Thursday, May 30, 2013

A company employee hails Maarifa centre

‘‘Much water has gone under the bridge in the last four years,’’ but Reuben Mureithi Thuku 35, cannot easily forget the day he came to Ngarua Maarifa Centre as a job seeker. He precisely remembers that April, when he drafted a CV and applied for a job through the free internet service.

 Three months down the line, Mureithi had secured a job at The Village Market, a Kigiri based company after successfully going through the interview. ‘‘That is where I earn a living up to date as a press liaison officer’’ Said Mureithi joyfully.

The proud holder of Diploma in banking, also take part in social work under the corporate social responsibility (CSR) department in the company. ‘‘I love community work’’ he said. Adding that he once worked with a group of women dealing in ‘‘table banking’’ a form of micro-finance.

 ‘‘I remember how the Maarifa centre started and I am happy the noble idea never died’’ he said.
Reuben can be reached through email:       

Farmers reap from the networks

Cassava cuttings ready for distribution
 Creating networks with diverse development partners is vital for market access by small holder farmers. Farming Systems Kenya (FSK), a Nakuru based NGO, has bought cassava cuttings worth twenty five thousand shillings (25,000) from a group of farmers in Sipili. The planting material were later issued to other groups of farmers in the neighboring Olmoran division. It would have been hard for Olmoran farmers in need of the planting material to access the inputs just across the border.

The farmers had lost hope of ever earning a penny from the cuttings and they thought the will serve as firewood. ‘‘We had problems coordinating the project and marketing the root tubers’’ Said Rahab Githumbi on whose farm the group had established a demo-plot in 2010. ‘‘Cassava does very well in the area’’ said Mr. Kiarahu, a member of LACKIN, the group behind the crop project. Most of the members had given up when the tubers failed to secure a good market. ‘‘we shared portions for each member to harvest and sell, some used for family food while others made livestock feeds out of it’’ Rahab said.
The cassava cutting planted by the group were sourced from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), for the project supported by the ministry of agriculture under the Njaa Marufuku Kenya (NMK) program implemented by the government three years ago.
The information about the availability of the planting material was delivered through the Ngarua Maarifa Centre, since it was in contacts with the buyer.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

ICT access improves youth career choices

By Bett Kipsang’

Access to ICT skills and facilities has largely transformed the way youths in the area make choices on their prospective careers. Several youths have acquired ICT skills at the Maarifa centre thus enabling them to improve the way they search and access information online. 

ICT trainees attend lessons at Ngarua Maarifa centre
Mary Demba 18, is a beneficiary of the training. ‘‘I now have the confidence to go and research whatever information I want from the internet’’ Mary said. She completed her form four the previous year and managed to attain grade ‘B’ in her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), she qualifies to join one of the regular programs offered in the public universities in Kenya.  

Mary and many other youths came to the Ng’arua Maarifa centre to register their preferred courses online. The joint admission board gives students room to revise the choices made earlier. 

Mary’s career choice was influenced by her exposure to ICTs at the Maarifa centre. ‘‘Before I started the training, I knew little about ICT career prospects’’ said Mary who is now aspiring to pursue a career in public health and ICT. ‘‘The Maarifa centre has given me a wonderful exposure, that I would not have had’’ Mary said, adding that the facility is very helpful to residents and since there was no other cyber around Sipili.

On the same note is Ken Maina, 17 who went to St. Josephs seminary and attained a University grade of ‘B+’. He started using the Maarifa back in 2010 while still in school. Ken who successfully revised his career choices observed that it would have been costly for him to travel to Nyahururu to access internet and revise the courses. He plans to pursue technical and applied physics in the university.       

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Laikipia County unveils new Agriculture sector approach

By Bett Kipsang
ALIN's staff address participants in the meeting

The Kenya vision 2030 has identified agriculture as one of the key sectors to deliver the ten (10%) annual economic growth rate envisaged under the economic pillar. One of the ways is to establish markets access for small holder farmers through better supply chains management.

 Much of the Agriculture sector coordination is in the process of being devolved to the county government. Programs, strategies and policies are being developed to ensure that stakeholders within counties came together in Public Private Partnership (PPP) models. 

On Tuesday 21/05/2013, a meeting for Laikipia county stakeholders was held in Rumuruti district. Stakeholders in the meeting were introduced to the Agriculture Sector Development Support Program (ASDSP). 

