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Friday, February 7th, 2020

 

Kenya : le nouvel accord commercial avec Washington ne compromet pas la ZLECA

Publié le 08.02.2020 à 00h18 par APA

Le président kenyan Uhuru Kenyatta a assuré que le nouvel accord commercial bilatéral entre le Kenya et les États-Unis ne saperait pas l’accord de libre-échange continental africain (ZLECA).Le dirigeant kenyan s’exprimait peu après une réunion avec son homologue américain Donald Trump à la Maison Blanche, au cours de laquelle les deux dirigeants ont convenu d’entamer des pourparlers en vue d’un pacte commercial entre leurs deux pays.

Kenyatta a donné cette assurance lorsqu’il s’est adressé à plus de 350 chefs d’entreprise participant à un forum commercial américano-kényen dans la capitale américaine jeudi.

Il a déclaré que ce nouvel accord commercial proposé avec Washington ne compromettrait en rien l’engagement du Kenya à l’égard de l’Accord de libre-échange continental africain (ZLECA).

Lors de la réunion de la Maison Blanche, les présidents Kenyatta et Trump ont déclaré qu’un nouvel accord commercial contribuerait à accroître les volumes d’échanges et d’investissements entre les deux pays.

Le représentant américain au commerce, Robert Lighthizer, qui s’est exprimé peu après la réunion entre les présidents Kenyatta et Trump, a déclaré que les Etats unis reconnaissaient le Kenya comme un leader en Afrique et un partenaire stratégique important.

Il a déclaré qu’un nouvel accord commercial offre aux deux pays une rare opportunité d’explorer les moyens d’approfondir les liens économiques et commerciaux entre le Kenya et les États-Unis.

« Sous la direction du président Trump, nous sommes impatients de négocier et de conclure avec le Kenya un accord global de haut niveau qui puisse servir de modèle pour d’autres accords à travers l’Afrique », a déclaré Amb Lighthizer.

Conformément à la loi bipartisane de 2015 sur les priorités et la responsabilité commerciales du Congrès, le représentant commercial va maintenant informer officiellement le Congrès de l’intention du gouvernement américain d’entamer des négociations commerciales avec le Kenya.

Actuellement, les échanges commerciaux entre le Kenya et les États-Unis s’élèvent à environ 1 milliard de dollars par an, avec plus de 70% des exportations kenyanes vers le marché américain en expansion en 2018, d’une valeur de 466 millions de dollars, entrant dans le cadre de l’AGOA.

Kenyatta a déclaré au forum Kenya-États-Unis que son administration s’est engagée à développer et à conclure le cadre le plus solide jamais mis en place pour le commerce et l’investissement, qui permettrait d’accroître les échanges entre les deux pays.

« Aujourd’hui, je tiens à vous assurer tous de l’engagement indéfectible du Kenya à développer le cadre d’investissement commercial le plus solide jamais mis en place avec les États-Unis ».

Il a rejeté les spéculations selon lesquelles le Kenya romprait son engagement envers l’accord de libre-échange continental africain (ZLECA), affirmant que ce nouvel accord avec les États-Unis vise uniquement à soutenir et à approfondir le commerce non seulement avec le Kenya mais aussi avec d’autres pays africains.


CAN-Futsal 2020: Le Maroc sacré champion

Publié le 08.02.2020 à 00h18 par APA

La sélection marocaine de Futsal a remporté la Coupe d’Afrique des Nations 2020 pour la deuxième fois consécutive en écrasant son homologue égyptienne sur le score fleuve de 5 à 0, vendredi soir à Lâayoune.Les réalisations des Lions de l’Atlas, qui ont dominé la rencontre ont été l’oeuvre de  Soufiane Masrar, qui inscrit deux buts, Abdellatif Fati, Said Knia et Anass Al Ayann.

Le Maroc conserve ainsi son trophée continental gagné en 2016 en Afrique Sud face aux mêmes Egyptiens (3/2).

Dans l’autre match pour le classement, l’Angola a pris le dessus sur la Libye sur le score de 2 à 0, pour occuper ainsi la troisième place et se qualifier en compagnie  du Maroc et de l’Egypte, à la coupe du monde qui sera organisée du 12 septembre au 4 octobre en 2020 en Lituanie.


