Sweet potato growers form co-operative
Sweet potato farmers in Migori County have come together to form a Sacco to protect themselves from exploitation by middlemen.
The farmers, mostly drawn from Kuria West and Kuria East sub counties, said for a long time they have been heavily exploited by middlemen, who buy their produce at throw away prices but make a killing in other markets.
According to the farmers, forming a Sacco is one of the best ways of addressing their plight.
"We have decided to come together as sweet potato farmers to defeat the exploitative middlemen," said Rioba Mangera, a farmer from Kuria West.
Currently, an extended 90kg sack goes for between Sh1,000 and Sh1,500 in Migori County.
At Wakulima market in Nairobi, such a sack is retailing at between Sh3,000 and Sh3,500. In the same market, three big pieces of potatoes retail at Sh70.
One of the greatest challenges the farmers have is lack of transport to take the produce to markets where they can fetch better prices.
With a Sacco, the farmers say they will be able to pool their produce together and take it to the markets without relying on middlemen.
Besides boosting the prices of the crop, farmers say through the Sacco they will add value to their produce with time.
"A Sacco will help us create ideas on value addition. We know that we can make products such as crisps, flour and even biscuits from sweet potatoes. However, this can only be achieved through a Sacco," Mr Chacha Maroa, a farmer from Kehancha said.
Youth get training on hydroponics
A group of youth in Makueni County has found a way to go round land and seed capital, some of the key challenges cited by those who shun agribusiness.
The county government has entered into a deal with German Development Cooperation and KCB Foundation that will see some 150 youth get into innovative agribusiness.
The Sh2 million deal that was announced during the start of the National Youth Week at Kwa Kathoka Agricultural Training Centre, will see the youth trained on hydroponics farming technology at the Miramar International College, Kikuyu for three months.
Hydroponics is a soil-less farming method where fast-growing plants such as vegetables, tomatoes and strawberries are grown using only a mineral nutrient solution in a water solvent.
Upon completion of the training, the beneficiaries will undergo business incubation lessons offered by KCB Foundation.
They will develop business plans and access discounted financing to construct greenhouses on land leased by the county government, said Jane Mwangi, KCB Foundation executive director.
"The youth will enter into production contracts with large-scale commercial buyers and retailers such as supermarkets," she added.
Governor Kivutha Kibwana said that the beneficiaries will be identified from members of Makueni Youth Empowerment Service, a grass roots movement.
Deputy President William Ruto urged the youth to also take advantage of the government’s Big Four Agenda of agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing and housing.
"The Big 4 Agenda targets four million young people with opportunities. It is for you to position yourself across the four pillars to benefit from these opportunities," he said.
‘Seeds of Gold’ writer honoured for promoting the use of biotechnology
Seeds of Gold reporter, Brian Okinda, was among four journalists recognised for their consistency in reporting and sensitising the public on agricultural biotechnology.
The journalists were awarded by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB), an initiative that strives to promote the use of biotechnology.
The journalists will also be invited to participate in OFAB Africa Media Awards (OMAs), which are scheduled for September in Burkina Faso, where the overall winner has been nominated to compete in the awards.
“Journalists have a critical role in creating awareness and shaping public and policy opinions that can lead to speedy adoption of agricultural biotechnologies which have a critical role to play in achieving the government’s Big 4 Agenda,” said Dr Margaret Karembu, OFAB Kenya Chapter’s chairperson.
She acknowledged the role of media in cultivating public awareness on agricultural technology saying there has been increased coverage about biotechnology in the country.
The event, which was organised with the support of National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI), was presided over by Prof Hamadi Boga, the agriculture research PS in the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation.
Other journalists recognised were KTN’s Philip Keitany and cameraman Japheth Makau (winners), Radio Maisha’s Rose Mukonyo (first runner-up), and Okinda (second runner-up).
US poultry keepers now dress their pet chickens in diapers as industry booms
The business of luxury chicken diapers has been booming in the US as chicken rearing becomes popular.
According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2013, nearly 1 per cent of households in the country's biggest urban areas keep chickens, and the number continues to rise. People do not simply treat chickens as poultry, but also as pets and for showing off wealth.
"We thought we'd feed them leftovers, but our chickens end up eating grilled salmon, steak, fresh lettuce and organic watermelon," one chicken owner, Amina Azhar-Graham, told the Washington Post in March. Chicken owners are also willing to pay for diapers which could catch chicken poop and prevent the birds from leaving excrements everywhere in the house.
There are various brands of diapers with different prices, from around $17 dollars (Sh1,700) to nearly $40 (Sh4,000).
"The market is enormous and there's lots of competition," said Traci Torres, the owner of My Pet Chicken, who has sold more than 5,000 self-designed diapers since 2007.
Dressed with well-designed accessories, chickens are popular on Instagram as some accounts with thousands of followers have been posting a variety of well-dressed chickens.
Julie Baker, owner of a chicken diaper brand Pampered Poultry, told The Outline, "Over the last couple of years, it has changed to people actually calling their chickens pets," Baker said.