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Friday, November 2nd, 2018

 

Civil weddings way to go for cash-strapped couples

By JAMES KAHONGEH
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Lennox Mwema, a writer based in Nairobi, hopes to marry before the year ends. Mwema, 28, has always desired a lavish church wedding complete with a grand reception and a host of merriments.

Mwema is in a bind though. The delights he envisioned for his nuptials could just be a pipe dream. The economics of organising for his dream wedding are beyond his reach. Reason? A wedding is just too costly and time consuming.

Mwema has now resorted to having an exclusive ceremony with only close family members and few friends. A small affair without flair. One that would cost Sh80,000 on the higher side. Yet he is still clueless about how he will raise this kind of money.

EASIER OPTION

Mwema’s story resonates with that of many other Kenyan couples, who are finding it harder to exchange their marriage vows because of an array of socioeconomic reasons.

It is for this reason that civil marriage has become the easier option for Kenyans who prefer simpler, quicker weddings, and those like Mwema who lack the financial muscle to organise elaborate ceremonies.

At the State Law Office, you walk in single, and few moments later, you walk out with your partner as newly-weds, complete with a marriage certificate.

On Tany given weekday, the office of the Registrar of Marriages along Harambee Avenue was teeming with activity. At the reception, attendants ask if you are there to book a wedding, referred to as issuing a wedding notice. After filling the notice form, you wait at the lobby with other couples.

SPECIAL LICENCE

You may issue a notice or apply for a special license. A special license is either when one or both parties are foreigners or when the couple is unable to issue a three week notice.

The process takes a maximum of 21 days after the initial booking. On the wedding day, you show up with your partner and wedding rings while accompanied by a minimum of two witnesses. A wedding gown is not a requirement. A venue is also provided for the occasion.

The marriage certificate, which comes in triplicate, is signed and just like that, you leave to start your happily ever after. Or otherwise. But why are young Kenyans finding it easier to exchange their marriage vows through the AG’s Office?

The church route, most argue, has become devastatingly demanding, with family, the church and the society often having dizzying expectations on the couple, turning the happy occasion into a dreadful experience.

CIVIL WEDDING

Young couples who spoke to Nation said that “conventional” weddings done through the church have become unbearable, leave couples worn, stuck in the crevices of debt and with a bitter aftertaste of dissatisfied family members and friends in their wake.

When Linus Orindo, a journalist, married in 2015, he opted for a civil wedding at the Registrar of Marriages “because it was convenient, cheaper and less stressful”.

At the time, Orindo was only required to present witnesses, proof that he had not been married elsewhere (an Affidavit to confirm marital status) and a fee of Sh16,000. The process took less than two weeks.

INSURANCE COVER

According to The Marriage Act of 2014, a civil wedding may be conducted at the Registrar of Marriages, the County Commissioner’s office or at the office of the Sub county Commissioner. Peter Ngaruiya could not obtain an insurance cover for his family in 2016 for lack of a marriage certificate, a requisite document demanded for life cover.

“I had just started working and I did not have money to hold a church wedding. Besides, I feared that the tedious process would disrupt my work,” he explained. Ngaruiya, a salesperson, sought the help of an advocate who advised him to procure a civil wedding, which he did. He paid Sh1,400 for the wedding certificate. A week later, he had insured his family.


The perils and changing face of Kenyan marriages

By MAUREEN KAKAH
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By JACQUELINE KUBANIA
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Marriage is facing a myriad of challenges, according to a survey conducted online by the Nation.

Whereas domestic violence remains one of the biggest challenges, as pointed out by an early study by the Federation of Women lawyers — Fida — promiscuity and infidelity are also posing a mortal threat.

About 64 per cent of readers who responded to the survey said promiscuity has changed the nature of marriages, with spouses claiming to be in monogamous relationship when in reality they embrace polygamy or polyandry in secret.

Financial constraints are also a big challenge in urban and rural families, followed closely by a breakdown in communication between spouses.

FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS

Ironically, Kenyans who responded to the survey said financial constraints differed from the desire for money, which could mean that the pursuit of cash is in itself a threat to marriage as more spouses spend their time either working or, hustling, a by-word for extra work over and beyond formal employment.

Many also felt that lack of respect is a threat to marriage.

This, they said, was different from mismanaged gender equality, with some of the respondents saying the growing economic power of women has drastically affected relationships.

Independent surveys have shown that one in nine women earns more than their spouses.

