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Friday, November 15th, 2019

 

Liban: colère dans la rue après des fuites sur le nom d’un nouveau Premier ministre

Publié le 16.11.2019 à 00h50 par AFP

Les manifestants au Liban ont accueilli vendredi avec consternation et colère des informations sur une possible désignation d’un nouveau Premier ministre issu de la classe politique dirigeante dont ils réclament le départ depuis un mois.

Selon de hauts responsables et la presse locale, les principales forces politiques sont convenues de désigner l’ex-ministre des Finances et richissime homme d’affaires, Mohammed Safadi, 75 ans, pour remplacer Saad Hariri qui a démissionné le 29 octobre sous la pression de la rue.

Aucune annonce officielle n’a été faite par le président Michel Aoun, qui doit procéder, selon la Constitution, à des consultations parlementaires à l’issue desquelles il nomme le Premier ministre.

M. Aoun avait indiqué en début de semaine être favorable à un gouvernement « techno-politique » incluant des représentants des partis au pouvoir, honnis par la rue, et des technocrates, alors que les manifestants réclament un cabinet formé exclusivement de technocrates totalement indépendants des partis au pouvoir.

M. Safadi est le principal actionnaire d’une société impliquée dans divers projets dont la gestion d’un complexe de luxe en bord de mer qui empiète sur des biens publics.

En début de soirée, des manifestants se sont rassemblés devant le domicile de M. Safadi à Beyrouth pour protester contre son éventuelle nomination, le qualifiant de corrompu.

« Nous sommes ici pour exprimer le refus catégorique des révolutionnaires de voir Mohamad Safadi désigné à tête du prochain gouvernement », a affirmé à l’AFP Ali Noureddine, un manifestant. « Mohamad Safadi est un corrompu, a-t-il ajouté.

A Tripoli, la capitale du Nord dont M. Safadi est originaire et épicentre de la contestation, les manifestants n’ont pas tardé à réagir après les fuites sur sa possible nomination.

Ils se sont rassemblés devant l’une de ses propriétés, décriant ce qu’ils ont qualifié de provocation.

« Choisir Mohammed Safadi (…) prouve que les hommes politiques au pouvoir sont dans un profond coma, ils vivent sur une autre planète », a déploré Jamal Badawi, un manifestant de 60 ans.

Pour Samer Anous, un professeur d’université, M. Safadi incarne la classe politique dont le mouvement de protestation veut se débarrasser. « Il fait partie intégrante de la structure de ce leadership » et « ne répond pas aux aspirations du soulèvement ».

A Saïda, dans le Sud, les manifestants ont bloqué des routes après avoir campé la nuit sur une place centrale.

Dans un communiqué, l’armée a indiqué avoir arrêté vendredi 20 personnes après que des militaires ont été pris pour cible lors de tentatives d’ouverture de routes bloquées par les protestataires, sans autres précisions.

Neuf manifestants ont été relâchés tandis que sept sont toujours détenus et quatre ont été transférés à la police militaire, selon l’armée.

Mardi, un manifestant a été tué par un militaire au sud de Beyrouth en raison du blocage d’une route.

– Banques fermées, grève d’hôpitaux –

Le Liban est secoué depuis le 17 octobre par une contestation sans précédent contre l’ensemble d’une classe dirigeante accusée de corruption et d’incompétence dans un contexte de crise économique aiguë.

Vendredi, des dizaines d’hôpitaux du pays ont observé une grève, dénonçant des pénuries de certains équipements et produits élémentaires, dues aux retards dans le paiement de leurs arriérés par l’Etat et à une pénurie de dollars sur le marché.

Les banques étaient elles fermées après avoir déjà chômé durant les deux premières semaines du mouvement. En un mois de contestation, celles-ci ont ouvert seulement une semaine en renforçant les mesures de contrôle sur les retraits, entraînant parfois des heurts avec les clients.

Vendredi, l’agence internationale de notation Standard & Poor’s (S&P) a abaissé la note sur la dette libanaise de « B- » à « CCC », assortie d’une perspective négative, reflétant un risque élevé de défaut de paiement.

Jeudi, S&P avait déjà abaissé la note de trois banques locales de « B- » à « CCC ».

Il y a dix jours, l’agence Moody’s a abaissé la note souveraine du Liban de « Caa1 » à « Caa2 », un niveau associé à une forte probabilité de rééchelonnement de la dette.

Depuis août, le dollar, utilisé au même titre que la livre au Liban, s’est raréfié provoquant un bond du taux de change sur le marché noir, fixé depuis 1997 à 1.507 livres pour un dollar.

Cela a pénalisé de nombreux importateurs, notamment de carburants, de médicaments et de farine.


En Bolivie, les tweets anti-indigènes effacés par la présidente

Publié le 16.11.2019 à 00h00 par AFP

Depuis son accession au pouvoir, mardi, des publications sur les réseaux assurent que la présidente par intérim de la Bolivie Jeanine Añez aurait effacé des vieux messages compromettants sur Twitter. L’AFP a vérifié l’existence de ces tweets: la plupart ont bel et bien existé.

