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Friday, July 6th, 2018


Foster co-operatives to be at centre of environmental efforts

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Today is the International Day of Cooperatives (IDC). The 2018 theme is “Sustainable consumption and production” and its slogan is “Sustainable societies through co-operation”. The theme is aligned with that of the 2018 High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development where UN Members States will review progress towards achieving the SDG 6, 7, 11, 12 and 15 which are clean water and sanitation, clean and affordable energy, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production and life on land, respectively.

The history of cooperatives dates back to 1908 when the first cooperative — a dairy cooperative — was established. The year 1931 marks the government’s first formal involvement in cooperatives when the Cooperative Ordinance was enacted to regulate the operations of cooperatives. Since then, cooperatives have been successful, growing into various sectors like agriculture, housing, transport and consumerism with the most popular being the savings and credit societies, making their mark not only locally but globally.


A business should be considered truly successful if it has three bottom lines: people, planet and profit. Cooperatives have made tremendous strides in giving Kenyans job opportunities and avenues to create wealth and boosting their profits. However, they should in the same effort find ways to care for the environment. This year’s IDC theme provides an opportunity for them to show us how they run their businesses while taking care of the environment through promoting responsible production and consumption.

Cooperatives must add environmental stewardship to their areas of focus especially because so far, Kenya’s elected leaders have shown little initiative in making environmental conservation and sustainable development part and parcel of their most important policies. During the previous elections, neither of the candidates mentioned environmental conservation as a key agenda of their governments. The same is also seen during our leaders’ official speeches. Yet plenty of institutions outside the government can be seen stepping up to this challenge. Jonathon Porrit calls this a “governance shift”: a phenomenon where governments are stepping back and businesses are stepping forward to lead change.


Kenya’s population is fast growing. However, our attitude towards responsible production and consumption is not. When it comes to this, how can cooperatives engage? First, they themselves should be responsible producers and consumers. In environmental conservation it is the little things that lead to big wins. For example, are their offices designed in a way that promote this way of life? Good examples are efficient washrooms and electricity use, glass windows, drinking organically produced coffee or tea and minimal use of single use plastic cutlery. These are small actions that go a long way and save the co-operatives money at the same time. But big actions can also be taken. Organic waste makes up over 70 per cent of waste generated. Imagine if our agricultural cooperatives insisted on producing and using organic manure?


Two, they should focus on product/services design rather than product/service consumption. This is because 1) asking consumers to cut down on consumption is not a realistic goal and 2) it is consumption that drives the economy. The problem is not in consuming but in consumption. Cooperatives should stop designing products/services that will be produced using the already rapidly diminishing resources. Instead, they should pay attention to what materials are going into the product, make products that last longer and shift from models of ownership to those of service.

Three, cooperatives should participate in sustainable environmental conservation activities. I insist on using the word ‘sustainable’ because of tree-planting. Tree-planting seems to be very big but are we actually growing trees or just planting them?


Tree planters nowadays are required to have an engagement policy where the trees planted are taken care of for at least three years to increase their chances of survival. Cooperatives should also train their workers and members on responsible production and consumption patterns because information is power and with it, we are able to make and influence good decisions. But in order for all these to begin and continue for generations to come, the fourth and most important thing must be done: co-operatives must make these actions their lifestyle. They should be intrinsically woven into their vision, mission, and daily objectives so much so that it becomes like breathing. It is only when this happens that responsible production and consumption becomes second nature.

The economic and environmental goals should not be a source of conflict. They should go hand in hand because ‘greening’ our cooperatives should not be something that is nice to have. It should be a must have. Happy International Cooperatives Day!

Purity Wanjohi is the founder of Mazingira Safi Initiative

Why dialogue and referendum only way out for Kenya

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There is a lot of sense in the reasoning that premature campaigns are not helping Kenya. It is worrying, 2022 is a whole four years to go but a foreigner would be excused for imagining Kenya is gearing up for an election in weeks. The confusion and cacophony that have suddenly engulfed the hitherto formidable ruling coalition, Jubilee, only months after the General Election is a perfect recipe for economic gridlock. As a matter of logic, it is near an impossibility to marry high octane succession debate with such “high-sounding” and “sexy” goals like Agenda Four.

Importantly, in a country whose politics is by and large tribe-mediated, a chasm within Jubilee is a sure curtain raiser for ethnic animosities, as witnessed in the past.

But it is not everyone who can see the situation from this perspective, so do not expect campaigns to cease, reason being 2022 is a do-or-die affair for our leading political protagonists. Still, it is possible for voices of reason to intervene and ameliorate the situation, as has always happened. Once upon a time the church/religious community and civil society played this role quite well. Not anymore.

Consider, for instance, that even as we get glued on the intraparty war in Jubilee and the confusing, if confused, place of former prime minister and ODM leader Raila Odinga in the whole jigsaw, there are latent and not-so-latent conflicts that need high-minded attention.