Stop supremacy battles and appoint new judges

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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The High Court has resolved the tussle between the Executive and the Judiciary over the appointment of judges.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has all along acted unlawfully by failing to appoint the judges who had been duly interviewed and vetted by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and found suitable for the jobs.

Although Attorney-General Paul Kihara, himself a member of the JSC, has issued a notice to appeal the ruling.

But the fundamentals laid out by the High Court, and given the provisions of the Constitution and JSC Act, provide express direction on the process of appointment of judges.

What is puzzling in this case is that reasons advanced by the Executive why President Kenyatta had not made appointments were spurious to the extent that extraneous matters were introduced after the process had been completed.

mong others, the Executive argued that the State had some damning evidence from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) that deeply indicted some of the candidates.

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WORK DERAILED

Yet such information was never submitted to the JSC or during the entire process so that the affected could be put to task on them.

Given the contestation that has persisted between the Executive and the Judiciary, the real reason for the delay cannot be mistaken.

All that is part of strategy to destabilise and weaken the Judiciary,; deny it of staff and derail its operations.

President Kenyatta’s disdain for the courts since the annulment of his presidential election in 2017 is unambiguous.

As currently constituted, the Judiciary is deeply understaffed. For instance, the Court of Appeal has suspended sittings outside Nairobi because of shortage of judges compounded by insufficient funding.

Progressively, the number of Court of Appeal judges has fallen from the optimum 27 to 15, making it pretty difficult for them to conduct rotational sittings outside Nairobi. Other courts are worse off.

BUDGET CUTS

At the same time, the Executive has resorted to squeezing the Judiciary financially.

In the past two years, the National Treasury has consistently cut Judiciary’s budget and the net result is that it cannot carry out its mandate.

Late last year, Chief Justice David Maraga came out publicly to lament about the frustrations visited on the Judiciary, including being starved of funds and personnel, and judges humiliated at national functions.

Recently, President Kenyatta and Mr Maraga made amends and pledged to work collaboratively, given the interdependence between the two arms of government. But the reality is yet to sink.

Now is the moment to demonstrate that sea-change of heart. With the High Court’s ruling, the Executive has to do the right thing.

Attempts to manipulate processes to fight other extraneous battles are not acceptable. Independence of the Judiciary is anchored in the Constitution and has to be respected.


Improve Tokyo Olympics kit

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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Nike Inc. has unveiled part of their specialised design kit for Team Kenya for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

The global sports apparel manufacturing company launched the kit this week to the global media in New York.

The launch might have been met by a backlash from a section of Kenyans who criticised the new design, faulting it as lacking Kenyan theme.

However, it is acknowledged that the National Olympic Committee (Nock) has done well with the drastic changes made in the management of the kits for Team Kenya.

So far and considering last year’s kit management, there are indications that Nock is handling kit procurement and distribution fairly well.

Last year, the African Games kit was distributed publicly to all athletes, a sign that Nock had instituted good governance to ensure transparency and accountability in kit management, a departure from the past when the process was shrouded in mystery.

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BETTER MANAGEMENT

Indeed, the kits saga during the 2016 Rio Olympics easily comes to mind.

It is encouraging to note that since last year, Nock has not only formulated strategies and plans for kit issuance but also implemented strategies for managing various games.

Key among the strategies are open issuance of kits, keeping their records and giving information to the public about its activities.

As the Tokyo Games beckon, Nock must uphold transparency in all its processes.

In the meantime, it should take note of the concerns being expressed about the kit and, where necessary, ask Nike to make changes.


Woman finds formula to reap big from tiny farm

RACHEL KIBUIBy RACHEL KIBUI
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On Beatrice Wangui’s farm in Gathigiriri village, some 15 kilometres from Gilgil Town, you find various lush crops.

Those that stand out, however, are arrowroots, which she farms using a technology known as hugo culture.

The technology involves digging a hole in which she puts some wood waste, then maize stalks, charcoal dust and manure, before planting arrowroot seedlings.

“I get the off-cuts from construction sites. They are about one-to-two metres long. The first layer consists of the big ones, second the thinner ones, while third are twigs collected from nearby bushes,” she says.

“The technology helps the crops get maximum nutrients and also conserves water, especially because charcoal dust holds water for long,” she adds.