Interrogée à ce sujet, la sénatrice de droite a nié avoir publié des messages « malintentionnés » et a accusé le camp d’Evo Morales d’avoir employé des « guerriers numériques » pour falsifier son compte. « J’ai vu quelques tweets que je n’ai jamais écrits », a ajouté cette avocate de 52 ans qui affiche fièrement sa foi chrétienne, sans préciser lesquels.

– Le nouvel an aymara –

« Pas de nouvel an aymara, ni d’étoile du matin! Bande de sataniques, personne ne peut remplacer Dieu! », peut-on lire sur une des captures d’écran (1) qui circule, en référence aux festivités indigènes qui se célèbrent tous les 21 juin dans les communautés autochtones de Bolivie, du Chili, d’Argentine et du Pérou pour marquer le début du nouveau cycle agricole.

Ce tweet a été publié par Mme Añez le 20 juin 2013, à la veille de la célébration, avant d’être effacé. Le message est encore visible sur le site Wayback Machine (2), qui archive les pages web. Outre les nombreuses captures du tweet circulant sur internet, ce dernier peut se trouver en faisant une recherche avancée sur Google (3).

1 – https://perma.cc/7ZWX-ZAG8

2 – http://u.afp.com/JVSA

3 – https://perma.cc/6ZD3-RKPM

– La Bolivie « libre » de ses indigènes –

C’est une des captures d’écran les plus partagées. Il s’agit d’un supposé tweet (4) datant du 14 avril 2013: « Je rêve d’une Bolivie libre des rites sataniques indigènes, la ville n’est pas faite pour les indiens, qu’ils aillent vers l’Altiplano ou le Chaco », en référence au Pantanal, qui s’étend entre la Bolivie, le Brésil et le Paraguay et qui constitue la plus grande zone humide de le planète.

Mais l’AFP n’a trouvé aucune trace de cette publication, ni sur l’historique des tweets de Mme Añez (5) sur Wayback Machine, ni sur la recherche avancée de Google.

4 – https://perma.cc/MP9U-LKEQ

5 – http://u.afp.com/JVSm

– Evo, le « pauvre indigène » –

Des captures d’écran d’un tweet datant du 5 octobre 2019, où la présidente qualifie celui qui est alors encore président de Bolivie de « pauvre indigène » « accroché au pouvoir », sous un dessin d’Evo Morales agrippant un fauteuil présidentiel.

Un journaliste de l’AFP a pu faire une capture d’écran (6) montrant le tweet sur le compte d’Añez quelques minutes avant qu’il ne soit effacé. Il est également resté archivé dans Wayback Machine (7).

6 – https://perma.cc/HPC6-85PV

7 – http://u.afp.com/JVSn

– Doutes sur les peuples originaires –

D’autres publications sur les réseaux sociaux relaient la capture d’écran d’un tweet (8) où Mme Añez émet des doutes sur des personnes apparaissant sur une photo, en se demandant s’ils font partie des peuples « originaires ».

Le tweet date du 6 novembre, peu avant son arrivée au pouvoir. Il a été effacé depuis. On le retrouve sur Wayback Machine (9) et sur la recherche avancée de Google (10).

8 – https://perma.cc/9WK7-4T3Y

9 – http://u.afp.com/JVS8

10 – http://u.afp.com/JVS8

– Les explications de Mme Añez –

« J’ai vu quelques tweets que je n’ai jamais écrits », a-t-elle déclaré vendredi lors d’une conférence de presse sans préciser lesquels.

« Un des mécanismes de manipulation qu’utilisait le gouvernement d’Evo Morales, c’est justement les réseaux sociaux avec les célèbres guerriers numériques qui (…) étaient chargés de surveiller les (comptes sur les) réseaux sociaux des politiciens comme moi qui avons une autre manière de penser, qui avons choisi de vivre en démocratie et librement et qui sommes en train de nous battre pour cela, dans le but de falsifier les comptes », a-t-elle ajouté.


Base appointments on merit and equity

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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Two court rulings this week serve to illustrate glaring blunders in public appointments.

First, the High Court ruled that Ms Mwende Mwinzi, who has been nominated Ambassador to South Korea, cannot be forced to renounce her citizenship to take up the job as had been determined by a parliamentary committee.

Technically, she should not have been considered in the first place because of her dual nationality.

However, Parliament’s pronouncement that she had to renounce her American nationality was wrong.

Second, the Employment Court annulled appointment of Esther Murugi and Tiya Galgalo to the National Lands Commission because of serious irregularities.

Despite the glaring anomalies, they were nominated and approved by Parliament for formal appointment by the President.

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CITIZENSHIP

Ideally, the appointments should be based on merit. In addition, there must be equity and inclusivity.