One of these is the unsettled question of the relationship between the Turkana community and our newest kid on our economic block — oil. The community needs a lot of convincing that that oil is as good for them as it is for the country. The faster that happens the more we avoid our own Niger Delta situation.

But for now, our most active volcano remains the land question. This country is currently dotted by land-based conflict hot spots. Things in this department have been moving from bad to worse with the promulgation of Constitution 2010 and the resultant birth of devolution as its cornerstone. Suddenly, ethnic sub-nationalism is the most valued currency for our engagement as communities. Is devolution turning out to be more of a curse than the envisaged blessing?


That is the question that crosses the mind when one listens to voices like Nandi Governor Stephen Sang and a band of fellow local leaders suddenly laying claim to parts of Kisumu County. The argument is that immediately after independence, founding president, Jomo Kenyatta and his vice, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, found spaces in the raised lands for settlement of members of the Luo community to save them from perennial floods in the lower lands. It is now over 50 years down the line, you wonder why some people want the situation reviewed. Elsewhere, boundary disputes exist between Nyamira and Kericho counties over who rightfully owns Borabu constituency.

This is just one of the examples of how Kenya, as a nation, is still a disturbed soul.

As political temperatures rise going towards 2022, special attention needs to be paid to the Rift Valley region, with specific focus on how the Uhuru succession debate and architecture pans out. Sudden boundary quarrels with neighbouring counties, shrill voices calling upon the president to declare his position on the fate of his deputy, William Ruto, as his successor, plus the equally intriguing recent call by a group of Rift Valley leaders to the president to denounce his “handshake” with Raila should not be overlooked. Neither should suggestions by a group calling itself Kikuyu Council of Elders on DP William Ruto to retire alongside his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

This country cannot afford to go to another election before a national palaver and whose main product should be a referendum to panel-beat the Constitution. Handshake and the question of the Uhuru succession should be treated as intertwined and springboards to a better Kenya as opposed to vehicles to self-aggrandisement. This is the message the political leadership across Kenya should get clearly.

Parliament has no role in JSC vetting, judge rules

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A judge on Friday told the National Assembly to keep off vetting of Judicial Service Commission (JSC) members.

Justice Enoch Chacha Mwita ruled that the National Assembly has no role in vetting and approving Court of Appeal judge Mohammed Warsame so that he can serve his second tenure at JSC.

“Subjecting persons duly elected by peers as required by the law to approval by the National Assembly will not only expose them to ridicule, possible political patronage and horse-trading, but would defeat the spirit of the Constitution, thus interfere with the independence of JSC and ultimately that of the Judiciary,” said Justice Mwita.

He said a final report by a committee of experts had indicated that in JSC only the two members appointed by the President are supposed to be vetted by Parliament and not the remaining eight who are elected.


The judge said the case, which had been filed by the Law Society of Kenya to protest against Justice Warsame’s vetting, raised a genuine constitutional grievance because there was an attempt to force a duly elected JSC member to approval by Parliament contrary to the law.

While the judge criticised the National Assembly in a case involving the membership of JSC, he defended it in another in which he upheld its decision on the vetting of three other members.

Justice Mwita set aside the legal roadblock that had barred former Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Olive Mugenda, former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei and former Clerk of the National Assembly Patrick Gichohi from assuming office as JSC commissioners.


The judge said that there is no requirement for approval of Mr Gichohi as a nominee of the Public Service Commission hence his vetting made no legal effect.

He ruled that the Act is silent on the procedure for identifying a nominee of PSC to JSC.

“Having given due consideration to this case, the constitution and precedent, I agree to the extent that only Mr Gichohi did not require approval by the National Assembly and that Parliament was wrong to vet as well as approve him,” ruled Justice Mwita.

He added: “regarding the appointment of Prof Mugenda, and Mr Koskei, there was no violation of the Constitution. I am also unable to find constitutional invalidity of the JSC Act.”

He pointed out that indeed the law requires transparency and accountability in public affairs as well as public participation in such appointments.

But with regards to the nomination of Prof Mugenda and Mr Koskei, the judge said it was purely a discretion of the President.

He therefore said that in their case, the procedure is well stipulated in the constitution hence there was no inconsistency in the manner in which the two were appointed.

“The law confers discretion on the President to nominate a man and a woman, who are not lawyers to represent the public, it does not place any conditions on how this appointment should be done,” said Justice Mwita.

While on one hand there were allegations raised against Prof Mugenda in the suit regarding the existence of a Parliamentary report which recommended her to be investigated over issues of students disturbances at the university while she was the VC, court was told on the other hand that the National Assembly was the one at fault for ignoring such claims during the vetting process.

