Main Menu

Friday, October 18th, 2019

 

State must support sports

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The threat by sports federations to hold demonstrations to compel the government to support national teams indicates the mess in the management of games. Football Kenya Federation (FKF), Athletics Kenya, Kenya Hockey Union (KHU), Kenya Table Tennis Association and Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) argue that their national teams are suffering neglect and attempts to resolve vexing matters have proved futile.

FKF, for example, says it has not received any funding, other than some Sh240 million for the national team’s preparation and participation in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). Harambee Stars are gearing for the 2021 Afcon qualifier while Harambee Starlets are going on with their 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifiers.

KHU only received air tickets for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifiers campaign three months ago in South Africa, but the players have not been paid their allowances.

KRU has not received any support for Kenya Simbas’ qualifier last year for the ongoing Rugby World Cup, Under-20 team’s Chipu campaign at Africa Under-20 and World Junior Trophy in Argentina.

The women’s rugby team, Kenya Lionesses, have gone through three major events without any support.

Advertisement

The preparations for the World Under-20 Championships in athletics are alarmingly slow, with no mechanism for identifying athletes to compete at the event.

The Sports ministry has to resolve the afflictions of the federations. The Sports Act enjoins the government to fund national teams.

DUPLICATION OF ROLES

A Sports Fund was formed to cater for that but it appears there is duplication of roles between the Sports Fund and Sport Kenya.

This has to be resolved urgently, but the federations must also follow the right channels while seeking funds.

They should also explore other avenues for raising cash, including sponsorships, rather than relying solely on the government.

Moreover, the federations’ accounts should be audited to ensure transparency in use of public funds. Most federations are havens for corruptions and looting. Right now, Fifa is seeking explanation on what happened to the grant it gave FKF to purchase OB Vans.


Uhuru, Raila make the handshake deal public

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
More by this Author

The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga has singularly attracted criticism because it is shrouded in mystery.

Since the two erstwhile political rivals entered a truce in March last year after two calamitous presidential elections in 2017, beyond ending vicious conflicts and violence, details of the rapprochement remain a guarded secret.

The only manifest and public outcome is the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which has since gone round the country collecting and collating views from the public on governance and stability.

It is this mystique around the covenant between the two leaders that has elicited cynicism and scepticism, with the less charitable viewing it as a pact of scions of Kenya’s Independence leaders, but nothing to do with citizens.

Speaking in Suswa, Narok, this week, President Kenyatta took exception to BBI’s critics, condemning them for speculations about the initiative.

Advertisement

Specifically, he is agitated that some pessimists purport that the BBI is a ploy to change the Constitution and create a position for him after his second presidential term ends in 2022.

For good measure, he declared that he is not interested in any job and would exit when the time comes.

That is reassuring and serves to debunk the lies being peddled by some conspiracy theorists.

Even so, President Kenyatta and his newfound friend Mr Odinga have to be ready to take the flak because they have failed to explain to Kenyans what the handshake is all about.

LASTING PEACE

Speculators have coined all sorts of explanations and wove self-gratifying narratives around the whole thing. For example, some Odinga loyalists have interpreted the deal as a ticket for them to enter government and resorted to behaving as state functionaries.

Conversely, some Jubilee politicians see it as a ploy to throw them out of the party and consequently taken to fighting the government from within. That is the danger of information dearth.

There must be something far deeper in the accord. Ending the post-election chaos was critical but temporal. Even though it has worked, the country needs a well-grounded formula that guarantees lasting peace.

That elections should not be the genesis of violence. Whenever opinions conflict, there are civilised ways of resolving them.

But the destiny of an entire nation ought not to be left in the hands of two individuals. President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have an obligation to explain to the public what their agreement is all about.


A checklist for the little chubby feet

BETT KINYATTIBy BETT KINYATTI
More by this Author

Muna, our three-year-old daughter, started school in January. On the morning of her first day, GB, Nanny Viv and I packed ourselves into the car to see her off. Our overwrought miens took the seats next to us. We looked like a family going to church on a Sunday — Nanny Viv had on the wedges she only saves for special occasions, I was in a jacket that photographs well. GB denies this but I swear he had slicked his hair with oily pomade.

I want to tell you how Muna bawled her eyes out after we dropped her off. How she scratched Teacher Veronica in the face as she struggled to calm her down. How I got to my desk and wondered whether she understood what school is for.