However, experience has shown that the appointments are often politically and ethnically driven.

The case of Ms Mwinzi was particularly unique. Ms Mwinzi has dual citizenship – Kenyan and US.

Article 78 (1) of the Constitution states that nobody should be appointed a State officer unless he or she is Kenyan.

This is the provision Parliament’s Defence and Foreign Affairs committee invoked when making decision on whether or not she should be appointed to the job.

Thus, the committee decreed that she should renounce her citizenship before taking up the job, which is what she challenged in court.

But the court made reference to sub-article (3) (B) of the same article 78 to clear her. The fact, however, was that her nomination was a misadventure.

Outside the realm of legalism, the straight facts are as follows. One, the President should do proper groundwork before making any public appointment.

A lot of time and resources are expended in resolving such matters.

Two, Parliament has to rethink the whole process of vetting and approving appointments.

Vetting should be conducted professionally and where there are doubts, MPs should make use of experts and research facilities at their disposal.

It is embarrassing when their decisions are overturned by courts because of misinformation.

Like in the Ms Mwinzi’s case, MPs never examined all provisions in law when they asked her to renounce her American citizenship.

The cases provide vital lessons and authorities must take heed. The law has now been laid out and a precedent set by the rulings.

Appointments to public offices should be properly thought through so that they do not become objects of legal contests.

They should be guided purely by the principles of meritocracy, fairness and equity.


We shred animal fodder for dairy farmers and get good income out of it

CAROLINE WAMBUIBy CAROLINE WAMBUI
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The grinding noise on a farm in Gankere sub-location, Imenti North, Meru County, attracts several villagers who are keen to know what is going on.

Drawing closer, one realises that the systematic noise is coming from a shredder, run by a group of youths, which is slicing maize plants into pieces.

Under the name Dairy Ventures Self Help Group, the youths dressed in navy-blue overcoats and black gumboots run the business, helping farmers shred the fodder at a fee.

“Our machine shreds both the pod and grains, unlike a chaff cutter that only chops,” says Stanley Muriithi, the group’s secretary.

Muriithi recounts that they formed the group soon after being trained by the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) on dairy management.

“We could not afford to go into dairy farming because of lack of capital but we saw a business opportunity in providing services to dairy farmers,” he says.

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The members contributed Sh1,000 in a month, which was saved in a sacco. By early last year, the group had saved over Sh170,000 and they approached the Dutch organisation, which added them a similar amount, enabling them to purchase the fodder shredder at Sh340,000.

“We move from village to village or county to county shredding fodder for farmers. The machine shreds three tonnes per hour. We charge farmers Sh2,000 per hour and any member involved is paid Sh1,000 a day,” he explains, noting most of them have other jobs where they work as electricians, masons, drivers, carpenters and plumbers.

The group also hires more hands at Sh500 per day, with the farmer providing transport and the wages as they cater for diesel that powers the shredder. In a good month, the group makes up to Sh220,000.

“The machine shreds both the plants and the pod, opening the outer kennel and ensuring that the energy starch germ and the bran get mixed up, giving the farmer balanced fodder. The animals thus enjoy the full nutritional benefits of the fodder,” Murithi offers, noting they are 10 members in all.

SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODEL

Phillip Oketch, a dairy expert in Tharaka Nithi County with SNV, says, “Unlike a chaff cutter, the shredder is able to slice mature fodder, especially maize, that has gone beyond the dough stage. The former only chops it into wheels, a thing that translates to getting maize in the manure, a clear indication that it wasn’t digested. And because the testa wasn’t open, for the content in the grain to be shred and mixed into the fodder, the animal does not enjoy the nutrients from the plants and the grain.”

The youth demonstrate how they undertake their activities.The youth demonstrate how they undertake their activities. With the services they offer, they are assured of a stable source of income all-year-round. PHOTO | CAROLINE WAMBUI | NMG

According to him, the machine comes with different sieves that include grain without fodder, cobs and fine fodder, giving the farmer power to regulate the chopping sizes.

Patrick Muriiki, the chairman of the group, says after chopping the fodder, they then ensile at a separate fee, immediately reducing the chances of losing nutritive value.

“When fodder is not cut or ensiled on the same day, there is loss of nutritional value as heating up starts and there is the yellowing of the leaves,” he explains.

One of the advantages they have is that the shredder is movable. “You can take it to the maize plantation and shred directly into a lorry or in a silage pit, which reduces costs. Once shredded, the bulkiness reduces, enabling the farmer to use one or two lorries, which is easier than ferrying the full maize plants,” Muriiki explains.

Some of the counties they have travelled to outside Meru to shred fodder and ensile for farmers include Kajiado, Nakuru, Tharaka Nithi, Embu and Laikipia.

The group has also leased a two-acre piece of land where they grow maize for ensiling at a cost of Sh25,000-Sh30,000. Each member of the group also owns on average 0.5 acres where they grow maize, shred and sell it.