But the judge ruled that JSC commissioners’ integrity should be unquestionable and that it was not a matter of the court to make a determination on that issue since the National Assembly had cleared her.


“The Court recognises the doctrine of separation of powers and the fact that it is not sitting on appeal over the decision of the National Assembly, the mandate of the court at this stage is to check and be satisfied that Parliament acted in accordance with the constitution not substitute its resolutions,” ruled Justice Mwita.

Katiba Institute had sued the Public Service Commission, the National Assembly and the Attorney General while challenging the appointment of the three.

The Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) secretary general, George Lukoye who swore an affidavit which raised allegations, court cases and political affiliations against the three nominees, was listed as an interested party in the case besides JSC and the trio.

JSC has eleven members who include the Chief Justice, one judge each drawn from the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the High Court as well as a magistrate.

It also includes the Attorney-General, the Chief Registrar, two members of the Law Society of Kenya, a representative of PSC and two members to represent the public.

Justice Warsame was re-elected to the JSC by his Court of Appeal colleagues and he garnered 16 votes against four obtained by his sole challenger, Justice Wanjiru Karanja.

He said approval by the National Assembly provides checks on those already elected to JSC with some scope of public scrutiny of the appointment process. However, he said such vetting is limited in as far as membership of JSC is concerned.

“In my view, that is the constitutional reality we must live with, uphold and defend,” ruled Justice Mwita.

Multiple laws on riparian land are causing confusion

If you own land bordering a river or through which a river flows, how far from the banks should you build or farm? What guides your decision? The national law on river, or riparian reserves, is unclear; it confuses professionals, developers and landowners alike. It is, therefore, not surprising that in practice, we have so much breach. I suspect, however, that most of the breaches are unintended.
Compliance with the laws on riparian land is largely dependent on the legal framework one was schooled in. But we have a situation where developers, professionals, landowners and regulators read from different scripts. A number of laws dwell on the issue, some explicitly, others implicitly. Let me highlight some.

The 1969 Survey Act governs the conduct and standards of survey. It provides that for surveys of government land, what we now call public land, a reservation of not less than 30 metres above the high-water mark shall be reserved for government purposes on all tidal rivers. Note that the emphasis is on government land and tidal rivers. So what is the position for surveys on community and private land? Who determines the high-water mark for the many tidal rivers around the country; indeed, is this ever systematically done? Moreover, some plans prepared under this law introduce a direct contradiction. The annotation along some of the rivers reflected on survey plans is silent on river reserve widths, instead providing that the legal boundary is the centre line of such rivers.


Anyone with property bound by a river with such annotation could easily misconstrue the annotation to imply that the river enjoys no riparian reserve. This is open to legal interpretation.
The Agriculture Act, an old statute which governs agricultural land, requires that unless one has permission from an authorised officer, no cultivation should be done on land lying within two metres of a watercourse. It, however, gets more complex when it states that where the watercourse itself is wider than two metres, the land to be left uncultivated should be equal to the width of the watercourse but up to a maximum of 30 metres. This presupposes that landowners will keep measuring river widths and adjusting cultivation lines; quite an expectation.

The regulations of the 1996 Physical Planning Act introduce yet more haze. Without reference to the Survey and Agriculture Acts, they provide that during the submission of sub-division plans for consideration for approval, reserves provided along any river, stream or watercourse shall not be less than 10 metres wide, on each bank. This applies except in areas where there is established flooding. But how will a developer or farmer, or even a professional, interpret this against the above laws?

Further, the Environmental Management and Coordination Act 2015, which amends the 1999 version, gives the line minister broad powers to protect and conserve the environment. The minister may also issue regulations or standards for the management of river banks. The 2006 regulations provide that no person shall cultivate or undertake any development activity within a minimum of six and a maximum of 30 metres from the highest ever recorded flood level, on either side of a river or stream, and as may be determined by the authority from time to time. This law further provides that the minister may declare a river bank to be a protected area and impose any desirable restrictions to protect it. Immense powers on the one hand but on the other this statute does not repeal the others.

Finally, the 2016 Water Act establishes a Water Resources Authority, which is an organ of the national government. This fairly active organ, which was known as the Water Resources Management Authority under the 2002 Water Act, is responsible for regulating the management and use of water resources in Kenya. The various rules formulated under this law, however, appear to give no guidance on widths of riparian reserves, which, I presume, imply that the other prescriptive statutes apply.
Clearly, we have a legal conundrum on the matter. Yet legal clarity is fundamental for the effective management and preservation of riparian reserves. It is likely that there was insufficient inter-sectoral collaboration during the enactment of the laws. The government may, therefore, need to make proactive efforts to harmonise them and draw clear guidelines. These guidelines should inform all land categories and uses.

