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Friday, January 24th, 2020


Haggis is growing in popularity, and not just in Scotland

LONDON, Jan 25 (Reuters) – Carried high by the cook on a silver platter behind a kilted piper at formal dinners, the haggis is the essential dish for anyone celebrating the birthday of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, on Saturday.

Now the spicy meat is more popular than ever, with exports up 136% over the past decade with sales to faraway places such as Hong Kong and Ghana as well as across Europe.

The fame of the dish beyond Scotland is largely thanks to Burns himself, whose birthday is celebrated by festive dinners with haggis, whisky, speeches and poetry.

Burns, who died aged only 37, is celebrated by devotees around the world whose “Address to a Haggis” extolling the “Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race” is recited by a knife-wielding orator at the start of the dinner.

Glasses of whisky are raised to toast the memory of the poor farmer’s son born in Ayrshire in southwest Scotland in 1759 whose poetry is read and loved over 260 years later.

Haggis is traditionally made from the finely chopped “pluck” — heart, lungs and liver — of a sheep, blended with onion, oatmeal, barley and spices, stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled.

Britain’s Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers praised the success of the exports although at 900,000 pounds ($1.18 million) last year they remain small, particularly compared with Scotland’s biggest food and drink export, whisky.

“This Burns Night I encourage everyone to sample some haggis and pour a wee dram to celebrate Scotland’s iconic food and drink,” she said.

The devolved Scottish government is trying to persuade the U.S. to lift a longstanding ban on traditional haggis after Britain’s outbreak of mad cow disease which started in the 1980s.

The biggest importers of haggis are Ireland, France, Spain and Hong Kong. (Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Stephen Addison)

Sahara : L’Espagne défend la centralité de l’ONU dans la recherche d’une solution à ce différend régional

Publié le 25.01.2020 à 00h18 par APA

La ministre espagnole des Affaires étrangères, de l’UE et de la coopération, Mme Arancha González Layas, actuellement en visite de travail dans le Royaume, a réitéré, vendredi à Rabat, la position claire, précise et ferme de son pays concernant la question du Sahara marocain.Madrid défend la centralité des Nations unies dans la recherche d’une solution à ce différend, a mis en avant la ministre lors d’une conférence de presse conjointe avec le ministre des Affaires étrangères, de la Coopération africaine et des Marocains résidant à l’étranger, Nasser Bourita.

Mme Arancha González Layas a, de même, affirmé que la position de l’Espagne sur la question du Sahara est « une position d’Etat qui n’est pas tributaire des changements de gouvernements ou de coalitions ».

La cheffe de la diplomatie espagnole a ajouté que son pays défend la centralité des Nations unies dans la recherche d’une solution à ce différend régional dans le cadre des résolutions pertinentes du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU.

Elle a, d’autre part, exprimé le soutien de Madrid aux efforts du secrétaire général des Nations unies, Antonio Guterres, afin de parvenir à une solution à ce conflit.

Chiefs to help enforce 100pc secondary school transition

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The government intends to use chiefs and Nyumba Kumi initiative members in tracking 2019 KCPE candidates who have not reported to secondary schools.


Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said, during the mop-up exercise, that the students will be forcibly escorted to the nearest day secondary schools since the government is determined to achieve its 100 per cent transition policy.

Prof Magoha admitted that not all the 1,075,201 KCPE candidates had reported to Form One despite his ministry extending the reporting date by one week.

The transition policy – launched last year – is one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy projects in education, with the CS saying “it is better to have a child in school under a tree than have him or her loitering at home”.

Speaking at State House Girls High School Nairobi Friday during a tour, he said Form One admission was at 850,000 and the figure was expected to hit 920,000 by close of the exercise Friday evening.


“We still have 150,000-200,000 to be mopped up. The prerogative of the government in ensuring all children go to school is well grounded and is doing well,” said Prof Magoha.


During the countrywide mop-up exercise, village administrators have been instructed to take learners who are yet to enrol for secondary education to the nearest day schools.

