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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Ng’arua Maarifa assists student’s access information

By Bob Aston
The Ng’arua Maarifa Centre has proved to be useful to last year Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates. The candidates have been rushing to the Maarifa Centre to check their university application status as well as to download admission letters.
The internet is becoming an increasingly important medium as people are turning to it to access information. With internet access being a problem in Sipili as there is only one cybercafé in the area that charges Ksh 2 per minute, the Maarifa Centre has enabled students to have free internet access.
Students accessing internet at the Maarifa Centre
Over 72,000 candidates who sat for Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2013 have been selected to join various public universities and colleges.
According to the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS), 56,937 students have been placed in public universities while the Government will also sponsor 15,393 candidates to pursue various diploma courses in middle level colleges across the country.
Charles Wahome, 18, a resident of Ndaragwiti managed to get an A- grade at Ndururumo High School in KCSE examination. He has been frequenting the Maarifa Centre since KCSE results were announced to use the internet to seek for university placement.
During one of his visits he reviewed one of his courses and decided to apply for Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at Machakos University College. He was later on informed that he had been accepted at Machakos University College.
“I always wanted to do civil engineering since I was young. When I was reviewing my course I decided to apply for civil engineering. Later on I was informed that I had been accepted at Machakos University College and that I should go to a cyber to print the form,” said Charles.
On Thursday he was all smiles as a Maarifa staff member assisted him to access his account in KUCCPS portal where he managed to download and print his admission letter. He is now waiting to join the university on 3rd September 2014.
Community members accessing internet at the Maarifa Centre
Similarly, Nahashon Njuguna, 18, could not hide his joy as he held his admission letter after he had been assisted to download and print the form. He said that accessing internet services in Sipili is a problem but thanks to Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) this is no longer a problem.
He has been travelling from Kio area, a distance of close to five (5) kilometers to access internet at the Maarifa Centre. Nahashon is set to study Bachelor of Education (Arts)-Business studies at Moi University. He got a B plain grade in KCSE examination at Lariak Day Secondary School. He is now set to report at the university on 22nd September 2014.
“I managed to download and print the admission form at the Maarifa Centre. Today they have assisted me to open a KRA pin and also to apply for HELB. I have not even been charged a shilling at the Maarifa Centre,” said Nahashon.
On his part, Fred Njuguna, 19, was at the Maarifa Centre to confirm his reporting date at the University. He is set to study Bachelor of Agribusiness at Maseno University. Fred who scored a B+ at Mary Mother of Grace Boys Secondary School has always been passionate about agriculture. He expects to teach the community about Kilimo Biashara once he graduates.
He has already started applying for Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) loan after acquiring KRA pin. Fred has been helping his parents in their farm but he now expects that the knowledge that he is going to gain at the University will be useful as his parents will now start practicing agriculture as a business.
KUCCPS which replaced the Joint Admissions Board (JAB) has lowered the minimum university entry requirement to B- (Minus) of 58 points for female students and grade B of 60 points for male students. Candidates with grade C- (minus) were also eligible for diploma programmes.

Friday, 29 August 2014

The faces of climate disorder

By Murigi Ndung’u
Climate change is increasingly becoming a big challenge in Kenya. It is now a peril of almost eternal effects that is staring on our very face. Kenyans are now faced with the only option of trying to cope with it maybe by holding awareness rendezvous or other kind of informative barazzas, with the intention of bluntening the effects that are literally gnawing at the quality of our lives. This is a very tyrannical era when everything seems to fail.
It is quite disheartening though, that the human beings are the sole cause of this disorder that now are a real danger to our very well being. The expectations of the 10% tree cover are almost a blur kind of imagination that is only left to the unrealistic world. The way the state of environmental degradation is growing and heightening with every dawn, we could as well count on a worse tomorrow.
People enjoying the natural beauty of the planet

Fine, how to present all this is quite another sort of rocket science. The rise in the levels of methane and carbon dioxide is another disastrous pandemic that albeit not visible to the human eye, it could be the worst kind of occurrence that haunts humanity. Animals are known to use oxygen for their biological normal functioning and the danger now posed is on the very lives of people, the residents of the earth!
To be frank, an idyll commoner has always been kept out of this kind of cognizance, not because they don’t care but they are not aware. At this point you get the reign of personal interest in its worst.
Scientists scramble in vast endeavors’ to create artificial oxygen for sale, another source of income! When the ignorant humanity is busy destroying the very habitation they are in, other great minds are inventing new ways of making money.
When people put their lives on stake and allow callous trading on their lives, that is when they become slaves and victims of their own ignorance. The top class elites now have full grip on them as they become full dependents on them. They have to worship them and do all kind of dictates they burden their shoulders with.