Since the soil is light, the holes where she plants arrowroot are about the size of her hand, as she was advised by experts.

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She also makes big holes, about one metre wide, three metres long, with a depth of one metre, for bigger crops.

Besides the section on her quarter acre farm on which she has planted arrowroots currently, she is preparing another measuring about two by four metres for the crop.

A few metres from the arrowroots section are three huge plastic containers filled with soil and manure in which she is planning to plant coriander.

“I went to my neighbour whose tank was leaking and he was wondering how to dispose of it,” recalls Peter Mwangi, Beatrice’s husband. “I told him to give it to me. I then cut it into three and turned them into gardens.”

This, Mwangi says, was in support of his wife who is very passionate about organic farming.

Not far away is a healthy spinach crop, some grown in gunny bags, while others are planted in vertical, round mouldings.

RECYCLED POLYTHENE BAGS

Before planting in gunny bags, Beatrice filled them with a mixture of soil, manure and charcoal dust.

At the centre though, she fills the bags with ballast, as this helps in spreading water evenly throughout the farm thus ensuring that the water reaches out to the roots of each crop.

She has planted more vegetables in vertical gardens, which are made of recycled polythene bags.

“Although I am a professional tailor, I use the tailoring skill to make the gunny bags for my farm,” says Beatrice

She has also recycled old tyres, which she buries partly into the soil, fills with a mixture of manure and soil and plants vegetables and coriander.

“To control pests and diseases, I ensure there is minimal weed infestation on my farm,” she says. Additionally, she plants spring onion whose aroma, she says, repels pests such as white flies.

Beatrice says she learnt about the organic farming methods from grass roots farming groups known as Seed Savers Network, which is based in Gilgil.

According to experts, farmers who own small farms can work together and produce intensively for domestic consumption as well as for sale.

Ronnie Vernooy, a Genetic Resource Policy Specialist at Bioversity International, says such farmers can work in groups, specialise in producing particular crops and target specific markets.

“Farmers can for example decide to produce organic herbs, set prices and look for a suitable market they can sustainably supply,” says Vernooy

He describes Beatrice’s farm as a classic example of how one can properly use space, labour, knowledge and resources such as soil and water.


Where to buy good acacia seeds and how to plant them

TIM WANYONYIBy TIM WANYONYI
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The article on Acacia xanthophloea generated plenty of feedback from readers. This week, I answer your questions on acacia and others.

Where can one find Acacia xanthophloea seedlings and can they do well around Njoro?

-Julius Korir

The trees will do well in Njoro, according to the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) guide on tree planting in the country.

Acacia xanthophloea grows best in highland regions of altitudes of between 1,000 and 2,000 metres above sea level and rainfalls of 800-1,400mm a year.

Njoro falls within this ecological zone. Please check in nurseries around Njoro or Nakuru for the seedlings. If not available, you can also visit the nearest Kefri or Kenya Forest Service station.

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Where can I get acacia seeds? What is the recommended spacing between the trees? What is the expected charcoal yield per mature tree or per acre of land planted with acacia?

-Muhia Dominic

You can get acacia seeds from any Kefri stations across the country. You will also be advised on pre-sowing preparation for the seeds.

When planting, Michael Meso, the assistant manager of the Kefri Seed Centre at Muguga headquarters, advises that the ideal spacing between the trees is five metres. A mature tree can yield up to 10 sacks of charcoal.

I come from the dryer parts of Meru where acacia trees have been growing naturally but now I would like to start growing them. Where can I get seedlings. I would also like to visit your farm and learn the best practices. And have you dealt with Acacia senegal that produces the highly valued Gum arabic?

Please check out tree nurseries around Meru and see if they have acacia seedlings. If not they are available around Nairobi, especially Kajiado. You can also inquire from your nearest Kefri or KFS stations.

Acacia senegal grows wildly in semi-arid regions and is useful for its Gum Arabic, which is used in adhesives, pharmaceuticals, inks and confections.

In Sudan, one of the biggest producers, the tree is now grown by farmers on plantations. This can also be done in Kenya, especially in semi-arid zones like your part of Meru.