But those who have decided to repeat Standard Eight and mature learners who decide to join technical and vocational colleges will be exempted.

“There are parents and children who of their own volition decided to repeat. That decision will be respected and we will determine the number of those repeating. There are mature teenagers who want to go to TVET, they too will not be blocked,” stated the CS.

On girls who have married instead of joining Form One, he said provincial administrators had been instructed to pull them out of the marriages and escort them to nearby secondary schools. The administrators will also be required to take others to boarding schools to protect them.


“Those pregnant can join school and the government will ensure that they are released to go and deliver and return to school.

“Teachers and school heads must enhance support services (to ensure all children are in school),” stated Prof Magoha.

He further warned school principals against turning away needy learners, saying such action is illegal and amounts to crime.

Earlier in the week, the CS visited some needy students in informal settlements in Mukuru kwa Njenga and Chokaa areas where he said he came across moving experiences.

“In Mukuru, I found a girl who had 403 marks and was supposed to join Precious Blood Kagwe in Lari. They (principals) must accept all the children who have reported,” he said.

In the transition rate, the CS announced that Murang’a county had surpassed its target as it was standing at 127 per cent followed by Nyeri at 110 per cent.

Nairobi city was at 111 per cent, Vihiga (110 per cent) and Tharaka Nithi 106 per cent.


From bottom, Tana River county had the lowest score at 49 per cent followed by Marsabit with 60 per cent, Samburu was at 61 per cent while Kilifi and West post counties had 68 percent.

Confidence vote for Kenya

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The decision by World Athletics (formerly International Association of Athletics Federations) to pick Nairobi to host the first meeting of the Continental Tour is good news to athletics fans.

The Continental Tour, a series of the world’s best one-day athletics meetings outside the Diamond League, will start in Nairobi on May 2 and conclude in Zagreb, Croatia, on September 15.

The choice of Nairobi to host one of the 10 meetings of the inaugural edition of the Tour is a vote of confidence in Kenya as a top athletics destination and home of world-beating runners.

Kenya hosted a successful World Under-18 Athletics Championships in 2017.

It’s from that success that Kenya was picked to host the World Under-20 Championships on July 7-12. Kenya is also bidding to host the 2025 World Athletics Championships.



Boosted by a robust campaign led by the Sports ministry and Athletics Kenya at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, and at the World Athletics gala in Monaco last year, Kenya beat Pretoria and Oregon in a tight race to host the meeting.

The Tour, organised after most long-distance races (5,000m, 10,000m and 3,000m steeplechase) were struck off the Diamond League’s 90-minute live broadcast window, will offer athletes in these races a chance to compete before their home fans at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

The event will be the highest senior international meeting to be held in Kenya since the 2007 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa.

To deliver a world-class meeting of the Continental Tour, the Sports ministry and Athletics Kenya must work to ensure Kasarani Stadium is renovated to the required standards, because the event will be a dry run for the World Under-20 Championships.

The three State arms must work together

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The thawing of relations between the Judiciary and the Executive is vital for the rule of law.

Constitutionally, the three arms of government — the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary — are independent but interdependent.

Never should they be cosy with each other. Each operates autonomously with an express mandate.

But that does not mean they have to be antagonistic. This is what has been obtaining between the Executive and the Judiciary.

This week, President Uhuru Kenyatta, the head of the Executive, met and engaged in candid discussion with Chief Justice David Magara, the head of the Judiciary, and both agreed to a truce and to work together.

There are fears, though, that the rapprochement could undermine the independence of the Judiciary. We hope that will not happen.


What was happening between the two arms of government was caustic.

The Executive has been berating the Judiciary and, to show might, resorted to starving it of cash to derail its operations.


The Judiciary has suffered major budget cuts in recent years and the result is paralysis.

To show Executive authority, President Kenyatta has refused to appoint judges nominated by the Judicial Service Commission, exacerbating staff shortage in the courts.

In response, Justice Maraga in November last year tore into the Executive and made it known to the whole world that the Judiciary was under siege.

