Wednesday, March 30, 2016

CBA10: Enhancing urban community resilience

By Bob Aston
The 10th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA10) will take place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on April 22-28, 2016. This year’s theme “Enhancing urban community resilience” looks back over 10 years of CBA conferences for a retrospective evaluation as previous conferences have focused on rural communities.
The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is organizing the conference in association with the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), and the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).
Participants during one of the CBA9 sessions.PHOTO/Adaptation Fund
CBA10 aims to share and consolidate the latest developments in community-based adaptation practices, policy, and theory across sectors globally. Others include capturing and disseminating the knowledge and experience more broadly to CBA10 participants and through online web coverage and conference proceedings.
It aims to strengthen the existing network of practitioners, policymakers, planners and donors working on all levels of community-based adaptation, and enhance the capacity of practitioners, governments and donors to help improve the livelihoods of those most vulnerable to climate change.
The CBA10 conference will begin on the morning of 25 April. The three-and-a-half-day conference will include plenary and parallel interactive sessions, hands-on learning approaches, group discussions, high-level speaker panels, video competitions, and poster presentations.
Optional CBA10 field visits will take place over three days ahead of the CBA10 conference, with a welcome and briefing dinner on 21 April.  The participants will visit CBA projects in different ecosystems across Bangladesh, such as drought, flood-prone, forest, and urban areas.
IIED and partners such as BCAS, created the CBA conferences to highlight that effective adaptation to climate change takes place at community level. Past CBA conferences have focused on scaling up best practices, ensuring a scientific basis to action, communicating and mainstreaming CBA, and ensuring adaptation funding reaches community level.
A bottom-up approach to adaptation enables sharing of local knowledge and practices among communities, academics, and project managers so that those most exposed to the impacts of climate change are better able to adapt.
The previous conference, CBA9 “Measuring and Enhancing Effective Adaptation” which took place in Nairobi, Kenya in April 2015, concluded with the launch of the Nairobi Declaration on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change, which stated the importance of addressing the needs and interests of the poorest and most vulnerable in international agreements on sustainable development, development finance and climate change.

Community-based adaptation to climate change focuses on empowering communities to use their own knowledge and decision-making processes to take action. Increased interest in CBA has led to significant growth in number of actions by different actors as well as greater level of synergy around CBA.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Sharing knowledge on climate forecasts through Participatory Scenario Planning

Bob Aston
Sharing knowledge on climate forecasts through Participatory Scenario Planning assists communities to agree on options, make decisions, develop, and plan for climate-resilient livelihoods and disaster management. These came out during a two-day Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP) Workshop at Agricultural Machinery Services (AMS) Hall in Nyahururu on March 23-24, 2016.
The Kenya Meteorological Department in collaboration with the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) organized the workshop to enable agriculture actors to come up with flexible innovative solutions that embed risk management in the Dairy, maize, sheep and goat value chains by effectively planning forward to enhance resilience during the March-May 2016 “Long-Rains” Season.
Land degradation caused by soil erosion.PHOTO/Bonface Njenga
Speaking during the workshop, Mr. John Nyapola, ASDSP-Laikipia Environmental Resilience, and Social Inclusion officer noted that Participatory Scenario Planning is a mechanism for collective sharing and interpretation of climate forecasts conducted as soon as a seasonal climate forecast is available from meteorological Services.
It brings together meteorologists, community members, County government departments, and local Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to share their knowledge on climate forecasts.
 “Participatory Scenario Planning involves assessing likely hazards, risks, opportunities and impacts, and developing scenarios based on the assessment. It forms part of the adaptation panning process,” said Mr. Nyapola.
Participatory Scenario Planning creates space for sharing climate information from local and scientific knowledge and finding ways to interpret the information into a form that is locally relevant and useful.
Other importance of Participatory Scenario Planning include to create a common platform for climate communication which respects, reviews and combines knowledge from communities and different groups within them, meteorological services and service providers; to link government and community actors to enable response and support to community action; and to plan and empower communities through improved contacts and relations.
“ It is important to conduct seasonal Participatory Scenario Planning before the onset of the rain season as it would assist farmers to plan for crops to plant and have contingency plans in place to mitigate against any eventuality,” said Mr. Nyapola.
The Participatory Scenario Planning Process starts by identifying the meteorological services and forecasts available in a given location. Various actors then interpret the seasonal forecasts into three probabilistic hazard scenarios. This includes accessing risks posed by the hazards, developing impact scenarios, and identifying opportunities for each scenario.
Actors then discuss the local implications of the impact scenarios considering the status of food security, natural resources, livelihood, and sectors. The actors then develop action plans for the dissemination of the long or short rain season forecast to other stakeholders within the 15 wards of Laikipia County.
The action plans address issues like what local communities, County government and local NGO’s will do. In addition, the action plans looks at how the scenarios would be mutually supportive and respond to both the current situation and the expected forecast in relation to livelihood and sector priorities.
Participatory Scenario Planning empowers communities to take advantage of opportunities that climate presents, which is a key part of adapting to climate change. In addition, it enables local stakeholders to have better access to seasonal climate forecasts from the Kenya Meteorological department and local forecasting experts.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Modern beekeeping offers Ethiopian youth a sweeter future