I have been planning to plant acacia trees. I went to Kenya Plant Health Inspection Service (Kephis) early last year and I was told about Xanthophloea and polyacanta. Where is your farm? Your spacing of the trees?

-John Chepkwony

My farm is in Soy, near Eldoret. The spacing is five metres between the trees. This gives them enough room to grow given that they have a fairly wide branch span.

But this can reduce to three metres for those on the farm perimeter that provide security against intrusion.

I have five acres in Eldoret on which I want to grow trees but I am torn between planting eucalyptus, wattle and acacia. Which one would you advise me to plant?

-Kenneth Nduati

The species of tree you choose to plant will depend on your end use objective. Do you want timber, poles, fuelwood or charcoal? If you want timber and poles, eucalyptus is the tree.

If you want fuelwood and charcoal, acacia and wattle will be more suitable. For acacia, the ideal spacing is five metres between trees, which should give you about 500 per acre. Wattle is planted by broadcasting seeds so it is difficult to estimate the number in an acre.

I have over five acres in Suswa, Saikeri and I need to make it useful. What would it take in terms of money to put it under acacia?

-Ben Aseto

The seedlings cost between Sh30 and Sh70 each depending on their age. In five acres, you will need about 2,500 seedlings.

If you were to buy seeds from Kefri and make your own nursey, you will need a quarter kilo, which costs about Sh800.

A mature tree can yield up to 10 sacks of charcoal. I will advise that you till the land and even intercrop the trees with short term crops in the beginning. Acacia are very good with crops because they fix nitrogen in the soil.

How can I harvest acacia trees sustainably?

-Cecilia Karagu

One acacia tree can has as many as 10 branches. Essentially, this is like 10 trees in one. So during harvest, you can cut off the branches while leaving the main trunk which will grow other branches.


Use of big data key to unlocking agriculture potential

WESLEY KINARABy WESLEY KINARA
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The dawn of mobile telephony ushered new opportunities across industries. Advancements in this technology from rudimentary gadgets to sophisticated smartphones meant the limits of exploration were constrained by imagination.

However, any new technology requires order to coexist within the business ecosystem. During the 2018 Global CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture Convention in Nairobi, Information CS Joseph Mucheru said that there are four “enablers” that must act together to ensure successful data harnessing.

They include political support, open data legislation, data infrastructure and demand for data by all stakeholders, including farmers, academics, government and NGOs.

To illustrate, mobile money debuted in the country before the said support systems were in place. Literally, the cart was before the horse.

Big data or data analytics, has come at a time when there is little understanding of the subject, its viability for commercialisation and the aforesaid support structure.

What is big data?

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Big data is the process of systematically extracting information from huge data sets for predictive analytics or user behaviour analytics to determine business trends, prevent diseases, climatic changes and so on.

Nonetheless, big data does not exist in a vacuum. It is an ecology that also relies on other technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), big data, analytics, and cloud computing.

IoT devices help in the first phase of this process — data collection. Sensors plugged in tractors and trucks as well as in fields, soil, and plants aid in the collection of real-time data directly from the ground.

Second, analysts integrate the large amounts of data collected with other information available in the cloud, such as weather data and pricing models to determine patterns.

Finally, these patterns and insights assist in controlling the problem. They help to pinpoint existing issues, like operational inefficiencies and problems with soil quality, and formulate predictive algorithms that can alert even before a problem occurs.

Applications

• Food safety and spoilage prevention: The collection of data around things like humidity, temperature and chemicals will paint a picture of health around smart agricultural businesses.
• Operation/equipment management: Use of technology such as soil sensors, drones and livestock monitoring gadgets and in supply chain optimisation can produce reams of priceless data.
• Yield prediction: The use of mathematical models to analyse data around yield, weather, chemicals, leaf and biomass index among others, with machine learning used to crunch the stats and power the making of decisions.
• Precision agriculture: The use of sensors and software for collecting data means that only a small amount of manual work is required to hand each business an instruction manual on how to guarantee the best return from their crops.
• Using pesticides ethically: Administration of pesticides has been a contentious issue due to its side effects on the ecosystem. Big data allows farmers to manage this better by recommending what pesticides to apply, when, and by how much.

In 2011, the government rolled out the Open Data Initiative purposefully to make core government developmental, demographic, statistical and expenditure data available in a useful digital format for researchers, policymakers, ICT developers and the public.