But that seemed to inflame passions, as the Executive reacted with further budget cuts. All these have not helped anybody.

Which is why we advocate a structured engagement among the arms of the government, while keeping distance from and respect for each other.

The agencies have to consult and discuss issues openly and candidly. For the Judiciary, and away from the frosty relations with the Executive, there are internal and professional matters that have to be tackled.

First, the failure by the courts to expeditiously conclude corruption cases is a setback to the war against the vice.

And this has spawned a narrative that the Judiciary is the weak link in the anti-graft campaign.

Granted, some cases have been slowed down by poor prosecution, but there are many clear and straightforward cases that ought to be concluded quickly.

Further, some rulings bring to question the integrity of the judicial officers. Second, the backlog of cases is a disservice to the rule of law.

Third, the Judiciary’s defensive posture when confronted about its lapses is duplicitous. The three arms must coexist and support each other to achieve respective mandates.

Agronomist notebook: The best way to spray crops

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The increased use of pesticides on farms has raised concerns over the safety of food sold in the markets.

This is because most farmers misuse chemicals knowingly or unknowingly, exposing consumers and the environment to various risks.

The farm chemicals are used at almost all stages of crop growth, right from land preparation where herbicides are applied to clear weeds to planting, during transplanting and until the crop is harvested and stored.

In the course of my work last week, I met farmer Bosire in Meru County, who had sprayed bulb onions that were ready for harvest with glyphosate.

Glyphosate is a compound that is used as herbicides to kill weeds. In this case, the farmer was spraying the chemical to dry the bulb onion leaves within the shortest time possible. He was doing this to be able to sell the onions when the prices are high.

Using such underhand tactics, a farmer is able to make some more money but this is at the expense of consumers since he does not observe the pre-harvest interval period for that particular chemical which has been linked to rise in cancer cases.


High usage of pesticides is not only a threat to the health of consumers but also to the environment due to pollution. To ensure production of healthy foods, farmers should embrace good agricultural practices.

The central rule in the application of pesticides on crops is to ensure that there is even distribution of the chemical on the foliage.

It’s also important to take precaution while spraying a chemical by wearing protective equipment such as gloves, respirators, boots, and overalls. Some farmers also spray at the wrong time, that is when it’s very windy or too hot.

While spraying, it’s important to reduce the wind drift by using a protective guard. This will help avoid crop damage in the neighbouring fields and thus protect the environment.


Spraying should also be done early morning or late evening when the wind speeds are low. Also, most pests are active at night, making it easy to kill them. A sunny environment results in evaporation of the chemical causing a very minimal effect on the crop.

Before selecting the equipment to use, it’s important to check the label and the integrated pest and disease guidelines for the particular pesticide that will be applied.

The chemical label provides the farmer with a good source of information on how it should be applied. Therefore, read and understand the label.

Choose the nozzle of the spray depending on the wind speed. If the wind is causing a lot of drift, adapt to the situation or postpone the application. Under windy conditions, low pressure is recommended since it produces large drops.

Choosing a bigger nozzle increases the water volume rate and applies larger drops compensating for the reduced coverage from the bigger droplets.

Calibrate your knapsacks or spraying equipment after every fortnight to ensure that all the parts are functioning efficiently.

Now, to spray for instance, tomatoes, it’s important to understand the target pest or diseases since some infestations start on the lower sides of the leaves.

However, while spraying, ensure there is uniform coverage of the pesticide on the plant. Start by spraying the crop from the upper parts, sideways as you move downwards.

The leaves should be sprayed both on the upper and the lower side to increase the chemical efficiency. In some cases, you can spray the base of the plant like when controlling the cutworms in young seedlings.

You are obligated to follow the instructions labelled on the pest control products strictly to avoid toxifying yourself, your family and your farm produce

Without breaking the soil, farmer turns dry land into grain basket

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The crop sways gently from side to side as the breeze sweeps through the Athi plains, about 40 kilometres from Nairobi.

