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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Online community project stories in Laikipia County inaugurate

By Noah Lusaka and Bob Aston
In this era of a knowledge driven society, many development organizations including governments involved in community development work, rarely share their experiences about their work, successes and challenges. This leads to many projects failing since similar mistakes are repeated quite often by different organizations yet solutions are there!
Mr. Anthony Mugo from ALIN admiring one of the blogs
To enhance project experience sharing globally, there are many new tools that can be used. In the past and even now, some organizations shared experiences through newsletters, e-mail and face to face meetings. Some of the new online information sharing tools include websites, blogs, wikis, tumblr, Skype, twitter and much more.
To enhance United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) grantees from Laikipia County to share their project experiences, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) organized a three (3) days workshop on citizen Journalism and blogging at Olympia Hotel in Nyahururu from 22nd to 24th July 2014.
The workshop involved eighteen (18) participants who learned how to document their project activities and use of social media to disseminate their activities.
The training provided the grantees with an opportunity to learn about news writing, creative writing, feature writing, photography, interviewing, online journalism (blogging) and media law and Ethics.
The knowledge gained will be key to meeting the project goals as the grantees seek to articulate their community project experiences and for wider sharing.
The development of information and communication technologies has led to the emergence of citizen Journalism, also referred to as “participatory Journalism.”Citizens are now playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information.
This is what led ALIN to use the Citizen Journalism aspect to try and equip the grantees with basic journalism skills. This has also taken into cognizant the fact that in today’s internet-based society, having an online presence is one of the most powerful ways of sharing knowledge.
The forum provided the participants with an opportunity to create blogs for their organizations. 18 blogs were created and the participants will continue populating them with their project activities.
During the workshop, participants were particularly impressed with learning how to blog as all of them picked the sessions that involved blogging as the most interesting part of the training. Learning how to take quality pictures as well as conducting an interview also elicited a lot of interest.
Mr. Philip Nandwa, officer of Environment and Natural Resources in Baringo County said that he has now been empowered on how to create a blog. Mr. Nandwa has already created a blog that their department will now be using to disseminate natural resources and environmental conservation matters in Baringo County.

One of the participants practicing how to take a good photo
 “It will now be easier to document and disseminate what we are doing to the general public through the blog that I have created for Environment and Natural Resources in Baringo. The training came at an ideal time as knowledge sharing has always been an issue. Most people rarely share what they are doing,” said Mr. Nandwa.
Mr. Godfrey Ndonye, from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Laikipia County has already started blogging. He has so far posted two (2) articles in their blog Laikipia County Govt. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He is happy that their department now has a forum to share what the County government is doing.
The work that the grantees are doing is expected to help enhance online visibility of UNDP GEF SGP project as well as helping in closing knowledge gaps, improving accessibility of indigenous knowledge as well as ensuring that the communities are better informed about Sustainable Land Management (SLM).
Fostering a knowledge sharing culture among organizations will go a long way in enhancing synergy amongst different stakeholders involved in similar projects. It is worth noting that organizations are increasingly recognizing that knowledge constitutes a valuable intangible asset for creating and sustaining competitive advantage.
Already ALIN is using the push and pull way to share knowledge between the various UNDP GEF SGP grantees. The grantees are set to use knowledge push by using a quarterly newsletter called Laikipia Maliasili to disseminate project activities. A knowledge sharing Kibanda was established at the Ng’arua Maarifa Centre to create a platform for Laikipia partners to share knowledge on environmental issues. .
Knowledge sharing about SLM is essential to the successful management of natural resources. Opportunities for collaboration can play an important role in allowing different stakeholders to bring their unique skills and perspectives together to address various challenges faced.

