Seeds of Gold

Where are the bee farmers?

Friday July 13 2018

Jackson Masesi in his Bee Care Apiaries Ltd

Jackson Masesi in his Bee Care Apiaries Ltd workshop in Kilimambogo. He exports about 118,000 tonnes of wax every year. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

More by this Author

Pearched on the foot of Mt Kilimambogo, on the outskirts of Thika, is a beauty; an opportunity and a minter.

The mountain, in the heart of Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park, is one of the biggest attractions in the region and so is Mr Jackson Masesi’s innovation. Mr Masesi, an entrepreneur, has turned his company into a one-stop shop that deals with all matters bees.
Mr Masesi, the founder of Bee Care Apiaries Ltd, ushers us into the premises where workers are making about 100 beehives.

Masese has decorated his office with wax of different shapes, colours and sizes.

On the table are equipment like smokers and a collection of tens of honey brands from different countries.
“I like collecting bee products. When I fly out of Kenya, I don’t look for chocolate. I come with honey in order to compare it with my products and those of other companies,” Masese says.

Bee Care is the first Kenyan company allowed to export wax to the European Union, thanks to Masese’s passion for bees and bee products and support from the State Department of Veterinary Services.
The accountant initially worked for Kenya Nut Company before the bee bug stung him as he attempted to help his wife engage in business.
“I started in 2004 using Sh9,000 to buy three buckets of honey and packaging materials,” says Masesi, who has 250 hives in Makueni and Machakos counties.

“I had known where to get packaging materials and was therefore able to negotiate for fair prices.”

He sold the first stock mainly to to friends.


Gradually, Masesi graduated to looking for orders and even secured one for the Armed Forces Canteen Organisation in Eastleigh, and other outlets, including supermarkets.

At the time, he was operating as Inento Bee Products East Africa, and had one worker, who was in charge of marketing.
Sometime in 2006, the business faced financial problems that almost led to its collapse.

To make matters worse, Masesi lost his job the same year.
“I took a risk by selling the only land I had for Sh400,000 to raise capital,” he says.
He engaged his former clients who bought his products. And as the business stabilised, Masesi toyed with the idea of exporting the products.
“I came across a friend’s magazine in 2011 and saw an advert that read: ‘We are global beewax buyers’,” he says.
Though he had no idea of where to get wax and how to export it, Masesi, contacted the advertiser by email.
The potential client landed in Kenya from the US three months later to see Masesi’s wax firm.


However, he had only a small room, with about three kilogrammes of crude wax.
On the day the guest arrived, Masesi asked his wife and brother to pack honey “in order to make the place appear busy”.
“I later took him to small-scale honey producers in Mwingi, Embu and Kitui counties and convinced him that I would get the wax he needed. All I wanted was to win his trust,” says Masesi, who has built his expertise in apiculture through research and attending workshops.

The client ordered 18 tonnes of wax, which Masesi promised to deliver.
A few weeks after the client went back to America, he sent Masesi Sh7 million.

He spent Sh100,000 looking for the wax from across the country but barely got enough, prompting him to cross the border to Tanzania.
“It was a miracle that I could get and ship all the wax he had ordered. This opened my financial and business gates,” he says.

Crude wax export ban

Masesi would later get contacts with many more clients in US, Germany, the EU and other regions.
In 2015, the export of crude wax to the EU was banned.

He, however, worked with a potential client and the veterinary department and got listed to export to this lucrative market.

Masesi now exports crude wax to the US, Germany, Britain and Spain.
“I export about 100,000 tonnes of wax from Tanzania and about 18,000 from Kenya every year,” the businessman says.
“I have not contracted farmers but they sell the wax and honey to me on first-come-first-served basis.”

Employment opportunity

One must have a business permit from the county government and an export licence and health certificate to be in the export business.
Locally, Masesi is working with more than 3,000 small-scale bee keepers from whom he buys honey and crude wax.