Understanding agricultural value chain finance

By Bob Aston
The term “value chain finance” (VCF) refers to the flow of funds to and among the various links within a value chain. It relates to any or all of the financial services, products and support services flowing to and/or through a value chain to address the needs and constraints of those involved in that chain.
VCF is an approach that recognizes the entirety of the chain and the forces which drive it and responds accordingly to the specific requirements for financing them. It is a tailor made approach which is designed to most efficiently meet needs of the businesses and particular nature of the chain.
Participants following proceedings during the Fin4Ag conference
The role of value chain finance is to address the needs and constraints of those involved in that chain. This is often a need for finance but can also include; financing production or harvest, purchasing farm inputs or products, financing labour, providing overdrafts or lines of credit, funding investments and reducing risks and uncertainty.
The increasing importance of agricultural value chain finance led to various stakeholders meeting in July in Nairobi to attend Fin4Ag Conference: revolutionising finance for agri-value chains. The international conference brought together decision makers from both public and private sectors with an aim of building a modern and high performing agricultural financing system.
Various instruments are currently being used in agricultural value chain finance. They include product financing, receivables financing, physical asset collateralization, risk mitigation products and financial enhancements. Key participants in a VCF include; producers, agri-input dealers, aggregators, wholesalers and retailers.
Value chain finance can help chains become more inclusive, by making resources available for smallholders to integrate into higher value markets. It can help meet the growing need for agricultural finance and investment in response to consumer demand for more processed or value-added products.
Value chain finance offers an opportunity to expand financing for agriculture, improve efficiency and repayments in financing, and strengthen or consolidate linkages among participants in value chains.
Farmers planting
 It can also improve quality and efficiency in financing agricultural chains by: Identifying the financing needed to strengthen the chain, tailoring financial products to suit the needs of the participants in the chain, reducing financial transaction costs through the direct discounting of loan payments at the time of product sale and using value chain linkages and knowledge of the chain to mitigate risks.
In recent years, organizations like the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) have been working at promoting agri-value chain finance in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. CTA is also working with various stakeholders, notably, the African Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (AFRACA), in building capacity and sharing knowledge on agri-value chain finance best practices as well as on the design of policies that will help to scale up success practices.
Value chain finance as an approach takes a systemic viewpoint, looking at the collective set of actors, processes and markets of the chain as opposed to an individual lender-borrower within the system. It can be instrumentalised to promote inclusive economic growth as it allows the identification of specific leverage points along a chain, reducing the average cost per unit by increasing the number of units produced.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

ASDSP transforming the agricultural sector


By Joseph King’ang’ai and Martin Mutuga
The Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme(ASDSP) is a sector programme implemented by the Government of Kenya (GoK) and the Government of Sweden (SIDA) in collaboration with interested development partners, with the overall aim to support the implementation of the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy 2010–2020 (ASDS).
The programme commenced in Laikipia County from March, 2012 with a scope of the 3 sub- counties. Through collaboration with the stakeholders in agriculture sector it has prioritized for support three value chains namely; Maize, Dairy and Sheep /Goat value chains.

ASDSP Laikipia County Value Chain prioritisation workshop
The programme objective is to increase equitable incomes, employment and food security of both male and female target groups as a result of improved production and productivity in the smallholder farm and off-farm sectors by 2017.
The initial 5 year phase is supported by the Government of Kenya and the Swedish Government. The ASDSP supports programme coordination within its primary outcome areas (environmentally resilient and socially inclusive value chain development and associated sector coordination) at national and county levels.
The programme main goal is to support the transformation of Kenya's agricultural sector into an innovative, commercially oriented, competitive and modern industry that will contribute to equitable productivity, poverty reduction, and improved food security in rural and urban Kenya by 2017.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

PAFID hold farmers field day at Nyakinyua

By Bob Aston
Conservation agriculture is fast emerging as an alternative farming method by many smallholder farmers. In a bid to show farmers the difference between conservation and conventional agriculture, Participatory Approaches for Integrated Development (PAFID) organized a farmer’s field day at Nyakinyua area of Kinamba Division in Laikipia County on August 27, 2014.
The field day was held at Anthony Mathenge’s farm. It provided farmers with an opportunity to learn what PAFID has been training farmers about at the demonstration farm. Also in attendance included; Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), Pure Circle Kenya Ltd and Tree is Life Trust (TILT).
Farmers being shown around the demo farm
Speaking during the event, Mr. Juma Oliver from PAFID urged more farmers to adopt conservation agriculture in order to reduce production cost. He said that farmers will be able to learn what their colleagues have been doing in the demo plot. The farmers have planted using three different approaches namely; conventional, basin and reaping.