For the relevant State enforcement agencies to cope with the task of educating the public and policing rivers countrywide, the government will need to ensure that they have adequate financial and technical capacity. Similar attention should be given to lake and seashore reserves.
Mr Mwathane is a surveyor. [email protected]

Mobile phones can help insure the poor

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If you visit healthcare facilities – whether in the villages or towns – you are likely to notice the proliferation of posters offering financial assistance, screaming messages such as “instant credit” or “loans within 48 hours”.

It is by design, not accident, that microfinance institutions and other credit companies find customers in hospitals. Being sick in Kenya is expensive, with many patients unprotected by health insurance. This, in turn, leads to a dependence on fundraising or loans to offset medical bills.


Efforts by county governments like Makueni and national government institutions such as the National Hospital Insurance Fund to lower the cost of insurance cover have made gains in attracting more users of health insurance products. The Makueni County government cover requires households to pay only Sh500 annually, whereas NHIF payments are graduated depending on income with Sh500 as the monthly minimum.

Despite these efforts, however, health insurance penetration is still low. The latest data from the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) shows that penetration resides at 2.73 per cent against the global average of 6.28 per cent.

One of the biggest challenges in increasing insurance penetration rates, especially at the low end of the market, is that many users often find it difficult to buy a product whose immediate benefits cannot be felt.


Additionally, many insurance products are not designed to cater for low-income earners. For example, many annual insurance policy premiums are required to be paid upfront.

Fortunately, the rapid uptake of mobile phones and mobile wallets across the continent offers a particularly effective channel for the distribution of insurance to underserved consumers. It is a cost-effective and accessible channel for enrolment, premium collection, customer servicing and claims processing. It also offers the insurer access to a large pool of customers.

So effective is this medium for insurance distribution that the GSMA has seen a nine per cent year-over-year increase in mobile insurance services. Early successes in Africa include Tigo Ghana’s family care insurance product launched in 2010 that resulted in 500,000 registered members within the first 25 months.

Data from the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) found that packaging insurance products through voice and data usage can rapidly lead to greater insurance uptake.


In Kenya, the mobile insurance model has started to take effect with the introduction of products such as Riziki Cover by Equitel from Finserve Africa.

The government’s plan to widen universal healthcare under the “Big Four Agenda” should potentially consider the merits of the mobile insurance model.

For Kenya, mobile insurance is still a relatively new concept. However, it holds great promise as a mechanism for addressing the financial inclusion gap and reducing the financial burden on consumers who are most vulnerable.

Jeremy Leach is Executive Director and CEO, Inclusivity Solutions. [email protected]   

One stem, two plants for more tomato yields

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The weather is drizzly as the Seeds of Gold team navigates its way into Mukuria, a sleepy hamlet in Kandara, Murang’a County.

Tea is the mainstay of residents as the crop covers the expanse of the countryside, spreading as far as the eyes can see.

Our destination is Paul Mwangi’s farm, where he grows tomatoes, propagating them using double-stem technology for higher yields.

“I learnt the technology from the internet and I have perfected it over the years. It enables me get double yields from a single tomato plant,” offers Mwangi, who studied computer engineering at Nairobi Institute of Business Studies, and completed in 2013.

Mwangi says he begins by buying certified seeds from the agrovet. Thereafter, he plants the seeds in trays and when they reach the size to transplant, he nips the plant’s tip.

“This enables it develop side shoots, leading to formation of two or more main stems,” he says.

He later transfers the plant inside pots in a greenhouse where he grows them. “I normally remain with two suckers on a single plant and prune the other. The advantage of growing more stems is that it translates to more tomato yields from a single plant.”

The plants grow and when they reach maturity, each yields fruits as independent plantlets despite all developing from a single plant.

“From a limited space, and just from one seedling, one harvests more tomatoes, depending on how well they manage the crops, nutrition and protection from pests and diseases,” says Mwangi, who invested Sh350,000 when starting.

Mwangi has two greenhouses measuring 8 by 15m each, which he bought on second-hand, and grows his tomatoes in pots.

“I harvest five crates of tomatoes every week when the crops mature. If I was using the normal system, I would end up with three,” says the farmer who is in his mid-20s and has been using the technology for seven months.

Other than marketing snags, his biggest challenge initially was pests and diseases.

When he started, bacterial wilt, fusarium wilt, root rot and blight and pests such leaf-miner ravaged his crop. And due to the costly nature of testing and treating soils, he had to device means to ensure his agribusiness thrives.

“To overcome the bacterial wilt problem, I was advised to go for virgin soil. I ‘imported’ soil from an unused patch of land, which had for long remained forested and experienced little human activities,” he says.


He ferried the soil into the greenhouses, then mixed it with manure and filled it into the planting bags. All this while he maintained zero contact between the ‘imported’ soil and the soil in the greenhouses.

He then made wooden beds where he placed the pots filled with soil.

“The idea was to ensure the soil in the bags and that inside the green do not mix. This further minimises contact between the plants and the soil in the greenhouse, and enables the water to spread throughout the bags.”