The Fida survey, titled Gender Based Domestic Violence in Kenya and Intimate Partner Violence, also paints a damning picture on the state of marriage.

The report shows that men are the leading perpetrators of violence in homes at 79.2 per cent while females account for 14.6 per cent.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

In-laws and parents follow at 4.1 and 2.1 per cent respectively.

On circumstances that lead to domestic violence, adultery tops the list at 41 per cent, followed by alcoholism (28.5) and financial situation (20.5). HIV status is fourth at 10.3 per cent.

The survey was conducted in the Coast, Nairobi, Nyanza and Western regions.

According to the report, most domestic violence cases occur once in a while at 48.7 per cent while the number of homes which report regular incidents stand at 29.3 per cent.

Ironically, those who survive and report such cases are perceived as having made a choice to destroy their homes.

To curb the violence, the report recommends public education and improved access to justice.

MURDER CASES

Since the start of 2018, Fida has had 2,182 reported cases of domestic violence.

In the 2016/17 State of the Judiciary and Administration of Justice report, there were 424 pending murder cases at the Milimani Law Courts. It could not be established at the time or writing this report how many of these cases involved murder of a spouse. However, a court clerk said in a majority of the murder cases, the accused is usually someone in a relationship with the victim, either as husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend.

According to investigations by the Nation, the nature of marriage and families has been changing over time due to the pressure of modern life.

Take the case of Jane Wavinya*, a 29-year-old public health researcher, who is an absentee mother. She has been raising her five-year-old daughter with her parents’ help as she works in Zambia. She is in constant contact with them and visits as much as she can. She also shoulders most of the financial responsibilities relating to her daughter.

SHARE CUSTODY

Her daughter’s father works in the UAE, though he too, is in the girl’s life.

Annie*, 37, is raising a 16-year-old alone. She broke up with her child’s father when the girl was a toddler. He plays no role in the girl’s life.

Then there is 27-year-old Reuben Kilinda, who has a one-and-a-half-year-old son. Though he broke up with his son’s mother, the two live in the same neighbourhood and share custody.

And finally, there is Kenny*, 41, who is a sports consultant and a self-confessed polygamist.

When his first wife died in 2000, he remarried in 2009 and 2014. The two wives live separately in Homa Bay County while Kenny works in the city.

Kenny says he “is blessed with many children”.

Saturday Nation asked Kenyans about the ways in which the family institution has changed.

SINGLE PARENTHOOD

Three quarters of the respondents said single parenthood is on the rise, while slightly more than half said divorce rates have gone up.

A further 36 per cent said people have become less social and are not too keen on getting into long-term unions.

While there is general consensus that families have changed and people are charting new paths for themselves, this does not mean that things have necessarily become easier for those who choose to dance to the beat of their own drums.

Annie says while most people who disapprove of her single mother status keep their opinions to themselves, she has experienced “aggression” and hidden biases.

“The challenge is in silly little things, like going to get her passport or enrolling her in school and being asked where the father is. Some schools refuse to accept children of single parents,” she said.

NUCLEAR FAMILY

School is particularly tricky, especially in younger classes when children are learning about the family unit and it is instilled in them that a nuclear family is made up of a father, mother and children.

Where their family set-up deviates from that norm, they could have a hard time adjusting to being different from the rest of the classmates.

Wavinya says her daughter has encountered this scenario.

“One of her assignments was on drawing a nuclear family tree. Funny thing was she wasn’t so concerned about the structure of the family, more that in her mind a nuclear family is small and there were too many of us to include in the assignment. All her friends are from two-parent families, so once in a while she asks about where her father and I are. But she knows we live abroad,” Wavinya said.

For the assignment, the girl drew her mother, Wavinya’s best friend and her brother, just because he happened to be home at the time.

She excluded her grandparents whom she said were too old and couldn’t fit in the painting.

But aside from the precociousness of a child, this kind of institutionalised exclusion could have negative consequences on the psyche of children whose families look nothing like what is described in books.

And in situations like Annie’s where she is parenting alone without substantial support from anybody else, there could be far-reaching consequences for her teenage daughter. A growing body of research has shown that children from single-parent families could be disadvantaged as adults in terms of economic success.

Researchers say this could stem from the fact that single parent households typically surviving on a single income have less money, therefore less opportunities for their children, and the fact that single parents are not able to spend as much time with their children as those living with their spouses.

