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Friday, February 9th, 2018

 

Scabies outbreak hits Ntchisi

A scabies outbreak has hit some parts of of Ntchisi District have been hit by scabies, a contagious itchy skin disease, but the district’s health office does not presently have medication for the disease which is locally known as Mphere.

The disease has wreaked havoc among people in three traditional authorities of Chikho, Kasakula and Nthondo in the district.

While confirming having received cases and reports of the disease from the said areas since September last year, Ntchisi District Health Officer, Dr Zondwayo Ng’oma said the district heath office does not have BB paint which is used for treating scabies.

“We normally purchase our medical drugs from the Central Medical Stores which, unfortunately, does not have the BB paint in stock,” said Ng’oma, adding the office has sometimes been assisted by the skin department at Kamuzu Central Hospital which has it in stock from donations,” said Ng’oma.

However, the DHO said patients are being advised to buy the medication from private hospitals or pharmacies which have it.

He further explained that most importantly, communities are advised to practice proper hygiene standards at all times to prevent themselves from getting scabies or have a fast cure for those who have already contracted it.

“We are always encouraging the people to practice preventive measures like taking a bath at least twice a day and putting on clean clothes among others,” said Ng’oma.

Traditional Authority Chikho said in a separate interview that some children who have been affected by the skin disease in his area have stopped going to school, adding that health authorities have been advising people in the area to practice hygiene.

He, however, pointed out that because some people in his area have been affected by the disease, it does not mean they don’t follow proper hygiene.

“The scabies outbreak in my area does not necessarily mean that my people do not follow proper hygiene practices, they have always maintained proper hygiene. The disease has come just like any other disease,” said the chief.

Grey Tsogolani, a Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) at Mwinaba Health Centre in the same Chikho area, said he has registered over 130 cases of scabies in his catchment area so far since September last year (2017) and that the numbers keep increasing.

He said the health post just provides painkillers to those affected and emphasize to the people on the need to practice hygiene.

He also observed that some of the affected children have since stopped going to school.

Filesi Njinga from Lombwa Village in the area said a number of people from her village have so far been affected by scabies and they go to Mzandu Health Centre which is the nearest facility for treatment.

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Malawi female Parliamentarians at the mercy of media for retainship’ objective reporting

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The country’s female lawmakers through its Parliamentary women caucus committee are pleading with media for objective reporting ahead of 2019 elections.

With objective reporting, female legislators bank on retaining their constituencies during the next year’s Parliamentary elections.

The female Members of Parliament (MPs) who are 32 in total are geared supporting each other that theirs seats are retained while banking their hopes on the media for positive coverage of their activities.

The female legislators think that much of their constituencies’ work achievements are not covered fully but only scandalous issues.

Malawi’s First Deputy Speaker, Esther Mcheka Chilenje told the Maravi Post after opening the media and political campaign three days training for female lawmakers in the capital Lilongwe on Friday that the media need to spearhead their agendas.

With financial support from Scottish’ Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the workshop has attracted female lawmakers from both Malawi and Scotland on how best to engage the media in advancing retainship.

First Deputy Speaker Mcheka Chilenje observed that female legislators are not getting full support for their constituency achievement which is key to the public for retainship.

Chilenje pleads with the media in advancing women agendas for the transformation of the country saying female MPs have proven to be advocates for community transformation.

“We are pleading with the country’s media to help us in publicizing of what female MPs have done in various constituencies. This will help in instilling trust among the populace. We want the public to appreciate on what female lawmakers are best of their abilities to serve their people,” urges First Deputy Speaker Mcheka Chilenje.

Echoing on the same, Parliamentary committee on women caucus chairperson, Dr. Jessie Kabwira lauded the Scottish National Party (SNP) that the training be materialized as promised during her last year’s visit to that country.

Kabwira who is also the lawmaker for the main opposition Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP)Salima North West appealed for more financial support for bankrolling elections materials saying campaign exercise is very expensive.

Hannah Bordell, SNP MP for Livingston assured Malawians counterpart of total support in towards retainship program that they continue serving the public.

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Vet on Call: Just what is in a vet’s kit?

By DR JOSEPH MUGACHIA
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Many times in the course of my veterinary work, I have to explain my actions. Sometimes a farmer will even question the rationale of my treatment.

This does not bother me at all. In fact when farmers give me their views, I appreciate because then I know they have been keenly observing what the different service providers who visit their farms do and the outcomes of their treatments or advice.

In reality, a farmer may have a much longer farming experience than a doctor depending on his/her age, the time he/she started farming and the age and experience of the doctor.

The farmer will have seen many drugs used on the farm and observed the effects on treated animals but will not know when drugs become useless or when newer and more effective drugs break into the market.

When training students, I always impress on them the need to listen more and talk less when attending to cases. A doctor’s diagnostic work is investigative with lots of questions, observations, research and consultation.