“With the services, we are assured of a stable source of income all-year-round. In future, we plan to purchase a dairy cow for each of our members,” says Muriiki.

He adds that the business model is sustainable though there are times they lack farmers to shred fodder for.

“As any other business, there are peak and low seasons. The peak season is when most farmers are harvesting their maize and when this ends the low season sets in. Some farmers in Meru irrigate their maize, a thing that ensures that even during the low season, we still get some business.”


Thresh grains, make feeds using these gadgets

BRIAN OKINDABy BRIAN OKINDA
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The Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic held at Egerton University last Saturday was a hotbed of farm technologies. From solar milk coolers to pesticide sprayers and winnowers, farmers were spoilt for choice. We sample some of them.

Solar milk cooler

This machine runs exclusively on solar energy, which it uses to cool milk for at least three days in the absence of sunlight.

The cooler stores the energy in an ice bank, said Dr Musa Njue, a senior lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Engineering at Egerton University. Dr Njue, the brains behind the machine, said the coolers come in 300 and 500-litre capacity.

“It is ideal for milk aggregators, youth and women groups, medium-scale farmers and even cooperatives,” said Dr Njue. “Farmers sell the evening milk at low prices and on many occasions, the milk gets spoilt or is rejected by processors the following day. This cooler is resilient to climate change and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions.”

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Feed mixer

The machine is good for mixing a variety of feeds and minerals ranging from dairy meal, pig feed, chicken mashes and human food.

The mixer has a chamber for holding the feed ingredients, a motor, and two outlets for letting out the product. The farmer has to get the right rations of each ingredient and put them in the right compartment.

A mixing device inside the holding chamber stirs and blends the materials once the machine is switched on. The feed mixer can be used in preparing all types of animal feeds.

“Some innovative farmers are even using it to mix soil with manure and fertiliser for bagged and potted seedlings,” said Dr Musa Njue.

Grain winnower

It winnows grains such as maize, wheat and sorghum. It consists of a mortar, blower, pulley, dust outlet and a clean grain hopper.

To use the machine, grains are poured into an inlet hopper and the blowers turned on to remove dirt and dust contained in the grains. It has an engine throttle and a fan mechanism which controls air flow for the winnowing operation.

You can winnow maize, sorghum, sunflower, chia, amaranth and beans, among others. The machine winnows 1,000kg of grains per hour.

Pedestal sprayer

This machine was showcased by the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), Njoro station.

Brian Sakwa of Kalro said the appliance eases spraying of crops on the farm as it can be driven by one person and covers a wide spread at a go. The system is made up of a trolley with one wheel on one end and handlebars on the other.

A 60-litre capacity chemical container is fixed on the trolley and a pump next to it. As the trolley moves, the wheel rotates as it pumps the chemicals through the nozzle and to the crops, explained Sakwa.

“This machine is easy to use and requires no power since it is the rotating wheel that pumps the chemicals.”

Chaff cutter
The machine is designed with safety in mind as its blades are protected, making it difficult for the operator’s hands to get anywhere near the blades.

The material is fed into the machine either by air suction, gravity or slight thrust by the operator. Wet material is discharged far away from the machine. It is also portable within and outside the farm.

Animal-drawn no-till planter

The planter has a front wheel to ease movement, then a modified disc for making holes, two hoppers; one for holding seeds and the other for the fertiliser and a final disc with serrated protrusions for covering the holes after planting.

To use it, according to Peter Kiprotich of Kalro, Njoro, the plough is hauled across the farm and as it moves, the first disc cuts the lines, making the planting holes, then the seeds and fertiliser automatically drop into the holes through calibrated outlets before the final disc covers the holes.

The system minimises the manpower required to plant crops as only two people operate it. The use of animals makes it accessible to small farmers.

Grain thresher
It performs three post-harvest operations simultaneously. The grain is threshed, polished and winnowed and comes out of the machine ready for the market.

The capacity of the machine is up to 450kg/h. It threshes sorghum, green grams and millet, among others.


Vet on call: With aflatoxin poisoning, even dogs are not safe

DR JOSEPH MUGACHIABy DR JOSEPH MUGACHIA
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NTV’s White Alert exposé brought out all that is wrong with the Kenyan food and health authorities, as they have left consumers at the mercy of racketeers out to make profits at all costs.

Since the documentary was aired, a number of people have asked me what they are expected to eat since milk and meat are heavily laced with aflatoxin.

The gastronomic dilemma is legitimate considering that many are obsessed with ugali, milk and other related foods.

By coincidence, my most frustrating case this week was acute aflatoxin poisoning in a loved family dog. I empathised with the pet owner and felt their pain when the sun finally set on Jimmy.

The dog was brought to my clinic on Sunday evening, a few hours before the airing of Denis Okari’s exposé. Jimmy had been brought the previous day, with a history of being hit by a motor cycle outside the family gate.

