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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Life as a first year university student

By Moses Ndung’u
Fine, that day was not what I would call a mayday, but it made a glitch on me that intend to make some little pile of history in my life. The day the author of this article joined the university.
Taking some status approximations as outlined in the strict sieving process that involves shortlisting. The austerity that denies chances just by the mere fact of a ‘missed by a point’ is a Kenyan kind of trait well known to deny first class brains a chance of getting into a university. Being decimated below the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) cutline is a feared and revered term in the examinations fraternity.
Now, what is the big deal inside that coveted institute of higher learning? A lot of goodies and cookies? A first year student taking a Bachelor of Commerce is not sure… “Well, think it’s a fair share of the two kingdoms, I mean the good and the evil? A probe into this is well avoided as matters that concern social ignobility then arise.
But why? It is a haven of unleashed talents, positive and negative. It is a company of gashing freedom that runs over the dams of restrictions, creating an electric current that runs the university, picked physically, induction-wise or even telepathically. It has never been great, and fresher would not mind shouting that into your heart.
To win somebody, one has to appeal to the hearts of the subject, and I think this is what the products of higher learning institutions just did. Now it has taken a gravely egregious cause. This is because many ‘freshers’ in their innocent camaraderie end up being the topical study in moral degradation.
A horde of young men most of them sophomores were on Sunday frog-matched after being apprehended in the act of smoking bhang in a retreat that borders River side Park. Their fate is now to be determined in a tougher way. These are students from a constituent college in Kerugoya who decided to have an off from the normalcy of social morality.
Now most of the students are the sole players in their lives. Having the parents out of the equation, they undergo financial hurdles. Sleeping hungry at the campus is not a big deal, though the mess (a slang for the student’s cafeteria) provides ultra-cheap food. It ends up being unaffordable when an engineering student cannot secure a meal of ten shillings
Whether a student slept hungry, it is not the business of the lecturer. You either pass or get a supplementary exam that later leads to discontinuation if they accumulate. It is the education style of Kenya; it is the best definition of survival for the best, and most probably, the falling of rain into the oceans, leaving behind deserts. Therefore, this is the campus life.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Integrated pest and disease management in tree tomato

By Bob Aston
Tree tomato is moderately resistant to pests although minimizing spread of pests and diseases can ensure better returns. Speaking during a Tree Tomato Value Chain Workshop at Sipili Catholic Church Hall, Laikipia West Sub County on September 23-24, 2015, Mrs. Elcy Kigano, Ol-Moran Ward Agribusiness officer said that adopting an integrated pest and disease management could ensure farmers minimize losses due to pest and disease infestation.
“It is always possible to reduce the progress of diseases and keep them at an acceptable level as it is not possible to completely eradicate diseases,” said Mrs. Kigano.
A farmer examining her tree tomato fruits

The two days’ workshop brought together more than 70 farmers drawn from Ol-Moran Ward who had come together to discuss and share best practices on how to enhance farmers production skills on Tree Tomato.
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre organized the workshop in collaboration with Kilimo Biashara Promoters and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MOALF).
She noted that the fast growing tree tomato or “matunda ya damu” in Kiswahili, prefers sub-tropical climate. She took farmers through control of tree tomato pests and diseases.
Tree tomato pests
Fruit flies are one of the most serious pests in Kenya. They feed on the fruits and other parts of tree tomato. They also lay eggs in fruits. Control is through field sanitation, quarantine and baiting by use of delude mixture of Naturalure with water.
Nematodes are a big problem on sandy soils. They cause serious damage on young trees and can be vectors of viruses. They lead to stunted growth and swelling or knot on roots. Prevention is by removing affected plants, soil fumigation, or soil solarization, keeping the field weed free, planting marigold beside the rows to reduce nematode numbers, practicing crop rotation, rouging, and use of nematicide or extract from neem cake.
Tree tomato worm feeds on the fruits and cause heavy losses. Control is by rigorous spraying and sanitary measures. Biological control is also essential. Green Aphids sac saps on the leaves and flowers. Chemical control can prevent spread of the pest.
Tree tomato diseases
Farmers being taken through tree tomato pests and diseases
A fungus Erysiphe Polygani causes powdery mildew and it results in serious defoliation. A white powdery mould appears on the upper surface of the leaves. The tissue beneath the affected plant becomes reddish brown while leaves turn yellow and eventually fall off. Control is through removing and destroying infected plant parts, spraying 10 percent cow milk, and improving air circulation by thinning and pruning.
Sclerelotinia disease causes black lesions, which girdle stems and cause terminal wilting. Field hygiene and use of fungicide such as Ridomi, Daconil, and Ortiva are ideal ways of controlling the disease.
Ascochyta disease appears as small, round black dead areas on leaves especially mature ones. Black lesions, which girdle stems and cause terminal wilting, are some characteristics of the disease. Field hygiene and use of fungicide such as Thiovit, Ridomil, and Ortiva are ideal ways of controlling the disease.
Tree tomato mosaic virus causes stunted growth, as well as pale mottling on leaves and sometimes fruits. Pulling up and destroying infected plants can prevent spread of the disease.
The farmers were addressing various interventions in Tree Tomato Value Chain that included crop risk mitigation, post-harvest handling, local value addition, linkages to markets, aggregation, and value chain linkages.