BEST FRIENDS

Whether she knew that Talia and Muriuki would later become her best friends. But I won’t. Not today. Today we fry a different kettle of fish.

Schools close for the December holiday early next month. The shoes Muna wore on that first day have taken her through her entire first year of kindergarten. Aside from some peeling leather at the toe front and straps, those shoes have held their own.

I honestly did not think they would. I bought them for Sh500 from some unbearably stuffy exhibition stall on Moi Avenue (Nairobi) playing bongo music. They exclusively stock low-end shoes imported from China.

Advertisement

Muna has the most adorable feet. They are chubby and flat at the bottom. Her toes are all almost the same length. (Oh, how I wish my editor would let me insert a picture here.)

I considered getting her shoes from a well-established shoe store that has outlets at every corner of this town. A store where my mother herself had bought me shoes for school. Where the shoes are gummed and stitched with hand-me-down sentiments, and laced with nostalgia. Proudly made in Kenya. Tough as a rhino’s hide.

CHEAT SHEET

You do not just buy a shoe here, you buy into the history of a third-world economy. I opted not to because the shoes did not check the features in my cheat sheet.

I did not want to get her second-hand shoes because … you know … because she is our firstborn and she was going to school for the first time and we wanted everything to be brand spanking new. I know. I know. My fleeting desires were ridiculously founded in my own braggadocio.

Either way, I wanted shoes that were comfortable to wear and play in, easy to clean and would meet the daily needs of a three-year old in kindergarten. Form and function. The bargain China-made shoes almost met all her needs. Almost. They missed the mark by a small margin.

Well, if you are a manufacturer or importer of school shoes, I am sharing a cheat sheet so you can nail the designs and crafting down to the last stitch. Here are the features us parents want in the school shoes of our toddlers:

We want the shoes made from soft bendable leather and rounded at the toes. It doesn’t have to be pure leather because (a) the toes of our children need room to wiggle around (b) pure leather is a luxury material; it pushes the cost of the shoe up to an unnecessary bracket (c) our children are in school to run and kick balls around; surely, they are not signing up for endurance training with KDF. Artificial leather is just as durable, yet lighter.

COMFORTABLE

We want shoes whose insides are cushioned with soft material, probably lining leather or a breathable cloth. This allows our children to wear the shoes with or without socks, and their chubby feet will still be comfortable.

Children are allowed to wear shoes without socks — they have horrible morning breath, too, but they don’t get smelly feet. That is a truism you can take to the bank.

We also want shoes that have a Velcro strap; no shoelaces and no steel buckles, please. Muna is at an age where she slaps your hand away when you want to help her with something. Especially with wearing her shoes. They call this slap independence. “Mummy, leave! I can do by myself.” I beam with useless pride whenever I see her take the straps out of her shoes, slide her foot in and fasten the Velcro back on. She thrives on that pride, too.

Most important, we want shoes whose soles can bend as far back as our children demand.

Shoes that will bend without breaking at the point of tension, and will not make our children’s adorable feet bleed when the bent leather pokes into them. Rubber soles coupled with soft man-made leather translate to optimum bends.

See the picture there? That is what we want. This is the ultimate test for a rubber sole. A flexible rubber sole means flexible use. We don’t want shoes that will force our children to run with their feet flat on the ground, as if they are skiing the slopes of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France. Life is too short for that.


Youthful musical quartet have Fela Kuti as role model

KAREN MURIUKIBy KAREN MURIUKI
More by this Author

Mbogi Konnection, a four-man collective of Afrocentric artistes, is not your average music band.

Having noticed a gap in the cultural disconnect among the millennial generation, Sitonick “Ice-Tonic” Taiyana, 27, Joash Masese, 25, Gugz’ Ngugi, 25, and Abdul Sigilai, 26, made a decision to share and promote African art and culture with the masses through the principle of love in their music, and their Unganisha Festival. They talked to the Saturday Nation about their beginnings and their future plans.

Why the name Mbogi Konnection?

Ice: Mbogi comes from the word bogie, which means a railway carriage in English, and the connection that the carriages have gave us inspiration for the name. We are a group of people with the same values. We are a squad that holds each other’s hands and moves together.

Gugz: Mbogi Konnection is a family and a support system. We were brought together by different circumstances, but we realised we were all we needed.

How did you meet?