Examination on that day showed an upper normal temperature of 39.2 degrees Centigrade and mild pain in the chest area but no obvious signs of injury consistent with a vehicle knock.

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There was also mild harshness of respiratory sounds. Blood analysis showed bacterial infection. This prompted me to treat the dog with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

The second visit was an emergency. Jimmy could not even stand. Examination showed dehydration, severe weakness and a blank gaze.

The mucous membranes of the eyes and gums were heavily reddened and turning purple. He had marked abdominal pain and laboured breathing. Rectal examination revealed dark, bloody liquid faeces.

Temperature was normal at 38.8 degrees Centigrade. Tests for suspect viruses and amoeba-like organisms were negative.

HOT HUMID CONDITIONS

After the second examination, I suspected Jimmy had acute aflatoxin poisoning and admitted him for further treatment and observation. By the following day, the dog deteriorated to frank blood diarrhoea and vomiting before dying.

Post-mortem examination showed all the internal signs of acute aflatoxicosis. There was heavy bleeding in the stomach and intestines. The liver, kidney, lungs and heart were swollen and bleeding. The bladder was full with bloody urine.

I briefed the dog owner on aflatoxin poisoning in dogs, explaining that it is also a warning to humans whenever it occurs.

It indicates they could also be exposed. This is particularly so if humans and dogs share the same food or food sources.

Fortunately, this family and their dogs eat food from different sources. It became apparent the dog may have been poisoned by feeding on spoilt waste food from a garbage bin.

I am motivated to share this story because in Kenya, we put a lot of emphasis on food production both from crops and animals.

However, our production practices and the post-harvest management of food are neglected. This puts all food consumers, including animals, at the risk of infection with food-borne diseases or poisoning with mycotoxins and production chemicals.

The most common and toxic mycotoxin poisoning both in animals and humans is aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus.

The fungus grows best under hot humid conditions and thrives best on sugary foods such as maize, wheat, oil nuts, legumes and fruits. Maize, being the main food source for both humans and animals, ranks the most common source of aflatoxins.

SAFEGUARDING CINSUMERS

Once AFB1 is ingested by cattle, it is modified in the body to AFM1, which is excreted in milk. Therefore, dairy cattle consuming aflatoxin-contaminated feed will also expose people to AFM1 when they consume milk.

Aflatoxin poisoning in Kenya is not a new phenomenon. In fact, lots of data exist on the problem but the country has not taken decisive steps in safeguarding consumers.

Research shows that reports of aflatoxin poisoning in both humans and animals existed even before independence as shown on the table below.

Aflatoxin cases in the country in the past years.Aflatoxin cases in the country in the past years. TABLE | COURTESY

The Kenya Bureau of Standards can be credited with developing a standard for aflatoxins in foods and feeds. It allows up to 10 parts per billion or 10 micro-grams per kilo of food or feed for total aflatoxins.

It also allows maximum 5 parts per billion for total AFB1. However, setting the standards is not enough. It must be followed by stringent training of all food producers, handlers, processors, distributors and consumers on how best to minimise mycotoxin contamination of food at all levels to optimise food safety.

There must also be dedicated enforcement of compliance to the standard. This calls for cooperation, coordination and collaboration in food safety interventions among the various State agencies and courts.


Hotel: Why we’re happy growing our own food

WINNIE LELEIBy WINNIE LELEI
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As it becomes increasingly harder to ascertain the quality of food sold in the market and as prices rise, several hotels have moved to producing their own vegetables, eggs, meat and milk.

Hotels are some of the biggest buyers of farm produce, but issues of misuse of pesticides among farmers, poor handling and storage of food are making some to choose the new path to get quality supplies.

Ololo Lodge in Ongata Rongai in Kajiado County is one of the facilities that are growing their own food.

Felister Orangi, an assistant farm manager at the lodge and a graduate of management with training in permaculture designs, says they farm on 12 acres.

“We started farming three years ago, though the hotel was established in 2013. We were motivated by the need to produce safe food that is free of harmful agents such as pesticides and to cut costs,” says Felister, noting they farm organically.

Felister reckons that the hotel found inspiration to grow organic food from founder Craig Chapman, an Australian who also owns an organic farm back home.

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They grow a variety of vegetables in shade nets for all their kitchen needs, and keep hundreds of White cornish breed birds for meat and Isa Brown layers.

“We established the farms by importing loam soil and constructed sheds, not just to keep monkeys away but also to preserve moisture,” she says.

Herbs such as mint and vegetables that include broccoli, coriander, sage, red cabbage and zucchini now flourish under the nets. Along the edges of the garden are rosemary, roses as well as marigolds to help control pests.

“We are currently experimenting with garlic and chillies and have so far achieved positive results on lemon trees,” says Felister.

To maintain the right ecological environment in the enclosed garden, the team keeps a swarm of stingless bees that help with the pollination process.

The crops are supplied with worm juice, instead of the usual water, using drip pipes.