Leapfrog to 2020, and measurable progress on the road to smart farming through various programmes spearheaded by the government and its development partners have been witnessed.

They include progress in areas of precision agriculture, GPS for climate and soil data, data collection and artificial intelligence and an ongoing national livestock identification system.

Government is pivotal in propagation of the data agenda because it possesses huge volumes of information. Through state agencies as such Kenya Diary Board, New KCC, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, National Cereals and Produce Board and so on, it has registered millions of farmers in their databases over the years.

To optimise this data for public-private partnerships, enterprise and research growth, it needs to be correlated by farmer capacity, demographics and value chain.

Private sector initiatives

Acumen Kenya is working with about 300 agrodealers countrywide in a process of stock aggregation. The firm, through an app and point of sale (POS) system made available to clients, monitors to check stock level, sales volumes, brand demand and rejected or defective inputs among other parameters. This information is then used for credit reference for restocking and expansion.

Techno Brain and Quatrix Global have teamed up to optimise big data for origin and traceability of produce, and the distribution of vet-agro products. Sector players currently using this service include Bidco and Sidai Africa.

BFAP South Africa and Amiran Kenya are developing a vast expanse of data to offer on-demand services and products even before the customer requisitions for a restock.

There are numerous examples on the adoption of big data in agriculture. However, collaboration among government, development agencies, research institutions and private enterprise is needed to preclude repetitive efforts in data collection and analytics.

The writer is the publisher, Agriculture in Kenya Guide and vice-chair, farm inputs committee, Kepsa. [email protected]


Vet on call: For smooth pig farming, pay heed to vaccination

DR JOSEPH MUGACHIABy DR JOSEPH MUGACHIA
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The caller sounded distressed. She spoke quite fast, until I told her to slow down to enable me to take notes. I do not like interrupting a caller but then it is unprofessional to listen to half the story and take the person back to the start to record details of the case.

I captured the pertinent issues of the narration for 10 uninterrupted minutes. “Doctor, you have to help me save my pig herd,” Asunta concluded.

She said she had invested a lot in the pigs over the past two years but the occurrence of disease on the farm since July 2019 to last month had shocked her confidence in the venture. She wondered whether she could be having an attack of the dreaded African swine fever (ASF).

I told her she definitely had a bigger problem that could gently wipe out her pig herd but it was not ASF.

Her 19 pigs had produced 216 piglets between July 2019 and January 2020 but only 78 piglets had survived. This in medical terms is a huge breeding failure. Commercially, it is a disaster.

The occurrence would seriously disrupt her breeding and expansion programme and revenue projections. This kind of occurrence is frequent on livestock farms if the investor misses on key disease control and prevention activities.

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It is worst in pigs and poultry where the profitability of the investment depends on production of large numbers of animals.

So how did Asunta fall this low? Let us first consider her report in deeper detail. She said her pigs had done very well up to June last year.

In July, she expected two sows to farrow but they went past their due date by 12 days. She was concerned when the sows started shrinking and yet they were still pregnant.

This was mistake number one. A farmer should get concerned if the sow exceeds the due date by more than five days. Most sows will deliver on the expected day plus or minus two days.

CAUSE DEATH

The sows were induced to farrow and they gave birth to 12 and 15 piglets that were shrunken and coloured black.

Medically, these are called mummified foetuses and it was the reason the sows were shrinking.

During pregnancy, the uterus extends greatly with the increasing size of the foetuses and corresponding increase in the uterine fluids. The fluids keep the foetuses clean and protected from external shock.

Certain infections may cause the death of the foetuses without rotting. Once the pregnancy goes beyond term, the body absorbs back the foetal fluids, leaving a gelatinous protein and foetal waste material in the uterus.

This turns brown, black and sticky as it gets more dehydrated. Such dead foetuses are called mummies and they can remain in the uterus for long periods, making the sow infertile. The reduction in uterine fluids is seen outwardly as shrinking of the size of the sow.

The farmer committed a second error by not following up on the occurrence of 27 mummies in her herd. The sows appeared to have recovered and they were even served again.

The shocker came in October. Seven sows gave birth to a mixture of mummies, still births and freshly dead piglets.

