds of former residents of Kabawa village.

“In the torrential rains people, livestock and other property were swept down the escarpment by massive landslides. The entire village was swept away forcing the government to relocate us,” said Mr Samuel Kemkem.

He said initially 78 families were relocated and resettled at Kimoron but as a reminder of their ordeal renamed the village El Nino Campsite.

“We feel abandoned because for almost 25 years we have been living in the campsite and our population has increased to over 1,000 people and the number is growing. We are grappling with many challenges,” he said.

At the escarpment, blatant environmental degradation is evident as residents go about charcoal burning and farming oblivious to the danger their activities pose.

Charcoal burning is rampant and smoke can be seen billowing in the escarpment and also locals sell firewood along the road, an indication that there is rampant tree cutting.

Mr Michael Tuitoek survived a 2012 landslide that caused steep gulleys as a result of gushing waters and rolling stones.

“We have seen all the activities unfold before our very own eyes. Locals have disregarded the existing laws and even tilled up the hilltops. When the rains stop, we are left to worry about deep gulleys left behind by the torrential rains,” said Mr Tuitoek.

The gulleys, according to Mr Tuitoek, are safety harzards to people and animals, who occasionally fall into them. They also render thousands of acres of land bare and unproductive.

Population explosion

“There is population explosion and the escarpment is a community land owned through clans and you will find people setting up houses and cultivating the steep slopes. These activities with time destroy the environment that has now given rise to landslides and erosion, destroying the beautiful escarpment,” observed Mr Tuitoek.

Mr William Kwambai said in the olden days the escarpment offered a range of flora and fauna. Nature thrived when no one inhabited the steep escarpment.

“Nowadays we have only memories. No more regular chattering of monkeys and baboons as well as sighting of other wild animals. Their habitat has been wiped out forcing them to retreat to pockets of bushes that still remain and rock crevices,” rued Mr Kwambai.

He said the ripple effect of the escarpment degradation has been the increased human-wildlife conflict but more disastrous is the devastating landslide each rainy season.

Mr Clement Lagat said charcoal burning and cultivation on the hilltops was responsible for the recurring landslides and erosion.

“There is widespread charcoal burning and little conservation efforts done to mitigate the environmental destruction. The region is steadily turning into a desert,” warned Mr Lagat.

Elgeyo Marakwet Lands and Environment Executive Abraham Barsosio while admitting the environmental degradation had reached alarming levels, said the county had drafted a law to proscribe the cultivation or settlement along the escarpment.

“There is haphazardly settlement on the escarpment, farming activities and charcoal burning thus interfering with the fragile environment,” said tMr Barsosio.

He added the will restore the Spencer Line’ boundary as the first step to reverse the devastating ecological consequences occasioned by the destruction.

He said the county administration has singled Kocholwo, Tambach, Sambirir, and Embolot- Embobut across the escarpments and the hanging valleys as the notorious regions facing with recurring landslide and rampant erosion.

Elgeyo Marakwet county Director of Meteorological Services Simon Cheptot said a comprehensive conservation strategy should be put in place.

“People have randomly encroached on the escarpment and riparian reserves in an effort to create more land for farming. This has led to the destruction of wildlife habitats especially for snakes, monkeys among others," said the director.

Public awareness

According to the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), Integrated National Land use Guidelines, there should be no cultivation at all on slopes beyond 55 percent gradient (slope). It instead offers that such areas should be planted with trees and existing vegetation protected.

Environment Principal Secretary Dr Chris Kiptoo said his ministry will coordinate stakeholders to ensure landscape restoration and other measures on climate change mitigation and adaptation are undertaken.

“Deforestation and forest landscape degradation will need to be addressed as a long-term measure to end the cycle of deadly landslides. Public education and awareness on the protection of upper catchments and the use of weather forecasts are therefore key going forward.