Advertisement

Ice: Gugz and I were friends way before the band was created. We had tried out acting and poetry at first, until Gugz discovered percussion. In June last year, we all performed separately at a concert called Ona, which was Ice’s debut concert; for him to blend poetry, music and dance … The vibe was great and there was a lot of love from the audience. But something drew us closer after that. None of us went ahead to say that we should form a band. We started hanging out almost every day, until one September afternoon when we decided to form the band to support each other.

Gugz: Another common factor was our belief in the mantra of love. All of us went through hardships, both personally and musically, something I believe made us appreciate and value our craft. Meeting people who believe in the love of giving, the craft and taking care of each other is a blessing. Ours is true love.

Ice: Love that gives, and love that continues. Music is a full-time job for us. We don’t intend to do anything else in the long run.

What was the initial goal?

Gugz: Our goal wasn’t long-term. We simply decided to try out a second edition of Ona. That was followed by Pawa Festival, and the rest was history.

Ice: There was a certain hunger each of us had as solo artistes. That’s what pushed us to come together. No one had to explain their dream to the other. We wanted to create our own sound — something different. It has been a journey that we truly value.

How would you describe your music?

Ice: It is a blend of traditional and urban African sounds. It is very percussive. The beat of the djembe is always the introduction to our songs. There is something about the African drums that awaken the spirit. You cannot really explain it. You just have to feel it. The drums are the backbone of our music.

The chanting and the screaming we do is because of the freedom, which we use to describe our music as well. Once you give yourself the freedom of expression, everything becomes beautiful.

Who do you look up to musically as a band?

Ice: Fela Kuti has been our greatest musical inspiration. We also explore a lot of African bands like BCUC from South Africa. And as much as we are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, we know and believe we can achieve anything.

What made you see the gap in the industry?

Gugz: As a percussionist, I realised that our music is not really toned down, as it was a long time ago with different cultures. There are very few spaces, especially in Nairobi, that allow artistes like us to express ourselves. Today, many schools focus on teaching students how to play Western instruments like the piano, saxophone and bass, among many others. It is not a bad thing, but we feel like cultural instruments, like the marimba and nyatiti, should be incorporated into the curriculum as well.

How do you intend to make a difference with the festival? Gugz: Through Unganisha, we seek to work with different cultural artistes before reaching out to our different audiences. We need to have an understanding of what we are trying to teach.

Ice: We intend to teach social responsibility through the festival, which we have divided into three parts. I’ll explain better with the first edition of the festival, which was in Kiambu County. At first, we rallied the artistes and youth of the area to plant trees and have open conversations. The second part, Drum Café, was all about teaching about the instruments and different cultural aspects. The third part was the festival, in which we tried to connect the youth who attended.

What next for the group? Gugz: We have two projects we’re working on. A concert at the end of the month at PAWA 254, who have honestly been our greatest supporters. The concert, which comes after the first edition that was in June, is really to celebrate and appreciate the fans who have stuck with us since the beginning.

Secondly, we’re planning a two-day Unganisha Festival towards the end of the year. We want to give a full experience of cultural art through manyattas, muratina, cultural dancers and drummers. We plan on going all out, and hope that everyone will get to be part of their roots.

Ice: And in all these plans, we are deeply motivated by our principle of love.


Devolution of polytechnics has only marginalised them

By LUCY MAINA
More by this Author

The national government’s decision to devolve vocational training to county governments has not done justice to the youth.

According to the “Landscape Mapping” report (2017) by Zizi Afrique Foundation, vocational training centres (VTCs) had the highest capacity to mop up the many youth not in education, employment and training.

Further, the report states that vocational training centres present the greatest opportunities for reaching the youth facing extreme adversities.

Since devolvement, the challenges faced by VTCs have outweighed the gains.

The report indicates that VTCs are faced with the great challenge of accessing funding from county governments, which has led to poorly-equipped institutions, demoralised and insufficient instructors leading to poorly-trained graduates. Moreover, this discourages the youth from enrolling in these institutions.

BUREAUCRACIES

Information gathered from managers in public VTCs points to the fact that there were better support systems in place before devolution.

They pointed out that staff recruitment and remuneration was in place, albeit in small numbers, while skills upgrading and promotions were more often. Currently, it is done in an unpredictable and unsystematic manner.

Devolution of VTCs to county governments has introduced bureaucracies and delays that affect the flow of funds and operations.

Additionally, it has led to inequalities in terms of allocation of funds and prioritisation of the centres.