Monday, 28 July 2014

UNDP GEF SGP grantees trained on Citizen Journalism

By Bob Aston
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) conducted a three days Citizen Journalism training for United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) grantees from Laikipia County at Olympia Hotel in Nyahururu from 22nd to 24th July 2014.
The UNDP GEF SGP grantees present during the training included; Kantuka Community Based Organization, Upper Ewaso Narok Water Resource Users Association, Tuungane Tusaidiane community project, Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN),Yiaku Laikipia Trust and Laikipia Central Community Development (LAICCODO).
Mr. Mugo addressing the participants
Also present included representation from Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) and officials from Laikipia and Baringo County Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, Fisheries, Livestock Development, Environment and Natural Resources.


Mr. Philip Nandwa, officer of Environment and Natural Resources in Baringo County said that he has now been empowered on how to create a blog. Mr. Nandwa has already created a blog that their department will now be using to disseminate natural resources and environmental conservation matters in Baringo County.
He was initially not included in the training but when he heard about it from ALIN he requested to attend the training.
“It will now be easier to document and disseminate what we are doing to the general public through the blog that I have created for Environment and Natural Resources in Baringo. The training came at an ideal time as knowledge sharing has always been an issue. Most people rarely share what they are doing,” said Mr. Nandwa.
The training provided the grantees with an opportunity to learn about news writing, creative writing, feature writing, photography, interviewing, online journalism (blogging) and media law and Ethics.
The training will help the grantees to capture and document indigenous knowledge relevant to sustainable land management practices for posterity. The training will also help to enhance content creation for the quarterly magazine called Laikipia Maliasili which was started by the grantees.
The grantees sharing ideas during the training
Laikipia Maliasili is expected to help in closing knowledge gaps, promote sharing of projects experiences among grantees, connect beneficiaries to policy makers, improve accessibility of indigenous knowledge, enhancing feedback of project activities, promoting replication as well as ensuring that the communities are better informed about Sustainable Land Management (SLM).
The UNDP GEF SGP grantees will be using blogs that they created for their respective organizations as well as Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) blog for disseminating project activities. This is also aimed at enhancing online visibility of UNDP GEF SGP Project.
The training will enable the grantees to be able to look at news from different angles and in addition give them a deeper understanding of what is going on in the outside world.  It will also give them an opportunity to be part of a global community of men and women who are passionate about development news.
The development of information and communication technologies has led to the emergence of citizen Journalism, also referred to as “participatory Journalism.”Citizens are now playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A thank you note to LRV’s readers and partners

By Bob Aston
The Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) which is supported by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre would like to thank the many individuals and the Citizen Journalism Reporters who graciously assisted in ensuring that ALIN won the Youth in Agriculture blog competition (YoBloco Awards).
ALIN emerged the best in East Africa region in the Institutional category of the Yobloco Awards through their blog Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV), thus winning Euro 3,000.
Some of the Yobloco Award winners posing for a photo

The aim of the competition was to put into limelight successes and issues faced by youths engaged in agriculture, in urban and rural areas; and to encourage the production of information and the use of new information and communication technologies by young farmers groups and organizations interested in the youth in agriculture question.
LRV would like to sincerely thank all the readers who have been reading the blog. It is really a pleasure knowing that there are people out there who have been dedicated readers. The various comments posted on facebook, twitter or google+ has always been encouraging and has been a great motivation to the various citizen Reporters who have been blogging through LRV.
LRV reader’s satisfaction will always remain our number one concern. Knowing that there is a team of dedicated readers who are always looking for the Citizen Reporters to provide them with information is something that motivates them to even put more effort in their work.
It has always been a pleasure knowing that a lot of people depend on LRV for agricultural information. It is worth noting that LRV has always been at the forefront of promoting SOKO+ which is a digital commodity trading and information system linking small scale farmers to end retailers and Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS-Kenya) which is a farm management and diagnostic tool based on the use of farm records.
The two products are dear to LRV as they help to empower farmers. Seeing farmers improve their livelihood is an issue that ALIN has always been keen on.
LRV has now gone a step further and is now at the forefront of documenting ALIN’s project which seeks to enhance community resilience to adapt to the impacts of climate change for improved livelihood in Laikipia County.
Yobloco winners with CTA Director
With many communities directly relying on natural resources to generate food for consumption and income, it has been extremely important for ALIN to share knowledge on Sustainable Landscape Management (SLM) and Natural Resource Management (NRM) through LRV.
It is clear that the importance given to agriculture this year has not impressed some LRV readers judging by some feedback. Nevertheless it is important for LRV readers to realize that the main objective of the blog has always been to cover livelihood and agriculture related issues. Giving agriculture the attention that it deserves will go a long way in ensuring that everyone appreciates its importance in the economy of the country.
The LRV Reporters have worked hard this year and their dedication has paid off. This year the Citizen Reporters have so far managed to post 121 articles. The number of articles written has been on the rise over the years. In 2013 the Citizen reporters posted 91 articles while in 2012 they posted 76 stories.
LRV has also seen an increase in number of visitors in the blog. The blog has already registered more than 50,910 visitors with more than 32,760 page views.