By Pius Sawa
NAIROBI - Beekeeper Ayenalem Ketema is the proud owner of three hives which have produced enough honey for the young Ethiopian to build a house equipped with solar panels and buy some farm animals with the proceeds.
Ketema, who lives in Jimma in southwestern Ethiopia, left school when she was 17 and has kept bees for four years.
Abush Asafar holds a bee hive frame in Tolay,Ethiopia.PHOTO/Brendan Bannon
"I have benefited a lot from using a modern beehive," said the young farmer, now 22. She belongs to the Boter Boro Cooperative, whose members run 50 beehives between them.
With the profit from the 60 kg (132 lb) of honey she harvests each season, Ketema has purchased a dairy cow, three sheep and six goats, and installed a solar system in her home. Now she has bigger ambitions.
"I plan to open up a wholesale honey shop where I can sell high-quality honey in large quantities in a bigger market," she said.
Ketema benefited from a project led by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), which launched a fresh programme this month to provide work for around 12,500 young Ethiopians in beekeeping and silkworm farming.
Nairobi-based ICIPE and the MasterCard Foundation plan to invest $10.35 million in the five-year project, which will support out-of-school and unemployed young people aged between 18 and 24 with starter equipment and training.
The Young Entrepreneurs in Silk and Honey initiative will involve an additional 25,000 people in the value chain - from harvesting to processing, packaging and marketing of the two sets of products.
HONEY POTENTIAL
Ethiopia is Africa's leading honey and beeswax producer, but honey production is largely traditional and only reaches around 10 percent of the country's potential, experts say.
The Horn of Africa nation produces dozens of honey varieties that could be of interest for the export market, said ICIPE Director General Segenet Kelemu, an Ethiopian who is a laureate of the L'Oréal-UNESCO "For Women in Science" award.
"The project will help to ensure food security, promote more tree-planting than tree-cutting, and encourage agro-forestry programmes to flourish," said Kelemu.
Bees pollinate a wide range of crops and plants, playing a key role in the provision of food and nutrition. They also pollinate forage plants, indirectly supporting milk and meat production.
"Without bees and other related insect pollinators, our lives would be negatively impacted. This work will be generating great incentives to take care of bees and their well-being," Kelemu said.
With the amount of annual global food production dependent on pollinators estimated at between $235 billion and $577 billion, bees must be included in plans to feed the world's growing population, she added.
Bees require flowering trees and vegetation from which they can secure high-quality pollen and nectar all year round. This means the young Ethiopian beekeepers will have to conserve trees and plant more of them, while reducing the use of pesticides that harm bees, Kelemu said.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Forecast indicates depressed rains in most parts of Kenya

By Bob Aston
The Kenya Meteorological Services forecast indicates most parts of Kenya will experience depressed rainfall during the March-May 2016 “Long-Rains” Season. Speaking during a two day Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP) Workshop at Agricultural Machinery Services (AMS) Hall in Nyahururu on March 23-24, 2016, Mr. Simon Gichomo, Laikipia County Kenya Meteorological Department Director, said that some areas would receive near average rainfall while others will experience slightly enhanced rainfall.
He said that most parts of Western, Central, and some Northern Counties will likely experience near average rainfall while the Coastal strip is likely to experience slightly enhanced rainfall. Eastern part of the Country is likely to realize depressed rainfall.
Mr. Simon Gichomo from the Meteorological Department showing participants the long rains forecast
“March to May constitutes a major rainfall season in most parts of Kenya as well as much of equatorial Eastern Africa,” said Mr. Gichomo.
He said that the latest forecast indicates that most parts of the Country will start receiving rainfall during either the last week of March or first week of April. The better part of the eastern sector, especially North Eastern Kenya is likely to experience the onset of the long rains during the first to second week of April.
 “Weather forecasts are unpredictable and the weather keeps on changing hence it is important to use 24-hour forecasts and regular updates from the meteorological department,” said Mr. Gichomo.
He said that the long rains would end in most parts of the Country by end of May apart from the counties in the Lake Basin, highlands west of the Rift Valley, Central Rift Valley, and the Coastal strip, which will receive rainfall in June.
He said that April forecast indicates near average rainfall in the Western highlands, Lake Victoria Basin, Central Rift Valley, Central highlands including Nairobi, the Coastal strip, and Northern Kenya. North Western, North Eastern, and South Eastern Counties forecast indicate likelihood of depressed rainfall in April.     
May forecast indicates there will be enhanced rainfall along the Coastal strip. Average rainfall with a slight tendency to above average is likely to occur over the western and central highlands. Forecasts for other parts of the Country indicate depressed rainfall in May.
“The expected late onset and poor temporal distribution of the seasonal rainfall has already delayed planting in Laikipia County,” said Mr. Gichomo.
He said that farming communities from Counties in Western, Nyanza, Rift Valley, Central highlands and coastal strip should take advantage of the expected good rains and maximize crop yield through appropriate land-use management.
Forecast for Laikipia County indicates that Igwamiti, Marmanet, Githiga, Sossion, Salama, Segera, Ngobit, Nanyuki, Thingithu, and Ol-Moran will receive between 114-227 mm, which is below normal rainfall. Mukogondo West and Umande prediction indicates that the areas will receive normal rainfall at 228-341 mm, while Tigithi and Mukogondo East will receive between 342-456 mm, which is normal rainfall. Rumuruti area will receive the lowest rainfall at 1-113 mm.
He said that the prevailing and the expected evolution of Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (SSTAs) over the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans as well as other Synoptic, Mesoscale and local factors that affect the climate of Kenya helped in the formulation of the March to May 2016 forecast.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Incorporating traditional weather forecast in agricultural decision making

