Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Community leaders praise free ICT training

Trainees practice new ICT skills
   The chairman of Sipili stakeholder’s forum Mr. Joseph Mwati, has lauded the services offered by ALIN at the Ng’arua Maarifa centre in Sipili. Mr. Mwati appreciated the role of the Maarifa centre, saying that the services offered are not available anywhere else. 

‘‘Am a student, learning free computer lessons at the Maarifa centre and i have passed the first ICT test’’ he said. He was addressing a meeting attended by 20 registered community groups and organizations. 
The meeting took place on Tuesday 21st  Feb. 2012 at the divisional agriculture office. ‘‘On a light note a member cracked a joked that some people need ICT training in order to know how to put their phones on silent mode during meetings’’. One hundred community members are continuing with free trainings at Ng’arua maarifa centre.

Spili Cereal bank comes to the aid of small scale farmers.

By Bett Kipsan'g

Agricultural production and marketing by small scale farmers and especially inhabitants of the Arid and semi arid areas faces a myriad challenges. Good crop yields are as unpredictable and far apart as rainy seasons. Communities and development partners have devised interventions to reverse this trend.
The front view of the Cereal Bank
 In the year 2001, a noble idea to start a cereal bank in Sipili was borne.  A group of men meeting under the auspices of Catholic Men Association (C.M.A) came up with an idea to seek solutions to the perennial problem of hunger, food insecurity, poor food storage and lack of market access due to the presence of brokers. 

The idea would be to come together and put up a cereal bank with the membership open to all people, irrespective of social status, denomination, gender, political affiliations or religious believes.
‘‘Individual members should be 18 years and above and hailing from of Ng’arua and the neighboring divisions’’ said Joseph K. Mwati, the current cereal bank chairman adding that groups are also registered with them as corporate members. 

Stock of fertilizer inside the cereal bank.
 The idea was well received in the community with many residents registering to benefit from the new initiative. Today the bank boasts of a membership of 100 people, 73 Men and 27 women.
“They embraced the idea with enthusiasm and contributed Ksh 100 every month plus an additional ksh 500 as share capital,” the chairman said.

The group was registered with the ministry of gender sports and social services as a self help group. Members continued with their contributions and before long they had raised enough money to acquire a three acre piece of land where they built a mega permanent store known as Sipili cereal bank.
The store with a capacity of between 6,000 and 8,000- 90 Kilogram bags of cereals was built with the assistance of Ksh 0.6 million from the German embassy and Ksh 800,000 which had been contributed by group members at the time of building the store. 

“The construction was completed in the year 2002 at a total cost of Ksh 1.8million, which included member’s contribution in kind, like labour and time, amounting to Ksh 0.4m,’’ Mwati Said.
 The opperationalization of the facility was another task. ‘‘It opened the doors during a bad season when the harvests were poor,’’ he recalled. Members contributed six 90 Kg bags of maize each. Beans too had done poorly and they started with four kilograms only.

‘‘Our main objective in putting up of this storage facility was to fight famine and create a source of income through the sale of cereals by members’’ Mwati said. 

Currently, the cereal bank is working with other collaborators like non governmental organizations, ministry of agriculture and other development partners to Increase production of cereals in the area.

This happens through stocking of certified seeds not only for members but also for the general community. For the last two years the bank has assisted hundreds of farmers to acquire government subsidized fertilizer. This year 2012, the bank acquired 560 bags of 50 Kgs fertilizer worth Ksh 1.6m. This would not have been possible without the assistance of a non-profit organization; Agricultural Cooperative Development International – Volunteers in Oversees Cooperative Assistance (ACDI-VOCA). 

‘‘It was not an easy task to get the subsidized fertilizer. We tried Nyahururu, went to Nairobi and found none and that is when we got a tip that the commodity was available in Embu. ACDI-VOCA intervened by paying a one way trip for the fertilizer from Embu to Sipili. We are grateful,” the cereal bank chairman said.
The landing of fertilizer in the cereal bank was a great relieve to eager farmers who have prepared their farms and are acquiring planting materials before the onset of the long rains in March and April. 

Mwati said that the struggle to source the fertilizer from Embu, was catalyzed by well placed sources indicating that subsidized fertilizer were out of stock in the government stores and that the next shipment would only land in the country by early May. That would spell doom to farmers since they would be late in planting and therefore standing a great risk of getting poor yields. 

The bank buys cereals when the prices are low and then stores them until prices increase when they then sell posting huge profits to the benefit of the members. The initiative discourages middlemen who exploit farmers by buying farm produce at low prices only to resell the same at double or triple the prices.
Members of the cereal bank plans to source for good quality planting materials from trusted companies and organizations. Unsuspecting farmers in the area were last year exploited by unscrupulous business people who sold them fake maize seeds which they planted only to reap poorly.

 Word has it that unscrupulous traders use paint to color fake seeds to make them look certified before  packing it in bags and papers printed in renown seed companies packages before selling the same to unsuspecting farmers.

The farmers then end up getting poor yields therefore negatively affecting their food situation besides the economic status of the area and the country at large. The group is presently faced with a challenge of deficiency in its operating capital. ‘‘After the completion of the store, our funds reduced drastically with the current operating capital being Ksh 400,000 only’’ Mwati said.