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Degradation of the environment erodes Kerio Valley’s beauty
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State agency eyes geothermal heat to fire up farming, manufacturing

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Ms Esther Njuguna, an engineer at GDC inside a geothermal-heated greenhouse at its Direct Use Pilot project at Menengai base in Nakuru on October 26, 2021. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NMG

Summary

  • Milk pasteurisation is just one of the many industrial processes that GDC has launched at the Menengai geothermal field.
  • Maize farmers too have a reason to smile as they are accessing the ultra-modern dryer to dry their maize after shelling.
  • GDC wants to tap into underutilised geothermal heat at Menengai and is wooing investors who want to use geothermal steam to power their investments.

"I love cows. I get my pension from the sale of milk. I'm so passionate about dairy farming. I'm proud to be involved in the production of milk. It has not been a walk in the park, but on the brighter side of this venture, it has also been very rewarding. However, now I feel I cannot go any extra mile in the business," lamented James Rugut.

Mr Rugut, based in Sobea village, Rongai sub-county in Nakuru is one of the dairy farmers complaining that delayed payment for their milk is stifling their operations.

Milk in agricultural rich Rongai is bought by cooperatives that in turn sell it to outlets and processors in Nakuru, Nairobi and Kiambu counties.

"We are not happy with the price at which they purchase our milk. They purchase at between Sh38 and Sh42 per litre which is simply too little considering that we invest heavily as we have no other source of income. The price of animal feeds has skyrocketed. This is exacerbated by the failure to pay us in time. Some processors that buy through cooperatives often reject our milk and tell us that it is spoilt," Mr Rugut said.

Like Mr Rugut, many other dairy farmers say they are considering abandoning the venture if the trend does not change.

"It is no longer economically viable to engage in dairy farming. Even though I have an emotional attachment to the cows, I see no point in sticking to the business because I am incurring losses yet I'm forced to maintain the animals and feed," said another farmer who requested anonymity.

Big mess

Mr Simeon Kimetto is also not happy with a processor he has been delivering milk to for the last five years and complains of delayed payment.

"I'm being forced to sell my four cows to clear school fees for my son at the university as the processor has not paid for my deliveries. It is not only the farmers who have suffered losses but cooperatives as well. It is a big mess," he said.

However, about 500 farmers supplying milk to Rongai Dairy Commercialisation Co-operative Society Limited have a reason to smile and keep rearing their animals as a State agency sets the ground for investors to use geothermal heat for farming and manufacturing.

Geothermal Development Company (GDC) is using geothermal steam to pasteurise milk at its Menengai base in Nakuru and has entered into a contract with Rongai Dairy Commercialisation Co-operative Society where it buys about 1,200 litres of milk per month.

The milk is sold to workers at the Menengai GDC and those working in the Baringo- Silali geothermal project in Baringo and Suswa fields.

Milk pasteurisation is just one of the many industrial processes that GDC has launched at the Menengai geothermal field that will also see thousands of farming communities in Rongai, Bahati, Kiamunyi, and Mang'u benefit.

GDC has established several Direct Use Demonstration pilots and includes a semi-commercial grain dryer, a milk pasteuriser, a laundry unit, fish farming ponds and geothermal-heated greenhouses.

Mr Dennis Sang the secretary of the Rongai Dairy Commercialisation Co-operative Society, said since they started selling the milk to GDC, issues of late payments and poor prices are a thing of the past.

"With a pasteurising unit at GDC Menengai, our prayers have been answered as we have a ready market where we sell our milk directly. Since we started selling the milk to GDC early this year our farmers have avoided losing money to middlemen. GDC buys our milk at a better price of Sh46 and pays promptly without any delay," he said.

He added: "Some farmers who had cut ties with our society due to delayed payments and poor prices have come back after we signed the contract with GDC."

Game-changer

Maize farmers too have a reason to smile as they are accessing the ultra-modern dryer to dry their maize after shelling.

"My maize produce was rejected by an agro-processing factory due to poor quality caused by the high level of humidity owing to poor post-harvest handling stage. However, this season I have sold all the maize after it was dried at GDC dryer," said Mr Peter Kimotho, a farmer at Kabarak.

