Elgon Kenya, an agricultural company, has been awarded a Superbrands East Africa status, becoming the first firm in the sector and in the region to attain the achievement.
The company, according to the judges, was honoured due to its unwavering commitment to provide solutions that address the concerns of farmers through an awards scheme, farm clinics and an array of innovative products.
“This award lays credence to the fact that Elgon Kenya is a company of many firsts. We have over the years brought to the market transformative innovations that have restored hope on farms, put smiles at dinner tables and increased earnings for millions of smallholder farmers,” said Nelson Maina, Elgon Kenya’s Public Relations and Communications Manager.
The National Farmers Awards Scheme, a collaborative initiative between Elgon Kenya, the Ministry of Agriculture and Seeds of Gold has been a landmark achievement for the company.
The scheme started five years ago to reward the best in the agricultural sector has grown in participation, stature and impact, becoming a major event in the farming calendar.
Farm clinics, held in partnership with Nation Media Group, have offered a much needed platform for farmers and experts to meet under one roof and address the most pressing challenges of the sector.
The clinics, according to Maina, offer farmers a golden opportunity to get quality knowledge and skills, get access to a wide range of products at farm level as compared to when they just get to an agrovets and purchase a product that they have very little knowledge and guidelines about.
So far, the four clinics that have been held have been an eye-opener and have offered very interesting insights into what farmers go through and are looking for. Key among them is hunger for information.
“From farming techniques, to low cost pest control methods and market access the questions keep coming,” said Maina.
At the same time, Elgon Kenya has come up with an information centre fully equipped with trained agronomists who are on call to answer any queries and concerns from farmers from any part of the country.
The centre is complemented by a 24/7 online portal that also ensures farmers get vital information at the click of a button.
“Attaining the Superbrands status is a major milestone for us as a company, and it is equally heart-warming to know that we are the first in our sector to receive such an honour. It reaffirms our commitment to provide sustainable solutions that addresses the concerns of our farmers and customers.
We thank our members of staff and our formidable partners for always working with us in making sure we are best at what we do,” said Bimal Kantaria (above), the Elgon Kenya Director.
Poultry keepers warned against abuse of antibiotics
Poultry farmers have been cautioned against the administration of antibiotics to their flock without diagnosing the disease.
Dr Samuel Shanju, the programme’s director Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network, said the abuse of antibiotics is highest in poultry as compared to that in pigs and cattle.
“The mostly used antibiotic is tetracycline, which is used for prevention of diseases in chicken and fattening of the birds,” Dr Shanju said.
According to Dr Yeri Kombe, Director Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), antibiotic resistant bacteria are also spread to human beings from animals and plants through ingestion. He said the highest quantity was in chicken, pigs and cattle.
He noted chicken farmers are always quick to administer antibiotics to their flock without ascertaining the cause of the change in behaviour of the birds.
“If they notice the head of the bird is drooping, they quickly give antibiotics. The drugs used on the chicken are broad spectrum meaning they are not used to kill a specific type of bacteria,” he said. He added most antibiotics have a withdrawal period, which mostly ranges from 14 to 28 days.
During this period, the farmer is advised not to eat or sell any of the eggs or meat from the chicken since the medicine is still present in the bird.
“It is called the residue effect where traces of the drug are still present in the animal and the egg it lays. If the meat or egg is consumed before the withdrawal period is over, the antibiotics get into the body system of the consumer and may later lead to antibiotic resistance in human being.”
However, Dr Jack Ouda, the director Knowledge Management at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), said the withdrawal period was only an ethical practice but did not necessarily mean that a person can create antibiotics resistance through the meat or eggs.
A survey done by Action on Antibiotics Resistance Africa (ReAct) showed that 10 million people may die annually by 2050 due to complications arising from antibiotics resistance.
The rapid increase of antibiotics resistant bacteria is ranked among the greatest threats in the world beside terrorism as it leads to treatment failure and in return, death.
The fight against antibiotic resistance laid squarely on the integrity of the farmer, noted the experts since even with this knowledge, some farmers still release contaminated produce.
– Reitz Mureithi
Farmers using mobile money earn more profit, new survey reveals
Smallholder farmers relying on mobile money transfers for their daily transactions make more profit compared to their counterparts who use cash, a recent study shows.
The survey conducted in 2015 by the United Nation’s Better Than Cash Alliance also indicated that when offered credit facilities, smallholder farmers can significantly improve their agricultural productivity thus enhancing their income.
The researchers interviewed 250 farmers under One Acre Fund and further revealed that 100 per cent of the farmers preferred mobile money service to cash due to its convenience and transparency.
One Acre Fund, a non-for-profit organisation, teaches better crop management techniques and provides farm inputs such as seeds and fertilisers. The credits are given to farmers through mobile money transfer services.
A farmer interviewed during the survey pointed out that with digital or mobile phone transactions and credit repayments, they are able to know when their money has been processed because they get an SMS alert.
Prof Njuguna Ndung’u, the former governor of the Central Bank of Kenya and senior advisor for the UN-based Better Than Cash Alliance, said the credit facility offered by the NGO solves farmers’ financial constraints besides reducing payments leakages.
Prof Ndung’u said that the survey provides an important feedback to agricultural companies, financial service providers, and nonprofits looking to serve rural customers.
“Smallholders will be more likely to embrace digital payments if they are given training, there is an accessible and functional infrastructure, and the value proposition of the digital payment mechanism is clear, including lower or zero additional fees,” he said.
– Leopold Obi
Egerton set to host first dairy academy
Egerton University will host the first Africa Dairy Academy at their Njoro campus.
Deputy vice-chancellor Prof Alexander Kahi said the academy would address knowledge gaps in the sector.
“The academy would be the focal point when it comes to advising governments on various issues on dairy production, research on dairy value chain and support of innovations,” said Prof Kahi, an expert in animal breeding and genomics.
He was speaking at Egerton University during a recent international symposium aimed at enhancing livestock productivity through science, technology and innovation. More than 40 scientists from Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana attended the event.
Prof Kahi, who is also the project director, said Egerton was chosen to host the academy because it is the leading university in the country that has spearheaded innovation in the dairy technology and training.
– Francis Mureithi
Tracking of food situation now easier
International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has unveiled a new technology to predict and track food security and malnutrition in Africa.
Named Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS), it uses big data approach to process large volumes of information from multiple sources to detect early signs of food shortages and raise alarm, prompting immediate response to address the situation.
“For years, Sub-Saharan Africa has faced regular food crises,” said Dr Mercy Lung’aho, CIAT nutritionist and lead author of the report that details NEWS. “This tells us that something is wrong with our food security systems and the way we track crisis signals.”
– Brian Okinda