It is the farmer who always makes the first contact with the doctor through a phone call, a face to face case report or a meeting with a farm worker.

Second, when the doctor arrives on the farm, her first task is to get the case history from the farmer. Receiving the case report and taking the history of the case are two critical steps in diagnosing the problem and, therefore, in determining the treatment the doctor should give.

While executing the two steps, the doctor must listen and ask questions without giving any opinion.

I recall one case, two weeks ago, when one of the veterinary students attached to our practice asked me why I kept listening to a farmer who was prescribing a drug for his cow as he gave me the case history.

“Well, at the end of it all, it is your role as the doctor to explain why the suggested drug is inappropriate for the case,” I told the student.

It is not unusual for farmers to suggest the doctor uses one medicine or the other. I, however, advise farmers to always let the doctor make his/her diagnosis and give the treatment plan that he/she should fully explain.

I carry a drug kit that is much bigger than what most veterinary doctors use when attending farm cases. The kit weighs about 15kg when fully stocked and about 4.5kg when the box is empty.

ACCURATELY PREDICT

Many farmers ask me why my drug kit is big while they have seen other service providers go to attend cases on their farms with only a few drugs.

One farmer last week laughed when I told her we would have to go buy some drug I wanted to use on her goats while she could see I had many drugs in my kit. “I even see you have the two medicines that I understand cure all diseases,” she concluded pointing to the two bottles of Alamycin L/A and Penstrep.

I explained none of the two preparations were appropriate for the disease affecting her goats. The encounter with this farmer and the questions I get from other farmers prompted me to share the full arsenal of my drug kit with you.

Hopefully, this will help debunk the belief in a “cure all” medicine that is one of the drivers of fraud in animal health service delivery.

Our veterinary clinic has a policy that a doctor should always carry a minimum variety of drugs and other materials that enables him or her to treat almost all types of cases commonly encountered in the field.

This ensures high efficiency in time management for the clinic and the farmer and timely treatment of sick animals.

The beauty of this policy is that in any one geographical area, one will generally find a defined set of diseases depending on the animals farmed, the farming system that is used and the environment.

Having worked for the last 30 years in Nairobi and its environs, we have been able to fairly accurately predict the range of our drug needs.

In addition to medicines, the kit contains a category of items called sanitary materials. These include surgeon’s gloves, rectal examination gloves, infection prevention chemicals called antiseptics and disinfectants such as surgical spirit, iodine and copper sulphate.

There are also the drug delivery instruments such as syringes, needles and mouth tubes. The kit also contains surgical blades, blood sample collection tubes and glass slides.

Our drug kit is a partitioned into four sections. The first on top is a tray that carries the syringes, needles, drugs in tablet form, blood sample collection tubes and other light non-medical items.

BACTERIAL DISEASES

The second compartment carries the sanitary materials in individual packages, chemicals for treating external parasites and dewormers.

The third compartment carries all the injectable drugs. These are the most commonly used drugs in farm animals because majority of the animals are ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats.

These animals in most cases are not given drugs by mouth because they digest the drugs in the rumen and render them useless.

The full arsenal of the medicines in our drug kit is varied. Just as in humans, animals are affected by a variety of disease-causing organisms as well as a variety of non-infectious diseases.

While some of the diseases may be treated with the same medicine, most of the diseases require specific treatment.

There are therefore drugs to treat diseases caused by bacteria. Such medicines are classified into groups depending on the bacterial diseases they are able to cure.

There are also medicines to cure diseases caused by blood parasites found in the blood cells or living freely in the blood such as east coast fever, red water, gull sickness and sleeping sickness.

The compartment also contains drugs for treating nutritional diseases such as milk fever and vitamin deficiencies.

Need I say more regarding the size of my drug kit and the arsenal of the tools of trade it contains? I advise farmers to be wary of any animal health service provider who constantly uses one or two drugs to treat all diseases.

They should also get very concerned with anyone who claims to have a one “cure all” medicine because it simply does not exist.


Soil testing is key requirement if you want better yields

By JECINTA MWIRIGI
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Contrary to the expectation of many farmers, maximum yields are not achieved only after employment of good agricultural practices such as fertiliser application and use of certified seeds coupled with proper land preparation.

Soil also plays a key role. An investigation was carried out recently in one of the counties to find out the soil condition for farmers who intended to plant crops such as Irish potatoes, peas (green, snow), maize, beans and others.

Two aspects of the soils were examined, namely, soil fertility and the occurrence of bacterial wilt.

Soil fertility

On soil fertility, the status of macro elements such nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK), calcium and magnesium and micro elements like manganese, copper, zinc and iron were examined.

Other factors that were scrutinised include the unfavourable soil characteristics which contribute to plant nutrient uptake and physical characteristics such as pH and soil organic matter.

The results indicated that all (100 per cent) of the 60 soil samples had a pH of between 3.77 and 5.9, which was termed as extreme to moderately acidic for growing of the intended crops.