By Bob Aston
Traditional weather prediction has been widely used by most smallholder farmers to guide their planting, harvesting, livestock farming and other agricultural activities.
Most communities have been predicting rain by observing migratory animals, birds, butterflies and trees shedding leaves. In Mukongodo area of Laikipia County, Mr. Jeremiah Ole Saikong has been predicting weather for the last 20 years through observing goat intestines.
Mr. Jeremiah Ole Saikong examining a he goat intestines
Mr. Saikong said that this has been a family gift passed on from generation to generation and they have been able to use the information to advise farming communities on best time to plant, probability of elnino, drought and pending livestock theft.
He said that rainfall and drought are the most critical climatic features in the Maasai community. He said that they constantly monitor the weather pattern by analyzing a he goat intestine, particularly during prolonged drought and disease outbreaks.
On March 23, 2016, Mr. Saikong was at the Agricultural Machineries Services (AMS) in Nyahururu to demonstrate how weather can be predicted through observing the intestines of a goat.
After slaughtering the goat and carefully examining the intestines, he came up with four conclusions. He said that Laikipia County would experience minimal rainfall during the last week of April, his community was about to lose a large herd of livestock through cattle rustling, the day was not good for people appearing in court that day, and cases of children having common cold would reduce.
“The weather pattern changes every day hence today's prediction can be different when another goat is slaughtered tomorrow. The intestine of the goat not only tells us about the weather forecast of the area in which it has been slaughtered but the whole of Laikipia County,” said Mr. Saikong.
He said that they usually inform community members of the predicted forecasts by organizing barazas so that they can prepare for any eventuality.
He noted that despite the important role that they are playing in helping the farming communities, the government has never recognized there role and they are never rewarded for the work that they do.
Laikipia County Kenya Meteorological Department Director, Mr. Simon Gichomo noted that the prediction from the Maasai elder matched their own weather forecast for March, April, and May.
“ We first started by trying to see whether there was any convergence between the traditional weather prediction and the scientific weather forecast and how we can integrate both approaches,” said Mr. Gichomo.
He said that the department has been working with traditional weather forecasts as most farmers and pastoralists believe in traditional methods and disseminating information through them is easier unlike the scientific method, which is difficult for farmers to interpret.
He noted that through Participatory scenario planning (PSP) in Laikipia County, they have been able to build bridges between traditional and scientific knowledge. This has helped in dissemination of weather and climate change advisories.
“Participatory scenario planning has helped to create space for sharing climate information from local and scientific knowledge and finding ways to interpret the information into a form that is locally relevant and useful. This has helped most farmers to incorporate weather forecasting into their farming calendar,” said Mr. Gichomo.
Incorporating traditional and scientific weather forecast in agricultural decision making can play a big role in mitigating farming communities against the effects of climate change.  The information is able to help farmers plan their activities appropriately and decide not only on the type of crop to plant but also when to plant.

