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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Demonstration plot established at Kabati

By Robert Eyapan
Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, MEA Ltd and Kenya Seed Company Ltd on April 28, 2014 established a demonstration plot at Mlima Meza area of Kabati in Laikipia County. The demo plot which has been established at Tabitha Wanjiru’s farm will act as a place where farmers will be taught best farming practices.
Elcy explaining the correct planting procedure
Elcy Kigano, Divisional Crop Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, Sipili division informed farmers that they will be able to benefit from the demo plot as they will be trained on best farming practices from tilling of land to post harvest grain handling.
“This is just the beginning as you will be trained during the entire process of farming. You can only practice Kilimo Biashara if you increase your production,” said Elcy.
Bob Aston from Ng’arua Maarifa Centre said that Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) has been promoting sustainable family farming by stressing its capacity to address hunger, poverty, environmental degradation and climate change.
Bob said they are now trying to ensure that farmers automate their records through Farm Record Management Information System – Kenya (FARMIS Kenya).
“Proper record keeping is important as it will help you to know whether you are making a profit or loss. When you keep your records well it will be easier to monitor your farming activities. This will be possible through FARMIS Kenya,” said Bob.
Certified hybrid seeds from Kenya Seed Company Ltd were planted in the demo plot. The varieties that have been planted are; H520, H624, H629, H626, and H6210.
The five certified hybrid seeds have different characteristics like; H624 is tolerant to grey leaf spot, leaf blight and rust. H6210 has good husk cover and is tolerant to lodging and leaf blight. H629 produce big maize, has good husk cover and is leaf blight tolerant. H626 is tolerant to lodging and most leaf diseases. H520 matures early, is tolerant to leaf rust, lodging and grey leaf spot. H624 is tolerant to grey leaf spot, leaf blight and rust.
Elcy explaining how to mix soil with fertilizer
Soil analysis had been conducted at the farm by MEA Ltd. The analysis report indicated that the soil had become acidic due to continuous use of DAP. The farmers used NPK 23:23:0 in the demo plot.
Elcy said that NPK fertilizer contains nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Nitrogen functions as a means for the plant to produce more chlorophyll. This helps plant foliage to grow strong and allow for a dark green color. Phosphorus aids in the initial growth of plants by contributing to root development.
She said that nitrogen fertilizers are very soluble and move readily in moist soil thus placement with or very near the seed is not necessary to ensure effective utilization. Phosphate fertilizers do not move readily in soil thus placing the band of phosphate near developing seedling roots is most effective while Potassium will move in the soil more readily than phosphorus.
“When planting ensure seeds are not planted directly in contact with fertilizer as this can cause poor germination due to scorching,” said Elcy.
Elcy said that Sipili is a marginal area hence spacing is supposed to be 90 cm by 30 cm. From one line to the next line is supposed to measure 90 cm while from one hole to the next hole is supposed to be 30 cm.
“High yields can only be obtained if the correct number of plants are grown. You are also supposed to ensure there is good management during physiological maturity,” said Elcy.
She advised farmers to practice pure stand as mixing maize and beans together normally leads to reduced yields.
Hole dug for the seedlings should be 8 cm deep when planting when the ground is dry while it should be 5 cm deep when planting when the ground is wet or rather during the rainy season. This will help to prevent losses of the seeds from insect pests and ground squirrels.
Community members planting at the demonstration farm
When hand-planting, put fertilizer in the hole, stir with a panga to mix the fertilizer with the soil, then put the seed. Cover the seed with loose soil.
Elcy advised farmers to always plant early at the beginning of the long rains as yields are greatly reduced by late planting,
“This season it has not rained here in Sipili hence most farmers have not planted while some who had already planted are experiencing a lot of problem their crops have not geminated or have wilted,” said Elcy.
She said that land choked with grass and other weeds will not produce good maize crops while not using certified hybrid seeds and correct fertilizer will lead to low yield.
Similar demonstration plots have also been established at Kahuruko area in Jackson Chege’s farm, Makutano B area at Peter Mwaniki’s farm, Muhotetu at Waweru Kanja’s farm and Naiborom at Charles Nderitu’s farm.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Sokopepe market leads farmer to give land for demo