Please encourage your friends and colleagues to also start reading the blog. Sharing the different blog posts through the social media will go a long way in increasing LRVs audience.

LRV would like to welcome its readers’ feedback, critism and opinions as they hold more value for LRV than from anyone else.
LRV looks forward to even greater community involvement in its activities. LRV would love for you to join them. Jump on in, tell your story and see how it connects with someone on the other side of the world.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Creating critical mass in warehouse receipt finance

By Bob Aston
Warehouse receipt system (WRS) is increasingly being seen as an essential institutional component in programmes to modernise and improve the efficiency of agricultural marketing systems, as well as, improved access to finance. The system is helping farmers in mobilising agricultural credit by creating secure collateral that financial institutions find credible to unlock credit.
The importance of WRS led participants at the Fin4Ag Conference: revolutionising finance for agri-value chains, which took place at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies (KSMS) from14-18 July, 2014, to look at how a critical mass in warehouse receipt finance can be created.
Participants listening to the proceedings

Session 32: creating critical mass in warehouse receipt finance which was chaired by Kofi Adomakoh, Director, Project & Export Development Finance, African Export Import Bank, Egypt, looked at what should be done to make warehouse receipt finance accessible to a larger number of value chain players, how to shift focus to public warehousing, ways of spreading out collateral management and if banks can be incentivized to do more warehouse receipt finance.
Speaking while addressing participants, Dr. Gideon E. Onumah, Agricultural Economist/Rural Finance Specialist, University of Greenwich, United Kingdom, explored ways of creating critical mass/scaling up warehouse receipt finance.
He noted that inspection companies are pulling out from warehouse receipt financing rather than expanding. This he said limits scope of stock monitoring. He added that demand side issues has limited oversight capacity of clients and financiers, he also noted that non-negotiable warehouse receipt system limits utility in promoting trade (and potential in using trading platforms to ease liquidation risks).
Dr. Onumah called for better oversight system by financiers as well as having independent financiers. This he said will help in ensuring easier physical access to smallholder, reduced cost of services and facilities and better storage of household food services.
“Some challenges faced are oversight issues as it is difficult at times to know who is in charge. There is also scale diseconomies and non transferable warehouse receipt system limit and weak quality assurance systems which limit trade potential,” said Dr. Onumah.
He said expanding public warehousing will ensure there is wider access and locally traded commodities, structured trade can be fostered as it will ease liquidation problems for financiers and thus benefit farmers and traders.
Combining structured trading and financing systems enhances price risk management .It is also important to Strengthen aggregation and collective marketing capacity of farmers’ organisations,” said Dr. Onumah.
Participants following proceedings
On his part Bohay Nicomed, Senior Manager Agribusiness & Syndications, CRDB Bank Plc, Tanzania looked at their experience as CRDB bank Plc in commodity based lending since year 2000.
“Most village warehouses are small with capacities that do not make economic sense to run warehouse receipt system. These are therefore used as collection centres,” said Nicomed.
He noted that innovation in payment solutions like mobile phones, debit cards and cardless payments under warehouse receipt system would help in ensuring prompt payment. He added that proving an enabling environment through legislation, establishment of a regulatory authority and having licensed warehouse operators would help in increasing access to warehousing facilities.