Sokopepe emerges winner in the Agriculture category of the ICT Innovation Awards

By Bob Aston
Sokopepe has emerged the winner in the Agriculture category at the ICT Innovation Awards during the 2016 Connected Summit which began on March 20-23, 2016 at Leisure Lodge Beach and Golf Resort, Diani, Kwale County.
The theme for 2016 Connected Summit “Bridging the Service Gap,” explores and identifies gaps that can help achieve universal access to public services and how information technology can improve efficiency in the delivery of government services, simplify compliance with government regulations, strengthen citizen participation and trust in government.
Mr. Martin Murangiri fromSokopepe receiving the award.PHOTO:ICT Authority
The ICT Innovation Awards recognizes innovative ideas that have since grown into some of the most recognizable tech start-ups in Kenya.  The awards highlight innovation that meets Kenya’s blueprint vision to build a vibrant middle-income economy by the year 2030.  Since 2011, the award has recognized more than 45 new ICT products and solutions.
While receiving the Award on behalf of Sokopepe, Mr. Martin Murangiri, Sokopepe Recruitment, and Training Officer said that the social enterprise set up by the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) would continue to support the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information and farm records management services.
Sokopepe has been piloting two innovations in five sub counties in Meru namely Imenti Central; North Imenti; South Imenti; Buuri and Tigania West. The social enterprise has been using Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS-Kenya) to support small-scale farmers to develop and nurture a culture of record keeping, and SOKO+, a digital commodity trading, and information system, linking small-scale farmers to end retailers/bulk purchasers of produce.
Sokopepe has been working with more than 6,000 farmers in the five sub Counties of Meru. It has been expanding the services to all sub-counties in Meru, while working closely with the County Government and other stakeholders.
“Winning the award motivates us to continue working with small-scale farmers by helping them to use accurate primary data that can help empower them to improve their incomes, livelihoods and food security,” said Mr. Murangiri.
Speaking at the summit, Mr. Joseph Mucheru Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Communications, and Technology noted that start-up companies need to bring experience to the table.
“Money is not a problem, the structure of companies in Kenya; start-ups and scale-ups cannot absorb big money. Do what you have to do, build value and the investors will come,” said Mr. Mucheru.
The objectives of the 2016 Connected Summit include identify gaps in public sector service delivery that can be solved by innovative use of ICT; highlight efficiency gaps in public sector IT projects and consider policy recommendations; and share knowledge, best practice and lessons based on experience in implementing ICT projects.
The Connected Summit is the brainchild of the ICT Authority in consultation with ICT industry players and key government decision makers. The Summit aims at establishing a platform for collaboration, capacity building, and knowledge sharing between government and the ICT sector with a view of linking and hastening implementation of government IT projects to world-class standards.
The Connected Summit has enabled its participants to develop unique insights that allow them to successfully respond and design their engagements in Kenya’s vibrant ICT sector.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

CGARD3: Achieving sustainable agricultural development

By Bob Aston
An opportunity for agricultural research for development stakeholders to make agri-food research, and innovation systems stronger, more effective, and more sustainable takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa in April 5-8, 2016 during the third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3).
The theme for GCARD3 “No one Left Behind: Agri-food Innovation and Research for a Sustainable World” will provide stakeholders with an opportunity to contribute towards a clear understanding of how to achieve sustainable agricultural development in which “no one is left behind.”
Farmers sharing knowledge during a field day in Kinamba area,Laikipia,Kenya
The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in collaboration with the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa are hosting the event. The forum will bring together hundreds of representatives from across all agriculture sectors with a stake in the future of agro-food research and innovation.
The five themes of GCARD3 include scaling up: from research to impact; demonstrating results and attracting investment; keeping science relevant and future-focused; sustaining the business of farming; and ensuring better rural futures.
GCARD3 builds on GCARD2 which focused on the partnerships, foresight and capacity development needed to deliver change, and resulted in the reform of CGIAR and GCARD1 which resulted in the “Road Map for Change”, a global strategy paving the way for more responsive and relevant agricultural research.
GCARD3 represents the culmination of a two-year regional and national consultation process, which aims to realign research priorities with countries' development needs and the national processes with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
GCARD3 will be an inclusive, participatory process and an opportunity to shape the future. It will encourage conversations for change in setting a new agenda for agricultural research for development and discussions on emerging applications in agro-food research and innovations.
A major outcome of the event will be the GCARD3 pledge to sustainable development to which the stakeholders will commit to take action on the SDGs and to tackle some of the more topical issues emerging in agri-food research and innovation. The outcome will be a clear understanding of how to achieve sustainable agricultural development in which “no one is left behind.”
Agricultural stakeholders with a stake in the future of agro-food research and innovation created GCARD to bring together science and society to transform agri-food research and innovation around the world.
It aims to promote investment and building partnership, capacities, and mutual accountabilities at all levels of the agri-food system.
As we get close to GCARD3, many smallholder farmers hope that the event will align international research priorities with the needs of rural farmers, and that it will highlight the role of youths in ensuring that there is food security for future generations. Follow the event live at #GCARD3 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Increasing biodiversity in the agro-ecosystem through cover cropping