By Bob Aston
Peter Maina Mwaniki, a farmer in Sipili Division, Laikipia County has been a user of Sokopepe Ltd which has been connecting him to various buyers. Through this he has been able to sell his Lima Beans to Mombasa and Nairobi.
Mwaniki now intends to increase production of both maize and Lima beans so that he can continue selling through Sokopepe Ltd and getting a good price for his produce. http://ngaruamaarifa.blogspot.com/2014/02/sokopepe-helped-me-get-buyer.html
Mwaniki assessing section of the farm set o be used for demo plot
Mwaniki has been farming since 1980 in a four (4) acre piece of land. He has planted several enterprise crops like maize, grain amaranth, Lima beans and Dolichos. He has a fruit orchard where he has grown oranges and lemon. He also practices poultry rearing and dairy farming.
Need to increase production prompted him to give a quarter of an acre to be used as a demo plot. ALIN has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, MEA Ltd and Kenya Seed Company Ltd to set up the demo plots.
“I want to continue selling through Sokopepe. I want to increase my production so that I can get high returns. Learning best farming practices from the demo plot will enable me increase my yield,” said Mwaniki.
The Ministry of Agriculture collected soil samples from his farm which was then taken to Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). This they said would be used to provide an accurate assessment of the soil’s fertility status that can be used to make fertilizer recommendations. This will ensure that there is enough fertilizer application to meet the requirements of the crops while taking advantage of the nutrients already present in the soil.
Mwaniki assessing section of the farm set o be used for demo plot
Mwaniki has already been issued with four and a half kilos of certified hybrid seeds from Kenya Seed Company Ltd. The varieties that will be planted in the demo plot are; H520, H624, H629, H626, and H6210.
He bought 25kg of NPK 17:17:17 fertilizer while MEA Ltd issued him with Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) for top dressing.
The soil analysis report which he received from KARI indicated that his soil organic matter should be improved as it was deficient in nitrogen, phosphorous and zink.
He was advised to use NPK 17:17:17, to apply 120kg/acre of composed fertilizer as well as to top dress with 50kg/acre of CAN.
Mwaniki has been investing more than Ksh 40,000 per year in his farm. Despite this he has been harvesting less than 10 bags per acre of maize. He expects to be able to get more than 20 bags per acre after learning from the various trainings that will be conducted at the demo plot.
He has been using foliar feed instead of CAN. This year he is planning to start using CAN as well as NPK 17:17:17 instead of DAP.
“Most farmers in this area will be able to benefit from the demo plot as they will learn best farming practices. This will enable them practice Kilimo Biashara,” said Mwaniki.
Mwaniki assessing section of the farm set o be used for demo plot
Mwaniki has been using Sokopepe to get market tips and also query market prices. He has now decided to join Farm Record Management Information System – Kenya (FARMIS Kenya) which has been introduced by Sokopepe Ltd to help farmers keep their farm records.
“I want my farm records to be automated. It will now be easier for me to monitor my farming activities and determine which business line in my farm is breaking even and which ones are eating into my profit margins,” said Mwaniki.
FARMIS Kenya enables farmers to capture a farm’s profile and record all their farming enterprises capturing costs of tilling, inputs, labour, harvesting and post-harvest operations for crops and similar records for livestock. By doing that a farm’s total productivity is documented and farmers are able to extract a profit and loss statement at the end of each season.
Mwaniki can be contacted through 0725152750