Further 30 per cent of the samples had inadequate soil organic matter content, while 81 per cent and 56 per cent had inadequate phosphorus and magnesium, respectively.

It was, therefore, recommended that the soil pH be maintained optimum for respective crops. This can be achieved through avoidance of acidifying fertilisers such as diammonium phosphate (DAP) and urea and at the same time apply fertilisers such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N: P: K) 17:17:17, 23:23:0, and 20:20:0.

The zero for potassium (K) was employed where there was no deficiency of the nutrient. In the extreme acidic cases especially where magnesium was also inadequate, broadcasting of dolomitic lime (magmax) on the affected farm was recommended.

The recommended application rates were between 200 and 400kg/ha depending on severity. Since lime reacts relatively slowly, it needs to be in place well before planting acid-sensitive crops to allow adequate time for the pH change to occur.

Generally, it takes three months for lime to react with the soil. Therefore, apply one month before planting and remember that lime requires water to react with the soil.

A November application can thus be preferred for a crop to be planted in March of the following year. Further, lime reacts faster when mixed well with the soil so ensure to apply prior to any tillage and oversee even spread on the whole plot including the edges.

Where organic matter was low, application of well decomposed manure mixed with the endorsed fertiliser was also recommended.

RECYCLING OF SEEDS DISCOURAGED

The recommended amount was between two and five tonnes/acre depending on level of depletion and the crop in question.

The change of the planting fertiliser did not affect topdressing fertilisers such as CAN and foliar feed for crops that need them.

It was also noted that Zinc and copper in the soil are getting depleted in most of the farms hence limiting crop yield. Of all the collected soil samples, 37 per cent had inadequate zinc and 26 per cent copper.

This is against a background whereby zinc has been found to increase yield of some crops such as maize by up to 40 per cent.

To correct copper and zinc deficiencies, about 5kg/acre of copper sulphate and zinc sulphate, respectively, was suggested for the exhausted substance.

It is recommended that application of fertilisers must be synchronised with moisture availability to optimise uptake. One potato farmers’ group that implemented the soil test results increased their production from 15 bags of 100kg per acre to 85 bags/acre.

Bacterial wilt
On bacterial wilt, more than half of the samples (52 per cent) were positive. This translates to huge crop loss especially the potatoes and some farmers with affected pieces of land have claimed to lose as much as 90 per cent of the produce through bacterial wilt.

To address the issue, crop rotation of Irish potatoes with maize, beans, sweet potatoes, kales, cabbages, and strawberry is recommended.

Planting crops of such as capsicum, eggplant, tomatoes, and tobacco together with potatoes was discouraged as they act as alternate host to the bacteria.

After cleaning the infected field, one is advised to always keep the field free from weeds as they act as alternate hosts. It is also sensible to uproot and destroy all the diseased plants as soon as they are detected.

In addition to that, disinfection of farm implements like working tools, gumboots and shoes is endorsed. A cleaning solution of dilution 500ml/1l of water can be used for the farm equipment while soil fumigants like metham sodium or basamid granular can be applied before planting.

Recycling of seeds is discouraged and farmers are encouraged to use certified seeds to reduce pests and disease incidence and improve on yields and quality.


Kenchic’s plan to fight hatchery diseases

KENCHIC HAS adopted a two-prong approach in dealing with Gumboro and Newcastle diseases of poultry at the hatchery
Gumboro disease

The disease was first isolated in a village called Gumboro in USA in early 1960s but by 1980s the virus had spread to the rest of the world.

This Viral infection attacks immune system of Young birds destroying the B lymphocytes in their immature stages in the Bursa.

The virus is hard to kill and can survive in moist old litter for 4 months. The virus can mutate and change its form avoiding the immune system of the bird. It is common in huge Poultry complexes, where birds are raised in multiage systems.

Chickens are more susceptible at 3-6 weeks of age when Bursa is at its maximum rate of development and filled with B cells.

The affected birds discharge whitish diarrhoea, huddles together, massive mortality is observed in non-vaccinated flocks and mortality pattern has a bell shape curve and disappears in 7 days.

Newcastle disease

It is a disease of poultry caused by a Ribulavirus causing both respiratory and enteric infection in chickens of all ages.

Virus enters via any mucosal surface: multiplies in epithelium spreading via the blood stream to other organs, where fast multiplication occurs leading to rise in virus concentration in the blood, multiplies in all organs especially respiratory and intestinal tract, and in case of virulent strains in the nervous system.

Virus shedding occurs by feces and air (aerosol, dust)

The most obvious clinical signs are sudden and massive mortality, with neurological signs like star gazing, limbs paralysis, twisted necks, with inability to feed resulting into greenish diarrhoea.

For birds in production, there is significant drop in egg production.

Solution for day-old chicks

Kenchic has introduced hatchery vaccination in all day-old Broilers against Gumboro, Newcastle and Infectious Bronchitis diseases.