The healthy wheat belies the veneer of a desolate wasteland as you leave the Nairobi-Mombasa highway just before the interchange to Machakos.

Three kilometres up the hills, opposite Maanzoni Lodge, you arrive on the farm, much of it now fallow after harvest and recent prolonged rains.

But beyond the farm offices, baled fodder, an assortment of machinery as well as an interlude of a wildlife conservancy where wildebeests and the eland nibble at tender grass, you find a bumper crop, which is turning golden, a sign that it is ready for harvesting.

Besides wheat, which sits on 230 hectares, the farm is also home to hundreds of hectares of green grams, chickpeas and forage sorghum.

This is Ausquest Farm, founded by Australian-born Stuart Barden and his wife Annie eight years ago. “We deposit our rainfall in the soil to build a moisture bank. We don’t have any reservoir or irrigation here,” he tells us when I wonder aloud how he manages to do so well in a region considered semi-arid and barren.


A descendant of a farming family in New South Wales, Australia, Stuart arrived in Kenya 10 years ago in search of a place to establish a dryland farm and share with Kenyan farmers the great potential in lower rainfall areas.

They saw the black cotton soils of the semi-arid Athi River and, with its soil type and low rainfall, felt this was what they were looking for.

“I found that food production in Kenya is a big deal and I thought I should make a contribution,” he told us as he took us around the farm this week.

After seeing the boom-bust cycle of Kenya’s agriculture where the country moves intermittently from high production to low yields, they wanted a farming system that buffers the variable weather common in Kenya.

“We use rain when it falls, store it in our soils and then use it at a later time to suit the crop cycle,” Stuart explains. He continues, “There is so much unrealised potential in Kenyan agriculture. We don’t have a lack of water in Kenya but rather a lack of farming systems to utilise it.”

But keeping millions of litres of water below his farm is not enough.


“We are building resilience by taking care of the soil, which is getting better and better. We do this by not tilling it and by leaving crop residue to replenish the soil. We also don’t use a lot of fertiliser,” he says, shelling some wheat with his hands to produce the big grains, some of which he shares before he throws the rest into his mouth and starts chewing.

The result is a tasty, sticky substance that makes some of the best bread dough anywhere. “This is good milling wheat, it tends to have a lot of protein in it due to the high nitrogen levels in our soils,” Stuart says.

He hopes to get 20 bags per acre, a hefty harvest in a country where getting 15 bags is good business even in the wheat belts of Narok, Nakuru and Uasin Gishu.

His secret lies in the no-till technology and crop rotation, which ensure enough water underground, richer soil and more efficient use of fertiliser.

“I have not tilled this land for seven years. Moreover, it has residue of sorghum and chickpeas, which is digested back into the soil. The more organic matter you can have in your soil the more water it can hold.

Stuart in the farm in Machakos. David Naphtali Stuart in the farm in Machakos. David Naphtali (inset left), the farm manager and (right) an aerial view of the wheat farm. Stuart says the farm shares knowledge freely so that others don’t repeat the mistakes they make and can take the successes away as well. PHOTOS | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“We do use fungicides on our crops at times. These past short rains were a challenge as conditions were ideal for various diseases,” Stuart explains.

To ensure dairy clients produce milk throughout the year – come rain or sunshine – Ausquest Farm makes fodder available all year round and sells it at Sh10 a kilo.

The farm has invested heavily in its forage machinery, which enables it to make a 365-day supply. Many of the fodder customers have dairy farms in the peri-urban areas around Nairobi.

The farm also produces an average of 1.7 tonnes per hectare of Desi chickpeas, 1.9 tonnes per hectare of Kabuli chickpeas and 1.6 tonnes per hectare of green grams.

Stuart is a believer in “less is more”, so Ausquest Farm only has six full-time employees, including himself, although they employ up to 480 casuals through a local labour hire contractor for hand weeding. “We are very fussy about employing from our local area.”

Innovation drives Ausquest Farm. With the help of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), it is now fabricating a planter for smallholder farmers, which it expects will cut the cost of planting from Sh10,000 a hectare to Sh3,000.