Monday, 28 April 2014

Pursuit of high yield leads a farmer to give land for demo

By Bob Aston
Demonstration plots have been used for a long time as training grounds for farmers on best farming practices. During a capacity building training organized by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society, Charles Nderitu, a resident of Naibrom in Laikipia County volunteered to be among five (5) farmers who would give their land to be used as a demonstration plot.
Charles inspecting the land set aside for the demo plot
Charles has set aside a quarter of an acre for the demonstration. ALIN has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, MEA Ltd and Kenya Seed Company Ltd to set up the demo plots.
MEA Ltd conducted soil analysis for him. He was informed that the analysis will be able to determine an accurate assessment of the soil’s fertility status that can be used to make fertilizer recommendations. This will ensure that there is enough fertilizer application to meet the requirements of the crops while taking advantage of the nutrients already present in the soil.
Charles has already been issued with four and a half kilos of certified hybrid seeds from Kenya Seed Company Ltd. The varieties that will be planted in the demo plot are; H520, H624, H629, H626, and H6210.
He has also been issued with 25kg of 23:23:0 fertilizer and Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) for top dressing by MEA Ltd.
Charles has been farming in a five (5) acre piece of land since 1979. He has planted beans, maize, tree tomato, avocado, oranges, passion fruits and mangoes. He has also kept poultry, cows and sheep.
Charles inspecting the land set aside for the demo plot
He has been investing more than Ksh 45,000 in his farm every year with maize farming consuming a big portion of the investment. Despite the huge investment he has been harvesting less than 10 bags per acre.
“It has been hard for me to break even. I expect to learn from the demo plot on how I can practice farming as a business. I want to make money and I believe this will be possible after learning from what we will be taught in the demo plot,” said Charles.
High input cost has always deterred him from purchasing some inputs required for his farm. For 30 years he has been using 25 kg of DAP per acre.
The soil analysis report which he received from MEA Ltd indicated that his soil is acidic due to continuous use of DAP. He was advised to use NPK 23:23:0 and five (5) tonnes of manure per acre.
“I have already bought 23:23:0 and I am now waiting to plant after they have planted in the demonstration plot. I will no longer use DAP as I have been advised against its use,” said Charles.
Charles has never used Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) despite its importance. He has been using stock borer and foliar spray instead of CAN.
“My advice to farmers is to follow what they are taught by agricultural extension officers. Most of us normally assume that we know but the truth is we are not gaining a lot from our farms,” said Charles.
Charles has not kept any record of his farming enterprises. He has a vague sense of the direction his farm is taking and as such his agricultural enterprise is deemed to be risky and ‘unbankable’.
Charles inspecting the land set aside for the demo plot
He has now decided to join Farm Record Management Information System – Kenya (FARMIS Kenya). FARMIS Kenya has been introduced by Sokopepe Ltd to help farmers keep their farm records.
“FARMIS-Kenya has been introduced at a good time. I will be able to capture records and truly practice farming as a business,” said Charles.
Registered farmers will purchase a Farm Book at Kshs. 850 per year for better records keeping and management. The system will also generate interactive reports like ledger reports, profit and loss accounts and balance sheet.
 “I will be able to receive progress report on my farming activities. Formalizing my farm records will help me to improve my economic gains and increase profits,” said Charles.
Charles can be reached through 0726007267.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