With intensification of broiler production, total or partial condemnation of carcasses has risen due to poor growth rates, cellulitis, water belly, downgrades, high mortality, etc

Because of these enormous losses, the broiler industry has constantly tried to improve the facilities, optimise the stocking densities and even improved some management techniques.

Furthermore, broiler producers seek continuously for new ways of reducing the condemnation rates at the slaughter house.

Recently, more and more trials demonstrated that concentrating the vaccination in the hatchery could significantly improve the profitability to the farmers.

Indeed, the reduction of vaccinations applied in the farms can contribute to reduced mortalities during growing and minimal condemnation at the processing plant and consequently the huge financial loss seen by farmers.

BENEFITS OF THE VACCINE

The vaccination of the day-old chicks in the hatcheries effectively started in the 1970s with the use of Mareks vaccine. Now vaccines against Newcastle disease, IB and Gumboro are available for day old vaccination.

Kenchic has subsequently introduced TRANSMUNE vaccination against Gumboro and VITABRON against Newcastle and Infectious Bronchitis diseases in day old chicks at the hatchery.

These vaccines have wide spread use in Europe, Brazil, and China and emerging markets in Nigeria and Middle East.

There are several reasons for moving the vaccination from the farm towards the hatchery Some of the benefits include:

The vaccine is handled by a few people that are well trained and monitored. It is much easier to control five workers in a hatchery than 70 farmers spread across a wide area. Vaccine is precisely administered in the hatchery.

It is also easier to make sure that the cold chain recommended for storage of the vaccines from the producer to the end user is respected in the hatchery compared to the farm setup.

The chickens are kept in boxes, which make it much easier to manipulate than when they are spread all over a poultry house. Vaccination cover is 100% in the hatchery compared to 70-80% in the farm. It reduces stress on the birds in the farm and ensures early and improved disease resistance/immunity.

Sophisticated and consequently expensive equipment is more affordable for a big structure like a hatchery than for a poultry farm. Also equipment can be better monitored and better maintained in the hatchery than on the farm. Vaccine application becomes more effective. The farmer has more time left to look after the vaccinated birds instead of bothering on vaccination.

Spray vaccination, which is the best method for administration of respiratory vaccines like ND or IB, is much easier to apply and consequently more efficacious when given in the hatchery than when applied on the farm. This vaccination requires dust free environment for effective immunization. The farmer will only do one single Newcastle disease vaccination in the Broiler farm at day 14 instead of 2 vaccinations as done previously. This will reduce stress to the birds, reduce the use of vitamins before and after vaccination, reduce post-vaccination reactions and the cost of treatment.

Better growth rates

Low mortality in the event of disease outbreak.

We strongly recommend this vaccination to all farmers and with acquisition of automatic vaccinators, all Kenchic day old Broiler chicks will be vaccinated at the hatchery against Gumboro, Newcastle and Infectious bronchitis diseases. We are sole providers of this vaccine in East and Central Africa.


Farmer faces Uganda for potato sales

By JOHN GITHINJI
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Every farmer knows that after a harvest, real work starts. To many farmers, marketing produce is the most complicated part of an agribusiness venture.

Joshua Mwangi Kagera, a farmer with over 10 years’ experience under his belt, is currently harvesting potatoes under 30 acres in Ol’Kalou, Nyandarua County.

He is doing it in phases to enable him find the ideal market for his produce and maximise profits.

“I started engaging with farmers immediately after high school in 2004 after securing employment as a turn boy for a lorry whose owner bought farm produce and sold it in Nairobi,” Kagera says.

Later, using the little savings he had made from his employment, Kagera started buying and selling cereal products from farms and supplying to local markets until 2014 when he realised that of all the food produce he had dealt with, potatoes were the most profitable.

He thus acquired a two-acre plot where he planted potatoes. The first crop did well and he was able to harvest 80 sacks of potatoes each weighing 150kg.

“When it came to selling the produce, I discovered I was making money but not as much as I had anticipated despite eliminating the middle men. I even ferried the produce to Mombasa because it would fetch the best price there” Kagera continues.

He says having factored all the expenses from land preparation to harvesting, a sack of potatoes weighing 150kg will cost Sh2,000 in Nyandarua. In Nairobi, the same will go for Sh3,200.

Transport from Nyandarua to Nairobi costs up to Sh200. Add cess levy at Sh70 per bag, labour at Sh250 and middle man at Sh130 and it all comes to Sh650, without factoring in personal allowances like food and rest.

“Taking Sh650 from Sh3,200 leaves you with Sh2500 on a good day. On average I would make a profit of Sh200 per 150kg sack I sold.”

It’s in one of his trips to Nairobi that he met a Ugandan who had brought pineapples that he got information of a better market in the neighbouring country if he had the right middle man.

UNFAVOURABLE CONDITIONS

The Ugandan went ahead and introduced Kagera to a middle man by phone and a deal was made to deliver 80 sacks of potatoes to Kangurumira market in Kampala.