By Bob Aston
Increased importance of cover crops in the sustainability of agro system attributes provides an enabling environment for improving the quality of neighbouring natural ecosystems but also enables smallholder farmers to manage soil erosion, soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, and biodiversity.
Despite the many advantages of growing cover crops, most smallholder farmers have not adopted them in their cropping systems. Few smallholder farmers have realized the economic importance of cover crops.
Farmers weeding at Matwiku area, Githiga Ward, Laikipia,Kenya
Cover cropping is particularly important in conservation agriculture. Some of the uses of cover crops include suppressing weeds, protecting soil from rain or runoff, improving soil aggregate stability, reducing surface crusting, adding active organic matter to soil, breaking hardpan, fixing nitrogen, scavenging soil nitrogen, suppressing soil diseases and pests.
Planting cover crops is an easy way to revitalize the soil, and help soil tilt and subsequent plant growth.  They reduce erosion by protecting the soil from impact energy of raindrops; their root stabilizes slopes, slows down the runoff speed, and improves soil structure thus allowing water to infiltrate soil more quickly.
They improve soil quality by increasing soil organic matter levels through the input of cover crops biomass over time. This helps to enhance soil structure and increase soil carbon sequestration.
Leguminous cover crops such as dolichos, cowpeas, pigeon peas, and desmodium, are typically high in nitrogen and can often provide the required quantity of nitrogen for crop production. Legumes also help prevent erosion, and they can increase the amount of organic matter in soil.
Some cover crops held to retain and recycle nitrogen already present in the soil as they take up surplus nitrogen remaining from fertilization of the previous crop thus preventing it from being lost through leaching.
Non-legume cover crops like rye, wheat, barley, oats, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes are useful for scavenging nutrients, suppressing weeds and producing large amounts of residue that adds soil organic matter. They are ideal for planting when a field has excess nitrogen.
Cover crops can reduce infestations by insects and diseases. Some are able to break disease cycles and reduce populations of bacterial and fungal diseases as well as parasitic nematodes as they are able to attract pests away from the main crops. Pest-fighting cover crop systems help minimize pesticide use, and as a result break disease, cut costs and reduce your chemical exposure.
In addition, cover crops help to stabilize yields and improve moisture availability through evapotranspiration. In addition, they help improve soil water-holding capacity in any tillage system. When used as mulch, they conserve water by shading and cooling the soil surface, this reduces evaporation of soil moisture.
Some cover crops suppress weeds as they compete with them for available space, light, and nutrients. They can prevent most germinated weed seeds from completing their life cycle and reproducing.

Flowering cover crops can support the habitat requirements of bees and other pollinating insects by providing a food source. The many advantages of cover crops show that smallholder farmers can immensely benefit through their cultivation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Enhancing financial transactions through open book trading

By Bob Aston
Techfortrade Ltd held a workshop with cereals and horticulture traders from Laikipia County at Thompson Fall Lodge, Nyahururu on March 11, 2016 to explore how traders can enhance their financial transactions through use of open book trading service.
The organization has been using the service to enhance transparency and accountability in trading and build trust between farmers, traders, and buyers.
Ms. Lydiah Muya addressing the traders
Speaking during the workshop, Ms. Lydiah Muya from Techfortrade said that the organization is using Open Book Trading service to help cereals and horticulture traders to become professional, efficient, sustainable and accountable (PESA). 
She said that Open Book Trading ensures that farmers receive more secure and consistent payment for their produce. In addition, traders gain predictable sources of quality produce with detailed record keeping and access to working capital finance, and buyers have visibility and transparency in their sourcing practices.
“Open Book Trade enables farmers to improve their production and access reliable markets. This ensures that farmers receive higher income,” said Ms. Muya.
She said that Techfortrade is working with medium sized traders to ensure a happy farmer, reliable intermediary, and satisfied buyer.
She said that Open Book Trade is building happy traders through enhancing efficiency in trade deals, improving professionalism, building sustainable business mechanisms and enhancing accountability mechanisms in businesses. Traders are able to receive business projections, cash flow projections, business records, link to financiers and business support.
She said that Open Book Trade is addressing challenges that come with dealing with farmers in businesses. Others include understanding farmer’s expectations in business deals, and understanding, and communicating roles and responsibilities of farmers in a business deal.
 “Open Book Trading is rebuilding trust, nurturing access to strong markets, and encouraging all those involved in the trade process to get the best and fairest price,” said Ms. Muya.
Open Book Trading deal consists of the deal plan, approval stage, finalization and deal closure. Automation of each stage of the trading deal on an online platform enables the parties involved in the transaction to know all the middle costs and prices offered at every stage. The traders and farmers can access the information from a smartphone or laptop. Techfortrade charges 2 percent for every deal made.
She said that they also provide working capital financing. This enables traders to offer farmers cash for purchase of cereals and horticulture at the point of collection rather than having to wait for the buyer to pay.
Most of the cereals and horticulture traders noted that access to finance is a major hindrance that is affecting their businesses and working with Techfortrade would solve the problem.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Without women, African agriculture won't withstand climate change