EMOTIONAL BURDEN

Annie is well aware of the immense financial and emotional burden she shoulders as a single mother and is categorical about parenting being a two-person job.

“I know it is not culturally appropriate to admit this, especially as a single mum and a feminist, but I really do think a child needs both parents, regardless of gender or orientation. I think it is sad we go it alone — both single mums and single dads — because sometimes, you need to tag-team on the child,” she said.

Annie resents the idea that people have preconceived notions and says she has had to ward off questions from acquaintances who assume single mothers are promiscuous and rebellious.

“I met a childhood friend once. He asked if I was married, I said ‘no’, he said ‘Oh, you grew up into one of those independent women eh?'” she told the Saturday Nation.

Dr James Kariuki, a sociology lecturer at the University of Nairobi, thinks in some cases, children from single parent households have it better than those whose parents live together.

RAISE CHILDREN

“The kind of women who leave unhappy marriages or go it alone to raise children are often strong and financially independent. They go on to create stable loving homes for their children and shield them from strife. This creates better outcomes for the child than if they had been brought up in an abusive home,” he said.

According to him, rising divorce statistics is an indicator of stronger women, not weaker marriages.

“Women have become more economically empowered. They are delaying marriage and children in favour of advancing their careers. That does not weaken the family unit. It strengthens it in the sense that men can no longer manipulate women,” he said.

PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES

Kipila, who has the privilege of tag-teaming with his son’s mother to share parental responsibilities, is aware of the unique advantages that this arrangement offers, even though he ideally would want to be living in the same house as his son.

Theirs is a classic case of platonic parenting, defined as an arrangement where people who are not romantically involved come together to raise a child.

“I am a hands-on dad. I play with my son, feed him, change his diapers and do my best to make him comfortable,” he says.


It’s a long wait for suspects as co-accused enjoy freedom

By SAM KIPLAGAT
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It is going to be a long wait for three suspects facing two high-profile murder charges after they were denied bond as their co-accused were released from custody.

For Joseph Kuria Irungu alias Jowie, he will have to wait until June next year for the trial to begin while his co-accused and fiancée, TV journalist Jacque Maribe, was set free on Wednesday evening after the court granted her a cash bail of Sh1 million and three sureties.

The two have denied murdering Monicah Kimani, 28, at Lamuria Gardens Apartments in Kilimani on September 19.

Migori Governor Okoth Obado, charged with killing his girlfriend Sharon Otieno was also released on strict bond terms.

REMAIN IN CUSTODY

The co-accused, his personal assistant Michael Oyamo and Mr Caspal Obiero, a clerk at the Migori county government, will remain in custody until May when their trial will start.

While denying Mr Irungu bail, Justice James Wakiaga said; “Having taken into account the material placed before the court, the submission by the advocates for the first accused, the family and the State, and the authorities in support of the said submissions which I have looked at in detail, I am satisfied and find that the prosecution has placed before the court strong and adequate compelling reasons to enable me deny the first accused the enjoyment of his constitutional right to bail which I hereby do.”

The judge said Mr Irungu will remain in custody during the period of his trial. According to Justice Wakiaga, the picture that emerges of Mr Irungu from the prosecution’s affidavit and the pre-bail report, is that of a male version of “slay queen”. He said for lack of better terminology, “I shall call him a “woman eater”.

Evidence tabled in court showed that he was living in Maribe’s house in Lang’ata, Nairobi, driving her car and with no known source of income since 2017 when he provided security to some Jubilee politicians. 

Mr Irungu’s last known employment as per his affidavit was in Dubai where he had been living between 2012-2017. “It is in Dubai where he seems to have strong social ties as while there he managed to secure employment for three named persons, including his brother and a brother of his former girlfriend, who he was living with in Buruburu before he left for Dubai,” the judge noted.

And although his siblings had indicated that they were likely to find him an alternative accommodation, the judge said there was no evidence before him to support the said preposition. 

SECURITY FIRM

“The accused has no known assets in the country save for an intention to set up a private security firm and, therefore, I find him to be with no fixed abode, lacking any deep emotional, occupation or economic ties in the country and is likely to abscond should an opportunity arise.

The mere fact that he is willing to surrender his passport is no guarantee that he cannot leave the country,” Justice Wakiaga said.

On Mr Oyamo and Mr Obiero, Justice Jessie Lesiit said, “I find that there are compelling reasons not to grant the 2nd and 3rd accused bail at this stage. I find releasing them may send fear, anxiety to potential witnesses and, therefore, lead to intimidation of which may adversely affect the case”.