“In Uganda, a sack goes for Sh5,000 translating to a profit of up to Sh1,500 after all the deductions – with transport being the highest at Sh800, cess Sh220, labour Sh250 and middle man Sh150 – are made.” says Kagera.

He says that since he started taking his produce to Uganda in September last year, he has been able to realise profits good enough to enable him to engage in large scale potato farming.

He also adds that the exports have enabled him to secure a loan to buy a lorry worth Sh4 million that he uses to ferry the produce.

Kagera attributes good returns to market research, timing and networking. He says these are activities a produce marketer should engage in to make the best out of the venture.

“When the market dynamics are favourable and the produce is in good condition and delivered in good time, you get good returns.” He says.

He adds that if the conditions are not favourable, the profits can reduce or turn into losses.

Unfavourable conditions include bad road conditions leading to farms and the markets. This affect the perishability period of the produce hence compromising the quality before the product gets to the market.

The other challenge is extortion from Kenya to Uganda by police with a journey costing upwards of Sh4000. Another issue is that crooked middle men who will want to swindle you.

Nyandarua executive for Agriculture James Karitu says that the county government has plans to setup storage facilities to store potatoes for up to six months.

“We are also in talks with foreign investors to source for better variety of seeds to help improve the export our produce while at the same time help start processing industries,” said Dr Karitu.

He added that packaging potatoes into 150kg sacks is not farmer friendly and court cases are hindering gazettement of rules governing produce packaging which is a big concern to farmers.


Diary of a Poultry Farmer: Why quality of feed material is vital

By SUBIRI OBWOGO
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Last Saturday, I got this email from a reader: “I’d like to visit your farm even if it means paying a gate fee!”  

When I learnt that the request was from a farmer in Kamulu which is 20km or so from my farm, I agreed to the visit.

“Although I am a pig farmer,” she wrote, “I find your insights very useful for any agribusiness venture. I am preparing my feed mix but have challenges accessing quality raw materials.”

Speak of the devil and he’s sure to appear! For sure, a few hours before her email hit the server, I’d hosted a group of farmers from different parts of the country at my farm in Njiru in Nairobi.

We shared ideas on how to formulate poultry feeds at home in order to reduce cost and improve quality.

The first thing we discussed was how to tell if the raw materials are of good quality. “The only sure way to know is to test the materials in a credible laboratory,” I intimated.

But then, you also need to know how to interpret the results.

I started off by informing them that feed formulation involves sourcing different raw materials and costing them, selecting the ingredients, weighing, mixing in the right proportions, packaging and testing the quality of the final product.

To illustrate my point on the importance of using quality ingredients, I used a common phrase that I learnt some years back: garbage in, garbage out. Simply put, you reap what you sow.

I then added, “It’s not enough to only test the quality of the finished product.”

“Besides wrong choice of raw materials and mixing, poor outcomes on home-made feed rations sometimes result from using sub-standard raw materials.”

I then told them how to tell if a given raw material is of the right quality. “The only way to verify is to take a sample of the materials like whole maize, fishmeal (omena), maize germ, sunflower cake or soya to a laboratory for testing.”

I take my samples to Kalro in Naivasha and each sample is charged Sh1,000.

As a matter of fact, the next step in formulating feeds after assembling the materials is to test their quality. In order to bring the point home, I introduced the concept of “Crude Proteins” or simply “CP.”

LARGEST SOURCE OF PLANT PROTEINS

“If you don’t remember anything from this training,” I said, “Remember the word ‘CP.’”

I explained that protein requirements in birds and animals is expressed as Crude Protein. “CP connotes the total protein, including nitrogen from protein (true protein) and non-protein sources. It’s the basic nutritional requirement for any feed preparation in animals and birds.”

Test results for sampled feed ingredients sold in local outlets in Busia, Uganda.Test results for sampled feed ingredients sold in local outlets in Busia, Uganda. PHOTO | COURTESY

I realised that some participants were lost and I quickly turned to the table below to show them some real-life examples of how you can use CP to tell if an ingredient is of good quality or sub-standard by simply comparing the test result to the expected level.

“Most cereals and cereal by-products of grains such as maize and wheat which are the main sources of energy have a CP of about 10 per cent. On the other hand, sunflower, soya and omena, which are the main sources of proteins should have a CP value above 30, 45 and 55, respectively,” I explained.

I showed them two samples of soya meal which I’d tested previously; one fake and another of good quality with a CP of 11.6 and 40, respectively (you can’t tell the difference by simply looking).

“Soy bean is the world’s largest sources of plant proteins and one of the most widely used proteins source for feeds globally. Pure and unadulterated soy meal should have a CP of at least 45 per cent,” I pointed out.

I then told them how I had to switch from the supplier who had been selling me the fake soya at Sh56 a kilo to another supplier who was more expensive (Sh75 a kilo), but I was sure of the quality (SoG January 2, 2016) after testing it.