While wax is his main business, honey comes second, but is almost being overtaken by beekeeping equipment, especially the hives he makes.
Masesi’s firm has 18 permanent employees and engages many casuals during the peak wax production season, which runs from July to September.

Peter Kagio, an apiculture and sericulture lecturer at Egerton University, says while many people ignore apiculture, it has very many opportunities.
Kagio isolates honey, equipment, hives and wax as among the business opportunities across the value chain, which he adds has not yet been fully exploited.
He says people should take advantage of the growing beauty, candle and other industries whose raw material is wax, and venture into apiculture.

DIARY OF A POULTRY FARMER: Vaccinating day-old chicks at the hatchery

Friday July 13 2018

Mr Samuel Kariuki feeds his 200 layers at Turi

Mr Samuel Kariuki feeds his 200 layers at Turi farm in Nakuru County. After vaccination of day-old chicks, leave them inside the box for at least 20 minutes to optimise the effect of spreening. PHOTO|JOHN NJOROGE | NATION 

More by this Author

Last week, I recounted my agony as I waited earnestly for the eggs I had incubated to hatch.

This was because two years ago, the agent who sold me the 528-egg capacity incubator had declared it dead and as such, I wasn’t sure it would hatch eggs.
The good news is that I accomplished the mission and Irene collected her order of one-week-old chicks as we had agreed.

Now for the disappointing part. After incubating the eggs, I sought advice from Ochieng’, an animal specialist at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation in Naivasha, on vaccinations to be administered to day-old chicks at the hatchery.

New Castle diseases

“The chicks should be vaccinated against Marek’s, infectious bronchitis and New Castle diseases,” Ochieng’ told me categorically.

I didn’t want to take any chances and started searching around for the vaccines.

I had promised Irene that I would vaccinate her chicks against the three diseases and didn’t want to disappoint her.

I have learnt over the years that if I want to gain customers for life, I need to treat them in the same way I’d wish to be treated and that means I don’t short-change them.

“A customer who trusts you isn’t one customer; he or she is a potential source of enthusiastic recommendations to friends, family and colleagues,” I once read that.
The other thing was that that Irene wanted her chicks after one week, meaning I would have to brood them for her.


Sometime in June last year, I lost 29 chicks in the first week of brooding because of poor temperature regulation inside the box and I did not want it to happen to me again (Seeds of Gold, July 1, 2017).

I made a few phone calls. The first supplier told me that he did not stock the vaccines and only imported them by order, something that takes time.

He also mentioned that his firm mostly imports for large hatcheries that order huge quantities.

For Marek’s disease, the minimum is 1,000 doses for an equivalent number of young birds.

I was, therefore, delighted to find that the second supplier had the vaccines, but God was in the details.

Ochieng’ had told me that the last two vaccines are given in form of a spray while Marek’s is an injection.

“Spray vaccination is the preferred method for administering respiratory vaccines for Newcastle disease and infectious bronchitis, especially when vaccinating birds for the first time,” he explained.

Vaccinated chicks

If truth be told, I had never administered the three vaccines before because I always sourced already vaccinated chicks from Kalro.

“Spray vaccination can be undertaken either in the hatchery or immediately after reception on the farm while the chicks are still in boxes,” he said.

“Vaccinating in the hatchery is generally considered more effective as the process is automated and more controlled although one can also use an ordinary hand-spray.”

Ochieng’ emphasised that the spraying must be done inside the chick box.

He also said when administering vaccines using this method, it is important that the spray is ‘coarse’, meaning that the droplets must be at least 100 to 150 microns in size (100 microns equals 0.1 millimetres).

“If the droplets are smaller, the vaccine will be inhaled too deeply into the respiratory tract and this can cause a mild disease in the flock three to five days post-vaccination which can, in turn, affect production negatively,” the specialist told me.

“Leave young birds inside the boxes for at least 20 minutes after spraying, to optimise the effect of preening”.