ORGANIC REMEDIES

“To produce the juice, the earthworms are fed on kitchen or farm waste like fruit peels, which they break down. We then pour water through the compost to end up with the liquid that is rich in nutrients but lacks oxygen. Once it seeps down from the compost bed, we collect and brew it,” says Felister.

“Brewing involves aerating the worm leachate by use of a device for at least six hours, then adding starch to it.”

Away from the vegetable farm, at the poultry section, the birds forage in an open area as they are kept organically. According to Felister, the chicken’s welfare comes first.

“When placed in a confined area, chickens are likely to suffer from problems caused by overcrowding. Chickens that are allowed to forage produce delicious meat and those that lay eggs produce better tasting ones,” she offers.

An employee of the farm collects eggs.An employee of the farm collects eggs. The birds forage in an open area as they are kept organically. PHOTO | WINNIE LELEI | NMG

Other than what the chickens feed on in the eight hours they are allowed to free-range, they are also fed on grains and vegetables.

“We buy day-old chicks and nurture them,” says Leonard Ndua, the farm’s manager.

Since the birds are farmed organically, they do not use the normal vaccines, but natural medicines bought from certified organic medicine producers as well as their own-produced drugs.

“We produce our own organic remedies using aloe vera and chillies,” says Ndua, noting that there is a misconception that chickens that free-range are prone to diseases.

According to Ndua, free-range birds face little danger of spreading disease from one to another, unlike those enclosed in an area.

“But the chickens should be allowed to free-range within a given area that can be cleaned easily,” he says.

The chicken area is paddocked so that the birds are rotated, first to ensure forage is not depleted and second, to ensure that the chicken droppings fertilise the soil on the farm.

The farm supplies eggs, first to the hotel then to consumers through a marketing agency. A tray goes for Sh450 and each bird sells at Sh650.

Layla Liebetrue, the Project Lead for Route to Food Initiative, says ecological farming is the way to go as the country is at a crossroads, with the need to become food secure outweighing the need for food safety.

“Food security is not about production but whether the people can afford to buy and whether the quality of the food is suitable,” she says, adding that organic farming produces safer food.

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The harvest

  1. They harvest half a tonne of salad greens, including mesclun salad, rocket, mustard, sorrel, baby spinach, mizuna and pak choi yearly.
  2. They also get 400kg tomatoes and a tonne of vegetables including red and white cabbage, green peppers, sukuma wiki, spinach, rhubarb, carrots, eggplant, squash, onions, broccoli, cauliflower and nasturtiums.
  3. They have also just started to produce fruits, getting approximately 100kg of tree tomatoes, passion fruits, bananas and citri.

Agronomist notebook: Here is one of the best rotational crops

ANN MACHARIABy ANN MACHARIA
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After harvesting their main crops, many farmers wonder what to plant next for an effective rotational programme.

Well, wonder no more because you can grow canola plant, which gives an excellent rotational programme since it offers cultural crop protection and enhances soil fertility.

Canola can be grown after cereal crops such as maize, wheat and barley, breaking the pest and disease life cycle.

In Narok, Nakuru and Nyeri, among other areas, many farmers are embracing the crop. Canola plant is bred from rapeseed and has lower levels of glucosinolates.

It belongs to the brassica family that grows from three-to-five feet tall and produces pods from which seeds are harvested and crushed to make canola oil and meal.

The plant produces small, yellow flowers that mature into seeds that produce the oil. Upon ripening, the seedpods turn brown.

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The demand for the vegetable oil, which has low saturated fats, is high, making the crop highly marketable.

In Kenya, various varieties do well in well-distributed rainfall. The canola plant does well in a wide range of soils that are well-drained and have moderate soil fertility.

Soil pH should be less than 5 to avoid phosphorus fixation. The crop matures after three months.

The crop requires nitrogen and phosphorus as the primary nutrient. However, a successful fertiliser programme is based on the knowledge of the soil nutrient level and requirements.

The land should be prepared to a fine tilth during the dry period to allow weeds and other residues to decompose.

Proper land preparation is necessary, as this helps control weeds before planting. The vegetative nature of the crop normally smothers weeds.

To plant, make shallow drills of 2-3cm at a spacing of 20-30cm, and then sow the seeds. Broadcasting method can also be used.

PREVENT WIND DAMAGE

For optimum growth, the plant requires 15-200C. However, low temperatures are usually a prerequisite to flowering.

The crop is primarily grown under rain-fed irrigation, thus timely planting is ideal as moisture stress during flowering leads to reduced yield. In dry areas, irrigation can also be done to obtain optimum yields.

The crop has a large taproot, which cracks into the soil, improving the drainage. It is also known to control disease during decomposition of root residues, hence can be used in various cropping systems such as intercrops, cover crops, rotational crops and trap crops.

Once canola is established, it does not require much attention other than spraying to control pests and diseases when necessary.

The crop is, however, affected by pests and diseases such as diamond back moth. The pest feeds on the leaves between the large veins and midribs.