By Sophie Huyer, CCAFS
The outcomes agreed at the U.N. climate change summit in Paris, which will shape future policies, fell short on a critical issue. Mentions of gender were mostly confined to how climate change will impact women, and how they are considered “vulnerable populations”.
Discussions on how to support women to actively address and participate in actions to reduce planet-warming emissions and adapt to climate change impacts were largely absent.
A farmer from Nyando, Kenya inspects her crops.CCAFS/S.Kilungu
Agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa stands to be one of the sectors worst hit by climate change and is among the least prepared.
Given that 60 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and Southeast Asia are engaged in agriculture, it stands to reason that they need to be crucial players in equipping their countries for the extreme weather events they are already witnessing - which are decreasing food production and livelihoods, and making it more difficult for women to meet their daily needs.
New research out this week from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and partners predicts that sub-Saharan Africa will have to significantly transform around 30 percent of its agricultural areas by the end of the century to cope with climate change.
That means switching to improved or more resilient crops, or even moving out of crop-based agriculture all together. The first of its kind to put a timeline on interventions that must be made, the research exposes the need for some regions to have transformed by as early as 2025.
But any meaningful transformation is not likely to happen without the active engagement of women, who take on a tremendous proportion of farm work. So how can we ensure they are part of the process?
Involve women in seed selection
Technologies introduced to adapt to climate change need to suit women’s priorities. Feeding the family is often their domain, so when introducing new crop varieties that will withstand drought and heat, women want to know how these varieties will fit in with their practices. 
How long will they take to cook? Will they taste the same? How easy is it to grind the yam or cassava? How easy will it be to harvest the chickpeas? Arranging culinary tests with female farmers has been shown to improve the uptake of these new varieties and should form a critical part of the process. Women’s knowledge of crop breeding has also been used to test a wider range of characteristics, such as disease-resistant coffee varieties.
There’s a time and a place for climate information
Making climate information available to farmers is a critical phase of transformation. Yet research has shown that women may want to receive different kinds of climate and agricultural information in different places, and at different times than men. 
For example, a woman in Senegal told me she prefers information by mobile phone rather than rural radio, because she can bring her phone with her as she works in the field or goes to fetch water. She then shares farming updates verbally with her neighbours who do not have mobile phones.
In other situations, women prefer receiving information by radio or through community-based organisations, while men tend to receive information through more formal channels.
Other Senegalese women we interviewed said they wanted forecasts about the end of the rainy season, given that they often plant later than men. Women also prefer information about climate-smart methods that relate to their roles both on the farm and within the household, such as post-harvest processing.

Time short to protect Africa's food supply from climate change: study

By Megan Rowling
BARCELONA, March 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Without action to help farmers adjust to changing climate conditions, it will become impossible to grow some staple food crops in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with maize, beans and bananas most at risk, researchers said on Monday.
In a study of how global warming will affect nine crops that make up half the region's food production, scientists found that up to 30 percent of areas growing maize and bananas, and up to 60 percent of those producing beans could become unviable by the end of the century.
Women sort beans as they prepare a meal at Kasese District Uganda.REUTERS/James Akena
Six of the nine crops - cassava, groundnut, pearl millet, finger millet, sorghum and yam - are projected to remain stable under moderate and extreme climate change scenarios.
"This study tells where, and crucially when, interventions need to be made to stop climate change destroying vital food supplies in Africa," said Julian Ramirez-Villegas, the study's lead author who works with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
"We know what needs to be done, and for the first time, we now have deadlines for taking action," he added in a statement.
For example, the study warns that around 40 percent of maize-growing areas will require "transformation", which could mean changing the type of crop grown, or in extreme cases even abandoning crop farming.
Sorghum and millet, which have higher tolerance to drought and heat, could replace maize in most places under threat.
But for 0.5 percent of maize-growing areas - equal to 0.8 million hectares in South Africa that now produce 2.7 million tonnes - there is no viable crop substitution, the study said.
In a few places, the need to adapt to climate change is already urgent, the researchers said. Those include pockets in highly climate-exposed areas of the Sahel in Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Banana-growing regions of West Africa, including areas in Ghana and Benin, will need to act within the next decade, as the land is expected to become unsuitable for bananas by 2025.
And maize-growing areas of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania also have less than 10 years left to change tack under the most extreme climate change scenarios, the study added.
"If we don't do anything now, farmers are no longer going to be able to grow certain crops in certain sites," Ramirez-Villegas told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Colombia.
"But we know there are several adaptation options ... with which farmers should be able to carry on growing these crops for a longer period of time than we project."

Read the full story at Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Learning the intricacies of fruit farming and agribusiness