ASDSP and Meteorological services visits Ng’arua Maarifa Centre

By Bob Aston
Ng’arua Maarifa Centre received officials from the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) and Kenya Meteorological services on April 24, 2014. The visit was to learn more about the Maarifa Centre activities and Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) as well as the demonstration plots which are set to be started. 
During the visit, Sam Nzioka, Field Officer, Ng’arua Maarifa Centre took the ASDSP officials through various services offered by the Maarifa Centre.
Sam informed them that Sokopepe Ltd, has introduced Farm Record Management Information System – Kenya (FARMIS Kenya) and they are already profiling farmers in Laikipia County.
Margaret and David from ASDSP and Meteorological services
Sam said that poor record keeping has been a major challenge for farmers but this is now being addressed through FARMIS Kenya. Registered farmers will purchase a Farm Book at Kshs. 850 per year for better records keeping and management. The system will also generate interactive reports like ledger reports, profit and loss accounts and balance sheet.
Sam informed ASDSP that the Maarifa Centre would like to partner with them in a project funded by ACT Kenya that seeks to strengthen community resilience to impacts of climate change and stewardship of natural resources in Laikipia County.
“The project seeks to ensure that there is enhanced community resilience to adapt to climate change and improved livelihood,” said Sam.
Sam also mentioned some of the services provided by the Maarifa Centre like; ICT training, Citizen Journalism training, online market information, multimedia content, advisory services, library services, publications, internet access, E-government services and Tangaza Pesa money transfer.
On her part Margaret Mwangi, Laikipia County Metrological services Director, appreciated the work done by the Maarifa Centre saying that she had learnt a lot during the visit.
Margaret informed the Maarifa Centre officials that they have inducted Trainer of Trainers (TOT) who are now sensitizing farmers on preparedness for the long rain season in reference to weather forecasting and agriculture.
Public accessing internet at the Maarifa Centre
This she said will empower farmers to understand about effects of climate change and develop suitable adaptation action plans as they prepare for unexpected climatic changes during the planting seasons.
“When you see anything that is not accurate it is not that we are not doing our work but rather because of the various challenges that we encounter,” said Margaret.
She said that they have set up more than 100 stations in Laikipia County with each having network coverage of 5 km or less depending with topography. They have also set up around 40 automatic stations.
“As long as information from meteorological stations have not conformed with the international standards then the information will not be accurate,” said Margaret.
David Wanjohi from ASDSP said that they are promoting three agricultural value chains in Laikipia County with their core focus being to facilitate demand-driven, stakeholder-led and
coordinated efforts by relevant public and private sector actors.
The overall goal of ASDSP is to transform Kenyan’s Agricultural sector into an innovative, commercially-oriented, competitive and modern industry that contributes to poverty eradication, improved food security and equity in rural and urban Kenya.

Holiday tuition still in progress in some areas despite ban

By James Maina
Cabinet Secretary for Education, Science and Technology, Jacob Kaimenyi had warned against April holiday tuition for all primary and secondary schools, terming it illegal and that any school head found retaining students during the holidays will be prosecuted. Despite this some schools in Ol-Moran and Kinamba Divisions in Laikipia County are conducting holiday tuition.
Schools from Ol-Moran like St. Caesarious Academy and Ol-Moran Primary School opted to have class eight pupils attend tuition at a fee.
Most private primary schools in Kinamba Division are propelling this “tuition’ at chargeable fees.
A teacher at Ol-Moran Primary School who requested anonymity said that they have to clear the syllabus and embark on revision. The teacher lamented that when the school will fail in KCPE they are the ones who will be blamed.
Some class eight pupils from Ol-Moran Township told LRV that they are rushing to complete the syllabus in time and later embark on vigorous revision. The pupils said that they have no problem with tuition as they want to pass in KCPE examination.
In Sipili Division, schools like Lariak, Mahiga, Kaharati, Sipili, Mithuri and Bondeni Primary School as well as Zooming Hope and Young Roses Academy had started tuition immediately after Easter Monday but when word got around that the Education officer had informed Sipili OCS to arrest head teachers and teachers who were conducting tuition, pupils were released to go home until the schools reopen for second term.

Stakeholders meet to discuss how to operationalize maize drier

By Bob Aston
Stakeholders in the grain sector from Ol-Moran, Kinamba and Sipili Divisions in Laikipia County held a meeting on April 24, 2014 at Sipili DO,s office to discuss how to operationalize the grain dryer that has not been in use for more than a year.
The eight (8) million Ksh maize dryer has been under the custody of Sipili Cereal Bank but it has not been in operation since it was brought to Sipili.