She said the likelihood of them absconding cannot be underrated and that their release is likely to disturb public order, peace and therefore, public security.

TWO SURETIES

Mr Obado was ordered to deposit in court a cash bail of Sh5 million. In addition he was ordered provide two sureties of Sh5 million each and deposit all his travel documents including his Kenyan, East African and diplomatic passports in court.

Other strict terms is that the Migori county boss should not go 20 kilometres near the Homa Bay county boundary.

Meanwhile, Ms Maribe was told to keep off anchoring news because according to the prosecution, she was an influential person and her appearance on the screens is likely to intimidate of influence witnesses.


Family of pilots breathes new life into abandoned Nyaribo airstrip

By IRENE MUGO
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Family gatherings at Godwin Wachira’s house are characterised by words such as control sticks, rudder, throttle lever, turbulence and other aviation jargon.

Everyone in the family is a pilot except his wife who runs the Flying Training Centre located at Wilson Airport as an account manager where they have a fleet of 15 aeroplanes. They set up the centre 10 years ago with his three children being pilots.

An abandoned runway at Nyaribo airstrip in Nyeri has birthed the first aviation school in Mt Kenya region that is run by a family of pilots.

“We were flying with my wife Catherine when we spotted the airstrip that has a beautiful runway but it was abandoned for a while and after extensive deliberations we found it conducive to offer aviation training,” said Captain Wachira, who has been a pilot for the last 34 years.

TRAINING CENTRES

The family has two more training centres at the coastal region with the Mt Kenya centre enrolling eight students.

“We thought of opening a branch here in Nyeri because of the vast opportunities it offers as well as be part of the growth in the aviation industry,” he said.

Mr Wachira and his two children have earned the title ‘captain’ which is a rank given once one is able to command an aircraft and fly on their own.

“I was flying a lot with my children when they were young and I suppose that is how they developed interest in flying,” said Mr Wachira amid a chuckle.

For more than five years, Nyaribo airstrip has not been in use. But the roaring sound of the planes being used to train the students in the area have opened the previously quiet village to business opportunities.

BEST THING

Mr Wachira said the best thing about training in Nyeri is that there is no traffic congestion meaning they have more time training rather than waiting on the take-off queues.

“Nyeri has zero traffic compared to Nairobi and at the same time offers the best training atmosphere for cross-country navigation,” he said, adding that a majority of students in the Nairobi base have requested to transfer to Nyeri. “We charge Sh16,000 per hour,” he said.

SAFEST MODE

Ms Esther Kamande, a captain and instructor, said aviation was the next frontier as moving on air is the cheapest and safest mode of transport.

“We are not where we ought to be but without looking at the cost of tickets, air is an opening space where more people are appreciating flights not as a luxury for the rich,” she said.

Captain Leah Kihara, Mr Wachira’s daughter and the chief flight instructor, said one has to be passionate to be a pilot as it requires thinking critically and a lot of practice.


The changing Kenyan family

x  DESIGN | JOY ABISAGI

The changing Kenyan family

The changing Kenyan family

Referendum: We must listen to voice of the masses to secure peace

By CORNEL RASANGA

The latest deafening noises against the push for a referendum could be another veiled dress rehearsal to derail the well-intended peace pact spearheaded by President Kenyatta and Nasa leader Raila Amolo Odinga.

Why the noise? Because Mr Odinga, one of the second liberation heroes and a one time political outcast, leads the crusade after striking a voluntary peace accord with President Kenyatta in the historic handshake.

The March 9 headline grabber between the diametrically opposed leaders has elicited jealousy and praise in equal measure in a society thirsty for healing, free of lingering suspicion and chauvinistic tendencies. The careers of political brokers and falsehood peddlers are in jeopardy because Mr Odinga, the lucrative commodity, has lost lustre by working with Mr Kenyatta.

Gluttonous political merchants and publicity seekers across the political divide are not amused by the new-found peace by the rivals because their economic fortunes seem to be dwindling fast. But another sure source of livelihood has emerged for the near-redundant opportunists. An attack on Mr Odinga in public rallies and funerals boosts chances of lavish treats.

Selected delegates trooping to State House for lacklustre handshakes and loyalty pledges are glaring examples of playing down the significance of reconciliation efforts.