I gave another example of fake maize germ I had been buying. Later after realising that my chicks were not growing fast enough, I tested and found a CP of less than one (0.3). I discovered the seller was grinding maize cobs and passing it as germ. I also changed the supplier.

I could tell from the way they were nodding their heads that they’d understood the concept.

Next week I will discuss the second step in formulating poultry feeds and how tell if the mash meets the minimum standards for optimum growth and reproduction.


Winners of fifth national farmers contest feted

By LEOPOLD OBI
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About 24 top farmers from different parts of the country were feted at the Laico Regency Hotel, Nairobi, last Friday during the fifth National Farmers Awards Competition gala.

The competition which takes place every year has eight categories and a top farmer and  two runners up from every categories are awarded trophies, some cash and farm inputs from the event sponsors.

The categories include youth in agriculture, women in agriculture, physically challenged in agriculture, large scale agro-input, small scale agro input, large scale fully commercialised, and small scale fully commercialised.

But the scheme has introduced a ninth category targeting large commercial farms particularly those in the horticulture and flower growing sector.

The competition is a partnership between Elgon Kenya and the Ministry of Agriculture. Other sponsors include BASF East Africa, Aryster and Seeds of Gold.

The 2018 competition is currently open for application and farmers across the country are invited to apply. The registration forms are available in all the Ministry of Agriculture offices at the sub-county levels.

Simon deteriorated, who is the principal agriculture officer at State Department of Agriculture served as one of the judges. He said judging is a rigorous process which begins at the sub-county level.

Winners from that level are then grouped for judging at the county level then finally at the national level.

“We were keen on the use of technology, environmental conservation, marketing and farm records,” said Mr Muchigiri, adding that besides judging they also give recommendations to help farmers improve their farms.

He, however, said those who entered in 2017 are not eligible for the 2018 competition. “We want to give more time for improvement, and those re-entering after three years should demonstrate improvement. We also encourage inter-visits among farmers to enhance knowledge sharing.”

Blind farmer lights up gala night with win

Anthony King’ori calmly felt his way to the stage with his wife’s steadying hand guiding him.

The small-scale farmer who rears dairy cows and grows batian coffee and vegetables on a two-acre plot was the night’s top farmer under the ‘physically challenged’ category during the national farmer’s awards gala held at Laico Regency Hotel in Nairobi last week.

And he could have as well won any of the other categories since his farm ticked all the right boxes from the use of modern technology to best farm management, proper record keeping to use of best agronomic practices, according the judging panel.

Agriculture Secretary, Ann Onyango awards Joshua King'ori during the awards. Agriculture Secretary, Ann Onyango awards Joshua King’ori during the awards. King’ori won the Physically challenged in Agriculture category in the National Farmers Awards Competition. PHOTO | COURTESY

King’ori who lost his sight was an agricultural extension officer in Nyeri for 25 years until 2011 when diabetes struck him at 49, forcing him to retire. Sadly, barely three months after the diagnosis, his condition deteroriated impairing his vision.

Now 54 and undeterred by his lack of vision, the father of three has revamped his farm to host other crops besides coffee.

“Initially, I concentrated on coffee only then I re-established the venture to include dairy cows and horticultural crops such as cabbages, kales and spinach. Through the new ventures I knew I could significantly enhance my income to support my family,” said the farmer.

Today, his farm in Othaya, Nyeri County, teems with towering banana plants, vegetables, tomatoes and coffee trees and mooing of cows.

He has embraced embryo transfer fertilisation to boost his local inferior breeds to produce pedigree calves and more milk. He has also dug over five pits which he uses for silage making and storing fodder for dry days.

“It means my cattle can go for up to five months even during the driest months when pasture is hard to find. I do not have to worry about the escalating costs of feeds or dwindling pasture which ultimately affects milk production,” he says.

King’ori said market for his milk and fresh farm produce is not a big headache since Othaya market which is just a few kilometres from his home offers ready customers with some traders also buy the produce at the farm.

He has employed two farm but he occasionally does farm activities such as pruning over grown coffee branches.

“I prune coffee trees and balance their branches. This is what I have been doing for decades so I do it with ease,” he said, adding that the recognition has not only given him more impetus but is inspiring many farmers in his home area.
Now in its fifth year, the national farmers’ competition recognises farmers under eight different categories.

FOOD SECURITY OF THE COUNTRY

Bimal Kantaria, CEO Elgon Kenya, the chief sponsor of the event, announced that they have introduced the ninth category in the 2018 contest targeting big flower farmers and horticultural farms.

Mr Kantaria further indicated that the contest whose judging panel is drawn from the Ministry of Agriculture is a great marketing platform for upcoming farmers besides being an opening for smallholder farmers to become better farmers.

Thomas Kipkorir, country manager BASF, they have introduced disposable safety kits for farmers to help in protecting the environment and health of farmers.