Here’s the twist to the story. The retailer confessed that he’d never stocked the aerosolised (spray-type) New Castle-infectious bronchitis vaccine.

In short, you can’t get it in the local market.

Bronchitis vaccine

However, she assured me that I could get a similar one but it needed to be mixed with water.

Another thing she said was that the earliest it can be given is after the third day.

That’s exactly what I did and paid Sh400 for 200 doses of the combined New Castle-infectious bronchitis vaccine.

If you recall, there are certain precautions when administering vaccines in drinking water (see my 10-point guide for administering vaccines in water titled Understanding Booster Vaccines and how they Work available online).

I also informed Irene about the vaccine I had administered so that she could tick on the vaccination schedule I had given her earlier. I did the same in my records.
Next week, I’ll talk about Marek’s disease, another illness you should vaccinate your chicks against on the first day at the hatchery.

Baringo Asali helps locals get sweet earnings from honey

Friday July 13 2018

Sylvia Mwangi.Ms Mwangi and her friends helped

Sylvia Mwangi.Ms Mwangi and her friends helped Baringo County farmers adopt modern honey production methods. PHOTO | FILE  

More by this Author

When Sylvia Mwangi and Brian Ndirangu went camping near Lake Baringo in 2016, they had no idea their trip would be a stroke of luck for beekeepers in the semi-arid region.

As they were being shown round by Louis Jumah, a tour guide, something caught Ms Mwangi’s eye.

“Seeing women sell raw honey by the roadside at throwaway prices was the start of the Baringo Asali project,” she said.

It was the start of a partnership between Ms Mwangi, Ndirangu and Jumah. The three wanted to help the community increase honey production.

According to Ms Mwangi, the traditional beekeeping methods could not improve the locals’ economic standards.

Perfect habitat for bees

“They were using traditional hives, with harvests coming after three years.”

The worst part was that the villagers used to sell their products cheaply.

“A mother selling a tin of honey for less than Sh500 was far too low,” she said.

Baringo County is dry and most of the landscape is dominated by shrubs, a perfect habitat for bees.

Bee keeping is, therefore, a part of the lives of residents and a major source of cash.

Even with this, a huge percentage of locals live in abject poverty, largely blamed on old and inefficient methods of honey production and harvesting.

Honey comes from...

According to Kenya National Farmers Information Service, about 80 per cent of Kenya’s honey comes from arid and semi-arid lands.

The survey says 80 per cent of this honey comes from log hives, which yield far too little to boost incomes.

The country produces around 4,000 metric tonnes of honey every year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

It is on this premise that Ms Mwangi and her friends helped Baringo County farmers adopt modern honey production methods.

She introduced them to the Kenyan Top Bar and the Langstroth beehives, which can produce 20 to 30 kilogrammes of honey per hive.

A kilogramme of honey retails at Sh600 and Sh900 in the market.

“We are all passionate about development and young people,” Ms Mwangi said.

Industrial engineering graduate

The University of Toronto graduate in industrial engineering believes her education will help bring meaningful change in Baringo County. She is a MasterCard Foundation Scholar.

Among 3,500 university students in Africa or overseas, Ms Mwangi was selected because of her academic talent, social consciousness and leadership qualities.

“My degree focuses on operations research, human factors and information engineering. I hope to to apply these skills to the Kenyan healthcare system, making it more accessible,” she said.

“I am using my skills and networks to help improve the living standards of the community. I want to establish better sales channels for honey.”

To ensure that the community accepts the changes, the Baringo Asali team has embarked on sensitisation.

It demonstrates the potential of the industry and how modern farming can improve their livelihoods.

“We provide training on modern beekeeping, the beehives and harvesting equipment,” she said.

Resolution Social Venture Challenge

A pilot programme on modern beekeeping and honey harvesting is underway in Baringo.