One thing is for certain: The path to peaceful coexistence envisaged by Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga is bumpy and strewn with thorns, thanks largely to the prophets of doom who have rekindled hate and inflamed passions.

In the pursuit of cohesion, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga named the Task Force on Building Bridges to deliberate on what ails society and prescribe remedial measures. Before it gets down to business, shortcomings of the previous task forces, commissions and authors of the Constitution should be diagnosed and a review of the elusive national unity undertaken.

TRADITIONAL APPROACH

The team should deviate from the traditional approach, and ignore the views of subterranean gossipers but heed Wanjiku’s concerns that have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

We are where we are because consensus and consultations were shunted. A precedent was set by post-independence leaders who ignored public opinion and developed an appetite for changing the supreme law to suit circumstances and egos.

If a political settlement conference had preceded the convening of the National Constitutional Conference at Bomas, the sessions would not have been noisy or characterised by name-calling and deep-seated suspicions. The same fate befell the Serena talks on the 2007 post-election violence Agenda IV component embodied in the Peace and Reconciliation Accord brokered by the former UN Secretary General, the late Koffi Annan.

Remember that even the stubborn, iron-fisted coloniser consulted and reached a consensus with freedom fighters in a round table conference at the Lancaster House, in the United Kingdom, before the independence Constitution was drawn. Who are we to ignore divergence of opinions in a democracy where persuasion is the norm rather than the exception? Referendum advocates are entitled to their opinions but also deserve criticism.

POLITICAL GOODWILL

For the task force to publish a document worth the paper it is written on, it should strive to outlive the shortcomings of its predecessors. That can only be done by including the do’s and don’ts in its terms of engagement. Murmurs aside, the team enjoys political goodwill and should avoid falling in traps that could be laid by prophets of doom.

That said, the team should revisit the independence Constitution, visit other jurisdictions with a history of political progress, vibrant democracy and peace before a comprehensive report is published. The Lancaster House papers and the Constitution could provide an appropriate reference and guide.

It is not lost on us that no amount of mediation efforts, with one exception, has ever toned down the ever-rising political temperatures and tensions. One memorable achievement by a mediator was the delivery of the new Constitution — thanks to the 2008 Peace Accord under the Annan-led international mediation team.

POLITICAL PLAYERS

One of two things is bound to happen in the aftermath of publishing the report. Either we have a durable peace or the country plunges into another quagmire of monumental proportions.

The time to save the country is now, not tomorrow. Wanjiku has been let down by many political players and she hopes that this time round the task force will bail her out of the present quagmire.


The invasive plant giving farmers sleepless nights

By PIUS MAUNDU
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Sometime in June last year, Dorothy Katilo, a farmer in Makueni, walked home in high spirits after she landed from a neighbour a handful of vines from a plant known as Japanese dodder (Cuscuta japonica).

She was happy because the plant at the neighbour’s home had formed an enviable canopy atop trees under which visitors sheltered.

“I was impressed by the spectacular canopies atop her yellow oleander trees that I picked the vine and planted in my compound,” she recounted.

When Seeds of Gold met Dorothy at her Kyumu village last week, she was an unhappy farmer as she was cutting down her orange trees after the parasitic plant colonised them.

“The weed spread from near the tree where I planted it into my orchard where they suffocated my orange and pixie trees. Some have withered and died. Each orange tree offers me three sacks of fruits annually,” said Katilo, noting planting the vine is one of the worst things she has ever done.

After cutting the affected plant, she supervised the burning of the twigs as she tried to control the invasive plant that has baffled scientists and farmers.

The weed has become the latest threat and source of headache to farmers across the country, thanks to its invasive nature.

It joins fall armyworms, lethal necrosis disease and tuta absoluta, the first two which ravage maize and the last, tomato crops.

Dodder’s many other names include love vine, knot weed, strangleweed, stranglevine, angel’s hair, goldthread, devil’s ringlet, hell-bind, hairweed, devil’s hair, hailweed and witches’ shoelaces.

The weed builds a canopy on the host tree or plant and casts thousands of tendrils to form a dense spectacle before it strangles it to death.

MOST DESTRUCTIVE WEED

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate (Kephis) terms Japanese dodder as the most destructive weed, with researchers saying it is heightening apprehension among farmers as it attacks and kills trees and crops.

Asenath Koech, a plant pest specialist at Kephis, told Seeds of Gold that the agency is concerned at the speed at which the parasitic plant is spreading across the country.