This can be controlled by the adoption of integrated pest and disease management, which reduces the use of the chemicals and allows the build-up of the beneficial microorganisms.

Windbreakers like agroforestry trees such as grevelia or maize crop should be planted on the edge of the farm to minimise seed loss.

This helps prevent wind damage, which happens as the stems sway, resulting in the shattering of pods causing seed loss.

Harvesting is done when the crop appears brownish, and the majority of the seeds are in the firm dough stage with moisture content of about 25-45 per cent.

Before harvesting, the crop should be well-dried to ensure smooth harvest, which can be done using combine harvesters that also thresh the seeds. Harvested seeds should be dried or kept cool in a storage room that is well-aerated.

While seeds are used to extract oil (which one can do on the farm), the cake makes quality livestock feed ingredient. The canola meal is also used as a high-quality organic fertiliser.


Secrets of cashing in on agribusiness as taught at Farm Clinic

FRANCIS MUREITHIBy FRANCIS MUREITHI
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Egerton University in Njoro, Nakuru County, was the place to be last Saturday for any discerning farmer seeking to grow their agribusiness.

The university was a beehive of activity as tens of agriculture experts, agro-dealers and farmers congregated for the Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic, Rift Valley edition.

Driven by thirst for knowledge, the farmers came from far and wide, eager to engage the experts and pick as many lessons as possible from the event, whose theme was, ‘Enhancing food security through technology and innovation’.

Some came from Nakuru and its environs and others from the neighbouring Nairobi, Kiambu and Narok counties.

Well, there are those who travelled all the way from Bungoma, Makueni, Nandi, Kericho, Embu, Siaya, Busia, Trans Nzoia, Murang’a and Kakamega.

And the farmers did not disappoint, shooting straight the questions as soon as the event got underway shortly after 9am.

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The issue of aflatoxin in maize, wheat and animal feeds stood out as the country grapples with the problem that has been linked to an increase in cancer cases.

Joshua Kering, a farmer from Njoro, lamented that every year, a huge chunk of his maize is declared unfit for consumption when he takes it to millers in Nakuru Town.

Dr Meshack Obonyo, a researcher in biochemistry at Egerton University and a specialist on reducing aflatoxin, advised farmers to adopt safe post-harvest practices.

“One of the challenges is that farmers harvest their grains, which have high moisture content but don’t dry them properly. They then store them in ordinary bags, hence cases of rotting,” said Dr Obonyo.

Then instead of disposing of the bad grain, they feed it to their poultry and dairy cows.

HORMONAL IMBALANCE

“Aflatoxin is bad to animals just as it is to human beings. Once the animals feed on the bad grain, when you milk them or eat the eggs, you accumulate the toxins in the body, which cause problems to body organs such as liver, kidneys and oesophagus,” said Dr Obonyo, noting the toxins lead to cancer.

He advised farmers to use improved storage bags that have three layers of polythene material to store their maize after proper drying.

Farmers follow proceedings during the Seeds of Gold farm clinic in Njoro last weekendFarmers ask questions and follow proceedings during the Seeds of Gold farm clinic in Njoro last weekend. After the question and answer session, the farmers were taken on farm tours at the expansive college, with specific experts acting as guides. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NMG

“The bags keep away aflatoxin and pests for more than two years if the maize is hygienically dried,” said Dr Obonyo.

Josphat Karanja from Kiambu lamented how his cows take up to six months after calving to get on heat, despite feeding them with minerals.

He also wanted to know why his animals don’t conceive with first insemination.

Dr James Obiro, an animal health scientist from Egerton University, said heat failure can be caused by poor feeds and hormonal imbalance.

“An animal needs a balanced diet and one must get veterinary advice once the animals calve. Such an animal should be given a hormonal therapy and offered any other treatment to ensure they are healthy.”

Eliud Kahi from Bungoma was keen to know how to increase milk production

Dr Ochieng Odede, a veterinary and animal nutritionist at Sidai Africa Ltd, advised farmers to feed their animals with enough dry matter after calving.

“The dry matter, water, minerals and dairy meal helps make more bacteria, which the cows use to produce milk,” said Dr Odede, who added that animals also need plenty of zinc and copper, among other minerals, to produce more.

John Magut from Nandi County wanted to find out why his cow produces watery milk.

Dr Tobias Okeno, an animal scientist from Egerton, said this is due to feeding their animals excess fresh matter, which has more water.

Judith from Kakamega wanted to know other crops she could intercrop with her sugar cane, apart legumes.

Dr Obonyo advised her to plant peanut and beans as they do not compete for nutrients in the soil.

Farmer Elijah Chesire from Nakuru wanted to find out how to address pests in cucumber.

MEMORABLE, WHOLESOME EXPERIENCE

James Aura of Elgon Kenya asked him to use selective pesticides and insecticides to eliminate the insects.