“We will use our networks as a team to create partnerships that will provide the community with a market for the honey that is produced. In addition to that, we will help the community develop an investment plan to develop the community,” she said.

“We hope that some of the money earned from the sale of honey will be able to help the community get piped water, as well as other commodities that they would require,” she added.

The Baringo Asali project has approached companies that make modern beehives, and discussions around costs and installations are at an advanced stage.

Baringo Asali won the Resolution Social Venture Challenge at the Mastercard Foundation Baobab Summit in Johannesburg in 2017, a competition that rewards compelling leadership and promising social ventures led by youth.

Ms Mwangi and her colleagues earned a fellowship that includes seed funding, mentorship, and access to a network of young global change-makers to pursue the project.

Baringo Asali will give mothers back the time they spend selling honey to travellers on the roadside and allow them to improve their standard of living, she said.
“We hope to help the community live well given that it is marginalized and residents struggle to acquire basic living requirements such as food. We hope this project will allow them to build better, safer homes and increase school enrollment, particularly among the smaller children who normally accompany their mothers to sell the honey,” she said.

What a processor looks for in potatoes

Friday July 13 2018

Traders wait for customers to buy potatoes. One

Traders wait for customers to buy potatoes. One of the advantages of selling to a factory is that the farmer bypasses brokers, who insist on potatoes being packed in extended bags. The processor buys in kilogrammes. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION 

More by this Author

A processing factory has not been buying potatoes from local farmers in one of the counties, leading to protests by residents and leaders.

In an attempt to improve its relationship with the unhappy farmers, the company’s management was invited to a special sitting to shed light on what stops it from buying the produce.

The company officials gave a presentation on selecting potatoes for processing into a ready-to-cook form, from the point the produce gets to the factory.
The factory officials told farmers that the most preferred potato variety is the shangi varieity as it gives the best results.


On arrival at the factory, the weight of the potatoes is recorded.
Workers then sort the potatoes to remove damaged and diseased tubers.

The potatoes are then fed into a machine where the removal of soil, debris and chads (baby potato) is done before it is graded.

After that, inspectors remove the greening, spoilt and over-cut tubers.

The potatoes are then conveyed on a belt with grade four being taken out first, followed by grade three, two and lastly one.

The workers weigh the potatoes in every grade, after which the potatoes are put in crates, coded and stored in chambers.

A tuber should be oval and the size of an egg. Tubers should have yellow eyes. Size is the main criterion for grading.

Although grade one is the most preferred, about 88 per cent of the potatoes delivered to the factory were grade two and three.

There was need therefore to improve on quality.

And that was the message the managers sent to the farmers.

There are four things to consider before a factory can buy potatoes: maturity, whether they are healthy or diseased, the extent of damage if any or whether there are sprouting tubers.
Maturity is the major determinant of quality.

Tubers should have been harvested at the right time, and should have intact, hardened skin. They should not be over-age.

The produce should also be wholesome and free from any diseases, damage or defects.


Sprouting offshoots alter the chemistry of the tubers, thus affecting cooking quality. As a result, sprouting potatoes are at great risk of being rejected by any processor.

To improve on quality, the factory in question carried out regular extension services to encourage farmers adopt good agricultural practices.

These included regular monitoring and improved harvesting procedures such as dehaulming.

Dehaulming is the cutting of the aerial parts of the plants by a sickle or the use of chemicals when the crop is 80 to 90 days old.

This is usually done when the leaves turn yellow. Dehaulming assists in hardening the tubers, thus improving their storage and processing qualities.

Farmers were also shown how to properly store and package their produce.

One of the advantages of selling to a factory is that the farmer bypasses middlemen who insist on potatoes being packed in extended bags. Unlike the middlemen, factories buy their produce in kilogrammes.

The processor also gets the potatoes from the farm and offers extension services, thus assisting farmers to improve on quality. This also saves on transport costs on the part of the grower.

The factory offers a ready market and as farmers become regular customers, they are provided with inputs like fertiliser and seed.