Its rapid spread is partly facilitated by its floral appeal, the ignorance of farmers and lack of tried and tested scientific control mechanisms.

Dorothy Katilo, a farmer in Makueni uses a machete to cut the weed which has infested her farm.Dorothy Katilo, a farmer in Makueni uses a machete to cut the weed which has infested her farm. The weed has become the latest threat and source of headache to farmers across the country, thanks to its invasive nature. PHOTO | PIUS MAUNDU | NMG

It has drawn the interest of scientists, who have established that besides trees and hedges, dodder attacks mangoes, tobacco, citrus plants, tea and coffee bushes.

“It also attacks tomatoes and beans as well and there are reports that it has destroyed acres of these crops in days in a neighbouring country,” said Dr Steven Runo, a molecular biologist and a specialist in parasitic plants.

Dr Runo, a senior lecturer at Kenyatta University, has since January been leading a team of scientists in studying the weed.

“Once dodder attacks a plant, it rapidly spreads out while infusing itself into the host through multiple special nodes, which it uses to suck water and nutrients weakening the victim and eventually killing it,” he explained.

Japanese dodder, according to him, normally penetrates the host by puncturing the vascular tissue at several points through which it sucks water and nutrients leaving the host withering.

Dr Runo is convinced that the weed kills its host by injecting a poisonous substance.

“Some farmers in western Kenya are calling this weed ‘the HIV of plants’ and we concur because it is highly invasive. It gradually kills its host and has no known cure at least in the meantime,” he told Seeds of Gold.

Though its tendrils are green and form a beautiful canopy, the plant that spreads in record time cannot make its own food through photosynthesis, according to Dr Runo.

“That is why it parasitises domesticated and wild plants, use their nutrients to thrive, weakening the host plant, and, eventually, killing them.”

CLIMATE-CHANGE RELATED INVASION

Online reports show that the dodder is native of Asia, where some of its species are used to make herbal medicine, but no one knows how it entered the country.

Scientists believe the dreaded weed entered the country from the neighbouring nations. Dr Runo’s team is studying the genetic footprint of the parasitic plant to understand how it entered the country.

The flowering plant produces seeds, which come packaged in light capsules that are easily spread by wind.

Kipkorir Lagat, a farmer in Nandi points at the invasive weed which has now colonised his farm.Kipkorir Lagat, a farmer in Nandi points at the invasive weed which has now colonised his farm. The dodder parasite is spread by human or animal activity. It germinates anywhere and its seeds are believed to live in the soil for up to 10 years. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NMG

Dodder, according to him, compares with the dreaded striga, which is commonly known as witchweed because it suffocates maize and sorghum by strangling their roots, grows through both the seeds and from vines.

Koech said at least 12 counties, mostly in Eastern, Western and the Rift Valley, are affected by the weed and calls agriculture extension officers to help sensitise farmers on ways of managing and controlling it.

Maseno University’s Department of Agriculture Head, Prof Matthew Dida, said that there are different kinds of Japanese dodder species, which affect the indigenous vegetables and trees.

“The parasitic plant can evolve to affect other species that they traditionally didn’t. The most affected tree species currently is the yellow oleander,” said Prof Dida.

The dodder parasite is spread by human or animal activity. It germinates anywhere and its seeds are believed to live in the soil for up to 10 years.

“This is a climate-change related invasion because dodder is now finding home places where it never did before,” said Mary Mbenge, the chief officer at the Department of Environment and Climate Change at Makueni County.

She noted that the weed has invaded Mbooni, Kaiti, Kibwezi, Kilome and Makueni. She has started a campaign to mechanically remove and burn the weed from trees in the county. She blames ignorance among the masses for the rapid spread of the weed in the county and elsewhere.

“Some people spread the weed when they propagate it at their homes thinking that it is a flower. This should stop,” she told Seeds of Gold as she led a team of government officials in removing the weed from the hedges of Makueni County Referral Hospital, one of the many places the weed has colonised in the county.

BURNT TO AVOID SPREADING

Jared Mutai, the deputy director of agriculture in-charge of horticultural crops in Nandi, noted that some farmers in the county have complained that the weed had dried their tea.

According to him, permanent crops like coffee, avocado and tea are under threat from the weed. “There are no much control measures except to manually prune the weed, which sometimes may be difficult,” said Mutai.

Trans Nzoia Agriculture executive Mary Nzomo said the weed had been reported in the region and that a team from Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) did a survey to ascertain its impact on food security.