Importantly, county governments where expertise exists have positively engaged in the rebuilding and rebranding of these institutions.

The youth in these areas have the option to join these facilities, which are better equipped.

However, those deep in the rural areas have no way to access the information on enrolment, and hence the facilities remain unutilised.

LIMITED SUPPORT

Another angle to the funding is that the capitation grants that the VTCs expect to facilitate teaching and learning, facilitated by KUCCPS, in many cases arrive months late when the learners have been sent away or have been asked to pay fees.

In the training chain, VTCs are the weakest yet they reach the most vulnerable and vast numbers.

Further, devolvement has left them weaker and with limited support. The expertise to oversee the institutions was not devolved and county governments have been left struggling to keep them going.

Ms Maina is the programme manager at Zizi Afrique Foundation, Nairobi


Young graduate takes coffee route as others shun the crop

BRIAN OKINDABy BRIAN OKINDA
More by this Author

Whereas many are shunning coffee production, citing the many challenges facing the industry, Nyawira Njiraini from Mutira in Kerugoya, sees things differently.

The 30-year-old Information Technology graduate has chosen to stick with the cash crop whose fortunes keep dwindling.

Her peers and age-mates see little value in coffee farming and agriculture in general. Many inherit their parents’ lands, dividing them into small portions and sell the plots for quick cash.

Nyawira’s coffee journey began in 2011 when she graduated from Kenyatta University. She remained in Nairobi and unsuccessfully looked for a job that matched her area of study.

When everything — including starting a computer business and consequently getting swindled — appeared to hit a snag, she went to her rural home in Kirinyaga to help her mother Florence Karambu Njiraini run the farm.

She initially just grew vegetables on small plots, kept quail and reared rabbits.

Advertisement

In 2015, her mother was among the winners in the National Farmers Awards scheme, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture and Elgon Kenya Ltd.

“I was surprised when my mother won the award, which came with accolades and cash. I thought I could also achieve the feat,” she said.

Nyawira took a more serious approach in farming. To get her going, her mother gave her 220 Ruiru 11 and Batian coffee stems. She intercropped her coffee with thorn melons.

Nyawira says she did some research on better yielding, marketable and more resilient varieties and found out that Batian had the qualities.

She is a member of Mutira Farmers Co-operative Society, which has been important in identifying and helping them access premium markets.

GOOD AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES

The cooperative, which was formed in the 1950s, specialises in processing cherry, marketing its members’ produce and helping in the acquisition of inputs, certified seedlings. It also advances loans to members, Mutira co-op Secretary-General Bonface Muchiri said.

Muchiri admits that Kenya’s coffee industry faces many challenges, including fluctuating prices, unpredictable climate, insufficient funding, poor infrastructure in key growing areas, and worn out processing machines.

“A majority of farmers are elderly and are reluctant to embrace new varieties that are high yielding,” said Muchiri.

The co-op is among those working with Fairtrade, an agency that helps growers get better prices for their produce. It also promotes better social and environmental standards.

“Certified coffee organisations are certain to receive premium prices. This aims to cover the cost of production and acts as a safety net when prices fall below sustainable levels. They also receive additional Fairtrade premiums to invest in their business,” said Kelvin Muhia, a business development adviser at Fairtrade, Eastern and Central Africa Network.

Farmers are trained on good agriculture practices as well as minimal use of chemicals.

The Fairtrade standards incorporate socio-economic and environmental criteria and contain development requirements aimed at improvements for producers and communities.

“Dealers are also covered by the standards, emphasising the commitments companies and businesses must make to contribute to sustainability in their supply chains and operations,” Muhia said.

He adds that high-yielding varieties ensure success of any small-scale coffee venture.

“Other than Batian and Ruiru 11, a farmer can grow the Ruiru grafted variety, which integrates the best qualities of Batian and Ruiru 11,” he said.

Francis Murimi, an agronomist, says to grow coffee, land should be prepared during the dry season.

The holes — 23 by 23 inches — are dug in rows two metres apart with the plants being one-and-a-half metres apart, and manure added into them.

REMAINING LOYAL TO COFFEE FARMING

Planting should be at the onset of rains. Windbreakers and shade trees are grown in the farm. Maintenance practices include using the appropriate fertiliser and foliar.

“Pruning should be done to maintain the correct balance between leaf area and the crop, prevent dieback, reduce the biennial bearing and maintain good tree shape,” Murimi said.