Warehouse receipt financing is a loan extended by a bank, a micro-finance institution or a supplier that is secured by collateral created using a crop stored in a warehouse operated by a third party or collectively by a representative group of farmers.

Monday, 21 July 2014

The economic landscape of digital agri-finance

By Bob Aston
The Fin4Ag Conference: revolutionising finance for agri-value chains, which took place at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies from 14-18 July, 2014, provided participants an opportunity to deliberate on the economic landscape of digital agri-finance.
Session 45: The economic landscape of agricultural digital finance, moderated by James Wainaina, the Vice President and Area Business Head at the East Africa MasterCard, included a review of the history of mobile money and how digital finance can serve households at the base of the pyramid. The session also looked at the three approaches to agricultural digital finance: market research, strategic alliance, and horizontal integration into agri-value chain interventions.
Participants during one of the sessions

Originally referred to as mobile money, digital finance has rapidly emerged by way of joint ventures between Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and banks. The fact that it can easily be integrated with digital technologies, such as smart cards, scratch cards, point of sale devices, biometric identity capture, ATMs and others technologies has also helped its expansion.
During the session, Michael Mbaka, Senior Project Manager, Financial Sector Deepening (FSD), Trust Kenya, addressed barriers and opportunities to digital agriculture finance in Kenya. He noted that there is low bank product usage (25%) compared to mobile money usage (58%). The high rate of mobile money usage in Kenya is even higher among farmers, where 67% of farmers own mobile phones and 60% use mobile money.
“Mobile money leads in current financial services usage. This creates a huge opportunity in increase in contract farming models as well as existence of agricultural data management entities,” said Mr. Mbaka.
He said there is better delivery of mobile money in Kenya due to higher financial access point, but added that barriers such as digitisation of data, reach of excluded farmers with traditional solutions, weak industry capacity to create innovative financial solutions and weak demand side understanding needs to be addressed.
“Building inclusive financial markets has an immense economic value due to moving to the cashless mode of payment. This will facilitate better payment systems thus stimulating growth,” said Mr. Mbaka.
Similarly, Carol Kyazze Kakooza, Program Director for Agri Fin Mobile at Mercy Corps, shared how Agri Fin Mobile has been used to provide bundled and affordable agricultural technical services and financial services. This approach has helped to build sustainable business models that enhance and stabilise incomes of smallholder farmers.
“We have been offering agriculture content, market information and financial services using our mobile platform. The platform is not only cost effective but it is also a convenient way for smallholder farmers to access financial and market services,” said Kakooza.
Participants during one of the sessions
Eddie Sam Kumakech, co-operative officer, Ministry of Trade, Uganda, reinforced the Kakooza’s point by speaking to the need for enhancing financial inclusion by co-operatives through agricultural digital financing. He gave an overview of cooperatives in Uganda and their role in agricultural digital financing.
“New market segment in the cooperative sector will encourage nationwide mobile finance penetration and financial inclusion. Cooperatives provide the demand and supply platform for mobile finance,” said Mr. Kumakech.
He noted that mobile finance service providers normally get closer to where farmers live and work, which encourages subscription.
“Cooperatives exhibit the organisational framework desirous to deliver financial inclusion through Agricultural Digital Financing,” added Mr. Kumakech.
In conclusion, this session highlighted the importance of mobile and web technologies that are increasingly becoming important for accessing new opportunities in value chain financing.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Risk management tools for agri-finance