Dorothy Katilo's mangoes which have also fallen victim to the invasive parasitic Cuscuta japonica.Dorothy Katilo’s mangoes which have also fallen victim to the invasive parasitic Cuscuta japonica. The weed normally penetrates the host by puncturing the vascular tissue at several points through which it sucks water and nutrients leaving the host withering. PHOTO | PIUS MAUNDU | NMG

“The survey was just concluded and its report will reveal the host range of crops it is colonising after which we will determine whether it is threat to food security. Currently, it is commonly seen on the hedges,” explained Nzomo.

Mechanical removal of dodder vines or pruning the affected sections of affected plants is one of the methods of managing it, which Kephis recommends.

“The vines should be removed before the flowering stage and burnt to avoid spreading to other plants,” said Koech.

Farmers should also avoid plants that are liked by the weed like oleander and instead grow those that the weed does not like much.

Koech discourages the picking of vines in areas where the parasitic weed exists to stem further spreading.

Additional reporting by Stanley Kimuge and Elizabeth Ojina.

Cows and goats feed on the weed

Kipkorir Lagat, a farmer in Nandi, recounted that when the weed was reported in the area, some thought it was edible like wild vegetables.

“But we realised it had no leaves. Cows and goats feed on it and we want research to be conducted so that we know if is beneficial or not,” says Lagat.

“We are losing so many trees due to this weed. If we won’t stop it then the rivers will dry up,” he adds.

Vegetative spread of dodder can occur through the extensive growth of stems, which can reach up to five meters in just two months, but regeneration can also occur from stem fragments.


Varsities showcase agricultural innovations

By BRIAN OKINDA
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The recent Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) held in Nairobi saw the institutions of higher learning showcase their agricultural innovation.

From Egerton University, the new Chelalang bean variety stood out, but the plant breeder at the institution’s Agro-science Park, Prof Bernard Towett, said they have come up with two other new bean varieties.

Green-yellow beans and Light tan are much superior in quality, yields, mature faster and thrive in varied ecological conditions.

“The green-yellow variety, which is a cross between the Chelalang and the Katumani B1 (Kat B1), has the best qualities of both these varieties, making it a better option for cultivation,” said Prof Towett.

The Light tan, on the other hand, is an improved version of the Canadian Wonder bean variety. The variety, according to Prof Towett, thrives in a wide range of ecological conditions, as well as yields higher.

“Both these varieties, have neither gas nor acid when cooked, mature faster, yield more (seven to eight bags per acre for the Green-yellow and 10-12 bags per acre for the Light tan). By next year, they should be in the market,” said Prof Towett.

From the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture Technology (JKuat), Prof Mary Abukutsa-Onyango has released nine new varieties of indigenous super vegetables such as African Nightshade, Vine spinach, Jute mallow, and Spider-plant, which are ready for commercialisation.

According to her, the qualities that cut across some of these varieties include being high in antioxidants, highly medicinal, high anthocyanin content, dense in micro-nutrients, early maturity and resilience to adverse conditions.

From University of Nairobi’s Seed Enterprise Management Institute (SEMI) at Kabete Campus, the development of tissue culture cassava plantlets will see an enhanced production of the planting material and hence an increase in the crop’s cultivation.

According to Rose Njeri from the Department of Crop Protection at the institution, the success of the production of tissue culture banana suckers provided a platform for their outspreading of the technology to cassava as they seek to enhance its cultivation and consumption, in the face of food insecurity situations.

Methuselah Nyamwange, from the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology at Kenyatta University, on the other hand, said with the low cost tissue culture production, the equipment, components and materials employed are available easily and cheaply providing an opportunity to undertake the process in a wide-range of settings.

Currently, the institution has also established low cost tissue culture options for bananas, sweet potato and cassava, which are readily available to farmers.


Faster, simple way to keep milk records

By FELIX OPINYA
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Milk production record is an important tool on any dairy farm, yet some farmers still ignore it or those who use it don’t do it correctly defeating the purpose.

The process of milk recording may vary on farms but generally it involves capturing yields and composition of milk produced by an individual lactating cow.

If done correctly, milk production recording is a powerful tool that is capable of tracking production performance and profitability in the herd.

Well-documented records of individual cows offer good marketing tools since they give one bargaining confidence and ask for premium price, especially those with lactation certificates.

With milk production records, you can easily identify low producing animals and probably put them on a special diet or cull.