Mary, a farmer from Kericho, sought to know how to control poultry stress. Ronald Kimetei from Egerton University informed her to construct a modern coop, which has free movement of air to reduce heat, avoid direct sunlight and feed the chickens well with quality feeds.

Farmers and experts interact during the Seeds of Gold farm clinic at Egerton University in Njoro last weekend.Farmers and experts interact during the Seeds of Gold farm clinic at Egerton University in Njoro last weekend. The farm clinic was a success in many ways since the hosting university is in itself a one-stop shop for all farming knowledge and information that farmers may have required. PHOTOS | COURTESY & BRIAN OKINDA | NMG

David Oduor from Siaya County, an avocado farmer, was eager to know how a small-scale farmer can access the Chinese market.

“You must first be in a group. Through the group, you can access the Chinese market by becoming growers for private sector actors such as Kakuzi who have the infrastructure for freezing,” said Dr Maina.

Nakuru deputy governor, Dr Eric Korir, challenged farmers to adopt Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in their farming and use it as a tool for research and to gain knowledge.

Elgon Kenya director of communication Nelson Maina noted that the farm clinic was a success in many ways since the hosting university is in itself is a one-stop shop for all farming knowledge and information that farmers may have required.

“Farmers had a platform to interact one-on-one with the different experts especially during the farm tours,” Maina said.

Joseph Ng’ang’a, New Holland regional sales consultant, informed farmers on their wide range of agricultural tractors and their implements and combine harvesters to ease work and that financing is available with local banks.

The event was sponsored by farm input supplier Elgon Kenya Ltd, fertiliser distributor OCP-Kenya, farm machinery suppliers ISUZU EA, CMC Motors and Toyota Kenya, animal health and crop production inputs dealer Coopers K-Brands, pharmaceutical products manufacturer Cosmos Ltd, agritech-management solutions firm Eprod Solutions Limited, animal health and nutrition firm Sidai Africa, seed maker SeedCo and beer manufacturer East Africa Breweries Ltd.

After the question and answer session, farmers were taken on farm tours at the expansive college, with specific experts acting as guides. They later left the event with a memorable, wholesome experience.


Insects to rear for animal feeds

MERCY WAHITOBy MERCY WAHITO
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Faith Nyamu is a researcher at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe). She spoke to Mercy Wahito on the many insects one can keep for use as human food and animal feeds

Many farmers are eager to get into insect-rearing, where does one start?

One should get knowledge and training on the insects they would like to keep. Icipe offers training in insect-rearing and offers starter pack (live insects) to trainees. We also do a follow-up to ensure farmers improve on their production.

Insect farming requires little space as one keeps them in small buckets and basins. Most of the insects feed on organic matter that include kitchen waste, which is then converted to good compost and later used for farming.

In contrast to animals and crops, which take longer to mature, insects take a maximum of two months to be ready for harvest.

Very little water is needed to breed insects, therefore, communities in arid areas can comfortably keep them.

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Rearing some of the insects, Locusts, in particular, are collected from the surrounding. Doesn’t this threaten the local biodiversity?

This in fact conserves biodiversity since only a few insects are collected and from the number, one does mass production.

This is contrary to harvesting the insects in huge numbers for food or feeding them directly from the environment, thus depleting the numbers.
What insects can farmers keep?

No all insects can be kept for food or for use as animal feeds. But we have researched on and domesticated the following:

a) Black soldier fly (Hermetia illlucens): The fifth instar larvae are used for feed formulation after drying or fed directly to poultry, pigs and fish.
b) Crickets (Scapsipedus Icipe gryllus bimacullutus).
c) Long-horned grasshoppers (Rusporia differences).
4. Desert locusts (Schistocerca gregarious).
5. Palm weevils.
6. African fruit beetle.

Why are most farmers keen on keeping black soldier flies as opposed to other insects?

Black soldier fly larvae contain high levels of crude protein that can be used to substitute protein in pig, chicken, dairy and fish feeds, thus reducing the use of fish meal and the soya bean used in conventional feeds.

The insects are reared on organic waste streams that most of the time are a bother to dispose, thus cleaning the environment and the by-product is manure.

Insects can serve as alternative protein for humans. What is their nutritional value compared to the rest of meats consumed?
They contain very high levels of protein and other nutrients that help boost immune systems in human beings compared to the rest of the meats.

To reduce the terrifying mentality of eating insects wholly, they can be ground into powder and added to food, stew, porridge or incorporated in cakes, cookies and chocolates.

Cricket food products are the most popular. They include cricket flour (pure dried crickets), cricket juice and cricket powder.

In Kenya, insects are a delicacy for communities in western Kenya. Insects that have traditionally been consumed as food are grasshoppers, locusts, lake flies and crickets.

Insect-farming can be capital-intensive, so what is your advice to a small-scale farmer seeking to venture into the practice?

Start small and expand when fully conversant with rearing and production. For the ones who wish to start large, we encourage working together with other farmers to increase supply.