 In spite of that, Sipili cereal bank has big plans; to start value addition of cereals, by sipping, grinding and packing in order to fetch higher prices. This will enable the group to earn from the ‘opportunity cost’ increasing income through the sale of the by-products, used as animal feeds. They look forward to acquire machinery through members’ savings, profits and support from well wishes.

 ‘‘As farmers, we are very grateful to well wishes like the ACDI-VOCA for their timely assistance in delivering the fertilizer. We can now prepare adequately and take advantage of the long rains to produce crops to the desired quantities.’’ said Mwati.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Farm level feeds formulation.

By Bett Kipsang'

SILIKEP Members pose for a photo outside their office.
Sipili Livestock Keepers (SILIKEP) is a community self help group of 30 members from Sipili. The group specializes in livestock rearing; a profitable venture which has not been fully exploited. The activity also poses a lot of challenges if care is not given. ‘‘The vision of the group is to keep high quality and productive livestock’’ said SILIKEP chairman Mr. Peter Mwaniki. 

One evening, Ann Wanjiru a trader and livestock health specialist invited the Maarifa Centre Staff to witness the process of feed formulation by the group.

The group was meeting at their office room within Sipili market. Ann briefed them before the actual process of feed formulation begun.

The chairman gladly informed the group of how he has gotten lots of assistance from the Maarifa centre, including typing of the bylaws used to register the group five months ago. The group is also working in collaboration with other development workers from the government, NGOs and the private sector to ensure that their goals were met.

 Farm level feed formulation was started in Sipili by Ann Wanjiru. She carried out a lot of research from books and the internet at the Maarifa centre and came up with methods of mixing ingredients which she used to train farmers. The tools required includes: weighing machine, spade and mat, and the ingredients includes; Maize germ, Wheat bran, cotton seed cake, sun flower cake, wheat Poland, limestone, DCP, Borne meal, fish meal and vitamin premix for making layers mash. DCP is substituted with formulated salt like (macklick) for the dairy meal. 100 Kilograms of layers mash and 100 Kgs of dairy meal were made on that day. 

Homemade feeds are of high quality; this is because the farmer has a choice to mix the ingredients in the required ratios. Powdery ingredients in commercial feeds sometimes sip through the bags during transport, a challenge solved with homemade feeds since movement, if any, is minimal. The cost of producing feeds at farm level is relatively low because the farmer can supplement the commercial ingredients with locally available materials. Cotton seed cake can be supplemented with Dolichos, Lucerne or any other available legumes. 

Ann mentioned that, while preparing her notes for the training, she visited the Maarifa centre to do research from books and on the internet. ‘‘Information sourced from the Maarifa Centre was very helpful’’ said Ann. SILIKEP members recounted different ways each has benefited from the Maarifa centre saying that it was a blessing to the Sipili community. They acknowledged that feed formulation was a simple undertaking that can be done at home by any farmer.

After preparation, farmers used the new feed for two weeks and made the following observations: Peter Mwanki reported that milk from his cattle increased by one litre per milking. After using the feeds john Maitho reported an increase in milk from 2.5 litre to 4 litre. Mr. Njuki’s and Joyce Wangari are poultry farmers who used the new feed. Mr. Njuki’s hens increased eggs from 3 to 12 per day. On the other hand Joyce Wangari reported that after using the home made feeds the number of eggs collected per day rose from 2 to 7.

Mrs Watetu’s hens improved laying from from 0 to 9 per day. SILIKEP chairman praised ALIN and maarifa centre for providing an access to the information.

Animal feed needs to contain various groups of nutrients, and the composition depends on the nutritional requirement of the animal being fed, its age and growth stage. Generally, protein is the most necessary element for body building and maintenance as well as milk production.

Without proteins, there would be no weight gain or milk production. Carbohydrates provide energy and body fats. Fats provide energy and the excess is converted to fat and stored in the body.

 Minerals help in body building as well as in biological regulation of growth and reproduction; it’s also a major source of nutrients in milk. Vitamins help regulate the biological processes in the body and become a source of nutrients in milk. Water on its part helps in body building, heat regulation, biological processes and a large constituent of milk production as well as eggs.

Basically, feed’s organic nutrients are required by the animals for three things: as materials for the construction of body tissues (growth and maintenance), synthesis of products such as milk and eggs, and a source of energy for work done. The work done include both metabolic (heat increment and maintenance) and physical e.g. walking and feeding.

Minerals are chemical elements which form important components of animal feed ingredients. The elements are essential in ensuring normal and proper functions of the body as well as in maintenance of good health. Lack of these essential elements in the diet causes cattle to show deficiency symptoms, like sickness poor health and low production. Some elements are required in relatively large amounts compared to others. For this reasons the minerals have been classified as 'macro-minerals' (required in larger amounts) and 'micro or trace-minerals' (required in minute amounts).

Macro-minerals are: salt, sulfur, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium. Micro-minerals are: like iron, iodine, cobalt, copper, fluorine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, Zinc.
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