In the forage sorghum field, where infections caused by too much rain have prevented a healthy third regeneration of the crop, Stuart comments, rather philosophically, that profit is the reward for risk and that the better one can manage risk the more profit he can expose his farming business to.


His earlier dalliance with grain sorghum saw thousands of birds descend on the ripening crop, wiping out the entire field.

And for showcasing best farming practices, the farm receives hordes of visitors. Delegations from government departments, schools and colleges, NGOs, researchers and individuals – all numbering over 8,000 – have visited the farm to date.

Stuart says the farm shares knowledge freely so that others don’t repeat the mistakes they make and can take the successes away as well.

He praises Kenyans’ go-getter spirit, but is a bit frustrated with its slow pace of realising its potential. He laughs off the oft-repeated excuse that black soil is unproductive.

“The biggest grain belt of the world – Russia and Ukraine – has black cotton soil.”

He should know about the elasticity of potential. Some 31 years ago, just after completing secondary school, his father challenged him and his siblings to get their own farms.

At only 16, the odds seemed unsurmountable, but he visited successful farms in Australia and learnt from others.

He started share farming and, together with his wife, built a farming business growing over 30,000 acres of crops per season.

He keeps learning, relying on Twitter and WhatsApp groups, as well as reading many research papers, to improve his knowledge.

Ausquest also mentors young farmers. Three of the Ausquest full-time team are successful farmers in their own right.

“We try and do what works best. We do use chemicals and we have very healthy soils, although we can always do better. The bottom line is that you take care of the soil. You can’t constantly take from the soil without giving back something. If you don’t give back to the soil, you are a miner, not a farmer and cannot expect that the soil (your farm) will continue giving something to you.”

Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo, a regular client of Ausquest, says he likes its professionalism and costing of silage. “Using their silage has reduced the cost of feed in my farm, increased milk yields and general health of my herd.”

Get it fast

His advice to young farmers

  1. Farmer Stuart Barden urges those looking to go into farming to prepare well.
  2. “Work hard and think harder,” he says. “A successful farming business is not built in a straight line of success; expect the unexpected and be flexible,” he adds.
  3. On the campaign by some scientists for a shift to agroecology, a farming system that frowns upon cultivation and breeding techniques that rely on chemical fertilisers, pesticides or artificial genetic modifications, Stuart says “diversity and soil health are key and there are many ways to achieve these goals”

Solar bulbs, gas heater keep farmer's chickens warmer

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Obwolo village in Mamboleo, Kisumu County, is a rather quiet neighbourhood, with most people living in homesteads that are fenced with hedges.

It is here that Charles Owiti runs his Joe Fresh Farm, where he rears chickens and rabbits on part of the one-acre farm.

“I keep broilers, Rainbow roosters and Kenbro birds,” says the 39-year-old, who sold most of his 258 birds over Christmas and remained with 25.

He started the farm in August 2016, ploughing in the business Sh400,000 drawn from his savings and a loan from a family member.

“The money went into setting up the poultry house, buying drinkers, feeders, 250 chicks and their feeds.”

When he started, the farmer used charcoal brooders to keep the chicks warm, what consumed plenty of money.


But he has now switched to solar bulbs and a gas heater. He installed a solar panel on the chicken coop and he now uses solar lamps for lighting.

“They are cheaper since there are no extra costs as in the case of electricity where one pays bills every month. Also, with frequent power outages, you can be sure I don’t care about the blackouts.”

The farmer further uses catalytic infra red gas heater to keep the chickens warmer, noting that it is safer than using charcoal.

“It’s environmentally friendly. Gas costs Sh2,100. Charcoal is Sh2,000 and I had to use three bags a month. That’s Sh6,000. So I save a lot.”

As part of pest and disease control, he vaccinates the chicks against Gumboro at day 10 and Newcastle at day 20 and 30.


“I also disinfect sawdust before putting it in the house and I have a footbath to keep pests and diseases at bay,” says the disaster management Masters student at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology.