However, this would mean that a farmer is only limited to selling the produce to the processor.

South Sudan and Burundi refugees unlock the potential of vegetable farming in arid Turkana County

Friday July 13 2018

Burundian Immaculate Miburo, a mother of 10, in

Burundian Immaculate Miburo, a mother of 10, in her kitchen garden at Kakuma refugee camp. PHOTO| ISAIAH ESIPISU | NATION 

More by this Author

It is playtime at Kalobeyei Settlement Primary School near the Kakuma refugee camps.

With 5,547 pupils, most of them refugees, the school is bursting with activities.

In one corner of the compound is another group of students that calls itself “farmers”. They are busy working on their gardens despite the drought conditions in Turkana.

“This is the latest approach where we assist refugees grow their own food,” said Zippy Mbati, an official with the World Food Programme.

“More than 1,000 refugee households in Kalobeyei are now producing enough vegetables for consumption and income generation.”

The European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the UN World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Turkana county government have begun transferring extreme water efficient agriculture techniques to residents and refugees.

According to Kalobeyei Settlement Primary School head Lilian Cherotich, the 55 students, who are members of Junior Farmers Field School, have started selling their vegetables.

“We encourage them to sell and use the money wisely with the guidance of their parents but generally, we ask them to take the vegetables home, given that greens are rare in this part of the country,” Ms Cherotich told Seeds Of Gold.

With water from a borehole, the students use a simple technology to grow amaranth, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cowpeas, kales, okre and other crops.

“We have been given water efficient farming techniques such as sunken beds, wick gardens, sack gardening, and we even grow vegetables in jericans,” said Elizabeth Queen, a South Sudanese.

Outside the school, Burundian Immaculate Miburo said the introduction of kitchen gardening in the camp has been a blessing to her and her 10 children.

“Burundians are farmers. When kitchen gardening was introduced, I was excited. I can now produce enough vegetables for my family,” she said.

About one third of all officially registered refugees in Kenya are hosted in Turkana County, specifically in Kakuma Refugee Camp.

FAO representative in Kenya, Gabriel Rugalema, says: “Letting them to engage in socio-economic activities promotes cohesion.”

This is the first time refugees have been given a chance to farm and integrate with the host community, and Rugalema says such an approach gives them access to life skills and at the same time allowing them to live with dignity.

1,500 hectares of land in Kalobeyei was set aside for a refugee camp. Later, the national and county governments and UN agencies later agreed to use the land to develop a settlement that would promote self-reliance of refugees and host communities by providing them with better livelihood opportunities and integrated services.

The kitchen gardening is one of the approaches being used to turn this vision into a reality.

For every job, use the right machine

Friday July 13 2018

FMD East Africa General Manager Fergus Robley.

FMD East Africa General Manager Fergus Robley. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NATION 

More by this Author

Fergus Robley is the General Manager of FMD East Africa, the distributor of Massey Ferguson. He spoke to Francis Mureithi on jitters in the industry and tips on using machines

Rate the use of machinery in Kenya. Is it growing, stagnated or going down?

The use of agricultural machinery in the last two years has deviated from the upward trend we witnessed since 2009. This is mainly due to the weather- related challenges and the capping of interest rates that have hampered the farmers’ ability to access finance.

What are the best planting practices when using machines?

The importance of calibration of planters is key to get the correct plant population so that every seed that germinates into a plant enjoys mutual support from its neighbour to help get high yields.

The other important factor is the actual set up of the planter to make sure the seed is at the right depth and the fertiliser placement is either beside or just below to avoid burning the cotyledon during germination.

For maize and beans, it is also important that the machine is kind on the seed, that is, it does not chip it, as once cut, it will not germinate.

The best way to protect against this is to make sure that the mechanisms for metering the seeds are made of the right materials.
Another safety measure to the planter is the addition of graphite powder with the seed to help lubricate the flow of seed.