That is, keeping milk records will allow the farmer look at how management changes such as nutrition impact on the performance of the herd. Unit costs of production can also be easily monitored.

Keeping milk records successfully begins with individual cow identification. Like humans, cows need names or national identification cards for easy identification.

These names or unique IDs are imperative in record-keeping. Then, select a record-keeping method that familiarises your farm management habits or works best for your farm assistants.

The real challenge in most farm milk recording systems is taking the information collected every day and putting it into a form that can later make meaning.

Indeed, record-keeping does mean more efforts on the part of the dairy farmer but it does not matter what you use for keeping records.

ECONOMIC APPRAISAL OF DAIRY ENTERPRISE

The real value lies in the record’s ability to be converted into information and influence decisions that can support and improve farm efficiency.

There are many tools available in the market such as computer software programmes and spreadsheets for modern day farming.

These are the most efficient form of record-keeping since they enable relevant information to be entered quickly, easily and the data analysed to generate simple or detailed production summaries.

A sample milk record.A sample milk record. Well-kept milk records can greatly contribute to the economic appraisal of a dairy enterprise. TABLE | COURTESY

But computer cattle management software are not all that is required to maintain accurate farm records. Next to them are pocket record books designed for recording milk output in the everyday setting anytime milking takes place.

If you prefer to keep records simply with a pen and paper, purchase loose-leaf record books and get the job done.

However, before going this option, the records must be decided so that the details captured facilitate future analysis and interpretation.

In this option, often the end use is not well thought out and the usefulness of the records is severely impaired.

Organise the records to contain cow identification numbers, dates and other information useful and record these data under the corresponding individual lactating cows.

Use of cow cards is another exciting option, especially for smallholder and medium-scale dairy farms.

There is more in milk records than just daily milk yield per animal or total herd. Milk records entail other information such as milk quality content (butter fat, protein and solid non-fat), lactation length, lactation yield, milk fed to calves, milk used at home, milk lost post-milking (quantifiable spillages or spoilt milk), milk sold and price, among other aspects.

Figures do not lie. Well-kept milk records can greatly contribute to the economic appraisal of a dairy enterprise.

Above is a sample milk record. The format can be changed horizontally or vertically depending on the herd size.


Man finds his true passion in farming

By PETER CHANGTOEK
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Bomet County is famous for maize and tea farming, but for Elisha Lang’at, passion fruits offer the best bet.

He grows the fruits and sells to a company that exports the produce to Europe and other markets. “I started passion fruit farming three years ago on 0.3 acres. Currently, I am farming on 0.7 acres,’’ says the farmer based at Teganda village.

He was introduced to passion fruits by a friend who had attended a farmers’ field day in Konoin. “I became interested and I started with 210 seedlings, of which 180 survived,’’ reveals Lang’at, noting he spent Sh10,000 as seed capital.

Lang’at, who depends on rainfall, grows the purple and sweet yellow varieties. After preparing the land, he plants the seedlings using organic manure. “I always use manure from cows and goats. Sometimes I top dress with inorganic fertiliser,’’ says the farmer, who apart from growing the crop, also farms Hass avocados, tree tomatoes as well as potatoes.

Currently, he harvests between 200kg and 250kg a week, but has to grapple with diseases such as dieback and pests like thrips and aphids. “I have 180 plants from which I am harvesting and 300 which I planted recently,’’ says the father of one.

Lang’at sells his produce at Sh90 to Diakim Fresh Limited, which exports. He adds that the company, which has its headquarters in Nairobi, has an agronomist in the area, who guides the farmers on how to apply chemicals on the plants.

According to the farmer, the crop takes six to eight months to mature. Birds, he says, are sometimes a challenge. “They destroy flowers, reducing production, so I employ someone to scare them away manually,’’ says the 41-year-old.

Farming the crop is not a difficult task, according to him. “My advice to whoever wants to grow passion fruits is that they should manage pests and grow the plant as advised by the agronomist.’’

Prof Richard Mulwa, a horticulture expert from Egerton University, says that passion fruits can be propagated from seeds, but a farmer will get high yields if he uses grafted seedlings.

“Yellow passion fruit is best for production of rootstock because of superior disease resistance while purple is good for fruit production.’’ The crop is planted in a spacing of 2 metres from one row to the other and 3 metres from one plant to the other.

After planting, the crop flowers after seven months. He adds that excess rainfall is not good since it causes poor fruit set and encourages diseases.