To disinfect the sawdust, he spreads it on black polythene sheet then sprays on it a disinfect. He then dries the sawdust in the sun until it is dry before putting in the coops. He feeds the birds thrice a day and gives them plenty of water to drink.

“We target to sale the broilers when they attain 1kg in slightly over a month at Sh420 each,” explains the farmer.

For the other birds, we sell each when they are about 1.4kg at Sh650, with the farmer selling some of the chickens to Tumaini supermarket and Nightingale Hospital in Kisumu.

“I market my poultry products via social media platforms such as Facebook, and I have a website,” says Owiti, who also sales 50kg and 70kg chicken droppings at Sh90 and Sh120 respectively.

His challenge is the rising cost of feeds, with a 50kg bag of chicken starter going for Sh3,300 and a 50kg bag of pellets atSh3,100.

“Some of the chicks sold in the market are also of poor quality leading to losses because they die. I am currently working on restocking with 300 chicks.”

The farmer plans to venture into value addition, expand his farm and go into hatchery production in about five years.

Maseno University’s Department of Agriculture Head Prof Matthew Dida says farmers have an option of making their own feeds to cut cost of production.

“But one should be trained on feed formulation to be able to make a balanced feeds for broilers,” says Prof Dida.

“There are a variety of raw materials available for feed formulations such sunflower seedcake, cotton seedcake and maize germ.”

A model dairy goat farm

Ngumo’s agribusiness is a good example of how one should keep the animals profitably

To achieve food security, we must be seed secure

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As farmers get ready for the first planting season, one of the things many are grappling with is the high cost of seeds. Thus, a good number will use farm-saved seeds. Rachel Kibui spoke to Ronnie Vernooy, a genetic resource policy specialist at Bioversity International, Holland, who shares tips on how one can conserve seeds to maximise yields

The quality of farm-saved seeds depends on the selection process. What should farmers observe at this point?

Seed selection normally begins on the farm. Therefore, a farmer should spot and mark plants that germinate and flower fast and yield big.

Among these, select the most healthy-looking seeds. They should be free from injuries or effects of diseases or destruction from moisture. These seeds should then be well-dried before storage.

How does one store seeds?

Set aside a space on the farm store or at your home dedicated exclusively for storing seeds. This space should be dry since moisture is destructive to seeds.


Besides, the place should be cool as high temperatures cause an increase in humidity, which compromises the seeds’ quality. Seeds should also be exposed to minimal light.

Some farmers may find it harder to achieve the moisture-free conditions …

That should not be expensive. All one needs are airtight containers. These can be the locally moulded clay pots or even recycled plastic containers, including beverage and water bottles. For best results, fill the containers to the brim to ensure they are airtight as air carries humidity.

Can farmers work with the National Gene Bank to save seeds and boost crop yields?

Certainly yes, this can be achieved by farmers coming together and collecting seeds then expressing their intention to store seeds in the gene bank.

However, these seeds should be well-selected and dried. While farmers can only store seeds for a short time, say, a maximum of two years at home, the same can last for decades at the National Gene Bank.

Then the seeds can be withdrawn from the bank for multiplication.

The effects of climate change are now apparent and the small farmer is feeling the pinch. Can seed-saving come to the rescue of farmers?

Some of the seed varieties that farmers have saved for long are no longer performing well under the same climatic conditions.

Farmers can boost their production by exchanging seeds with their colleagues from other regions and check which ones are more adaptive to the current climate conditions.

This can be done through seed fairs organised by farmer groups or relevant government authorities. This way, people can get seeds that are adaptive to current climate conditions.

The seed fairs should be combined with food fairs so that different cultural groups can borrow recipes from other participants.

Seed security or food security, which should come first?

For a society to be food secure, there must be seed security. While agri-innovators are burning midnight oil trying to ensure new, productive and adoptive seed varieties are available, many smallholder farmers still depend on farm-saved seeds.

The government should therefore pay attention to the ‘informal’ seeds sector.