Promoting tree tomato value chain in arid areas

Bob Aston
The 1st Tree Tomato Value Chain Workshop, which took place at Sipili Catholic Church Hall, Ol-Moran Ward in Laikipia West Sub County in September 23-24, 2015 agreed on ways of increasing production amongst smallholder farmers in the region.
The convergence of more than 70 farmers enabled discussions on how to share best practices and enhancing farmer’s production skills on Tree tomato. They deliberated on tree tomato record keeping system and marketing of their produce.
Elcy Kigano from MOALF facilitating one of the sessions

The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre organized the workshop in collaboration with Kilimo Biashara Promoters and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MOALF).
ALIN and partners organized the workshop in order to address various interventions in Tree Tomato Value Chain that include crop risk mitigation, post-harvest handling, local value addition, linkages to markets, aggregation, and value chain linkages.
ALIN is keen in promoting the value chain approach as this can promote inclusive economic growth as it allows the identification of specific advantage points along a chain, reducing the average cost per unit by increasing the number of units produced.
The workshop discussed a myriad of issues that included production practices, agribusiness, soil management, marketing, record keeping, Integrated pests and disease management, harvesting and post-harvest management, cost benefit analysis, value addition and SOKO+ sms platform.
At the beginning of the workshop, the farmers had listed challenges that included scarcity of water, pests and diseases, marketing, tree tomato varieties, lack of good agricultural practices, limited capital, climate change and human-wildlife conflict as some of the issues affecting the value chain.
However, at the end of the workshop they had managed to come up with solutions that will enable the value chain not only to benefit many farmers but also to attract youths.
Farmers being taken through tree tomato pests and diseases
After the two days of engrossing training and deliberations, the workshop ended with set resolutions as the farmers agreed that they will each ensure that they have a minimum of a quarter an acre under tree tomato production.
The farmers agreed to involve youths in value addition to ensure that they also play an active role in the value chain.   
Farmers in the area have not been adding value to their produce hence realizing low returns. The farmers will again meet on October 22, 2015 for a field day on tree tomato.
Production of the fast growing Tree tomato or “matunda ya damu” in Kiswahili has been on the increase in Ol-Moran Ward. Most farmers have diversified to fruit farming, as they are able to get better returns.
ALIN has strategically focused its efforts to improve the livelihoods of arid lands communities in East Africa through delivery of practical information using modern technologies. The organization has been organizing various capacity building trainings for Ol-Moran Ward farmers.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Kenyan pastoralist women find new economic freedom - from pawpaws

By Kagondu Njagi, BRACED
KIBARTANE, Kenya - It is said among the Samburu people of Kenya that if a woman is not beaten by her husband then she is not loved. Naserian Lyengulai is working to bring that idea to an end.
The 59-year-old has been hit several times by her husband for borrowing money to buy food or medicine for her family, she says. But these days, she has her own source of income - and the beatings have stopped.
The mother of six, a member of the Kibartane Women's Group in northern Kenya, now works with other village mothers to grow vegetables and fruit such as pawpaws on a one-acre plot of land in the village.
Farming fresh produce is something new for women in this hot, dry region dominated by cattle and goat herding.
"The place of the Maasai woman is to raise children," Lyengulai says, adding that taking care of the family wealth is the business of the man.
But the new economic freedom that has come from raising and selling fruit and vegetables is also buying her others freedoms, particularly the ability to spend money, without risk, while her husband is away for weeks at a time herding his animals.