Mr Japheth Towett, an engineer at Menengai said the geothermal grain dryer, which was installed in 2019 has a total storage capacity of about 30 tonnes of grains and reduces moisture content from as high as 20 per cent to 13 per cent.

"It takes about four hours to dry the grain. The greatest advantage is that we reduce on energy used to dry the grains by 60 percent. That is the essence of this drying unit. The dryer uses renewable energy and does not emit harmful gases that pollute the environment contributing to global warming," said Mr Towett.

He added: "The dryer is a game-changer as it helps to curb post-harvest losses which have seen many farmers record poor profit margins from their farming ventures."

Mr Towett said the dryer, manufactured in Sweden, had come in handy to grain handlers and farmers around Menengai who had been struggling with the problem of aflatoxin and post-harvest losses.

"I no longer have worries of my maize developing aflatoxin as I use the GDC dryer which is efficient. I can now store my maize for longer periods and sell it when the prices are good. I encourage other farmers around Menengai to use the facility if they want to maintain high quality," said Mr George Kibara, a maize farmer.

Ms Esther Njuguna, an engineer at Direct Use Demonstration pilot at Menengai, said GDC aims at highlighting other uses of geothermal energy apart from power generation.

"With Direct Use Demonstration pilot we want to establish what we can do with the gases, hot water, heat and minerals that come with geothermal energy," explained Ms Njuguna.

She said the buying of milk by GDC has improved the hygiene of the milk delivered by the farmers as they ensure it is not adulterated as it will be rejected.

"The cooperative supplying us milk is now doing thorough tests before delivering the milk and this has improved the quality of milk and many farmers are now aware that the milk they sell to their co-operative undergo quality assurance tests and therefore they will take care of to avoid rejection," explained Ms Njuguna.

The pasteurisation at Menengai comes at a time when the multibillion-shilling sector has attracted many new processors who are setting their base in Nakuru which is one of the largest milk producers in the country estimated to be worth more than Sh10billion.

New gospel

"This is a huge opportunity for investors and communities around Menengai to take advantage of geothermal steam to grow their investment in manufacturing and farming. That is the gospel we are preaching here. With the Big Four Agenda gathering steam, GDC will significantly contribute to the achievement of this ambitious flagship project by the government," added Ms Njuguna.

GDC wants to tap into underutilised geothermal heat at Menengai and is wooing investors who want to use geothermal steam to power their investments to partner with and Nakuru County government to set up a geothermal resource park.

"The direction in which GDC is heading is to commercialise activities at direct use like a geothermal–heated greenhouse, aquaculture, grain drying and milk pasteurisation. We want investors to come and set their bases at Menengai which has an abundance of geothermal energy," explained Ms Njuguna.

The diversification of geothermal resources and the entry of new investors to use geothermal heat for farming and manufacturing will usher in new investment opportunities and spur economic growth in Nakuru town which is earmarked to become a city soon.

GDC has signed a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the county government to establish a geothermal heat park that will host different companies in the manufacturing, farming and hospitality sectors and this will create wealth and job opportunities for the locals.

"GDC has already signed a collaboration framework agreement with Nakuru county government and will supply geothermal energy-steam and electricity to the park and this will attract more investors," said Ms Njuguna.

Mr Gabriel Wetangula, manager of safety, health and environment at GDC said the firm has put stringent environmental and social management plans to address any potential impact that arise from the project.

Cost-cutting

"We have put monitoring programmes for different issues and one of the issues we have addressed is afforestation. We have put measures to conserve the environment by planting trees. Previously the area was hit by illegal grazing and charcoal burning but we have reversed the trend and the area is regaining its lost glory as we have supplied the community with tree seedlings for their domestic use. We have also put measures to monitor the quality of air due to the gases emitted from the wells by installing an automatic weather station," said Mr Wetangula.

GDC chief executive officer Jared Othieno said that geothermal at Menengai is abundant and will accelerate energy access, cut costs and improve lifestyles.

"For the heat park, the most important component is the geothermal heat mined from steam. We have an abundance of heat. The heat is readily available. It's clean and supports various industrial processes," said the GDC boss.