Training of the coffee trees which involves the trees’ growth being directed to a preferred shape and form, is also essential.

Coffee tree training ensures more sunlight and air is allowed to get to the centre of the tree. This exposes maximum leaf surface to the sun. It directs the growth of the tree so that traditional processes like spraying and harvesting are done with ease.

It also protects the tree from sunburn and wind damage and secures a balanced distribution of fruit-bearing parts.

Martin Kinyua, another agronomist, says thrips, berry borers, berry moths, yellow-headed and white-headed borers, antestia bugs and leaf skeletonisers are the major pests that attack coffee bushes.

“Coffee berry disease, coffee leaf rust and furasium wilt are the main diseases the crop faces,” he added.

Coffee requires a stress period of about two months. Harvesting can begin three to four years after planting.

It involves picking only the ripe red cherries, with the cycle repeated every 10 days, depending on the altitude of the area of production and variety.

Urging more young people to embrace coffee farming, Nyawira hires 10 casual labourers during harvest and says she gets at least 10 kilogrammes of cherries per stem.

Her target is above 30kg as she has adopted recommendations of Fairtrade standards.

She adds that market assurance by Fairtrade has been the driving force behind her remaining loyal to coffee.

From the proceeds of coffee, Nyawira has bought more land in the area.

She expects to continue increasing acreage under coffee.


Vet on call: When to let go of your beloved pig

DR JOSEPH MUGACHIABy DR JOSEPH MUGACHIA
More by this Author

The sow appeared healthy, suckling her piglets to the full but even an untrained eye could see the neck had a problem.

There was an area measuring about 10cm across with the top margin almost touching the midline on the back.

Medically, it is called a lesion. This refers to a disruption in the structure of tissue or organ due to disease or injury.

I encountered this case in Ruai last month. Muthithi, the farm manager, called to say that the sow had a wound that kept growing in all directions but it did not appear to affect the health and reproduction of the animal. The pig had farrowed 16 piglets while still having the wound.

He added that the wound started off from a bite by another sow about five months before. Five sows had been mixed after weaning their piglets but two could not tolerate each other.

Initially, the wound appeared to be healing but later kept growing above the skin and sideways. Attempts at using antibiotics and wound spray only appeared to stimulate more growth.

Advertisement

Some animal health service providers had even attempted surgical excision but the tissues had regrown with more vigour. “Could this be cancer” Murithi asked.

I restrained the pig with a catcher and closely examined it. The temperature, breathing and heart rate were normal, save for an elevation occasioned by handling.

I had seen ugly fight wounds in pigs before but never a massive one that just kept growing. I palpated the skin surface and deeply around the wound margins. It was a ball of growing tissue full of healing cells called granulation tissue.

It also contained fibrous or scar tissue, making it a hard mass. There was slight bleeding in areas the wound had been rubbed against the wall or floor. The wound surface was raised about half a centimetre above the skin at its highest point.

EXPOSED TO PHYSICAL INJURY

The lower parts of the wound shielded from abrasion had healed with thick scar tissue. However, tissue that was exposed to physical injury kept growing with every trauma. The wound did not appear infected as it had no puss, smell or rotting tissue.

It was now time to answer Murithi. His sow did not have cancer. It was a case of exuberant fibroproliferative disorder commonly termed “proud flesh”.

The wound keeps growing by producing healing tissue that turns into scar fibres. Proud flesh is common in humans and horses but rare in other animals.

In humans, it is called keloid and is responsible for the excessive scar tissue formation above the skin. It may occur on any part of the skin in sensitive individuals.

In horses, proud flesh is seen mainly in wounds on legs where the skin is tight. The cause of proud flesh is not known but may be genetic.

Offspring of one or more parents who had cases of proud flesh are known to be likely to develop the condition. There is a gene that has been associated with proud flesh in horses.

Proud flesh in animals and humans does not directly affect the health of the patient but impairs looks and exposes one to injuries.

Proud flesh is sensitive. Once injured, it grows more, exposing the scar to infections. The scars can be itchy or painful, thereby causing the animal to scratch, stimulating more growth.

Surgical removal of proud flesh is not an option because the tissue regrows more aggressively in many cases.

Christine Theoret, a Canadian professor of veterinary surgery, has studied wound healing and proud flesh in horses extensively.

SOFT PLASTIC MATTRESSES

She has also been researching the role of the horse as a model for studying wound healing and keloid formation in humans.