“Cost of production is on the rise. It is important for farmers to look for ways of reducing mechanical tillage and labour cost. Conservation agriculture not only reduces on cost of production but it also has a lot of benefits to farmers,” said Mr. Juma.
He urged farmers to replicate what they are taught in their farms and also to teach others so that more farmers can also adopt conservation agriculture.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, conservation agriculture is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment.
It aims to achieve sustainable and profitable agriculture and subsequently aims at improved livelihoods of farmers through the application of the three conservation agriculture principles: minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotations.
Farmers being shown what has been done in the demo farm
Mr. Juma informed the farmers that conservation agriculture usually reverses the effect of soil degradation caused by mechanical tillage. He urged the farmers not to harm their soil as this will affect production.
He said that burning crop residues usually destroy important sources of plant nutrients and soil improvement potential. He said that soil under conservation agriculture have very high water infiltration capacities thus reducing surface runoff and soil erosion. This improves the quality of surface water reducing pollution from soil erosion, and enhances groundwater resources.
He urged the farmers to keep the soil covered as well as planting through the mulch in order to protect the soil and improve the growing environment for the crop.
Conservation agriculture holds tremendous potential for all sizes of farms and agro-ecological systems, but its adoption is perhaps most urgently required by smallholder farmers, especially those facing acute labour shortages. It is a way to combine profitable agricultural production with environmental concerns and sustainability.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

TIST voted the best (Carbon) offsetting program in the world

By Bob Aston
The International Small Group and Tree Planting Program (TIST) has been voted the Best (Carbon) Offsetting Project in a global survey conducted by Environmental Finance. This recognition, voted by carbon market industry professionals throughout the world, identified the many benefits that TIST farmers receive from working together to plant and to develop and share local best practices that improve lives.
TIST is the first offsetting project to be recognized by Environmental Finance. TIST carbon offsets from India, Kenya and Uganda are validated and verified by Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards (CCBS).
TIST is among the few organizations which have received certification standards for carbon reduction projects from VCS and CCBS. They have already completed that process a total of 14 times.
A member of TIST-Nyakinyua cluster at her tree nursery
VCS offsets must be real (have happened), additional (beyond business-as-usual activities), measurable, permanent (not temporarily displace emissions), independently verified and unique (not used more than once to offset emissions) and is accredited by the American National Standards Institute.
TIST empowers Small Groups of subsistence farmers in countries such as Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and India to reverse the devastating effects of deforestation, drought, and famine. Since 1999, TIST participants have been identifying local sustainable development goals that include tree planting and sustainable agriculture
TIST expects to provide long-term revenue for the Small Group participants through the sale of greenhouse gas credits (GhG). Carbon credit policy works on paying farmers for the seedlings they have planted. The farmers are expected to have formed a group and dully registered with TIST International.
TIST started its operations in Laikipia in 2008. Already various farmers in the region making up cluster groups have been receiving carbon credit payment vouchers. Clusters like Tandare, Nyakinyua and Njorua are targeting to plant 100,000 trees per year. TIST-Njorua cluster alone has several products like honey, Stevia plant, fish pond and tree nurseries.
Disbursement of carbon credit money is normally done on a quarterly basis and is disbursed through Safaricom M-Pesa money transfer. Later members receive their dues as tabulated in the voucher breakdown.
With palm computers and Global Position System (GPS) technology, TIST data on tree growth and carbon storage is collected and transmitted through the internet.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Catholic youths hold retreat at Ol-Moran parish

By James Mwangi
Catholic youths from Sipili, Ng’arua, Muchungui, Muhotetu and Ol-Moran parish held a two day retreat from 15-16, August, 2014at Ol-Moran parish. The retreat which was held outside the parish old hall provided the youths with an opportunity to interact as well as share life experiences.
The meeting was also attended by the Host priest, Father James Giacomo, Host Patron, Peterson Muthua, Youth Chairman of the Denary, Samuel Wambugu, Muchungui parish priest Father Sandro and Sister Monicah as well as various patrons and matrons from the various parishes.
The meeting also provided the youths with an opportunity to be introduced to the various patrons and matrons.
The first day of the retreat was dedicated to interaction. The host Chairman, Muchoki and his fellow youth nicknamed “break first” led in the evening entertainment.
The second day was preceded by morning prayers before various youths started sharing their life experiences.

