Monday, June 29, 2015

Promoting adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture technologies

By Bob Aston
The effects of climate change is posing a great challenge to the production of food in Kenya. Smallholder farmers risk being overwhelmed by the pace and severity of climate change yet they are the mainstay of food production in the Country. To ensure a food secure future, farmers must adopt Climate Smart Agriculture.
Organizations like the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) have been promoting the adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture with an aim of strengthening communities’ resilience to impacts of climate change while conserving natural resources and also serving as an income generating venture for the farmers.
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 with emphasis on climate change adaptation.
The International Non-governmental organization (NGO) operating in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania has been working with other partners to improve access to good quality information and knowledge on climate change adaptation practices using publications like Joto Afrika. The organization has also been producing documentaries on climate change adaptation as well as publishing and disseminating articles on climate change adaptation.
ALIN in partnership with Act Change Transform (Act!), with financial support from Department for International Development (DFID) and Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA) has also implemented a climate smart agriculture project in Baringo, Laikipia and Kajiado counties.
This enabled ALIN to support Matwiku Horticulture Growers Self-help group in Githiga Ward in Laikipia West Sub County, Nolororo Women Group in Ilchamus Ward in Marigat Sub County and Emaiyawata Women Group in Magadi Ward in Kajiado County.
The foundation of the project was mobilization of the three groups to plant horticulture in at least an acre piece of land. Each group has installed a solar powered drip irrigating system and invested in appropriate water harvesting technology.
The three groups have been capacity built on installation of drip irrigation and management of the system. They have also been taught about water harvesting and storage, plant protection, harvesting, value addition and marketing, agroforestry, soil fertility improvement using manure, solar water pumping and integrated pest and disease management. They are now using drip irrigation technology to produce nutritious food.
The groups have realized drastic reduction in use of fuel for pumping water thus decrease of emissions has been experienced and less time spent irrigating the farm. Consequently this has helped to mitigate the effects of climate change as well as increasing food production.
They have also come to appreciate the various opportunities in food production using minimal water resources and appropriate technologies as an adaptation strategy to climate change.
To ensure that the technology reaches more farmers, field days are organized at each site to train communities on food production using appropriate and innovative climate smart Agriculture technologies.
During the field days, county leaders and policy makers are invited to learn and encouraged to develop policies that can strengthen small-scale farmers to produce more food. The county leaders are encouraged to plan with communities and allocate budget and replicate the Climate Smart Agriculture project.
Farmers planting
To sustain the project each group has started a revolving fund from the profit made each season to enable group members to reinvest and expand their farm while enhancing each member to access climate smart agriculture technology for food production at family level.
The drip irrigation system makes it cheaper and easier for farmers to grow crops throughout the year without feeling the burden of climate change. Other benefits of the system include: reduced work load in the farm; conservation of water resources; minimal soil erosion; ability to use liquid manures; uniformity in crops grown; energy conservation and reduction of emissions since less fuel is used; reduction of leaching and nutrients loss; and fewer weeds.
Climate smart agriculture involves using technologies that can assist farmers in transitioning from traditional farming strategies to new climate-aware ones. These technologies focus on improved water management through water harvesting and use of drip irrigation, soil and water conservation measures, mulching, intercropping, introduction of drought tolerant crops and practicing agroforestry among others.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization, climate smart agriculture consists of three main pillars: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes (food security); adapting and building resilience to climate change (adaptation); and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), where possible.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Connecting the unconnected through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre

By Bob Aston
Recognizing access to information as a basic human right, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) has been innovatively using community-based Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities to enable some of the most remote communities to access information.
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 with emphasis on agricultural practices and climate change adaptation through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre.
Ng’arua Maarifa Centre located in Ol-Moran ward of Laikipia West Sub County has been facilitating learning and skills transfer among communities embracing a culture of knowledge sharing that has enabled individuals to make informed decision on their livelihood.
The Centre is equipped with computers with internet connectivity and contain information and knowledge products focused on small-scale sustainable agriculture, climate change, sustainable land management (SLM), markets and natural resources management (NRM).
The Maarifa Centre has been offering free services that include: Library services; E-government services; multimedia content; internet access; citizen journalism training; ICT training; advisory services; publications like Joto Afrika, Baobab and Laikipia Mali Asili; and Sokopepe.
The Maarifa Centre has also hosted a NRM and SLM knowledge sharing Mazingira Centre. The Centre has been instrumental in sharing knowledge with farmers through organizing open learning days, exchange visits, video documentations and articles aimed at farmers and pastoralists.
With the recent government regulation on enabling access of government services on digital platforms, the Maarifa center has become vital in allowing close to 8,000 community members access e-Government services that include: downloading Personal Information Numbers; pay slips; making online tax returns; online registration of exams; online job application; and County development plans.
ALIN realized that many rural communities lack the skills to tap into the potential ICT field hence it has focused in the development of ICT resources at the Maarifa Centre. This is aimed at empowering people to use technology to promote community development and bring services such as skills development, e-commerce and e-learning closer to the people.
The uniqueness of Maarifa centers has led to winning of various prestigious awards notable the 2011, Access to Learning Award by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Maarifa Centre through its blog Laikipia Rural Voices also won the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloco Awards) in 2014.
In developing people’s skills and creating ICT opportunities, ALIN ensures that people are put before technology and research and deploy ICTs that blend with traditional information systems.  This strategy is informed by the following factors; communities in arid areas lack the means to access and to share transformative knowledge, they do not have adequate skills and competencies to access needed knowledge and there is lack of knowledge exchange nodes in arid lands of East Africa.
Communities have been provided with a chance to improve their farming techniques and technologies through full access of information and assistance at the Maarifa Centre, something they were not privileged to access before.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Seven Billion dreams. One planet. Consume with care