There is no effective way of treating proud flesh in animals because the methods used in humans require sustained follow-up, are expensive and not readily available to vets.

I told Murithi that he could retain the sow and keep treating the wound with antibiotic spray until the scar forms over the whole wound surface. The problem here is that the wound had been active for five months and was still growing.

It was unlikely the situation would change because the objects causing trauma were the floor and the walls.

The second option was to treat the sow in a special way and keep it in a room with soft padded internal wall surfaces.

The floor could be fitted with a soft plastic mattress. He would also need to keep the sow alone and breed it only with artificial insemination. I made this suggestion because the sow was one of his best producers and weaned 14 to 16
piglets.

The option would, however, be expensive and still not guarantee complete freedom from injury.

Lastly, he could come to terms with the reality that he could not prevent repeated injury. Consequently, he should take care of the pig with its current litter and cull the sow after weaning the piglets.

He agreed to my recommendation but his dilemma was whether he should select breeding stock from the offsprings of the sow since they could also be carrying the proud flesh genes.

I advised that he could select some breeding stock but ensure he only used pigs on the farm.


Bamboo tea, latest of wonder grass

JULIUS SIGEIBy JULIUS SIGEI
More by this Author

Bamboo is billed as a wonder grass because of its many uses. Julius Sigei spoke to Kelvin Kaloki, the managing director at Africa Plantation Capital (APC), which partners with bamboo farmers on the crop’s management and markets.

Why all this craze about bamboo?

Bamboo is rightly regarded as a miracle plant. It is used in building, manufacturing, decoration, food and fuel. It used in place of steel within the construction industry, as well as for flooring, board mats, tiles and panels. It is also widely used in the textile industry.

Besides, bamboo makes excellent bikes, charcoal and fibre for different industrial uses. Moreover, bamboo shoots are a famous delicacy in parts of the world.

Environmentally, the grass is an excellent carbon sink and is also great in raising the water table, making it a valuable partner in combating climate change.

Bamboo also helps to prevent soil erosion. It quickly regenerates once fruitless soil. It also grows at an astonishing rate and it can be harvested without killing it.

Advertisement

This is the crop that the government needs to use to achieve the 10 per cent forest cover target.

What are the best conditions for growing bamboo?

It is vital to have qualified agronomists when it comes to the management of bamboo plantations. Knowing the lowest temperature possible in your region is an essential first step to choosing a bamboo species to grow.

Warm, temperate, tropical climates offer optimum conditions for most bamboo species though it is possible to grow bamboo in adverse conditions such as desert or mountain climates when the correct species is chosen.

When selecting the plantation site, check the quality of the soil. Bamboo is a very versatile plant and can grow in almost any soil type.

However, having the ideal soils will encourage healthier root systems, promote accelerated growth and grow more attractive plants.

Even though it can grow in almost any soil type, bamboo does best in soil that is aerated, light in structure and rich in organic nutrients.

Bamboo grows best with ample water but the roots must not become soggy and waterlogged. Planting should coincide with the start of the rainy season.

If available, organic fertiliser or manure should be placed into each hole and mixed with the topsoil. The plants should be planted vertically in an erect position and the hole should be properly covered and mulched. It is very important to control and arrest the growth of weeds around each bamboo thicket.

A healthy stand of bamboo is surprisingly resistant to pests and diseases. Even so, you may occasionally notice spots and discolourations that indicate problems.

It’s easier to prevent bamboo plant diseases than to cure them once they take hold. For the first two years, make sure that your plant is well watered and give it an all-purpose organic fertiliser.

During the first two years protect the young plants from competing with vegetation and pests. After the second year, maintenance activities are concentrated on cane management.

Harvesting should be done selectively according to the age and maturity of the canes. Systematic and selective cutting of mature culms assures the continuous production of young shoots. Our agronomists advise farmers on all these.

The bamboo market is not widely developed in Kenya. What are some of the openings for farmers?

Think of bamboo farming as a long-term investment; the same way you would buy a plot of land and leave it to gain market value before reselling it for a profit.

Bamboo plantlets normally take three to four years to mature. Each bamboo plantlet produces multiple shoots during its lifetime.

For example, a young plant may produce three shoots within two months’ time. Next season, those three shoots plus the mother plant may produce three shoots each and so on.

Fast-forward to four years and the single plant you grew will have produced sixty canes stretching up to 30 feet in height.