He waters the plants using drip irrigation system, with a drip for each planting bag. “I get the water from a small water pan that I dug and put dam liner at the bottom. So far, I have been able to overcome diseases and pests, thanks to the technology,” says the farmer, who worked at a construction site and flower firm in Nakuru before finding his footing in tomato farming.

After planting the tomatoes, for the first one-and-a-half months, he waters them once per day but after that, until they mature, he does it thrice.

He uses soluble fertiliser that he applies through the drip irrigation system.

“This way, I minimise wastage of the fertiliser as the drip only gives the plants the amount they require at any time, during each of their stages of growth,” says Mwangi, who propagates twin stem/twin head tomato seedlings for sale at Sh15 each.

He sells his harvest to local hotels, schools and hospitals at Sh80 per kilo.

“After transplanting, use phosphorus-based dissolved fertiliser which is good for the tomatoes’ root development. Later, introduce standard soluble fertiliser for their quick and optimum growth until when the plants near flowering. Then shift to potassium-rich fertiliser for the tomatoes’ big size development and good colour,” he advises.

Mathew Dida, a professor of plant breeding at Maseno University, points out that twin-stemming is an effective way of boosting one’s yields especially in instances where one has limited land like in greenhouses.

The technology helps in breaking the apical dominance in the plant ensuring its side branches, which are usually the more numerous, thrive and in effect, from a single plant, one is able to get more fruits.

“Cultivation in the greenhouse minimises the likelihood of attacks from pests particularly Tuta absoluta, and diseases such as the different blights, fusarium and wilts,” says Dida, adding the use of virgin soils in instances where one cannot afford soil treatment, to an extent helps to keep tomato pests and diseases at bay.

Farm clinics at heart of Big Four Agenda

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Next week on Friday and Saturday, Seeds of Gold in partnership with Elgon Kenya, Bayer East Africa, Cooper K-Brands and SimbaCorp, will be holding its ninth clinic at Kirinyaga University

The clinic comes against the backdrop of new challenges on the farm that include diseases and pests like the Fall armyworm and Tuta absolute. These challenges have made the need for accurate information an urgency to farmers.

However, farmers are currently grappling with an overload of unverified information, especially in the digital space, on various issues that affect them.

It is important to note any misinformation often leads to a trail of destruction on the farms. The misinformation is coming at a time when extension officers, initially the source of trusted information, remain inaccessible by farmers.

Numerous reports have indicated that by 2050, the global population will hit nine billion with a concomitant impact on food demand.

Growing enough quality food from dwindling land sizes will be increasingly difficult and the pressure will be on farmers to maximise yields and produce crops of ever higher quality.

At the heart of preparing the farmers to tackle such Herculean task lies information access. Interventions by institutions like Food and Agriculture Organisation have shown that farmers who are empowered with knowledge on even the basic of farm management practices have gone on to more than double yields.

Seeds of Gold farm clinics have become a forum where experts and farmers meet and share information and the most pressing problems facing the industry.

The upcoming edition comes at a time when the agriculture sector is receiving the much-needed attention.

In line with the food security initiative in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda, the clinics become a crucial forum for industry players keen on growing yields, income and elevating the sector to the status it rightly deserves.


As Elgon Kenya, Nation Media Group and other partners, our focus has been on new age farming technologies and inputs that insulate farmers from harsh climate.

The past eight editions have been an eye-opener in championing the way future ones will be conducted while offering important lessons on what farmers really want.

The attendance has been remarkable with farmers travelling from across every corner of the country, some to just ask questions they have struggled to find answers to while others attend to share their success stories.

Indeed, the clinics are slowly creating a farming revolution and we have received impetus to visit all the 47 counties to ensure that the right information reaches the right people at the right time.

To better handle farmers’ varied needs, more partners including Cooper K-Brands and Bayer East Africa, have come on board, helping to bring closer to smallholder farmers affordable and modern products while investing in their training.

The partnership between Elgon Kenya and Bayer marks another milestone in the two companies’ long-standing relationship guided by their shared values and history in making Kenya a land of plenty by providing innovative and home-grown solutions to small-scale farmers.

The newly unveiled Animal Health Department of Elgon Kenya also features in the clinics. The unit seeks to respond to growing market demand for livestock products among smallholder farmers especially those who have diversified into livestock farming.

Trained animal health officials will be available to answer any questions and offer timely interventions. And as we look to actualise the aspirations of creating a hunger-free Kenya and transforming the country into a land of plenty, we can only count on each other to make this happen.

The writer is the communication and marketing manager at Elgon Kenya.

Agriculture funding low for food security

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Sometime in the 80s, Kenya had a small population of about 20 million people. Its budgetary allocation towards food security and agriculture those days was 11.2 per cent, a figure above the 10 per cent minimum threshold.