Energy sector specialists say if fully exploited, direct use projects will attract investors and boost GDC's revenue beyond the current annual turnover of Sh3.3billion from steam sales to KenGen.

The World Bank is supporting GDC to develop a comprehensive 20-year business plan and financial model that will ensure the state agency is taking full advantage of revenue-generating opportunities arising from the growing demand for geothermal energy in the country.

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State agency eyes geothermal heat to fire up farming, manufacturing
Data Hub

How armed conflict over pasture in North Rift has been resolved by pastoralists

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Women from various groups during harvesting of African Foxtail grass seeds at a farm in Chemeron village in Marigat, Baringo County on October 14, 2021. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA

Summary

  • The solution has been found by encouraging residents to embrace fodder production.
  • Some residents have pooled resources and formed cooperative societies to invest in pasture multiplication and fodder production.
  • Commercial fodder production is gaining popularity as an alternative source of income among the Ilchamus community on the shores of Lake Baringo.

Dispute over pasture and water has been the main source of armed conflicts among pastoralists in Northern Kenya that has led to the loss of human lives and property.

However, the perennial issue is now being resolved. The solution has been found by encouraging residents to embrace fodder production to manage the availability of feeds for their animals throughout the year especially during the dry spells, and reduce the rampant cases of conflicts over grazing fields.

Some residents have pooled resources and formed cooperative societies to invest in pasture multiplication and fodder production in bulk to enjoy economies of scale, enhancing milk production and thus attaining food security and improved nutrition.

The African foxtail grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) is the most common variety grown in dry parts of the region — Baringo (Marigat), Marsabit, West Pokot, Turkana, Samburu and Laikipia counties — due to its ability to withstand harsh climatic conditions. They are also of high nutritional value to livestock.

Commercial fodder production is gaining popularity as an alternative source of income among the Ilchamus community on the shores of Lake Baringo. The community is now generating additional revenue throughout the year due to improved livestock and increased milk and beef production.

The livestock keepers grow African foxtail grass for seed bulking at the household and group levels. They have transformed their livelihoods thanks to a steady supply of pasture for their livestock and improved revenue generation.

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Francis Leking’odia, manager of Kerio Valley Development Authority’s Chemeron Farm Project in Marigat, Baringo County shows Sahiwal cows that they feed using African Foxtail grass on October 14, 2021. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Among women groups that have benefitted from fodder production are Naret, Naitero, Nairuchuruch and Maero who have overcome cultural stereotypes and barriers to establish farms that earn them handsome income annually.

The chairperson of Naitero Women group Christine Lewatachum said they approached Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) Chemeron regional office in 2015 seeking technical know-how on pasture seed bulking.

“This is a semi-arid region and initially we had homes and farms located along Lake Baringo shores but we have been displaced by floods. Luckily KVDA came to our rescue and introduced us to pasture multiplication for our livestock. They donated pasture seeds and offered onward field extension service, to train us on the new investment” said Ms Lewatachum.

She said together with other 10 women they formed the group that has since pioneered pasture growing for seed bulking.

“Some of our members donated their farms and at the moment we have two acres under pasture. We utilise household labour to cut costs and we get over Sh500,000 annually from the sale of pasture seeds. Besides, we make hay from the stalks which we use in feeding our animals as well as thatching houses,” she added.

Ms Lewatachum said with the income from fodder production, they formed a savings account where members access loans at low-interest rates which has allowed them to comfortably foot their bills including school fees.

Another member of the group, Rhoda Lesaris, notes that the pasture is drought-resistant and does well in areas with little rain besides taking just three months to mature.

“We used to grow maize but on many occasions, harsh weather wiped it out, but when we were introduced to the pasture our lives turned around. The pasture once planted is harvested for up to six years depending on how one manages the farm. It also requires no fertiliser to be applied thus reducing production costs,” she said.

Seeing their peers excel, other women in Ilchamus ward followed suit and started benchmarking from Naitero and established pasture farms for seed bulking.