By Bob Aston

Limitation in access and utilisation of agricultural finance results in inefficient agri-value chains, as actors utilise rudimentary business approaches. This heightens agricultural risk, which makes the need for agri-risk management tools even more important to mitigate risks.
Participants at the Fin4Ag Conference: revolutionising finance for agri-value chains, which took place at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies (KSMS) from 14-18 July, 2014, looked at workable solutions that can be used to mitigate against financial risks.
Session 41 on Risk management tools for agriculture finance, which was chaired by Prof. Nuhu Hatibu, Chief Executive Officer, Kilimo Trust Uganda, examined how agri-value chain actors’ access to finance can enhance the efficiency of operations and ensure the realisation of value chain actors objectives in a manner that is supportive to the sector.
Some delegates sharing ideas
Lending to the agricultural sector has been slowed by the preponderance of unaddressed risks associated with the sector. In some instances, uptake of credit by agri-value chain actors is even constrained when credit is accessible. The challenge of risks affecting the sector cuts across value chains, actors, and gender.
While addressing delegates, Annastacia Kivuva, Head – Trade Promotion Unit, Agribusiness Department at the Ministry of Agriculture livestock and Fisheries in Kenya, noted that trends in lending among Kenyan commercial banks indicate that banks invest only about 6% of their total portfolio in agribusiness and the percentage is trending downwards.
She informed participants that the national budget allocation of most African countries still trail far behind the Maputo declaration. She cited the case of Kenya, where agriculture was allocated only 4% of the total budget.
“During an International symposium hosted by Kilimo Trust in 2013, lenders indicated that they have the resources and means to fund agribusiness, but not with the current low capacity of absorption,” said Annastacia.
The limited absorption capacity in agribusiness comes with its own risks as well. As Esther Muiruri noted during the session, it is important for financial institutions, as well as farmers, to factor in risks for any eventuality that may arise. People cannot wish risks away; mitigation factors have to be put in place to help minimise risks.
Marketing, personal, financial and production risks are some of the issues that need to be addressed in order to help farmers. So, as Muiruri urged, farmers should look at production factors before planting as it is important to know if the crop planted will be in demand or not.
“We need to put more effort in the part of a farmer on inclusive insurance cover. The issue of post harvest management also needs to be addressed as most farmers usually lose their produce during such times,” said Esther.
She noted that high levels of inflation negatively affects farmers as it makes loan repayment burdensome while others are unable to borrow from financial institutions due to high interest rates brought as a result of inflation.
She said that Equity Bank has been engaging staff who are knowledgeable in crop husbandry as a risk mitigation strategy. In this set-up, staff members usually deal directly with farmers and can enhance the capacity of farmers in crop husbandry.
Other risk mitigation approaches include: doing market driven financing, using technology to reduce costs, working through partnerships (like forming risk management fund), working with farmer organisations, structuring value chain through reduction of inefficiency, taking up successful models and adoption of proper policies.

Friday, 18 July 2014

ALIN among Yobloco Award winners

By Nawsheen Hosenally

ALIN Director together with Bob Aston receiving Yobloco Award trophy
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is among the nine (9) winners of the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo Awards). The winners were announced on July 17, 2014 during the cocktail dinner organised at the International Fin4Ag Conference at Kenya School of Monetary Studies (KSMS) in Nairobi, Kenya.