With time, however, allocation towards agriculture plummeted that by 2001, they hit below five per cent. In the last five years, they have stagnated at three per cent.

The government recently announced measures under the Big Four Agenda towards boosting the country’s food security by heavily investing in agriculture, but analysts note its financial commitment in the recently announced budget remain too meagre to deliver the promise.

Just like in the previous years, agriculture was allocated a paltry 3.5 per cent of the national government expenditure, 6.5 percent shy of the required minimum.

Agriculture and economic experts have noted that it may be difficult to achieve food security priority in the Big Four Agenda with the underfunding of the sector.

Dr Alex Awiti, the Director East Africa Institute, Aga Khan University, says that the paltry budgetary allocation makes the quest to be food secure a pipe dream unless necessary incentives and policy intervention are urgently put in place.

He noted that the food production sector is undercapitalised making people run away from small-holder farming.


“The 3.5 per cent is way too low below the African Union member states commitment known as the Maputo Declaration of 2003 to allocate 10 per cent of government expenditures to agriculture and rural development,” he said, adding the commitment was reiterated with the Malabo Declaration of 2014.

“A lot of money in the current budget for instance has been directed to fund research, yet extension services which are very critical in linking farmers and research has been forgotten. How will farmers access this research finding or technologies in the absence of extension service providers?” Dr Awiti posed during a post-budget analysis forum by Route to Food Initiative, an NGO.

Alexander Owino, a financial sector specialist, noted the 2018/2019 budget looked at food production without addressing post-harvest losses, cost of farm inputs, extensions services and low technology intervention for farmers.

He said that processing cannot be achieved without surplus food production.

Experts also suggested the government should put emphasis on community-based irrigation schemes, instead of large-scale and expensive irrigation schemes like Galana-Kulalu which are yet to benefit the country.

Irrigation was allocated Sh8.5 billion in the budget.

Benard Moseti, a research coordinator and policy analyst at Route to Food Initiative, noted that the country’s budget making process is top bottom and does not take account on the views of the farmers.

“Manufacturers have been allowed to import pesticides into the country at duty free rate, without a caveat on to when the importation should stop, which disempowers local manufacturers,” said Moseti.

Feedback: Curbing blight in pepino melon

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Kindly advise on how I can save my pepino melon which has been affected by early/late blight. Flowers are also shedding off before they mature into fruits.

There are several fungicides that you could use for preventive and curative purposes. All chemicals that contain Mancozeb as one of the active ingredients are majorly used for prevention.

They include Milthane super. While fungicides that have Metalaxy and Carbendazim are mainly for curative purposes. They include Twigalaxy, Ridomil gold, Mistress, Rodazim and Victory.

Flower shedding/abortion is mainly due to some form of stress such as fungal diseases, insect-pest or nutrient deficiency. I would recommend that at the budding stage or early flowering, apply fruit and flower foliar fertiliser mixed with an insecticide.

Muriuki Ruth Wangari,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.


I have been doing research on runner beans. However, I have not learnt much because I don’t seem to find farmers online from whom I can learn. Please share contacts for farmers growing runner beans so I can pay them a visit.

Martin Maina, Gatanga

Writer Kihu Irimu once featured a farmer, John Njoroge growing the crop in Kiambu. Talk to the farmer through him on 0724945952. Also, the best persons to learn from are exporters of runner beans for the various markets around the world. They would furnish you with the information that you require, in addition they are headquartered in Nairobi.

Muriuki Ruth Wangari,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.

I write to inquire about growing avocados in Molo. I wish to know if the weather is good for the fruit and I also wish to know which is the best variety that I can plant for the region and the recommended spacing from one plant to the other.

Dominic Kariuki

Avocado will do well in Molo. If you are targeting the local market, Fuerte variety is the best and for export market, Hass. A square spacing of 10m by 10m or a rectangular spacing of 10m by 8m can be used to give plant populations of 100 and 125 trees per hectare respectively.

In avocado cultivation, if you are targeting the local market, Fuerte variety is the best and for export market, Hass.In avocado cultivation, if you are targeting the local market, Fuerte variety is the best and for export market, Hass. FILE PHOTO |NMG

Planting hole size is 45cm by 45cm by 45cm.

Carol Mutua,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.


I am interested in starting an avocado orchard in Juja, Kiambu County. Please advise me on how to go about it. I want to plant different fruits.