A visit to Salabani in Baringo South reveals a carpet of green grass dotting the semi-arid landscape. Farmers harvest the pasture seeds thrice a year and sell at Sh400 a kilo to KVDA for packaging before it is sold to buyers including government agencies and private individuals to make pasture.

Naret group secretary Elizabeth Barsalach said they have 10 acres under the pasture.

“Before the introduction of the pasture, poverty levels were very high in this region and catering for basic commodities was a challenge to a majority of the households. Children had dropped out of school and generally, life was hard. The pasture is now a game-changer,” she told Business Daily.

For Nairuchuruch group, pasture has completely transformed their lives both in terms of nutrition and living standards.

“Each drought season many of the poor locals used to experience hunger but now we sell the pasture seeds and buy food. We no longer rely on tree leaves to feed the animals but we have pasture which is nutritious and plenty in supply,” she said.

She hailed KVDA for addressing their marketing woes, saying that in the past brokers would buy the seeds at Sh250 or less for a kilo when compared to Sh400 from KVDA.

“We need to expand our farms to allow members to reap maximum benefits,” she said.

The pasture has opened many fronts to 30 women under Maero group, which has since bought three dairy goats. Each member has a tank to harvest rainwater. They also bought tents and chairs with a public address system for hire.

“It is through the pasture that we have diversified our income base. The goats supplement us with milk which is shared among members. This has greatly improved our health status,” stated Maero chair lady, Dinah Sikamoi.

The pasture has also been named ‘conflict resolution grass’ because it has helped in bringing peace to the area.

“We have since improved our animal breeds and disposed off the indigenous ones that are famed by rustlers. We have less than five cows that are fed with the hay from our farms and no bandit comes for them since they do not roam looking for pasture and water,” she said.

The women groups still face erratic weather which makes the pasture less productive in some seasons, as well as snakes which use the farms as their hideout.

KVDA Chemeron project manager Francis Lekingodia said they partnered with the community through groups who are engaged in seed bulking.

“We provide technical expertise in seed bulking before we buy the harvested seeds. The plenty of pasture despite improving household income has seen locals change their farming practices from nomadic lifestyle to paddocking,” he said.

Mr Lokingodia said the pasture, with a crude protein content of 12 percent, does well in dry areas.

“It is a good moisture content absorber thus it is favoured by locals in the area. We have other farms in Samburu, and Turkana under pasture and farmers and institutions across the country purchase from them seeds as well as hay,” he said.

According to KVDA managing director Sammy Naporos, plans are underway to introduce fodder production among pastoralists in other regions under the agency to provide a reliable supply of animal feeds and resolve armed conflicts.

“Pasture multiplication and fodder production among agro-pastoralists will address challenges of diminishing land sizes and ensure a steady supply of animal feeds during dry spell and help resolve armed conflicts over grazing fields,” said Mr Naporos.

“Apart from empowering households and women groups to have steady source of income, the programme has helped to minimise armed conflict over pasture and address land degradation.”

He however challenges the pastoralists to form cooperative societies to benefit from commercial fodder production through attractive market rates.

“There is need to train more pastoralists on how to diversify to fodder production for their animals and earn more revenue. They need to form cooperative societies to attain better bargaining power for the grass seeds and fodder,” noted Mr Naporos.

He disclosed plans by KVDA to train farmers and registered groups on modern grass seed production techniques and empower them to understand the entire value chain.

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How armed conflict over pasture in North Rift has been resolved by pastoralists
Data Hub

Online messaging apps pile pressure on once dominant SMS

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Summary

  • Latest industry data shows that the number of SMSes sent and received declined to 12.7 billion in the year to June this year, a sharp drop of 36.4 percent from a similar period in 2020.
  • The shift to the new platforms has been both a burden and blessing to telecommunication firms.
  • CA data shows that SMS contributed 18 percent of total mobile service revenues in 2018 that stood at Sh264.4 billion.

The increased preference for messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger is fast pushing the once-popular SMS into obsolescence as consumers turn to the cheap yet more user-friendly and convenient options.