Kamau chairing meeting to discuss operationalization of the drier
James Kamau, Sipili Division Agriculture officer who has also been trained on how to operate the drier chaired the stakeholders meeting which was attended by Ministry of Agriculture officials as well as Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society, Ng’arua Cereals and produce SHG, Sipili Cereal Bank, Ol-moran Cereal Bank and Ndurumo Cereal Bank.
The batch dryer is capable of drying 3.5 tonnes of maize per hour. This translates to 39 bags per hour. The dryer can dry maize to the required moisture content of 13. Five (5) tonnes of maize can be placed at once in the dryer.
Kamau informed the different stakeholders that the government recognized that farmers usually lose their produce during post harvest handling. He cited last year December when heavy rains prevented farmers from properly drying their maize.
“We have a drier in Sipili and any interested party is free to use it. We have to set ways in which the community can benefit from it as it is a public utility,” said Kamau.
Shelled maize has to be dried properly to avoid hazards associated with microorganism and discoloration due to high moisture content. Poor drying methods have been cited as a major cause of aflatoxin contamination in Kenya.
“We have to start by test running the dryer to see whether it is still operational. Once we have done that we will meet again to discuss on ways of utilizing it,” said Kamau.
Mechanical maize dryer enhances efficient drying and possibility of long term storage and good quality.
Some stakeholders viewing the drier
Kamau said that 80 litres will be required to test run the machine. The dryer will require 70 litres while the tractor which will run the dryer will require 10 litres.
The banner of the dryer can consume 60 litres per hour or less which accounts for 12 cents per kg per moisture content drop. Tractor will consume 7 cents per kg per moisture drop. One moisture drop roughly takes 24 cents per unit based on 110 cost of diesel.
“In essence, per moisture drop it will take Ksh 26 per 90 kg bag. This cost will have factored in Insurance cost, maintenance cost, mark up cost and operation cost,” said Kamau.
Kamau said that the tractor that will run the dryer should be one with 135 HP and must also have a good battery.
The different Cereal groups and Co-operative agreed to meet on May 17, 2014 to test run the dryer.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Farmer gives land to be used as a demonstration plot

By Bob Aston
Demonstration plots have been used for a long time as training grounds for farmers on best farming practices. During a capacity building training organized by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society, Jackson Wainaina, a resident of Kahuruko in Laikipia County volunteered to be among five farmers who would give their land to be used as a demonstration plot.

Jackson removing weeds in the farm
Jackson has set aside a quarter of an acre for the demonstration. ALIN has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, MEA Ltd and Kenya Seed Company Ltd to set up the demo plots.
MEA Ltd conducted soil analysis for him. He was informed that the analysis will be able to help him know the current pH level of the soil, fertility levels of the principal nutrients, type and quantity of lime needed in the soil, nutrients need to be added in the soil as fertilizer and amount of fertilizer the crop and soil needs.
“We have had a lot of training courtesy of ALIN. Having a demonstration plot nearby will be ideal.  I have not yet planted as I am waiting to follow what will be taught during the demo,” said Jackson.
Jackson has been farming since 1990. Has been investing close to Ksh 20,000 per year in his farm but the returns have been minimal.
He has been planting maize, beans and potatoes in a three acre piece of land. He has given maize farming a priority as it has taken a huge chunk of land under cultivation. He has also kept indigenous chicken.
Jackson rarely sell harvested maize because of low yield. He normally harvests less than 6 bags per acre. Production has been on the decline as he used to get more than that some years earlier.
“Some farmers have been getting over 40 bags in a one acre piece of land but with me I have been getting around six bags every time I harvest maize,” said Jackson.
Jackson inspecting the yet to be established demo plot
Jackson has already been issued with four and a half kilos of certified hybrid seeds from Kenya Seed Company Ltd. The varieties that will be planted in the demo plot are; H520, H624, H629, H626, and H6210.
He has also been issued with 25kg of 23:23:0 fertilizer and Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) for top dressing by MEA Ltd.
He has not been using certified hybrid seeds before but instead planting using seeds from harvested maize.
Certified seeds come with a guaranteed germination, less risk of seed borne diseases and improved yield.

“I never knew the importance of using certified seeds before. I used to use seeds from my harvested maize. This season I will not do that as I have been informed that it is one of the reasons why my yield has been low,” said Jackson.

