Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Youths learn to conserve Mother Nature

By James Maina

Residents of Olmoran ward Laikipia County turned up in large numbers to conserve the environment Wednesday. The day was marked with a road show from Lariak Primary school to Mlima meza (Flat topped hill) where pupils parrents and teachers planted trees and climbed up the hill to view the landscape. Few trees were planted due to scarce rains, but there are enough seedlings to be planted when enough rain sets in. Laikipia is currently witnessing a spate of dry spells. The aim of the event was to conduct sensitization on climate change to avert global warming.

 The activity was sponsored by Tree is Life Trust (TILT) an NGO which deals with environmental conservation. The organization has been championing planting of trees in schools, hospitals and other public places and also promoting the use of renewable sources of energy. Other organizations which graced the occasions were ALIN, CFA, WRUA, BUNDELL and government departments.

 The event kicked off with a procession which started at Lariak primary school with over five hundred people participating. Pupils and students from the neighboring schools and members of the public participated in the awareness creation event. The procession snaked through the streets of Sipili market before matching to Mlima Meza. This historical hill stands near Sipili primary school about 5 kilometers away from Sipili market.

 Pupils of Bondeni, Sipili, Lariak and Machunguru primary schools told Ngarua Maarifa Centre (NMC) that they have learnt good lessons on conserving and protecting the environment. James Kariuki a pupil in Sipili primary school said, “The ball is now on our bay. I need to plant a tree every week and care for the existing ones here in school and at home.” Others who were contacted by NMC were students and teachers from the participating schools. Members of the public planted seedlings at the foot of the hill while pupils helped in watering them.

The day culminated in speeches from representatives of different groups. Speakers emphasized on the need to protect environment for posterity. They were concerned with sporadic cutting of trees and clearing of thickets which has led to fluctuating weather conditions. Residents were asked to take personal responsibility to avoid the wrath of Mother Nature. Laikipia is known for agricultural productivity but recently farming has been hampered by poor rainfall.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The maize flavor for Laikipia farmers

By Elvis Ndiritu

 The harvest season in Laikipia west is here once again, maize are in plenty, the weather is conducive for harvesting, drying and even transporting the produce to the market, yet farmers have nothing to smile about it.   

 The prices offered at the local market are too low and do not fully compensate the farmers for inputs, labor and time, spent on the farm! An estimated yield per acre is 25 bags of 90kgs which is an average harvest compared to expected maximum of 35 bags per acre.

Maize being sun-dried at sipili market
 According to Maina Minjire, a maize farmer in Mwireri and Kagaa villages, the farmers have had difficulties during production including the cost of inputs and human wildlife conflict. Elephants attacked and damaged their crops leading to low yields. Wildlife attacks were however not as common this season unlike in the previous years.

 The main challenge this year was sky-rocketing prices of farm implements tools, fertilizer, seeds and manual labor which have gone up by a big margin from previous years.

 Prices are rapidly fluctuating on a downwards trend. In less than two months, the price has gone down from two thousand four hundred shillings (2400/=) per 95Kg, currently farmers are selling their Maize to brokers at Kenya shillings two thousand one hundred (2,100/=) per 95Kgs bag.

  This means at the peak harvest season prices are diving to the lowest levels. Local trading centers in the area are now a beehive full of brokering activities, maize being the main product.  Middle-men are collecting even small portions, where they buy a Kilogram at mere Ksh 22/=, this price is too low for the farmers to make a return on the investment.  

 The chain is even getting longer and longer, most farmers harvest their crops before it is completely dry, then they sell to local small scale traders who goes ahead to sun-dry the maize, before selling to another trader at a small profit of as little as one hundred shillings. Large scale traders have the capacity to bulk the produce or even transport it to bigger towns and some of the arid areas where the commodity is fetching higher prices. Farmers who have no contact to main market conveniences often rely on the price set by the maize tycoons and brokers.

  The main market targets are at Meru and Mararal. At the moment, the Mararal market is saturated and that leaves the main market at Meru. The prices here are at around 2,650/= per bag and thus this is a profitable business but only for those who can afford to transport loads of maize to the places.
It is however projected that five months from now, that is at around April next year, the prices are usually as high as 3,500/=

 Farmers in this place need to find out what they haven’t done to access this market. Arid lands information network is implementing a market access project which involve building the capacity of farmers, to manage the commodity value chains and by bulking to enable them gain the bargaining power when auctioning the produce.

The project relies on modern technology where famers are trained to use mobile phones to inquire for market prices in various towns. 
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