Opportunities for bamboo farmers are sprouting left, right and centre, with different players in the market offering different uses.

From industries like BIDCO, which are using bamboo biomass as a source for energy, to companies like us (Africa Plantation Capital Ltd) that have partnered with hundreds of farmers in sustainable plantations such as those in Kilifi County to offer alternative agroforestry products, the opportunities are unlimited.

For instance, beyond the traditional uses, we have invested in a tea production facility and we are soon obtaining the required licence to start producing tea made from bamboo leaves in Kenya for export.

All one needs in the bamboo business is dedication, a workable business plan, some resources and professional advice.


Agronomist notebook: How to keep roots healthy for high yield

ANN MACHARIABy ANN MACHARIA
More by this Author

Plants’ roots are crucial to the overall plant growth. More adverse effects occur when the roots are damaged than other upper parts of the crop.

This is seen where some diseases cause leaves to fall off, but once the disease is controlled, new leaves emerge as long as the roots system was not affected.

Roots are the mouth to the plants from which it feeds. Recently, I encountered a French beans farmer in Ongata Rongai. She had recently planted the French beans, and before all the seeds had germinated and emerged, she had started the management practices such as weeding.

This interferes with the rooting system of the plant since once the radical is disturbed during weeding, it results in seed abortion, and eventually, the seeds dry up.

Land preparation should adequately be done in advance to allow the weeds to dry up. Also, timely planting is ideal as this facilitates the seeds to germinate and emerge before the weeds grow.

It’s also important for the farmer to understand how long the seeds take before they germinate. For example, the bean seeds take between seven and eight days, and therefore, the soil should not be disturbed for this particular period.

Advertisement

By the 10th day the farmer should consider gapping the seeds if too few will have germinated. Otherwise, farmers should acquire certified seeds for uniform germination.

Plants’ roots play a crucial role in the plants. This includes food storage, offering support to the plant, and the absorption of water and minerals from the soil.

This shows the primary reason why the plants are drastically affected when the roots are injured.

The land should be prepared to a fine tilth as the formation of hardpans in the soil prevent plants from developing good root systems.

HELP IN ROOT DEVELOPMENT

The same case applies to tuber crops such as sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, and carrots as they may end up having deformed shapes.

Sometimes the seedlings wilt and die due to transplanting shock, especially if the roots are not well covered in the soil.

It is thus essential to ensure that during transplanting, all the roots are covered with soil. Timely transplanting is vital as delaying leads to long roots which are exposed.

Sometimes farmers end up cutting the roots, which creates an entry point for disease-causing microorganisms. This is also injuring the roots, which affect its uptake for the nutrients and water.

Once the crop is established, adequate watering should be done to firm up the roots. Too much water, however, leads to waterlogging, which affects oxygen availability to the plant and eventually causes root rot.

Root rot-causing diseases infect the tips of the roots when exposed. This should be controlled by raising the beds and creating the drainage channels on the farm.

While weeding, top dressing and watering, one should always be careful to ensure roots are not damaged.

Phosphatic fertilisers help in roots development hence the need to apply during land preparation. Excessive application, however, results in scorching of the roots as the plants are unable to take up nutrients.

So you should apply the required quantity depending on the nutrients available in the soil. Fertiliser application should also be done when the soil is moist. It should also be covered with soil.

Roots are affected by pests such as nematodes that cause galls on plants such as tomatoes and spinach. This affects the plant’s nutrients uptake since the nematodes feed on the nutrients available to the plant.

Crop rotation should be done to control the nematodes which can also be eradicated by use of French marigolds.


Kimaiyo commands a green revolution

JEREMIAH KIPLANG'ATBy JEREMIAH KIPLANG’AT
More by this Author
EVANS KIPKURABy EVANS KIPKURA
More by this Author

From the sophisticated weapons to protect the nation to the sharpened tools to feed it, former police Inspector-General David Kimaiyo has now fully settled on the farm.

It has been five years since he left the coveted IG position, but for a man who came under fire for the alleged laxity in the service that saw increased deadly Al-Shabaab attacks during his two-year tenure, that grim past is now in the background. His focus now is on his farm, where he wants to make the most of it.

He insists, though, that it is not money, as such, that is driving his farming ambitions, but the fulfilment of a pastime he has harboured for years.

As the warm winds from the Cherangany Hills descend on the family’s 30-acre farm in Kipsirowa village on the border of Elgeyo-Marakwet and Trans Nzoia counties, Mr Kimaiyo looks contentedly over the investments he has made on every inch of it. And they are legion.