Other piglets looked normal but most died within seven days of birth. Others were weak and died soon after birth. One sow gave birth to 21 piglets with 17 alive. Out of these, only six survived despite lots of efforts to nurture them.

At that point, Asunta sought help. She neither got a diagnosis nor a solution to the problem but she knew something was terribly amiss.

The October nightmare was repeated through January, when she was referred to me by her friend. I had assisted the friend early last year to sort out a big problem of diarrhoea in his piglets.

From the history the farmer gave, it was evident she had a severe attack of the Porcine parvovirus. It is a common problem globally but fortunately, it can be prevented using vaccine.

The virus infects piglets in the uterus but does not usually kill the mother. In some cases, it will kill all the piglets but the most common occurrence is a mixture of outcomes as seen with Asunta’s herd.

BREEDING FAILURE

When foetuses are infected before 35 days of pregnancy, they may be resorbed and the pigs get back to heat. Porcine parvovirus infection, therefore, kills a pig herd by causing severe breeding failure.

The virus does not infect humans and is different from the Human parvovirus and the deadly Canine parvovirus of dogs.

An outbreak of Porcine parvovirus infection is diagnosed based on the clinical signs or through laboratory investigation. Laboratory investigation is expensive and, therefore, the farmer opted I treat the problem based on the clinical signs.

I advised her to put her pigs on a diligent vaccination programme for the disease, which was to start immediately. She introduced me on phone to her paravet animal health service provider, Wahome. I detailed to him the vaccination programme and how to administer the vaccine.

Asunta immediately bought the vaccine and Wahome vaccinated all the breeders. I, however, cautioned her that some of the pregnant sows may still give birth to defective piglets since they could already have been infected at the time of vaccination.

She would only see the full outcome of vaccination when all the sows and the boar were protected before breeding.

Farmers should always vaccinate their pigs routinely against the following common diseases: Porcine parvovirus, Gut oedema, Swine erysipelas and Foot and mouth disease.

Fortunately, all these vaccines are recommended for routine use in the breeding stock. The commercial stock comprising the porkers and baconers are not vaccinated because the piglets have immunity from their mothers.


Soil-less technology set to end perennial seed potato shortage

IRENE MUGOBy IRENE MUGO
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Beyond the plains of the Aberdare National Park, dry maize plantations dot farms as residents prepare to clear their crops in readiness for the next planting season.

After hours on the busy Nyahururu-Nakuru highway, the Seeds of Gold team arrives at the National Youth Service Tumaini Farm in Nyandarua – one of the biggest potato production units in the country and beyond.

The farm is working on a potato seed production technology, which if fully exploited will make shortage of quality potato seeds a thing of the past. The Sh14.4 million project involves use of aeroponic technology to produce disease-free potato seeds.

The plants are grown in air or misty environment in an enclosed chamber (with no soil involved) offering higher yields per plant at a lower cost in the long run.

On the farm, there are three greenhouses under production where the plants are raised under artificial and controlled conditions in special boxes lined with insect-proof mesh.

The boxes made of wood are used in the propagation and production of Shangi and Dutch Robjin potato varieties.

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The cubicles are wrapped with white cellophane and black polythene meant to ‘psyche’ the potatoes to start forming tubers.

“The polythene is supposed to ‘psyche’ potatoes to start forming tubers because once they are exposed to light, they wither while the cellophane is used to aid photosynthesis,” notes Kennedy Nyakango, the commanding officer at the station.

Inside the boxes, roots bearing tubers are suspended in the air and are sprayed with water and a solution of nutrients.

“The mist sprayers ensure the roots remain hydrated and absorb nutrients without having to stay in the soil or water,” says Nyakang’o, adding the plants are sprayed against early and late blight, aphids and white flies.

Each box lifted a few metres from the ground measuring 20 by 20ft hold at least 36 plantlets each producing between 60 and 70 mini-tubers.

OFFERING TECHNICAL SUPPORT

NYS Tumaini acquire the tissue culture materials from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation or the Kenya Plant and Health Inspectorate (Kephis), which has been providing diagnostic services and guidance to the farm on seed production.

The plants start producing mini-tubers approximately 30-45 days after planting them inside the greenhouses.