By Bob Aston
The World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated every year on 5th June to raise the global awareness about the importance of the healthy and green environment in the human lives, to solve environmental issues by implementing some positive environmental actions as well as to protect nature. It is run by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The WED theme this year is "Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care." The theme is emphasizing the need to embrace sustainable exploitation of resources and live within the planet’s resources. It also underscores the importance of the environment as a common good that provides livelihood to all mankind.

Pupils of Kio Primary in Laikipia West plant trees during a past WED celebration
The well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. Evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide.

WED celebration began in 1972. Over the years it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in over 100 countries. It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.
WED is an opportunity for everyone to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents of change. Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose they can make a tremendous difference.
According to Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Executive, with the global population forecast to reach 9 billion by mid-century, demands on the depleted resources will only compound, exacerbated by increasing pollution, conflicts over resources, and the effects of an atmosphere being rapidly heated by human greenhouse gas emissions.
Pupils make balls by recycling plastic bags
Consuming with care means living within planetary boundaries to ensure a healthy future where our dreams can be realized. Human prosperity need not cost the earth. Living sustainably is about doing more and better with less. It is about knowing that rising rates of natural resource use and the environmental impacts that occur are not a necessary by-product of economic growth.
Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development. Focusing on forest management, reducing greenhouse effects, promoting bio-fuels production, promoting coral reefs and mangroves restoration, use of solar water heaters, energy production through solar sources as well as developing new drainage systems are some of the ways of ensuring green and healthy environment.
In Kenya, Narok Town in Narok County has been selected as venue for the national WED 2015 event. The area is home to important ecosystems including the Maasai Mara Reserve, Maasai Mau forest block as well as the Mara River which is the life line of the region. These ecosystems are under constant threat from human encroachment and can be depleted if there are no concerted efforts to conserve the same.

Kajiado County gender and energy forum a success

By Noah Lusaka
The Kajiado County stakeholder’s forum on Gender and Energy was successfully held on 28th May 2015 at the ACK hall in Kajiado town. The forum that was convened by ENERGIA Kenya Network through Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) and practical Action (PA) was cordially graced by the County Executive Committee member for health Ms. Glady's Marima and the chief officer in charge of roads transport and Energy.
The county officials encouraged civil society and the private sector to continue supporting communities with innovative energy solutions. 'This is a very important forum to enhance coordination of gender and energy activities in Kajiado given that its women and children who really suffer fetching for wood fuel and cooking in smoky kitchens' remarked Ms. Marima.

In attendance were 35 stakeholders drawn from within the Kajiado county government, civil society, private companies, community based groups. The forum offered a platform for stakeholders to discuss gender and energy issues affecting Kajiado citizens and to develop a roadmap for future Gender and Energy activities for inclusion in the County CIDP.
Some of the participants posing for a photo
Among the stakeholders were Mr. John Sironik of Kiserian slaughter house who indicated their firm is at advanced stage in commercializing packaged biogas for cooking. He requested the county to subsidize the gas for communities to access at a lower cost of kshs. 300/= per cylinder of 6kgs.
Anika Jane of Green Energy Africa ltd demonstrated a simple and affordable solar energy option for multipurpose uses at family level. The stakeholders proposed innovative ideas in addressing gender and energy issues within the county focusing on the five sectors of Education and health, urban development, agriculture and water resources.
Madam Esther Shena who is the Gender Manager shared progress made so far in developing a county gender policy. The participants also shared experiences on gender and household energy access and got to understand the global initiatives on SEALL and implications on County energy plans.
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