By Samuel Nyaga
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Ex-Participants Alumni of Kenya (JEPAK) in collaboration with Laikipia County Government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries held an Agribusiness training at Dimcom Eden Villa Estate in Sipili, Laikipia West Sub County on March 5, 2016.
Seventy farmers drawn from Sipili, Ol-Moran, Muhotetu, Ndurumo, Kinamba, Wangwachi, and Gituamba attended the training. The training provided farmers with an opportunity to explore the 7.5-acre farm and learn how they can incorporate different enterprises in their farms.
Mr. Charles Mureithi training farmers on Pineapple farming
The farmers learned about different fruits that included loquats, pineapples, avocados, pawpaws, lemons, white sapote, cherimoya, tangerine, pomegranate, watermelons, passion fruits, tree tomatoes, bananas, apples, oranges, and grapes.
Mr. Charles Mureithi, Dimcom Eden Villa Estate owner said that the Agribusiness training aimed at changing the perception of smallholder farmers and youths on the importance of agriculture.
He noted that Dimcom Eden Villa Estate is among the few farms in Africa involved in Green Tourism. Apart from frequent tourists at the farm, farmers, as well as primary and secondary school students have been learning about land preparation, fruit grafting, nursery management, harvesting, apiculture, environmental conservation, water harvesting, among others.
“Those who see opportunity in farming are able to make a lot of money. We should encourage youths to embrace agriculture instead of travelling to towns to seek for employment,” said Mr. Mureithi.
He informed farmers that agri-tourism enables tourists and community members to visit the farm, learn what they are doing, and there after possibly implement the information gained. Similarly, Green tourism involves setting up picnic sites in a farm for tourists to enjoy modern farming methods, interact with nature, and eat fresh fruits.
He said that his journey started with a course on Implementation and Promotion of Agribusiness in Tokyo in 2011. The Course is under JICA Programme One Village, One Product (OVOP).
He urged farmers to adopt appropriate technologies and skills for increased production and to mitigate against the effects of climate change.
He emphasized on the importance of value addition in agribusiness as a way that can help farmers increase their income. He trained farmers on research, quality and quantity, record keeping, value addition and innovation.
He informed the farmers about ‘sixth industry’ dimension of agriculture practiced in Japan where farmers not only produce agricultural commodities but also process and market them thus raising their value.
“God’s favorite person is a farmer as we pray every time. We are life givers, we are generous, we bring harmony, and we enhance friendship amongst community members,” said Mr. Mureithi.
The farmers also learned about different JICA programs like SHEP, Rice-Based and Market-Oriented Agriculture Promotion Project (RIceMAPP), and Project on Enhancing Gender Responsive Extension Services in Kenya (PEGRES).

JEPAK is an association, which draws its membership from people who have visited and studied in Japan. In collaboration with JICA, they have been organizing various activities across the Country to give back to the community, on voluntary basis knowledge and skills learned in Japan. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Increasing yields through improved and adaptable maize seeds

By Bob Aston
The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) in collaboration with the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP)-Laikipia, held a training workshop on adaptable seeds for 30 maize value chain groups on March 3, 2016 at Nyaki Hotel in Nyahururu.
Speaking during the training, Mr. Jonah Kahwai, KEPHIS-Nakuru Field Inspector said that access to improved and adaptable seeds is crucial for the food and income security for farmers. He noted that many farmers experience poor yields due to planting wrong seed varieties.
Mr. Jonah Kahwai,KEPHIS training maize group leaders on adaptable seeds


“It is important for farmers to grow seeds which grown well in their geographical zone. Quality of seed is paramount for successful crop production,” said Mr. Kahwai.
He urged farmers from dry parts of Laikipia to plant early maturing seed varieties, as they are tolerant to drought conditions and low nitrogen in the soil. Early maturing varieties include KATCB,DH01 to DH10,WS102,PH1, PAN 4M, WS204,WH003,WH101,WH105,SC DUMA,MH04,  and SC PUNDA MILIA.
He said that medium attitude varieties take 4-5 months to mature. The varieties include WH507, WH504, WH505, KH500-33A, KH500-31A, KH500-49A, H624, H512 to H526, DK8031, WE1101, PAN 7M, and PHB30G19.
High attitude varieties include KH600-23A, KH600-14E, KH600-15A, H614, H6213, H629, H628, and FS650. The varieties in this region take up to six months to mature.
He said that KEPHIS as a certifying agency ensures that seed in market is of set quality standards as stipulated in the Seed and Plant Varieties Act Cap 326 of the Laws of Kenya.
He noted that the Seeds and Plant Variety Act gives guidelines on regulating the release and registration of new crop varieties by ensuring the release of only superior crop varieties in terms of yields or other special attributes.
Different type pf grains
“The characteristics used to distinguish seed varieties should be very clear. One has to look at genetic factors, purity, viability, and vigour,” said Mr. Kahwai.
He noted that seed certification ensures that seed sold to farmers meet minimum government set quality standards to maximize their crop production, promote seed trade by complying with set regulations and to curb the spread of seed borne pest/diseases and weeds.
“Contravening the seeds and plants varieties Act 326 is an offense that can attract a fine not exceeding one million shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both,” said Mr. Kahwai.
He said that KEPHIS also does post seed certification survey. The survey involves inspection of all seed seller’s premises in order to ensure that the seeds in markets have undergone certification, to get feedback from farmers, to ensure that the certification for seed lot is valid, and to ensure operation of only KEPHIS licensed seed sellers.

The maize value chain groups are now planning to start 12 demonstration plots in Laikipia West to test production of 10 different seed varieties.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

LRV among blogs nominated for the Kenyan Blog Awards 2016

By Bob Aston
The Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) is among the blogs nominated for the 2016 Kenyan Blogs Awards under Best County Blog category.
The nomination follows a grueling exercise by judges who sifted through 4,899 blog submissions in 19 categories. The judges then selected five blogs per category.