Ann Onyango, Agriculture Secretary at Agriculture ministry, said she was happy the award has grown to attract more sponsors.

“The idea started as a unique collaboration between Ministry of Agriculture and Elgon Kenya but now it has attracted many sponsors and it is increasingly becoming more competitive every year. We appreciate the role of the private sector in supplementing the work of the government,” she said, emphasising the inclusion of youth and women in agriculture.

The award winners pose with their prizes together with the competition's organisers. The award winners pose with their prizes together with the competition’s organisers. The competition which takes place every year has eight categories and a top farmer and two runners up from every categories are awarded trophies, money and farm inputs from the event sponsors. PHOTO | COURTESY

Ms Onyango said both smallholder and large scale farmers are critical to the rural economies and food security of the country.

“Over 80 per cent of all the market export is from agriculture according to 2017 economic survey. This is why we will begin including large scale farmers in the competition,” said Ms Onyango.

Franklin Bett, a former Roads minister and chairman Agricultural Finance Corporations, indicated that AFC has 46 branches countrywide but are there plans to have branches in every county to enable more farmers to access loans to boost their farming activities.

He added that they are bench marking with other countries lending to farmers without collateral to make sure even farmers without securities can access loans.

“Our biggest challenge right now is the high rate of loan defaulting. Many farmers take huge loans from AFC and fail to repay then ask the government to give them a waiver,” said Mr Bett. “This time we only want to deal with serious farmers.”

Youth in Agriculture

  1. Nicholus Njogu – Muranga County
  2. Josphat Kipruto – Uasin Gishu County
  3. Mohamed Abdalla – Kilifi County

Small scale farm gearing to commercialisation

  1. Lucy park – Kiambu County
  2. Lulu Farm – Vihiga County
  3. Mary Wairiumu Oloo – Trans Nzoia County

Physically challenged in Agriculture

  1. Anthony Kingori – Nyeri County
  2. Francis Kimani – Laikipia County
  3. Allice Mukami –

Women in agriculture

  1. Gladys Migwi – Nyeri county
  2. Hellen Wairimu – Nyandarua
  3. Nelly Enterprises – Kilifi

Large scale agro–input dealer, over Sh5million investment

  1. Josemo distributors – Kisii County
  2. Tarakwa Agrochemicals – Nandi County
  3. Muhoroni Agrochemicals – Kisumu County

Small sacle agro-input dealers, less than Sh5million investment

  1. Beatrice Okello – Kisumu
  2. Green Track Invvestmnet – Laikipia
  3. Safina Farmers Ark – Vihiga

Small scale farms fully commercialized

  1. Peris Gitau – Nakuru
  2. Robert Githua – Nyeri
  3. Kenneth Anyoso Ongenge – Bungoma County

Large scale fully commercialized

  1. Fresh gold Kenya – Laikipia
  2. Eldonyo-Narok – Narok County
  3. Patbon Investment – Kilifi

Joint program to verify identities of refugees kicks off in Rwanda

This will facilitate refugees’ ability to access Government services, employability and to move more freely in the country and abroad.

Kigali, Rwanda – The Government of Rwanda through the Ministry for Disaster Management and Refugees (MIDIMAR), the National Identification Agency (NIDA), and Immigration together with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have today launched a joint verification exercise of refugees and asylum seekers residing in Rwanda for the purpose of updating information and verifying their physical presence in the country through biometric data. This will positively impact refugees by giving them greater access to identity documents which will facilitate their ability to access Government services, employability and to move more freely in the country and abroad.

Rwanda has committed in last year’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees convened by then US President Obama to integrate refugees in the Government health insurance (urban refugees), education, documentation services and promotion of inclusion of refugees through the joint Rwanda- UNHCR livelihoods strategy. By sharing of refugee data, the Government and UNHCR can plan properly for this integration.

Registration of refugees and asylum-seekers in Rwanda is a joint activity between the Government and UNHCR. Both parties adjudicate registration cases, make joint decisions on eligibility for registration and collect individualized basic biodata together. Updated information and documentation will allow for better protection and assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers in Rwanda, but also will contribute to better planning by the Government, UNHCR and relevant stakeholders dealing with refugees.

In May of 2017, the Government of Rwanda and UNHCR signed an agreement governing sharing of data on identity of refugees in Rwanda, which has set the stage for the joint verification exercise in Rwanda. The verification exercise is scheduled to start with urban refugees in Kigali and Huye before moving to the six refugee camps. UNHCR welcomes this progressive move by the Government which will lead to better refugee management, protection and assistance.


Northwestern Syria: “Already bad situation getting much worse” – MSF

February 09, 2018

On February 8, a health center partially supported by Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Mishmishan, in northwestern Syria’s Idlib region, was hit by an airstrike that killed six people and wounded 17. This follows an earlier incident, on January 29, when two airstrikes hit an MSF-supported hospital in Saraqab district, also in Idlib, killing five people.