There is not a single part of the land that is idle. And there will not be at any time of the year as the owner has an annual plan for the whole land.

After three decades in the police service, where he worked his way from the lowest rank to the topmost office, Dr Kimaiyo says he has found his retirement more enjoyable looking after his pedigree cows, goats, chickens and maize.

Advertisement

He also has several acres of avocados, cabbages, onions, potatoes and tomatoes.

He joined the service as a constable in 1979 and was appointed the first IG after the present Constitution was passed in 2010.

“Farming is something I have always wanted to do. I did not start investing in this farm recently. I did it gradually.

From the money I got from the service I bought one or two things in preparation of my retirement.”

One of his choice animals is a pedigree cow he bought from allowances he got for being in charge of security during a Comesa meeting in Nairobi in the late 1990s.

FARM IS A WELCOME GIFT

“I named the cow Comesa and I have always ensured subsequent offspring carried that name. Right now I have a Comesa dairy cow here,” says Dr Kimaiyo, stroking a docile Friesian. He runs the farm with his wife, Eunice.

For the 59-year-old, every inch of his farm is a welcome gift for putting up something for local consumption or to sell and make some money. And the farm keeps giving.

His 40 pedigree cows, 15 of which are lactating, generate at least 200 litres of milk every day. Feeds are in plenty and mostly generated from the farm — maize stalks, napier and all manner of grass. This is converted into silage that supplies the farm the whole year.

“In the morning we get at least 120 litres and in the evening it is a bit less. We have a milking machine which handles four cows at a go. We sell the milk to the local dairy, but I am planning to set up my own cooler here,” says Dr Kimaiyo.

The former IG, KImaiyo (left) inspects cabbages that he grows in his farm, while his wife Eunice (right) displays harvested millet put out to dry in the family's farm.The former IG, KImaiyo (left) inspects cabbages that he grows in his farm, while his wife, Eunice (right) displays harvested millet put out to dry in the family’s farm. Having left all government engagements, including the chairmanship of the Kenyatta National Hospital board, which ended recently, he is now fully focused on the farm and other private engagements, whereby he divides his time between the farm and the nearby African Inland Church, where he is an elder. PHOTOS | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

“We do our own artificial insemination, treatment and deworming. We have learnt over time how to do it and we no longer need professional service unless it is absolutely necessary,” he says.

Maize farming is the other engagement that he has invested greatly in. From the 50 acres he has planted across various farms in the area he harvests at least 1,000 bags, which he sells to the National Cereals and Produce Board.

He urges the government to increase maize prizes so as to encourage more farmers to plant the country’s staple as high costs are discouraging many.

He says limiting subsidised fertiliser to a few farmers is hurting farmers and might lead to reduced production of the cereal. “I require at least 100, 5okg bags of fertiliser. But NCPB said I only qualified for 40, so I was forced to buy the rest at market rates, which is very expensive,” he reveals.

GIVES HIM SATISFACTION

He has also invested in potato farming and speaks fondly of a variety called Rudolph, which he praises for its quality.
“I expect between Sh350,000 and 400,000 from the one-half-acre farm here. I got this variety from a firm in Nakuru and it is very good. I think I am the only farmer with this variety here. I sell Sh30 per kilo,” says the ex-IG.

He sells onions and tomatoes to the local supermarkets. He recently planted 240 Hass avocado trees that he says are for testing the waters before he goes large-scale so as to reap from the current global avocado craze.

For now, his maize and potato plantations, as well as 50 goats and more than 400 indigenous chickens, afford him a comfortable life in retirement.

Dr Kimaiyo says besides the money and the fact that he gets all his family’s nutrition needs from the farm, the venture gives him satisfaction. He has eight full-time workers and several casuals who work when they are needed.
It is not all rosy, though, as there are years he lost all his money after maize prices went awry, but he urges patience.

To be successful on the farm, he advises, one needs to be close to the venture to ensure all is fine.

Having left all government engagements, including the chairmanship of the Kenyatta National Hospital board, which ended recently, Dr Kimaiyo is now fully focused on his farm and other private engagements. He divides his time between the farm and the nearby African Inland Church, where he is an elder.

And he has a parting shot for career employees: “Once you get a job, prepare immediately for your retirement because it is something inevitable. This is what I did and I am happy for it.”