The judges included Mikul Shah, Director at EatOut, Ahmed Salim, General Manager at Qube Ltd, Terryanne Chebet, Senior Anchor and Associate Editor at Citizen TV and Muthoni Maingi, Digital Manager at Safaricom.
Voting began on March 3, 2016 and will close on May 1, 2016. The culmination of the 2016 BAKE Award will be a gala event on May 7, 2016.
Some of the categories include best technology blog, photography, creative writing, business, food, environment/agriculture, politics, new blog, corporate, topical, sports, education, travel, health, County, religious/spirituality, and best Kenyan Blog of the Year.
The Kenyan Blog Awards is an initiative of Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE). The award recognizes the efforts of exceptional bloggers by rewarding those who post on a regular basis, have great and useful content, are creative and innovation. The award represents BAKE’s effort in the promotion of quality content creation.
Started in 2011 by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), Laikipia Rural Voices aimed at promoting citizen journalism among young people by training and equipping them with basic journalism skills such as photojournalism, news writing, creative writing, feature writing, interviewing, media laws and ethics, and blogging.
The blog has been instrumental in sharing information on agriculture, particularly on successes and issues faced by the youth engaged in agriculture, highlighting the role and importance of family farming as well as issues pertaining to climate change, environment conservation, and natural resource management.

Laikipia Rural Voices requests your vote. Please check category 17 of the Kenyan Blog Awards 2016 and vote http://laikipiaruralvoices.blogspot.co.ke/.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Fog collectors net scarce water in Kenya, but face a cloudy future

By Benson Rioba
ILMASIN, Kenya - With a thirsty and impatient boy waiting nearby, Joseph Kipalian draws water from a tank and pours it into the boy's bucket. The schoolyard water tank is fed from an unusual source: the air.
Ilmasin primary school, in the Ngong hills south of Nairobi, is outfitted with fog collectors, contraptions of huge metal and wooden poles that hold mesh-patterned nets. These trap fog droplets, which trickle into holding tanks.
The project, set up by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, aims to test the viability of harvesting fog to help provide a safe and reliable source of water in water-scarce areas. But the results have been mixed, not least because keeping the collectors up and working has proved a challenge.
Fog net at Ilmasin Primary School, Nairobi, Kenya. TRF/ Benson Rioba
Bancy Mati, a soil and water engineering professor at the university, says fog collection is one of the cheapest and most environmentally friendly ways of collecting clean water.
She launched the Kenya collector after a similar project, set up by a German nongovernmental organisation, ran successfully in Tanzania. 
The region around the Ngong hills is a great place to collect water, she said, since it sees fog both in the early morning and throughout the night.
The region is semi-arid and has perpetual problems with water shortages, she said.
Fog collectors, if built at scale, could help unlock the economic potential of dry but fertile areas like Ilmasin by providing water for irrigation and livestock as well as for families, Mati said.
She hopes the collectors could be used in a range of places across Kenya, particularly Marsabit County in northern Kenya, another semi-arid region with plenty of fog.

Read the full story at Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Agribusiness farmer training: Learning from an agritourism pioneer

By Bob Aston
Dimcom Eden Villa Estate in Sipili, Laikipia West Sub County is set to play host to 70 farmers drawn from 10 locations in Laikipia West Sub County on March 5, 2016. The convergence of the farmers will enable them to learn about agribusiness and specifically agritourism.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Ex-Participants Alumni of Kenya (JEPAK) in collaboration with Laikipia County Government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries has organized the workshop to enable farmers learn from Mr. Charles Mureithi, Dimcom Eden Villa Estate owner and to enable farmers in Laikipia West replicate the climate smart Agriculture technology adopted by Mr. Mureithi.
Visitors tour Dimcom Eden Villa Estate on August 24,2015.PHOTO:Suleiman Mbatiah
The agribusiness farmer training will bring together ten farmers each from Sipili, Ol-Moran, Muhotetu, Ndurumo, Kinamba, Wangwachi, and Gituamba. Representatives from Sipili are from Dimcom, Upper Naibrom, Kio, Leleshwa, Marura, Kahuruko, Mahiga, Mbogoini, and Lower Naibrom.
Dimcom Eden Villa Estate is among the few farms in Africa involved in Green Tourism. Tourists are able to visit the farm at a fee and enjoy hands-on experiences as well as the delicacy of different fruits. It is also a learning centre for farmers, researchers, and students eager to learn about fruit farming.
Fruits available in the farm include loquats, pineapples, avocados, pawpaws, lemons, white sapote, cherimoya, tangerine, pomegranate, watermelons, passion fruits, tree tomatoes, bananas, apples, oranges, and grapes.
JEPAK hopes that the training on Agribusiness will change the perception of smallholder farmers on agriculture as a business and that the exposure received will enable them move from subsistence farming.
JEPAK is an association, which draws its membership from JICA sponsored courses like the One Village, One Product (OVOP) programme. In collaboration with JICA, they have been organizing various activities across the Country to give back to the community, on voluntary basis knowledge and skills learned in Japan.
The Agribusiness farmer workshop will start at 10: 00 am on March 5, 2015 at Dimcom Eden Villa Estate in Sipili, Laikipia West Sub County.
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