Latest industry data shows that the number of SMSes sent and received declined to 12.7 billion in the year to June this year, a sharp drop of 36.4 percent from a similar period in 2020.

The data from the Communications Authority (CA) shows that SMS numbers have been declining quarter-on-quarter since June last year.

From a high of 20.09 million in June last year, the number of SMSes sent and received in the country declined to 16.98 million three months later and 14.18 million in December.

The shift to the new platforms has been both a burden and blessing to telecommunication firms. While they feel the heat from their underperforming text revenue streams, the platforms are helping drive the use of their mobile and fibre internet services.

“Voice and messaging still have a lot of opportunity to be explored despite stiff competition from both direct competitors and cannibalisation from IP (Internet Protocol) messaging platforms such as WhatsApp,” Safaricom says in its annual report for the year ended March.

Revenue basket

Texts contributions to telcos as a share of the total revenues has been falling for the past three years while mobile and fixed data contribution has been on the rise.

CA data shows that SMS contributed 18 percent of total mobile service revenues in 2018 that stood at Sh264.4 billion, behind data (fixed and mobile) at 20 percent and voice that accounted for 39 percent.

In 2019, SMS’ contributions to the telcos’ revenue basket dropped to 7.1 percent while the share of mobile and fixed data rose to 21.9 percent. Telecommunication firms made Sh276.6 billion from mobile services.

Last year, the share of SMS contributions fell further to 5.8 percent while that from mobile and fixed data rose to 24.7 percent. Revenue from voice accounted for 35.8 percent. Telcos made Sh280.1 billion in the period.

Besides the convenience and user-friendliness, the shift to online messaging apps is fueled by affordable data packages for mobile and fibre-based internet, and cheap deals for smartphones.

“Smartphone uptake continues to increase, driven by the decline in prices, and enabling more people to gain mobile internet,” Safaricom says in its March report.

Low-end 4G-enabled smartphones on average are priced between Sh5,000 and Sh6,000, making it easy for most Kenyans to acquire the handsets.

And with the appetite and revenues from text streams falling over the years, telcos have ramped up investments in fixed data connections, diversifying revenue streams to tap into the shift.

Telcos have ramped up investments in the fixed data market with connections growing 18 percent to 734,329 as at June from 619,579 a year ago.

Safaricom tops in the fixed data connections for homes, businesses and offices at 269,397 connections or 36.7 percent of the market followed by the Wananchi-owned Zuku with 217,300 connections or 29.6 percent while Telkom Kenya had 4,361 connections or 0.6 percent in the year ended June.

Telcos have previously turned to SMS promotion where subscribers stood a chance of winning smartphones and airtime as a way of wooing more subscribers to the texting world.

SMSes were once cheaper and more convenient to reach out to people in remote areas, but subscribers can chat and call using free WhatsApp, increasing the platform’s appeal.

The rise in fixed data connections and mobile data subscriptions by 5.16 million in 46 million in the year to June further highlights the surge in popularity for online-based platforms like WhatsApp.

Mobile data subscriptions have also been on the rise.

In June, mobile data subscriptions stood at 46,002,220, from 40,832,642 a year ago, with Safaricom holding 68 percent of this market share followed by Airtel 26.6 at percent and Telkom Kenya (4.6 percent).

Safaricom, which in March launched the 5G technology with 15 sites in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega, says it wants to increase the number of cities and towns covered by its high-speed internet to 200 by the end of December and commercialise the super-fast services in the next year.

Safaricom is aiming to increase its data business to offset sluggish growth in voice, where small revenue growth due to saturation has forced the firm to turn to M-Pesa and the internet to power future growth.

Airtel Kenya— Safaricom’s closest rival in the local market recently upgraded 600 network sites to meet fifth-generation (5G) mobile internet services capabilities in readiness for the roll-out of the super-fast services in urban centres.

The telco is betting on the network upgrades to shore up its data business and offset sluggish growth in mobile calls, where they are seeing a small revenue growth due to saturation.

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Online messaging apps pile pressure on once dominant SMS
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