High input cost has always deterred him from practicing sustainable agriculture. He has been using a 50 kg bag of DAP in a three acre piece of land. This has been well below the minimum requirement from the Ministry of Agriculture which has been urging farmers to use 75 Kgs of fertilizer in a one acre piece of land.

After he was handed the soil analysis report by MEA Ltd he was discouraged from using DAP and instead he was told that he should now be using NPK 23:23:0 as his soil has become acidic.

Jackson removing weeds in the farm
Jackson has also been using inadequate Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN). CAN normally help to gives a boost in the developmental stage. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for healthy vegetative growth which ensures hastened maturity and a high yield.

“I agree that use of little CAN normally affect my production. I have been taught its importance and this season I intend to use the required amount,” said Jackson.
He has urged other farmers from Kahuruko to join training in order to also benefit from the demo plot.
“It is important that all farmers in this area also benefit. I want them to also practice Kilimo Biashara by embracing good agricultural practices,” said Jackson.
Keeping farm records has also been a challenge for him as he does not have a clear picture of his farm expenses. It has been hard for him to know whether he has been making a profit or loss.
He has now been introduced to Farm Record Management Information System – Kenya (FARMIS Kenya). FARMIS Kenya is run by Sokopepe Ltd, a social enterprise under license from Fit Uganda.
“I will now be able to track all my farming activities. Initially I never recorded my transactions in the farm but this season it will not be the same as I will be provided with a farm book from FARMIS Kenya where I will record all my farming activities,” said Jackson.
Jackson will be able to enjoy various benefits such as: improved automated record keeping; current market information; enhanced access to credit facilities; evidence-based decision making; access to 24 hour online platform; opportunity for group produce marketing; seasonal farm books provided for reference; market linkages to buyers and sellers and access to relevant farming tips.
Jackson can be contacted through 0728308418.

Forest officer conducts woodlot training for farmers

By Bob Aston
Farmers have been urged to set aside a section of their farms for woodlot. Speaking during a tree training day on April 23, 2014 convened by Lariak Forest Area Conservation Project at Ndaragwiti, Francis Kanuthu, Laikipia West Forest Manager said that woodlot is a long term investment that can improve the livelihood of farmers.
Kanuthu demonstrating how to set up a woodlot
Woodlot is a tract of land of any size and shape that contain naturally occurring or planted trees. Vegetables or crops are often intercropped in the woodlot in the early stages of establishment, but with time wood production is the most important use.
“Establishment of woodlot is a long term investment that deserves proper planning. Spacing between trees will be of economic importance,” said Kanuthu.
Kanuthu encouraged farmers to use microcatchment method when setting up woodlot. Woodlots are particularly relevant in areas where light-demanding crops are grown.
A natural woodlot requires maintenance through selective bush clearing and protection in the early stages.
“You can set up a woodlot for conservation benefits, for harvesting or to manage forests for sustainable income,” said Kanuthu.
Establishment can be from seedlings or by direct sowing of seed. Spacing should be between 2-3 metres depending on tree specimen. Gradual thinning will then enable the trees to grow to the desired size, while at the same time small-dimension wood can be harvested.
Centre of the farm where spacing will start from
“The amount of rainfall normally determines the spacing. The drier the place the bigger the spacing. Spacing in Laikipia is slightly larger because of the dry condition,” said Kanuthu.
Kanuthu advised woodlot owners to initially start by intercropping with crops or vegetables as it will help in protection and weed control. Pruning and thinning must also be continuous.
The Microcatchment technique provides a lot of benefits like: Improved tree establishment, increased yields, Improved farm income, conserves soil by improving moisture storage and most importantly it harvests water for the trees.
Kanuthu said that when setting up woodlot one is advised to start at the centre of the farm. Pythagoras theorem method can be used. One will have four different directions of 900 . Pegs can then be used as a stabilizer. Once this has been done a rope can be tied at the centre pointing at one of the four directions.  Pegs can then be placed 2-3 metres apart depending on the type of trees to be planted.
“Ensure that you follow spacing properly. When the trees are near you will not be able to get a good economic value,” said Kanuthu.
Pegs placed in farm indicating where trees are to be planted
If the trees are too close together, the trees grow tall rendering pruning, spraying and harvesting difficult. There is root competition and inadequate nutrition. Tree root will spread over a much larger area than top and there should be proper room for the roots to feed without competition.
“Once seedlings are planted, they require nurturing to ensure that competition from weeds for water, soil nutrients and sunlight is kept at a minimum,” said Kanuthu.
Farmers have also been urged to ensure that they dig an appropriate hole for the tree. The most appropriate size is three (3) ft by 3 ft. This will absorb a lot of water and fertilizer.
Kanuthu said that in a one ha piece of land at a specimen of 2.5 metres a total of 1600 trees can be planted.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Forest officer urges communities to plant trees

