Brief news on farming and agribusiness in the country

Wednesday April 3 2019

Sheep at an auction in Kajiado County.

Sheep at an auction in Kajiado County. Leaders from the region have asked pastoralists to invest in high-yielding breeds and cut down on the sizes of their herds to get more value. PHOTO | PIUS MAUNDU | NMG 

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Pastoralists advised to keep high-yielding animal breeds

Leaders in Kajiado have asked pastoralists to invest in high-yielding breeds and cut down on the sizes of their herds to get more value from their ventures.

County Assembly Speaker Joseph Osoi, deputy governor Martin Moshisho, and Agriculture executive Jackline Koin said the large herds were no longer profitable.

“It is more profitable to stock a few animals that are high-yielding as compared to having hundreds of indigenous breeds that are less profitable since they require a lot of resources such as acaricides,” said Moshisho this week during a Dorper sheep fair at Erankau Village on Paul Naigisie’s farm.

The fair was organised by Dorper Sheep Breeders Society of Kenya to promote the breeding of dorper, a South African sheep breed known for its fast maturity and tender meat.

The breed is increasingly becoming so popular among livestock farmers that it is seen as a threat to indigenous ones.
Koin announced that the county government and the United Nations Development Programme were in the process of patenting the indigenous Red Maasai sheep to prevent its extinction and to earn the community more value from the hardy breed.

The leaders pledged the support of the county government in promoting the sheep value chain, noting that livestock rearing was critical in realising the government’s agenda on promoting food security.

-Pius Maundu

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County offers free seeds to boost bean production

Elgeyo-Marakwet County government is betting on iron-rich beans known as Nyota developed by Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) to lower malnutrition rate among children.

Kalro and the county government have distributed 30 metric tonnes of the drought-tolerant bean seeds to hundreds of farmers in the region for free to boost production.

“The beans contain high content of iron of 78-80 parts per million (ppm), 38 zinc parts per million (ppm) which is 58 to 80 per cent of daily recommended needs compared to other varieties in the market. The harvest of this variety is 10 bags per acre,” Dr Joyce Malinga, director of Food Crops Research Institute at Kalro, said.

The researcher observed that the bean variety was naturally developed and takes two-and-half to three months to mature depending on the ecological zones.

County nutrition coordinator Priscilla Ngetich said lack of iron is to blame for child and maternal mortalities in the region.

She added that iron deficiency in women and children results in reduced cognitive ability, childbirth complications and birth defects, reduced physical capacity and productivity.

“Sometimes mothers take the iron-rich food but there is poor absorption if they take tea or coffee immediately after. It is important that they take the caffeine after one hour,” said health official.

Expectant mothers who suffer from anaemia also give birth to weaker children and complain of dizziness and tiredness due to lack of energy or iron sources in the body.

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Farmers to benefit from Sh21 million free seeds from county

The county government of Lamu has purchased seeds worth Sh21 million to be distributed to farmers ahead of the planting season.

Deputy governor Abdulhakim Aboud, who also doubles up as the Agriculture executive, said the county had bought 105 tonnes of seeds comprising sorghum, millet, maize and cow peas.

Aboud said the seeds are expected to benefit over 6,000 farmers. He called on farmers to prepare their farms before the onset of the rains to reap maximum benefits.

He also warned farmers against reselling the seeds.

“We want to reach a level where we have enough food that we can even sell the surplus to other counties. We only ask that people don’t sell these seeds.”

The executive added that more tractors will be bought to boost farming.

According to Aboud, Lamu currently has 14 tractors which are leased to farmers at a subsidised cost. “We will buy eight new tractors to serve more farmers,” he said.

-Kalume Kazungu

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Free plant clinics launched

Farmers in Kisumu are set to benefit from plant clinics launched by the Centre for Agriculture and Bio-Science International (CABI) in partnership with the county government.

The farmers will learn how to diagnose plant pests and diseases as well as how to manage their crops for improved productivity.

Deputy governor Mathew Owili noted that food insecurity has been a big issue in Kisumu, making the county a net food importer.

“Farmers incur losses due to lack of proper information concerning pests and diseases and best agricultural practices. We are optimistic this programme will change the situation,” said Dr Owili.

Agriculture executive Gilchrist Okuom said farmers will access extension services at designated markets across the seven subcounties.

The plant clinics will be operational every month at Nyamasaria and Katito markets on the first and third Thursday of the month, Daraja Mbili market — first and third Tuesday, Kombewa market — first and third Friday and Rabuor and Ombeyi markets — first and third Wednesdays.

-Elizabeth Ojina

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Experts blame poor usage of research data for low yields

There is a huge mismatch between the number of studies done in the country and the usage of the data collected, Food and Agriculture Organisation official Robert Allport said.

Allport noted that Kenya is one of the most-researched countries in Africa yet a large section of its population continues to suffer from hunger and malnutrition due to poor usage of research data.

“If all the data collected by different institutions could be pooled together and made available to farmers, Kenya would have a world-class capacity for agricultural production," said Allport, who was speaking during the opening of a food industry, nutrition, career and research expo at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

To address the challenge, Mr Allport called for the creation of a single, easily accessible platform that brings together all agricultural information for use by the public. Stella Makokha, an agricultural economist from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, blamed lack of ‘soft skills’ among researchers for decreased uptake of innovations by farmers.

“A majority of farmers in the country are semi-literate, which makes it harder for researchers to reach them. But there are many ways to pass the information, which should be used to better our farming potential,” she said.

-Mary Wambui

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Support of rural farmers key to food security, says report

A new food policy report has called for support of rural farmers for economic growth and to boost food security.

The Global Food Policy Report, 2019, sought to highlight how crises in rural areas threaten progress in hunger alleviation, poverty reduction, as well as the urgent need for rural regeneration.

“Rural revitalisation is timely, achievable, and critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade,” said Shenggen Fan, the director-general at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the author of the report.

The report emphasises the fact that in just a decade, rural areas could be made hubs of innovations if they are rejuvenated with focus on creating farm and non-farm rural employment opportunities.

Empowering women, according to Hazel Malapit, a researcher at IFPRI, can improve agricultural productivity.

Achim Steiner, the administrator at the United Nations Development Programme and co-author of the report, indicated that rural transformation requires a holistic approach to connect rural and urban economies.

-Brian Okinda