The cost of acquiring tractors and other machines remains very high. What can be done to enable farmers get them easily?

We live in a world where we want more for less. It is very hard to produce quality and durable machinery at a low cost and expect good returns.

Some manufacturers offer low cost equipment. However, this is achieved by reducing specifications of the material. The constant battle to try and achieve pocket sensitive pricing has seen counterfeits and substandard machines flood the Kenyan market.

FMD has moved manufacturing to the east to help reduce costs. But to help farmers get quality machinery, terms and conditions for finance can be addressed.

Apart from planting, machines are also used for weeding, spraying, harvesting and processing produce. Any advice while using machines to do these tasks?

To get the most out of mechanised farming and reduce yield limiting factors, it is important to set up implements, spraying and harvesting equipment correctly.

For example, with mechanical weed control, it is important that this is not overdone, as we see all too often with disc harrows where soil structure is destroyed.

For spraying, it is important to maintain and calibrate the sprayers so that the rates of application are in line with the agri-chemical manufacturers recommendations.

Too much chemical can burn the crop and too little allows diseases or pests to survive and mutate getting around the chemicals.

Post-harvest loss is a major yield limiting factor normally caused by incorrect settings, fast harvest speeds and poorly maintained machinery.

Processing needs the correct setting of machinery to maximise the conversion rate from raw product to consumable food.

There is a general belief among farmers that machines introduce diseases in their shambas. What is your advice?

Machines do not introduce diseases on farms. It is the lack of cleaning and servicing at the end of a season and then going through pre-season that leads to diseases.

With good cleaning and servicing, machines will not be hosts for diseases and parasites.

Which is the best available mechanised technology for land preparation?

For land preparation, again the more for less maxim applies. Kenyan farmers should be looking at reducing tillage to preserve and allow the soil to perform.

This is a huge topic but in summary, if farmers embrace appropriate good practices with conservation tillage in mind, our yields will increase significantly.

In some of the land trials that we have done with our machinery, we have seen maize yields of more than 40 bags an acre, where the control using the traditional method has been harvested at nine to 11 bags.

This shows that quality machinery and good farming practices can increase the yield by three to four times in a rain-fed environment.

What tips would you give to farmers using planters or any other machine for the first time?

If you are using machinery for the first time it is important to do two things.
a) Read the instruction manual.
b) Get a qualified expert, or technician from the supplier to show you how to set up the machine.

VET ON CALL: When buying dairy cow, looks can be deceiving

Friday July 13 2018

Mr Matthew Kirui feeds his Fresian dairy cows

Mr Matthew Kirui feeds his Fresian dairy cows in Elburgon, Nakuru County. PHOTO| JOHN NJOROGE | NATION  

More by this Author

The day was chilly, foggy and wet. George, a Nairobi farmer, his manager David and I were on a mission to buy five Friesian dairy cows.

We had arrived at Kiratina shopping centre in Lari Sub-County at 10am and found Mburu, my contact, sheltered at a tea-buying centre.

“Doctor, are you sure cattle from here will survive the Ruai heat?” David asked as we stopped to pick up Mburu.

I told him Friesian cows are adaptive. I once encountered Friesians doing well on farms that were not air-conditioned in the gruelling heat of Jordan.

Mburu directed us to Mwangi’s home. I had already given George and David lessons on selecting dairy cattle.

We, therefore, agreed the two would review the animals. We would compare notes and settle on the best.

Once the prices were agreed upon, based on the animals’ conditions, breeding, health and production history, I would examine the cows to confirm their suitability for milk production.
We also agreed my results would be the determinant of the final selling price. I use this protocol because there is no need to examine every cow offered for sale yet the transacting parties may not agree on the price.
Good candidates
The other reason is to save the buyer time and part of the doctor’s fees by only examining prequalified cattle candidates.

Like car dealers, farmers heap praise on the animals they are selling and provide very well-thought out excuses for flaws.