By Bob Aston
Communities living in Ndaragwiti area have been urged to plant trees in order to mitigate climate change effects. Speaking during a tree training day on April 23, 2014 convened by Lariak Forest Area Conservation Project, Francis Kanuthu, Laikipia West Forest Manager said that by planting trees one will be investing in the future.
Kanuthu about to plant a tree seedling
Kanuthu informed farmers that the Kenya constitution and economic blueprint Vision 2030 requires the country to work towards achieving a forest cover of at least 10% of the land area to ensure sustainable resource use, growth and employment creation.
“Forest resources in our country are valuable natural endowment that must be sustainably managed for present and future generations. Destruction of forests has led to climate change,” said Kanuthu.

Kanuthu urged farmers to read section 46 of the Forest Act 2009 which he said has empowered the local communities to be part and parcel of the forest. He said that communities should not leave the responsibility of managing forests to forest officers but they should also involve themselves in managing them.
Kanuthu said that forests contribute directly and indirectly to the national and local economies. He said that planting trees is a long term investment and its economic benefits are immense.
“Threat of climate change is serious. Communities are already experiencing the impacts of climate change because of cutting down trees. We should know that nature normally retaliates when we interfere with it,” said Kanuthu.
Kanuthu implored communities to intensify management of water catchments to enhance the conservation of water. He said community participation and partnership in forest sector development will help in ensuring more trees are planted.
Kanuthu addressing farmers
“The climate is changing and this is having a direct impact on forest resources and ecosystems. Forestry can play an important role in both mitigation and adaptation to climate change,” said Kanuthu.
Kanuthu urged communities to practice sound conservation practices as well as forest management to improve forest protection, management and growth. He said that most farmers rarely use forest extension officers yet there work is to assist farmers.
James Kamau, an extension officer with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries informed farmers that forests guard against soil erosion, arrest it where it has started, and assists in creating conditions for restoring fertility to the soil where erosion has already caused a deterioration of fertility.
“Soil erosion with consequent degradation of the fertility of the soil is a major challenge to most farmers. It is important for farmers therefore to ensure that they plant trees in their farms,” said Kamau.
Kamau urged farmers to adopt climate smart agriculture as well as diversifying to other crops.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Quest to increase yield leads a farmer to give land for demo