Jane Waweru

To establish an orchard, there are some factors which you have to consider:

i) Topography: It needs a gentle sloping land with some modifications like terraces. A level land would bring about drainage problems depending on the porosity of the soil.
ii) Temperature: In case of temperature inversions, avoid valley bottoms.
iii) Trees like eucalyptus are allelopathic and, therefore, fruit trees should be 25m away from the eucalyptus.
iv) The soil should be well-drained
v) Wind increases the rate of evapotranspiration, destroys young leaves and may also result to shedding of leaves. Therefore, consider a site which has windbreaks to prevent effects of strong wind
vi) Also consider a site which is near a market if possible for easy access to the market
vii) Fruits to grow should also be considered. Make sure the fruits you select are suited to the ecological conditions in the area

After considering these factors, the site should be prepared by clearing all the vegetation and trees, weeds and remove stumps. Layout of the site is then done after which the planting design is selected.

There are a number of planting designs namely: square, rectangular, quincunx and hexagonal. The square design is the most commonly used because it is easy to layout and it allows orchard operations like cultivation and harvesting, whether by hand or mechanical in either direction.

The spacing to be used will depend on the fruits to be planted, climate and soil.

Carol Mutua, Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.

This is in reference to Carol Mutua’s answer to a question regarding the best manuring and fertilisation regime (Seeds of Gold, May 26). I found it very informative but inadequate considering that there are about 16 elements that an avocado tree requires. Can you please outline the topic comprehensively?

Chris Munene Charagu

In the answer I had indicated that the fertilisers to be applied will depend on results of soil analysis and the pH of the soil. In most cases, the micro-nutrients are applied when they fall short or if the soil tests show that they are deficient.

Carol Mutua, Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.


I planted watermelons on one acre on April 1 but sadly there are no fruits, just over two months after planting. They form fruits and a few days later they rot. I am told it’s because of excess rains.

What could be the problem? Could it be some kind of witchcraft?

Jasper Omondi, Siaya County.

Jasper, there is no witchcraft when it comes to crop production. Watermelon is a warm season crop. This is a disease called Phytophthora fruit rot which affects melon fruits during heavy rains.

To control the disease, you should apply a fungicide when fruits start forming because the disease does not affect the leaves. Avoid planting watermelon during the periods of heavy rainfall.

As watermelons develop, the less water it gets the better as this will increase the sugar content and sugar concentration in the fruit making the fruit sweeter.As watermelons develop, the less water it gets the better as this will increase the sugar content and sugar concentration in the fruit making the fruit sweeter. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Watermelons need water in the first few weeks of growth but when they start producing fruits, they need little water or if you are irrigating you can stop.

As the fruit develops, the less water it gets the better as this will increase the sugar content and sugar concentration in the fruit making the fruit sweeter.

Carol Mutua,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.


I am a farmer with 20 acres in Mwea, Kirinyaga County along the Nairobi Sagana Karatina Road. I wanted advice on how to grow and market Saffron spices

Sammy Munala

Kindly educate me on how to grow Saffron. I would like to know more about garden preparation, planting, harvesting and storage, market (where to sell) and the place they do well in Kenya. I am situated in Bungoma but I would like to grow them in Nyeri.

Saffron will do well in areas with an altitude of 2,000m above sea level. The soils should be well-drained and have a pH of 6-8. Land should be prepared to a fine tilth before planting the corms. Planting is done directly in the seedbed.

According to Agrifarming, corms are planted 12-15cm deep at a spacing of 10-12cm. In case of drought, irrigation is done. The field should be kept weed-free.

Before planting, 35 tonnes/hectare of farmyard manure should be applied and later each year 20kg N, 30kg K and 80kg P per ha should be applied.

Harvesting should be done when the flowers are in full bloom and should be preferably done in the morning. The commercial part of saffron is the stigma.

After harvesting, the pistils are dried in a well-ventilated place at a temperature of 45-60°C for 15 minutes, according to Agrifarming.

Dried saffron is then put in an air tight container for one month before consumption. Saffron is an expensive spice because of the labour involved in planting and drying the pistils.

It is sold locally or exported to countries like Europe, Asia and Middle East.

Carol Mutua, Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils,
Egerton University

A-Z of growing cauliflower

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Cauliflower is a flower vegetable that belongs to the brassica family together with cabbage, broccoli, kale, Chinese cabbage and Brussel sprouts.

The only difference is that while cabbage forms a head, cauliflower forms white curds. The edible part is the white flower buds and stems.

The crop has low demand in the domestic market and is grown mainly for the high-end market, according to the Horticulture Validated Report (2014).

Cauliflower is mainly produced in Kiambu, which accounts for 89 per production mainly due to the county’s close proximity to Nairobi, the main market. Other producing counties include Taita Taveta and Kakamega.

The crop has numerous health benefits, including it helps to reduce cancer risk, fights inflammation, decreases the risk of heart diseases and brain disorders, improves digestion, is a good detoxifier, aids in weight loss, helps balance hormones and maintains good eye health.

It is rich in vitamins C and K and other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, sodium and iron.

Environmental requirements

For best growth and quality cauliflower, moderately uniform cool temperatures are needed. Too much heat can prevent curd formation.