In practice the program involves employing measures to: identify relevant stakeholders, share information with them, listen to their views, involve them in processes of development planning and decision-making, contribute to their capacity- building and ultimately empower them to initiate, manage and control their self-development.  The participants were drawn from different sectors; private sector, civil societies, GOK, and farmers.

In his presentation, Leonard Ritei the Natural resource management officer, described a stakeholder as ‘‘any individual, organization, sector or community who has a stake in the outcome of given decision or process’’ These are people or communities who may directly or indirectly, positively or negatively affect or be affected by the outcomes of projects or programs.

 ASDSP is a country wide program that envisages promoting three agricultural value chains to be selected and implemented by the stakeholders. At the initial stage, the program is identifying stakeholders operating within the county and coordinating them to deliver its goals.   

ASDSP was born out of the lessons learned during the five year period; (2003 -2007), during which, Economic Recovery Strategy (ERS) for Wealth and Employment Creation was implemented. Some of the key lessons learned are the importance of sector coordination and sector wide approach to planning and implementation and the role of the private sector in the agricultural value chains.  

The purpose of ASDSP is; ‘‘Increased and equitable incomes, employment and food security through improved production and productivity in the rural small holder and off-farm sector’’. The program’s intervention areas are; sector wide facilitation, coordination, Natural resource management, value chain development among others.

Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is in a position to become a strategic partner in the program for its role of knowledge creation and dissemination. The organization is reputed in the county for its work of establishment of the Ng’arua Maarifa centre, support of ICT based market access (, library services, ICT training, publications and citizen journalism. These are unique activities that add impetus to the quest to improve and sustain agricultural production and marketing. ALIN through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre is also supporting the formation of Laikipia Produce and marketing cooperative society and works with other partners and farmers to develop value chains.  

The forum afforded me a good opportunity to widen the circle of friends and create networks; I was given email contacts to circulate the soft copies of the Baobab Magazine.

The program will coordinate stakeholder’s forums to identify three value chains, for promoting agriculture as a commercial business. In so doing it has emerged that marketing and associated infrastructure is critical. Farmer organization into cooperatives and agribusiness needs to be revived and supported to become effective. The program also seeks to look into other marketing infrastructure such as wholesale and retail markets across the country.    

As a way forward participants agreed to mobilize other potential stakeholder to join the program and come up with ways to make the ASDSP participatory and permanent. Open days will be organized in future to disseminate information and create public awareness of the program. Stakeholders meeting will be held on quarterly basis beginning September.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Thumbs up for Sipili farmers

By James Oiyie

In the second week of April, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) held a three days workshop in Sipili, Laikipia west to train farmers on new approaches to marketing farm produce. The workshop covered different aspects of agriculture, which included; Agricultural value chains, Marketing, Livestock niche markets, role of cooperatives among other things.

The workshop was well organized with people from the community showing positive attitude towards it. Farmers turned up in large numbers and were very patient to learn from the facilitators drawn from different organizations and professional backgrounds.

They persevered the long talks and presentations, which sometimes went past meal times, but none of them complained nor threw disappointing remarks, as is always the case in huge gatherings in other places.
Their contribution and expertise in asking questions was very encouraging having in mind that these were farmers, whom most people believe to be illiterate.

I was very amazed to hear that most farmers in Sipili have formed groups in which they operate and share ideas. This is in contrast with where I grew up! Farmers there are on their own and God for them all.
Groups have a lot of advantages in that farmers can unite and purchase inputs in bulk and thus enjoy economies of scale and thus save on their money and resources. Other farmers have groups in which they contribute some amount of money and lend to individual members in their time of need.
Sipili cereal bank is the greatest achievement I have ever heard from a group of local farmers. Where on earth did somebody come up with such a brilliant idea in such a rural setting as Sipili? Kenyans are used to government cereals and not cereal banks located in the operating focus of the farmers. I think that’s so commendable.

But there was one thing that really disappointed me! I wonder why the youths in the area shy away from such important workshops. They should learn that in this era, white-collar jobs have become a mystery to so many young Kenyans. Agriculture is the only remaining gate to good fortunes in future.
All in all Sipili farmers proved to me that they are a foot forward from an average Kenyan farmer. Thumbs up from me and keep up the spirit.

James Oiyie is currently attached to, ALIN’s Ng’arua Maarifa center.

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