By Bob Aston
Maize farming has been the dominant crop in Laikipia County. Despite this some farmers have been getting low yield every season. Tabitha Wanjiru, from Kabati area started farming from 1978, but this year low yields prompted her to give a quarter piece of land to be used as a demonstration plot.
Tabitha standing at the soon to be established demonstration plot
During one of the capacity building trainings organized by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society, they were informed that ALIN would partner with MEA Ltd and Kenya Seed Company Ltd to set up demo plots.
Tabitha volunteered to be among the five who would give their land for the demo plots. MEA Ltd conducted soil analysis for her. This they said would be used to provide an accurate assessment of the soil’s fertility status that can be used to make fertilizer recommendations.
 “I want to embrace good agricultural practices in order to enjoy higher yield. I have been informed that some farmers have been getting as much as 40 bags per acre. I hope I will be able to improve my production,” said Tabitha.
Tabitha usually harvests between 7-10 bags per acre. She has never managed to harvest more than 10 bags in an acre.
“I have been making a loss from my maize production as the yield that I have been getting has been low,” said Tabitha.
Tabitha has been growing different types of crops in a three acre piece of land. Two and a half acres has been set aside for maize production.
Apart from maize she has also planted beans, tree tomato, pineapple and avocados. She has also kept cows and goats.
Tabitha inspecting her maize farm
Tabitha has been investing close to Ksh 20,000 per year on her farm but her estimated income has been Ksh 10,000.
She acknowledged that she never used to follow best farming practices. She used to plant 7 kg of maize seeds in an acre rather than the recommended 10 kg per acre. She has also been planting maize and beans in the same land and using 50 kg of DAP in a one acre piece of land.
“During capacity building trainings I realized that I never followed recommended spacing and I was also using little CAN. This I was informed affected production,” said Tabitha.
Tabitha has already been issued with four and a half kilos of certified hybrid seeds from Kenya Seed Company Ltd. The varieties that will be planted in the demo plot are; H520, H624, H629, H626, and H6210.
She has also been issued with 25kg of 23:23:0 fertilizer and Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) for top dressing by MEA Ltd.
 “I have been hearing a lot about Kilimo Biashara. I want to learn more about is as well as encourage other farmers to also practice it," said Tabitha.
Tabitha expects to learn a lot from the demonstration plot. She said that the knowledge that she will gain will be invaluable. Her neighbours will also benefit from the demonstration plot as they will be invited during various demonstrations.
“I can advice other farmers to attend training. They will learn a lot when the demo is successful and they will also be able to improve their livelihood through the knowledge that they will gain,” said Tabitha.
Tabitha looking at tree tomatoes
With record keeping being one of the challenges that she faces, Tabitha was introduced to Farm Record Management Information System – Kenya (FARMIS Kenya). FARMIS Kenya is run by Sokopepe Ltd, a social enterprise under license from Fit Uganda. She became the first farmer in Laikipia County to be profiled.
“I have not been keeping proper records in my farm and this has made it hard for me to know whether I have been making a profit or loss. This will no longer be a problem as it will taken care of by FARMIS Kenya,” said Tabitha.
FARMIS Kenya enables farmers to capture a farm’s profile and record all their farming enterprises, capturing costs of tilling, inputs, labour, harvesting and post-harvest operations for crops and similar records for livestock. By doing that a farm’s total productivity is documented and farmers are able to extract a profit and loss statement at the end of each season.
Tabitha can be reached through 0715716751.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

UK soldiers hold a medical camp at Lariak Day

By Murigi Ndung’u
 A group of UK soldiers and groundsmen have been holding a medical camp at Lariak secondary school for the past one week. The seventeen doctors and medical practitioners from UK and Kenya have been attending to residents of the area who are suffering from various ailments.
This is in conjunction with the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) that has provided personnel and transport means. This includes KDF drivers and guides.
Captain Mike at Lariak Day Secondary
 The venue of the camp at a different angle is purely military. Everything is military including the vehicles, the camping paraphernalia and even the clothing of the campers.
According to Captain Mike, the sole reason they visited was nothing less than a high ovation offered by the ministry of health to the marginalized areas of Kenya, giving the residents of Lariak region a beneficiary badge.
Though they had intended to benefit a thousand plus people, this encountered a hurdle mainly because the residents were not well aware of their holding a medical camp. The group managed to attend to 250 patients
“The people’s tendency of having a phobia where the police are involved coupled by the fact that not many knew of our presence is our main drawback to our effective medical expectations.” Said Captain Mike.
The visitors particularly targeted the less medically efficient that ranges from poor medical facilities to less medical human resources. This they are doing in rounds from one area to another and their coming back is attached to the success they will encounter.
The advice to the locals is persistence in their quest for good health care and be ready to advocate for diseases prevention, which is better than cure.
The group is now headed to Ol Moran where they are set to spend a whole week there.