Some explanations are cunning while others are hilarious.

I recall a time a farmer told me he was selling all his livestock because his in-laws had developed a habit of demanding animals from him as bride price every time they visited. The visits increased as the heard grew!
“Pick any two from my herd of three,” Mwangi offered.

He said he wanted to sell the cows in order to pay school fees. He would restock later. That was fair enough. It is always good for a buyer to know the reason someone is selling animals.

Two of Mwangi’s cows were nice Friesians but the third had Sahiwal hips; meaning somewhere in the breeding, there had been some semen mix-up.

I agreed with Mwangi. His other two cows could easily produce the 25 litres he said they gave at peak lactation. George and David returned a rejection.
“Sorry Mwangi, your two good cows are not medically sound,” George said, adding that one was limping while the other had a swollen jaw.


Despite Mwangi’s defence of his assets, we never arrived at my examination because I had also noticed the flaws.

Mwangi said the jaw problem had started as a small abscess, which had been treated. When I palpated the jaw, the problem was more serious than Mwangi thought.

The cow had an attack of lumpy jaw disease. This is caused by a bacteria that hardens soft tissues and causes bone infection.

I advised Mwangi to request his doctor to review the cow. We proceeded to the next farm.

Monica’s farm was in Githunguri. It had a nice zero-grazing unit with three beautiful Friesians. The environment told of a previously well-stocked dairy farm.

Monica said she used to have 15 cows but was winding up dairy production to concentrate on other businesses.

Just like Mwangi, the farmer told us to choose any two cows. We knocked out one immediately because it had residual lumpy skin disease nodules. It takes long after the disease has healed for the nodules to disappear but it is not advisable to buy an unsightly cow.


George and David liked the other two and agreed on the price with Monica. I then examined the animals. One had no detectable flaw while the other had slight sub-clinical mastitis. I picked the problem with the California Mastitis Test.

The cow was three months pregnant. I informed George that he could still buy it though Monica needed to meet the cost of treatment. She agreed.

We had expected our last three animals to come from Kamau’s herd half a kilometre away but it remained just that — expectation.

First the seller gave us an impossibly high price. He had a good herd of 10 adult Friesians but their milk production fell short of the information given. The animals were not pregnant but the asking price was for pregnant ones.

To complicate matters, George was negotiating with the seller on phone and had to keep asking the farmhand to identify and display the animal being referred to.

After an hour of phone haggling and no deal, we were on the road to the last group of cattle.

Halfway through the route, we found three matatus stuck in mud at Kamuchege centre. There were also two four-wheel-drive vehicles ahead of us fighting a seemingly losing battle with the mud.

We decided it would not be possible to make it to the target farm about two kilometres ahead.

A dairy farmer had just lost a potential sale for three animals because of a poor road.

We closed the day by organising for transport documentation of the cows. Mobile phones are a blessing.

We got a “No Objection Permit” from Nairobi, which we presented to the Githunguri Vet office and were issued with a movement licence.

Locals get training on tissue banana farming

Friday July 13 2018

Naboth Monde, Wongachi Development farm

Naboth Monde, Wongachi Development farm manager(right) and worker spraying the Tissue culture banana seedlings. The greenhouse has 100000 seedlings. PHOTO |FILES 

More by this Author

Locals get training on tissue banana farming

Farmers who visit Kisii Agriculture Training Centre are eager to get information on tissue culture banana production.

Most banana farmers in the region have embraced the technology but still end up with poor yields.

Tissue culture involves multiplying clean disease-free planting materials without changing the taste or other physical attributes of the plant.

While assessing farmers being trained on growing tissue culture banana, Kisii County agriculture director Benson Mutiso said marketing of the crops begins with at production and not harvesting stage as most farmers think.

“Producing tissue culture bananas is a challenge. Most of the crops end up dying in the first month,” the county agriculture official said.”