While still vegetative, plants have some frost resistance, but freezing temperatures can cause considerable damage once buds and inflorescence have formed.

Exposure of cauliflower to temperatures below 10°C after field planting leads to premature flowering and the formation of smaller heads called ‘buttons’.

The optimum temperature range for curd formation is 13.9-20°C. Above 20°C, the quality is reduced. Above 25°C, curds may not form at all.

Cauliflower curd formation is more sensitive to temperature extremes, which may cause several different types of market defects.

As temperatures near 0°C, freezing injury to shoot apices may result in no curd development. High temperatures may cause the plants to regress into vegetative growth and cause small leaves to develop in the curd.

The crop needs well-drained soils, friable and with high water-holding capacity. The best soil pH is 5.5 – 6.5. The crop requires constant water supply for good growth and yields. Hence, where rainfall is inadequate, irrigation water should be available.

Cauliflower has a relatively high requirement for molybdenum, whose deficiency occurs in acidic soils with pH less than 5.5. Molybdenum deficiencies can be corrected by liming, foliar fertiliser applications or seed treatment.

Crop establishment

Cauliflower is propagated by seed, which are sown in the nursery bed and later transplanted after three to four weeks to rows 60-75cm apart and 45-60cm within the rows.

Wider spacing (75x60cm) is usually adopted for late-maturing cultivars and closer spacing (60x 45cm) for early-maturing cultivars.

Before transplanting, the nursery bed should be thoroughly watered three to four hours in advance to minimise damage during lifting of seedlings.

Preferable, remove seedlings separately, never pull as this may damage feeding roots.

Fertiliser application

Cauliflower is a heavy feeder of nitrogen and potassium. Organic matter, phosphorous and potassium fertilisers should be applied before transplanting.

Top dressing using nitrogenous fertilisers is done four weeks after transplanting and three weeks thereafter. Rates are 5-10g/plant (185-370 kg/ha) of CAN and 200 kg/ha DSP.


Cauliflower has a shallow root system and, therefore, when the plants are growing, they will require constant availability of moisture.

Adequate moisture promotes production of large heads. Lack of adequate moisture may lead to tough, fibrous stalks and tip-burn of broccoli.

Weed control

It is shallow-rooted and care should be taken not to damage roots in the field as this would encourage entry of fungi and bacteria.

Clean weed control methods should be practised to avoid competition for water and nutrients. Mulching may also be carried out for weed control and moisture conservation.

In cauliflower, as the white curds appear, they should be protected from full sunlight which tends to turn them to creamy yellow, reducing market quality.

Early-maturing cultivars must be protected from sun injury by tying the long outside leaves loosely over the forming heads, a procedure referred to as blanching.

Late-maturing cultivars usually have enough foliage and are self-blanched by the in curving of the inner leaves.


It is harvested by hand as soon as the curds have attained market size but before they become discoloured, loose and ricey. Marketable heads should be cut with three to four whorls of leaves.

These should be trimmed long enough to leave a circle of petioles to protect the head.


The pests and diseases which attack cabbage, broccoli and kale are the same ones that attack cauliflower.

They suck sap, causing curling of leaves and transmit viruses. Control: systemic insecticides; biological – lady bird beetle; cultural – intercropping, mulching using coloured mulch.

Diamond back moth

The caterpillar causes damage to cauliflower. It is the most important pest of brassicas worldwide. It feeds on leaf lamina from the underside causing windowing effect.

Control: Use of chemicals; biological – Bacillus thuringiensis; cultural – intercropping with strong smelling crops like garlic, parsley.

Larvae feed on stem base cutting it off. It is more serious at transplanting.

Control: Chemical – dusting around stem bases of transplants, using chemical baits (sugar in water + poison); cultural – unearth larvae and kill them.

i) Black rot

Caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv campestris.

Characterised by yellow angular spots that progress inward from the leaf margin. Leaf veins become dark brown to black and heads may be deformed.

Control: Crop rotation with crops that are not related to broccoli. Use of clean seeds for planting, use of clean transplants, use of resistant varieties and practising good sanitation.

ii) Alternaria leaf spot

Caused by Alternaria brassicae. Symptoms include yellow, concentric spots on foliage. Infected broccoli seedlings may be stunted or killed.

Control: Crop rotation and use of clean seed.

iii) Downy mildew

Caused by Peronospora parasitica. The symptoms are yellow spots on the upper surface with bluish white fungal growth on the lower surface of leaves.

Control: Crop rotation, practise good sanitation, and weed management.

iv) Damping off

Caused by Rhizoctonia solani or Phytium spp

It’s a fungal disease and more problematic at the nursery stage. It causes a dark brown or black rot at stem base of seedlings resulting in death. It is common in overcrowded and or over-watered nurseries.

Control: Use of fungicides, avoid overcrowding and over watering of seedlings.