“We start harvesting them at two-and-a-half months with a single plantlet producing about 60-70 mini-tubers per season,” Nyakang’o says adding that harvesting is done continuously.

NYS Tumaini Farm has already been registered as a seed merchant hence can market the certified seeds to farmers.

“Since we started in February 15, 2019, we have produced over 280,000 mini-tubers,” notes Nyakang’o, a Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat)-trained agricultural officer.

The clean seeds that are already being distributed to farmers will mitigate the spread of potato diseases such as bacterial wilt, blackleg and potato cyst nematode, according to Nyakang’o, which affects areas that have been grown for a long time.

Aeroponic technology can be used to grow any crops producing tubers such as sweet potatoes and cassava but is mostly appreciated in growing potatoes.

Currently, the farm has over 180,000 certified mini-tubers after selling others. A single mini-tuber sells at Sh15 while a 50 kilogramme sells at Sh5,000.

“The systems are 100 per cent safe and they help the environment by conserving water and reducing the amount of human labour,” he says.

According to the National Potato Council of Kenya, there is a potato seed demand of 100,000 tonnes annually but the country only produces 5,000 tonnes with Kalro offer 300 tonnes per year.

Kephis, which is offering technical support to the farm, says the rapid multiplication of potatoes will assist the country in achieving food security as well clean potatoes for farmers who re-use their produce.

Any official adds that farmers adopting the technology should go through training for chemical handling and safety and phytosanitary standards.


To beat erratic rains, grow green grams

SILLUS O ODUORBy SILLUS O ODUOR
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If everything remains constant, the new planting season will kick off next month. Thus, many farmers are beginning to prepare for the season by budgeting and doing market research to know what to grow.

This task is much harder for farmers in the drylands since on top of the daily challenges such as soil fertility, they have to grapple with water scarcity.

One, therefore, has to plant crops that can withstand the harsh conditions, among them legumes such as common beans, cowpeas, pigeon peas, dolichos and mung beans.

While the rest of the plants are common, let us demystify mung beans, which are better known as green grams.

They are a leguminous crop that is able to acclimatise to low soil moisture conditions and survive under water-stress. They are scientifically known as Vigna radiata.

They are classified in the same species as cowpeas and both do well in drought conditions as well as in infertile soils.

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This is because they are in a position to fix nitrogen hence make their own nutrients for uptake. In the process, mung beans make the soil more fertile than it was before the crop was planted and can be produced either for its grains or as vegetables.

Production

In Kenya, there are various varieties of mung beans that have been developed to adopt to various conditions. KS20 is a variety that appears brownish when dry.

It is commonly known as “Uncle”. Its grains are green in colour and bigger in size. It matures 95 days after planting.

Another variety is the N26. This one is commonly referred to as “Nylon”. Its pods are black when dry and grains appear shiny green when mature. It flowers in 40 days and takes between 60 to 65 days to mature.

MOST PREFERRED VARIETY

This makes it the most preferred variety. These varieties can be obtained from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, Kenya Seed Company and Simlaw Seeds, among others.

Mung beans require well-drained, loosely packed soils. This facilitates easy air and water circulation as well as root penetration.

The soil should be well-prepared to eliminate large debris and the hard pans that might hinder root penetration and development.

It prefers soils with pH ranges of between 6.0 and 7.4. Planting is done when the temperature is averagely 190C. It is planted at a spacing of 25cm between each hole and 60cm between each row.

The use of fertiliser should be avoided during mung bean production as much as possible, unless the soil is highly eroded and fertility is very low. In this case, the soil must be tested to ascertain how much fertiliser is to be used and for how long.

When more fertiliser is added, the nutrient level might increase to a toxic level that might end up harming the crop, reducing its performance.

In case of eroded soils, application of nitrogenous fertiliser at a lower rate of 10kg Nitrogen/ha is recommended.

During production, mung bean is likely to be attacked by pests such as aphids, beetle and pod sucking bugs, which can be controlled by pesticides while the most common disease is powdery mildew.

Therefore, in the coming planting season, be smarter when deciding the type of crop to grow for maximum benefits.

For farmers in arid and semi-arid areas, plant a crop such as mung bean, which is tolerant to water-stress and soil infertility and at the same time takes the shortest time to mature.

The writer is based at the Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.