Brief news on farming and agribusiness in the country

Friday January 24 2020
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A market vendor sells traditional vegetables at the Kisii Fresh Produce Market in September, 2018. Crop wild relatives offer a source of diversity for climate-proofing modern domestic crops. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Wild plant species to improve food security

Researchers have identified wild plant species that can be used to make crops more productive. The scientists from 25 countries took part in the six-year study, collecting up to 4,644 wild plant species and seed samples from 371 key crops’ wild relatives.

Many of the crops are endangered, according to the report ‘A Global Rescue – Safeguarding the World's Crop Wild’ released in December.

Crop wild relatives have evolved to survive harsh conditions such as low rainfall, flooding, extreme temperature and poor soils.

They offer a source of diversity for climate-proofing crops. They are however threatened with extinction due to deforestation, climate change and urbanisation.

“Scientists went to far-flung corners to collect a list of plants that will help breed crops that are more productive and resilient to extreme weather and diseases,” said Dr Hannes Dempewolf, a senior scientist and the head of global initiatives at the Crop Trust.


-Brian Okinda


Lobby: Donkeys on the brink of extinction

A lobby has raised concern about the mistreatment and slaughter of donkeys in western Kenya. Send A Cow Animal Welfare director Peter Ngielo said opening abattoirs will drastically reduce the population of the animals.

He added that donkeys stolen from Homa Bay and Mt Elgon are usually taken to the slaughterhouses.

“The disappearance of donkeys is alarming. There must be brokers involved in this trade,” Mr Ngielo said yesterday.
According to the 2009 population census, there were 1.9 million donkeys in the country.

“The population of the animals had declined to 600,000, going by the August 2019 census. Poverty levels might rise in communities that depend on donkeys,” he said.

Despite the reliance on the donkey in Kenya, the animal is handed poorly. Donkey are often abused, with many having gaping wounds, not being fed properly while some die of treatable diseases.

-Elizabeth Ojina


Social protection can end hunger, forum told

Social protection can speed up progress towards achieving zero hunger by contributing to economic inclusion of households in extreme poverty, a summit organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the government has heard.

This was said during the South-South Cooperation workshop, covering 14 eastern and southern African countries in Nairobi. It discussed the best practices and challenges in promoting rationale between social protection, agriculture and resilience.

The workshop saw stakeholders, including government officials, discuss policy frameworks, funding and implementation complexities of the Kenya National Safety Nets Programme.

Igad Food Security Analysis Hub coordinator Abdi Jama said the region’s progress towards fighting hunger is undermined by climate shocks, conflicts and economic downturns.

-Brian Okinda


Elgon Kenya director recognised by US university

Elgon Kenya director Bimal Kantaria has been awarded an honorary doctorate of humanities for his efforts in promoting agriculture in Kenya and East Africa.

Kantaria was praised for training young people to improve farming and agribusiness.

US-based United Graduate College and Seminary International feted Kantaria, under whose stewardship the farm inputs company has promoted the use of technology in agriculture.

The college said the honour considered programmes like the annual National Farmers Awards in awarding the degree to Kantaria.

The National Farmers Awards has now added a youth category to its programmes with the aim of inspiring a new generation of farmers.

The youngsters — the bulk of who have swapped suits for gumboots — have turned their farms into demonstration and training plots, attracting many others in the hope of creating a farming revolution.

This, the college administrators said, has in turn created jobs in a country whose youth continue to grapple with unemployment.

Kantaria has also been recognised by President Uhuru Kenyatta for his role in transforming the country’s farming.

“As young people look to new technology for food production, we have responded with low cost innovations that are making farming cool and leading to more yields under small acreage. This also guarantees year round supplies in the wake of global warming,” Kantaria said when he received the award.

“This includes the much-admired Magnar Water Solutions that ensure judicious use of water in the wake of scarcity and a 24/7 information centre where agronomists are on standby to answer questions from farmers across the country. It is a first of its kind intervention in Kenya.”

The company also runs an online shop selling single units of its products. It partners with couriers delivering orders.
Elgon Kenya also plays a role in organising farm clinics. These are modelled along the human health concept, allowing farmers to interact with experts and researchers comprehensively.

Oserian Development Company MD Neil Hellings described the National Farmers Awards as capturing in every sense Kantaria’s desire to give back to the society.

-Brian Okinda


FMD ravages Nakuru

Paul Mathai looks forlornly at his near empty cowshed as he recounts the losses he incurred after foot and mouth disease ravaged his herd.

Months ago, the paddocks at his farm had dozens of dairy cows.

The 45-year-old is left with three cows. The disease claimed more than 15 cows and several calves.

Mathai and many farmers in Bahati, Nakuru County, have been left without an income.

He noticed that several of his cows had difficulty in walking and called a vet who told him the animals had the contagious disease.

“I lost the cows in two days,” Mathai said, adding that he used to get 50 litres of milk daily. He now hardly gets 10.

FMD is a viral disease that leads to deaths. It severely interferes with productivity of the animals that survive.

Nakuru has been hit hard due to an influx of animals from neighbouring counties.

-Leopold Obi