The new church building in Ol-Moran Parish under construction
James Makala shared a touching life experience which left most of the youths in tears. Makala grew up in a poor family. His parents depended on brewing illegal brew. One day his mother was arrested and imprisoned. Their father then abandoned them. Makala and his younger brother Kagiri who was seven years old at the time had to feed themselves.
They ended up becoming street children. One day Makala attended a meeting where a nun was guiding street children. After listening to the story of Saint Agatha, he received a revelation. He stood and told the nun that he will no longer sniff glue and he will start rehabilitating himself.
One day he was on his way home from church when he was arrested by police in a case of mistaken identity. He was taken to the police station where he was forced to bribe his way out.
“The police officers disagreed on how to share the bribe. During the argumentone of them took out his gun and shot me. This is why I lost my right hand. Right now I even depend on my wife to tie my shoe lace as I cannot manage to do that,” said a sorrowful Makala.         
He urged the youths to ensure that they are not blinded by money as it can lead them astray. Today Makala is working at Saint Martin as an advocate for justice.
Father Sandro narrated how he met Makala during a conference that they had both attended. Makala had then informed him that he preferred to remain with his half hand rather than having a replacement. This he had said would always remind him when washing his face that he should always stand firm and fight for justice.
“I have actually benefitted a lot from this retreat. The story of Makala is really touching. I will always stand and fight for justice. I will never use my financial ability or power to harass my fellow citizens,” said Angeline Wambui, a youth from Sipili Parish.
The retreat concluded with a mass which was conducted by Father James Giacomo. He urged the youths not only to beautify their bodies but also their hearts.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Reasons why youths should venture into farming

By Bob Aston
Youth unemployment has remained one of the most daunting challenges in Kenya’s socio-economic development. Today, unemployment in Kenya stands at 40%, and 70% of those unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 35.
The problem is mainly attributed to inadequate employment and livelihood opportunities in rural areas, hence disillusioned youths migrate to urban centers to look for such opportunities.
Youths are particularly vulnerable to economic problems. They often do not have access to savings account, credit or insurance but in them also lies a large untapped opportunity that can help address the high unemployment in the country.
Youth farmer tending to his crops
Agribusiness has great opportunities that can help millions of youths earn a decent living through farming. Youths are viewed as the future of the agriculture sector and it is clear that they are set to play an important role in ensuring that there is food security for future generations.
The notion held by youths that farming is old fashion and is done only by peasants has already started changing as more youths are realizing that one can earn a decent living through farming rather than looking for a white collar job which in most cases is always elusive.
The perception still being held by some youths that farmers have to dig using hoes and wearing overall is misleading as most farmers are currently practicing modern farming methods.
Farming is increasingly becoming cool as most youths are no longer averse to soiling their hands to earn a living where their less creative contemporaries see no money.
Venturing into farming, particularly horticulture can ensure that youths not only earn a decent living but they earn more than their contemporaries who are doing white collar jobs.
Practicing agribusiness enables farmers get good returns from their produce. This has ensured that some farmers earn more than 10 times what they could have earned when employed.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) 2013 Economic Survey, agriculture, which grew by 3.8 per cent, contributed 17.6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.
Lack of financial services as well as access to land is among the key challenges that youths face when they want to venture into farming. This has significantly contributed to lack of livelihood opportunities among youths.
Financial access would go a long way towards ensuring financial inclusion of youths but this has been a problem mainly due to inability to comply with the high transaction costs, lack of the required financial documentation, lack of collateral, inappropriate and inaccessible financial products offered by financial institutions and poor financial capabilities of the youth.
Youth farmer at his farm
Need to increase the financial capability of youths is of utmost importance as financial institutions rarely treat them as “clients” but rather as “beneficiaries.”.
According to a report released by World Bank in January 2014 titled Youth Employment in Sub- Saharan Africa, eleven million youths are expected to enter Africa’s labour market every year for the next decade. The report argues that scaling up support to access opportunities when they arise is essential in empowering the youth.
The Kenyan government is currently providing various opportunities for youths to empower themselves. The Uwezo Fund, a flagship programme for vision 2030 aimed at enabling women, youth and persons with disability access finances to promote businesses and enterprises is one way that youths can use to access funds.
Another initiative conceived by the government is the Youth Enterprise Development Fund which was formed with the sole purpose of reducing unemployment among the youths. The Youth Enterprise Development Fund has also partnered with Amiran Kenya Ltd to support young farmers in acquiring a tailor made Amiran Farmers Kit (AFK) designed specifically for the AgriVijana Loan.
Making agriculture attractive to young farmers will go a long way in ensuring that more youths join farming. Agriculture is currently one of the most lucrative businesses that someone can engage in the Country.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