Intense fighting and airstrikes in northern Syria have escalated since December, resulting in one of the largest population displacements seen since the beginning of the conflict. In the south of Idlib, Syrian government forces and their allies are fighting against armed opposition groups. Behind the front lines, in central and northern Idlib, aerial bombing is hitting civilian infrastructure, including medical facilities, deepening the crisis for people attempting to flee the violence and find safety. Tens of thousands of newly displaced families have been trying to find space among the hundreds of thousands of displaced people already crowded into northern Idlib governorate. Many have no tents and are frightened, cold, and vulnerable to the spread of disease.

Omar Ahmed Abenza, MSF head of mission for northwestern Syria, provides an overview of the situation today in Idlib:

Yesterday a health center in Mishmishan, in northwestern Syria’s Idlib region, was hit by an airstrike. This is another step towards disaster in this troubled zone. Once again, this bombing is completely outrageous and cannot be tolerated. It is a sad but undeniable fact that civilian areas – and specifically health care facilities – are being hit in northwestern Syria. Airstrikes, although used regularly during the seven-year-long conflict, are currently at an intensity that should be a wake-up call.

MSF was supporting the vaccination activities of the health center in Mishmishan. In the second half of 2017, that team vaccinated more than 10,000 children there. This service is now shattered. The area of the health center where the vaccination activity took place was badly damaged, destroying the stock of vaccines and the fridges required to keep the vaccines cold.

Given the massive numbers of families fleeing to this area from the conflict raging further south and east, there were many vulnerable displaced people who did not necessarily know about the vaccination services in the health center. That is why MSF supported a vaccination team to start some outreach activities. The morning the health center was bombed [in Mishmishan], the vaccination team was out in nearby villages. Their lives, and the lives of parents and children who would have been queuing for vaccinations at the health center, may have been saved by that lucky coincidence.

That is no consolation for the six people killed by the strike, all patients or caregivers. And it is no consolation for the 17 people wounded, among them three medics from the health center. We send our deepest condolences to the friends and families of those killed, and we wish a safe recovery to those who were wounded.

This situation also raises the question of where will the wounded be treated.

There is a terrible knock-on effect each time a medical facility is bombed. For example, managers of the referral hospital nearby at Qunaya, to which MSF is providing a comprehensive package of support, were made extremely and understandably nervous by what happened at Mishmishan. In order to minimize the exposure of medics and patients in case they too would be bombed, the Qunaya hospital management reduced services, sent non-critical patients home, and kept a skeleton team running the Emergency Room and the operating theater, but nothing else for the moment.

This domino effect ripples out in waves each time there is a strike on a hospital or clinic. The result is more people in greater need with fewer health services open and available. The circle is certainly vicious. Those facilities that remain open are so overwhelmed that consultations are rushed, errors in diagnosis can be made, referral options for more critical cases are harder to arrange or may be impossible. And so more people become more seriously sick and have a greater need for more advanced medical care, which is becoming ever more constrained.

Our mobile clinic teams see this as they move around the settlements of displaced families, sheltering in the cold, crowded into tents, sometimes having travelled dozens of miles barefoot to get away from fighting or the threat of bombing. Among the most prevalent medical conditions are respiratory tract infections and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. Without access to care, these conditions can worsen, and, in the case of chronic diseases, become eventually life-threatening. The MSF mobile clinic team can treat the patients they find, but there are hundreds of thousands of displaced people spread across northern Idlib, and not all people can get to see a doctor or nurse.

An already bad situation is in the process of getting much worse. The requirement to avoid hitting civilian areas and civilian infrastructure, such as medical facilities, is the first step to avoid a catastrophe.

MSF was one of several organizations supporting the Mishmishan health center with donations of medical supplies and medicines, however no MSF staff were on the ground in this facility. In December 2017 another organization took over general donation support for the Mishmishan health center and MSF changed to focus specifically on supporting the facility’s vaccination services, training and paying incentives to vaccination staff, equipping the vaccination center, and providing vaccines.

Elsewhere in the Idlib region, MSF has three mobile clinic teams with MSF staff on the ground, and ad hoc distribution teams providing winter-survival and hygiene kits to displaced people. MSF also has a full-support partnership agreement with Qunaya hospital and provides varying levels of distance-support to other Syrian hospitals and health centers in the region.*

In the south of Idlib governorate Syrian government forces and their allies are engaged in intense fighting against armed opposition groups. Behind the frontlines, in central and northern Idlib, aerial bombing is hitting civilian infrastructure including medical facilities, deepening the crisis for people who fled as the fighting approached their towns and villages. Since December last year, tens of thousands of families have been trying to find space among the hundreds of thousands of displaced people already crowded into northern Idlib governorate. Many have no tents and are trying to squeeze in with other families. Frightened and cold, people’s health is deteriorating.