ALIN emerged the best in East Africa region in the Institutional category through their blog Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV), thus winning Euro 3,000. Another winner in the Institutional category was Agropreneur Nigeria from West Africa through their blog Agropreneur Naija.
In the individual category Marthe Montcho (Benin), Le blog de Marthe MONTCHO won the 1st prize (Euro 1,500), Anne Matho (Cameroon), Les graines de l'info won the second prize (Euro 1,000) while Ajilore Oluwabunmi (Nigeria), Ecoagriculturist won the third prize (Euro 800).
Other winners were Mwenda David (Kenya), Foundation for young Farmers who won the best blog with business potential (Euro 1,000), Elcah Nafula Barasa (Kenya), Elcah's Blog (Best Female Blog (Euro 1,000), Inoussa Maiga (Burkina Faso), Googol Farmer,Best blog on family farming-Individual category (Euro 1,000), Savannah Young Farmers Network (Ghana), SavaNet, Best blog on family farming-Institutional category (Euro 1,000).
The winners were announced by Philppe Couve, Jury member, assisted by Ken Lohento, in charge of the ARDYIS project. The results were announced in presence of participants of the conference, during a cocktail, and in the presence of various personalities including the Director of Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Michael Hailu. Apart from the cash prize won, each winner received a trophy, a certificate and various publications. 
Bob Aston receiving Yobloco trophy on behalf of ALIN
The top 12 bloggers and 3 other best participants of the competition were invited to attend the Fin4Ag Conference from 14-18 July 2014, which is proving to be a good learning and networking opportunity for them.
During a side-meeting organised by the Agriculture, Rural Development and Youth in the Information Society (ARDYIS) project on 16 July in Nairobi, the young agri-bloggers shared their experiences about their journey through the competition and also had the opportunity to exchange with Phillipe Couve, one of the jury members, who gave them feedback on their blogs and how they can improve their writing.
Launched in October 2013 at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture, the 2nd Edition of the YoBloCo Awards has been a very exciting journey for participants and the organisers. We would like to thank all the participants who took up the challenge and submitted their blogs. We are equally thankful to our partners and everyone who have been following, supporting and promoting the competition!
The Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo Awards) is organised in the framework of the CTA ARDYIS project, in collaboration with FARAYam-Pukri,  CAFAN,  AYFANAFESPC/PAFPNET and e-Agriculture.
It aims to put into limelight successes and issues faced by youth engaged in agriculture, in urban and rural areas; and to encourage the production of information and the use of new information and communication technologies by young farmers groups and organisations interested in the youth in agriculture question.
CTA and its partners congratulate the winners, as well as all participants who entered the competition!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Plug and Play Day: Young innovators showcase new applications

By Bob Aston

The Fin4Ag conference: Revolutionising finance for agri-value chains taking place at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies (KSMS) got underway on July 14, 2014with the elevator pitch style Plug and Play Day event. The event attracted over 250 participants from African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
The Plug and Play Day offered innovators in the domain of technology for inclusive agricultural finance, and participants a valuable and very practical insight into the latest technological developments in the field of agricultural finance.
More than 18 innovators were on hand to present their latest technologies. Innovations profiled during the event included; Tangaza Pesa, Ensibuuko, FarmDrive, Zoona’s eVoucher platform, Farmforce, Credit Information Sharing (CIS), Umati Capital, Agrilife Platform, Farmers Record Management System (FARMIS), Musoni System, Farmer Management System, e-Krishok, Creditinfo’s Credit Bureau Solution, Craft Silicon, AgroCentral, aWhere Platform, RiMFin-Umarket disbursement Portal (Utiba) and finFinancials
Speaking during the introductory session, Michael Hailu, Director, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), informed participants that the main objective of holding the Plug and Play Day was to encourage young people to showcase innovation in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) oriented towards agriculture.
“The advantage of this is that we can get more younger people to focus on agriculture and key things in the agriculture sector and at the same time the ones who are already interested can connect with possible users and investors,” said Hailu.
He said CTA had held a similar event in 2013 in Kigali, Rwanda, which attracted a lot of interest thus prompting them to hold a similar event during this Fin4Ag Conference.
The main goal of the Plug and Play Day was to expose stakeholders to some of the tested and booming innovative tools and applications, as well as giving them an opportunity to try them out.
“The Plug and Play event is supposed to open young people to ICT innovation like mobile application that is very much focused on financial services,” said Hailu.
The Plug and Play Day was specifically tailored to the needs of stakeholder groups, such as farmers and farmer organisations, policy and decision-makers, intermediary organisations, private sector organisations and, in particular, banks.
The different sessions during the Plug and Play Day were designed to allow demonstrators to share their skills and expertise in an interactive format, learn with participants who were interested in using the tools as well as enabling the participants to have a hands on experience.
Various participants had the opportunity to “test-drive” the latest mobile applications, electronic warehousing systems and other technologies. They were also able to make the tools work for them in their agricultural finance activities.
Innovation provides some real opportunities for transforming agriculture and putting farmers in the driving seat. Mobile and web technologies are increasingly becoming important for the adaptation of new opportunities in value chain financing.