A member of the group working in women’s garden. TRF/Kagondu Njagi
"Sometimes he does not leave money in the house," Lyengulai said. "I have to feed the children on stored milk. When they fall sick, I treat them with herbs collected from the wild."
The February edition of the Samburu County Drought Monthly Bulletin says that children under five years old in families that only herd livestock are more likely to suffer nutritional problems during droughts than children from families that mix cattle herding and growing vegetables and legumes.
That reality - and a desire to improve meals for their own children - is one of the things that inspired Lyengulai and other women to form the Kibartane Women Group.
Before the project began, "it was difficult for me to obtain greens because the nearest shopping center is 20 kilometers away," she said. "All that I need to do now is to join my colleagues at the kitchen garden to get my share of fruits and vegetables."
The surplus, she adds, is taken to the market for sale, earning her and members of the group extra income.

Healthy profit for Kenyan women selling aloe

By Leopold Obi, BRACED
NANYUKI, Kenya - Women herders in Kenya's semi-arid Laikipia County have broken with tradition to export the leaves of a desert plant to Europe, boosting their incomes. Three hundred women in El Poloi have switched from the age-old occupation of goat-keeping to the new and far more lucrative activity of farming aloe, a plant with healing properties.
Along the way, they are transforming their economic status and creating educational opportunities for their daughters.
Drought-prone El Poloi lies to the northwest of snow-capped Mount Kenya in the Great Rift Valley. According to the Kenya Meteorological Department, the area receives less than 400 mm (16 inches) of rainfall annually.
Only a few hardy shrubs and savannah grass can survive on the harsh terrain. The community's women say their men used to journey miles to Mount Kenya in the dry season seeking grazing for their herds, while the women and children stayed behind without enough food.
Women's group members prepare cosmetics made with aloe, Laikipia County, TRF/Leopold Obi
Knowing maize and vegetables would not produce good harvests in this climate, the women decided six years ago to cultivate Aloe secundiflora, a plant common to semi-arid parts of Kenya.
They formed four groups tasked with fighting poverty and gender inequality. Each group farms at least 3 acres (1.2 hectares) of the short-stemmed succulent plant.
Rosemary Putunoi, a leader of Twala Cultural Manyatta Women, said her group was given 40 acres (16 hectares) of dry, eroded land to farm by the men of the community in 2008.
"We then saw an income opportunity in growing osunguroi (aloe), which we traded for goats from our men. We planted aloes on 2 acres to start, and 12 roots of the plant (could be) exchanged for a goat," Putunoi said.
The men used the aloe to brew a traditional fermented wine made of the pounded roots mixed with water, sugar and honey.But the benefits of aloe cultivation did not end there.
The women discovered the plants reduced erosion and improved the soil, enabling grass to grow. So they decided to charge fees to herders who wanted to graze animals on their land. They used that money and proceeds from their aloe sales to pay for their daughters to be educated.

The Most Interesting Disaster is the One that does not happen

By Roop Singh, RCCC
Climate extremes like floods, droughts, and landslides occur constantly around the world. Yet we very rarely hear about the instances when an extreme climate event happens, and there is no mass suffering or casualty.  
These “non disasters” are crucial moments in which we can learn more about what makes people resilient to climate shocks. By studying these non-disasters, we can better understand the social mechanisms, infrastructure, government programs, policies, or other coping mechanisms that make one population more resilient to climate shocks than another.
To exemplify how some populations are more resilient than others, consider the scenario in which two cities are hit with a rainfall of similar magnitude, but only one of them becomes devastated by flooding. This would be an opportunity to learn how the ability of people to anticipate, adapt to, and absorb climate shocks differs from place to place.
We have exactly this case study if we compare the floods earlier this summer in Brooklyn, New York and Nairobi, Kenya.
Kenyan school boy/ Viktor Dobai
Although both floods received news coverage because they occurred in major cities, the coverage in Nairobi was more extensive, even attracting international media such as Al Jazeera and the BBC, and resulted in a rousing #Nairobifloods hashtag on twitter where residents shared information and their frustrations.
In Brooklyn, the news coverage was local and relatively superficial because there was minimal damage and no casualties to talk about.
There was something missing in the coverage of these two events: why was the Brooklyn flood only a minor nuisance, and why wasn’t the Nairobi flooding an even bigger disaster?
One reason could be the early warnings issued in Brooklyn by the New York National Weather Service. The warnings urged residents to “move to higher ground now” and “act to quickly save your life.” Drivers were advised to “turn around, don’t drown” when faced with even shallow floodwaters.