West Laikipia small farmers trained on value addition

By Bob Aston
The Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) on August 19, 2014 organized West Laikipia small farmers training about avocado and mango value addition. The training which was conducted at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre saw more than 20 mango and avocado farmers being trained on value addition by a consultant sent by LWF.
Speaking during the training, Virginia Wahome, LWF North Western Unit Community Liason Officer said that LWF decided to bring farmers together to train them on alternative livelihood. She said that dependence on only maize and beans is not ideal. She said that they are trying to bridge gaps by encouraging farmers to try alternative crops that can help to improve their livelihood.
She informed the farmers that communities living near Lariak Forest together with LWF have started a fruit nursery which has already been certified by Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA). She noted that farmers will no longer be travelling long distances to buy mango seedlings. She said farmers will now be able to obtain the seedlings at Ksh 100.
Gatobu addressing the farmers
“Laikipia Wildlife Forum decided to train farmers on mango and avocado value addition in order to financially empower them. We are determined in ensuring that farmers have an alternative livelihood,” said Virginia.
Mr. Ken Gatobu, Director, Sucode Consultancy Agency touched on some challenges that farmer’s face when they want to add value to their produce. He informed the farmers that cost of value addition is normally high, large scale production is required due to economies of scale, it is hard for an individual to get certification, relevant documentation, skills, training and exposure.
“Value addition is a long term investment as it is a long process. The main purpose of value addition is to increase money in our pocket,” said Mr. Gatobu.
He stressed on the importance of joining farmer groups as they will be able to enjoy various benefits of value addition that include;  Standards, capital, reduced cost of production, access to market and more profit.
“As a group you can research on market of product, quality and cost. Working as a group can also help you create a market niche,” said Mr. Gatobu.
He informed participants that they should always harvest when crops are mature. He cited research which shows that 20% - 40% of farm produce is normally lost during this period. He advised farmers to pluck fruits and put in a basket during harvesting instead of throwing on the ground as this usually leads to breakages and bursting.
Once fruits are harvested they should be stored in a cool place. He stressed on the importance of packaging stating that presentable packaging adds value. He also informed farmers that value addition usually starts during sorting which marks the first step of grading.
He informed farmers that value addition can be added to avocado through extraction of oil, making fruit salad and fruit juice while in mango, value addition can be added through making dried mango crisps, juice, fruit salad and jam.
“Farmers can benefit when they dispose of their produce early enough or wait until they add value to their produce,” said Mr. Gatobu.
He informed the farmers that value addition requires consistency thus it is important to set a target that can be met.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Stakeholders join hands to ensure proper disposal of waste

By Njambi Gakaho
The Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) is supporting Water Resource Management Authority, National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and Nyahururu Water Users Association in putting up billboards in common dumping areas of Nyahururu to warn residents that they risk being prosecuted if found dumping in undesignated dumping sites.
The main aim of this initiative is to ensure that garbage dumping in residential areas of Nyahururu decreases.
Nyahururu area has continued to receive heavy rain fall in the past few weeks. The heavy rainfall has led to flooding in some areas and a lot of run-off. The flowing water carries so much garbage, some of which end up in the rivers particularly Gathaara river.
Sign post warning people against dumping waste
Most of the garbage is basically plastic bags which have become synonymous with Kenyan waste. Since the debate on banning low gauge plastic bags always create a negative reaction, the key question is, how will Kenyans free their environment from plastic waste?
Most of the plastic bags are issued for free to customers in supermarkets, shops and other consumer outlets. Some environmentalists are currently of the opinion that putting a price on plastic bags could encourage shoppers to recycle them.
While some residential areas like Co-site estate have many open dump sites, the erected billboard in the area is expected to ensure that the residents will dump cautiously and in the long run the residential areas are bound to improve into better and clean environment.
It is clear that there is need for a plastic bag management policy. This would help in ensuring that plastic bag waste is minimized in the environment.  Meanwhile, residents of Nyahururu town should continuously be sensitized against dumping of garbage as improper garbage disposal can lead to health and environmental problems.