Mr Mutiso advised farmers to get clean seedlings from certified suppliers only.

“Farmers should also avoid using fields that already have bananas as this helps keep away pests and diseases,” he said.
Ruth Mbula

Forests are critical to farming, report shows

At a time the government has extended the ban on logging, a recent report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation says forests are critical to livelihoods and sustainable farming.

According to The State of World’s Forests, research has shown that ending poverty and hunger can be done through the coordination of policies by the ministries of Agriculture and Environment.

The authors of the report say it is important for governments and concerned organs to address agriculture and forests together for sustainable development, especially in rural areas.
“Deforestation, chiefly caused by the conversion of forestland to agriculture and livestock areas, threatens the livelihoods of foresters, forest communities, indigenous peoples and the variety of life on the planet,” the report says.

According to FAO, changes in land use result in loss of habitats, land degradation and soil erosion, the factors largely blamed for reduced food production, especially in developing countries.
“How to increase agricultural production and improve food security without reducing forest area is one of the great challenges of our times. Evidence is key to opening up forest pathways to sustainable development,” the report says.
Bernadine Mutanu

New innovations picked to drive food security in the Lake Region
Over 100 food security enhancing technologies developed by youths from the 14 Lake region economic bloc counties have been selected for acceleration.

Panelists for The IREN Technologies and Innovation Challenge 2018 (ITIC-2018) have selected 165 innovators to undergo an accelerator training that will help them develop and showcase smart food security technologies and innovations to a wider market.

The training commenced in June in the respective counties and will run through to October 2018.

The successful youths from Bomet, Bungoma, Busia, Homa Bay, Kakamega, Kericho, Kisii, Kisumu, Migori, Nyamira, Nandi, Siaya, Trans Nzoia and Vihiga have joined their respective County Technology & Innovation Solution Hubs to conceptualize, develop and pitch their smart food security solutions.

The best hub from each county will compete with fellow top hubs for top three spots. The top three overall winners stand a chance to win seed capital to scale up their innovations.

The ITIC 2018, an initiative of Inter Region Economic Network and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, aims to promote smart food security solutions for the 14 Lake Region Economic Bloc Counties.

Veni Swai, Senior Programme Officer for Friedrich Naumann Foundation, East Africa says that fiinding innovative solutions to food security challenges facing the Lake Region Economic Bloc counties is very critical.
Leopold Obi

Invest more in livestock disease surveillance, government urged

Veterinary service regulatory body has urged the county and national governments to invest more in disease surveillance and control to curb the spread of contagious livestock diseases such as the Rift Valley Fever.

Rift valley fever outbreak which was first reported in Eldas Sub-County, in Wajir, is suspected to have spread to six other counties including Tharaka-Nithi, Garissa, Tana River, Lamu, Garissa, Kajiado and Baringo.

The disease mainly affects livestock but people can be infected by handling sick animals – either slaughtering them or assisting animals while giving birth.

Kenya Veterinary board chairman Dr Christopher Wanga says that while the response to curb the viral disease has been initially slow when it was reported a few months ago, livestock in the affected areas must be quarantined to curb the spread of the disease.

Dr Wanga also urged the governments to employ more qualified vet officers to protect members of the public from quacks posing as doctors.

He further cautioned politicians opposed to livestock quarantine saying that viral diseases are only controlled through vaccination and quarantine.

“We should have carried out vaccinations during flooding because floods are usually followed by Rift Valley Fever. So we are a little late in intervening but the counties and the director of vet have moved in to contain the disease,” Dr Wanga explained.

The Kenya Vet Board chair also urged the national and county governments need to provide emergency response fund in their budget and also promote disease control and management.

“About 80 per cent of the country is arid or semi-arid meaning that without irrigation, livestock rearing is the only enterprise which can be carried in those areas. The government therefore needs boost disease surveillance and employ more vet officers,” noted Dr Wanga.
Leopold Obi