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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Experiences in Vegetable farming by Noontoto Women Group

By Faith Kisiangani and Monica Soila

On the bottom of Oldonyo-orok mountain in Maili Tisa, Kajiado County, there lays a two and half acre land owned by a vibrant women group called Noontoto. Noontoto Women Group is made up of 25 women who grow tomatoes in a green house for food security. 
Green house and elevated tank

The group was formed in 2003 as a mary-go-round with the main objective of supporting each other economically.  Among one of their successful activities was buying and selling cows. This was a very profitable venture and many group members benefited from the profit. They would collectively contribute a given amount of money, buy and fatten cows for sell. They then used some of the money to pay school fees for children, buy household items for themselves and save the rest of the money.
Inside the green house

 In 2013, the group was lucky to get some support from Dupoto-e-maa, an NGO that works in Kajiado County. According to Mr. Simon Sitelu of Dupoto-e-maa, the project objective was to empower women in the county with relevant skills and tools so as to improve their livelihoods. So far they have supported 13 other women groups in the county. 

Underground water tank

The package to the women groups include; a green house 5m x 16m, a solar powered water 
pump, a tank with capacity of 2000 litres and drip liners. The group opted to farm tomatoes and sell them because of their high demand in the region. The area experiences inadequate rainfall and most community members are pastoralist, keeping large herds of cattle. This fact has ultimately affected the groups’ tomato farming green house project because the first time they planted tomatoes, the plants failed due to lack of water. The group then employed drip irrigation on the greenhouse by using water pumping technique. Despite this fact, the tomatoes failed the second time after being affected by a disease. Regardless of the two failures from the tomato project, the women are very resilient, hopeful and hardly discouraged. 

The group's solar panel

“This is the third time that we have planted the tomatoes in the greenhouse. We are very hopeful and we trust God that the plants will not fail us again. The good thing is that we have learnt where we went wrong the first and second time and made the necessary corrections. Water is the hardest problem to tackle right now though we still trust God for the rains to fall soon. The reason why we cannot change what we plant in the green house is because of the high demand of tomatoes in our region compared to other plants. More so, Tomatoes are more profitable compared to kales…” Mrs. Joyce Nairraba, the group chairperson told ALIN staff who had gone to assess the group. 

The group has untapped potential to undertake many projects on their farm. They are endowed with two and half acres of land on which they have a green house project initiated by Dupoto-e-maa. The group got support from some Swedish donors hand put up a house that is leased to people for various activities. 

Noontoto’s main source of water is from a natural stream from the mountain nearby. This source is not stable since area experiences prolonged dry spells therefore affecting agricultural activities. The water collects into an underground tank and then solar pump is used to thrust water into the elevated tank then into the drips.
Solar powered water pump system has saved the women a lot of hustle and time. They were initially using donkeys to fetch water for the farm. At times they would use generator to pump the water; which was quite a challenge given the price of fuel. The introduction of this technology has lessened the burden especially because solar energy is free, clean, readily available and plenty in the area.
Building used as a store and also for leasing

The group has big plans for the future. They plan to keep dairy cows on their peace of land. They also plan to start a chicken rearing project.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The good ‘dirt’

By Monica Soila

Agriculture is not highly regarded as viable source of financial stability, especially by the youth; who would rather hawk their papers looking for white collar jobs. For them, farming is dirty and time consuming.

Mrs. Rose Bowen however, knows how that ‘dirt’ can be fine. She is a full time farmer who says life has never been so fulfilling.

“You know most people prefer swinging on chairs in offices, while real money is on the farms”, she said

Fish pond
To be an established farmer in this region is quite expensive due to the climatic condition. One requires a lot of money to sink borehole for irrigation because of unreliable rainfall. Purchasing of farm equipments and meeting general farm maintenance expenses can also be costly. Some of these factors keep many from venturing into agriculture.

Preparing an omelette using biogas

 “This is a business like any other, you have to invest a lot of time and money so as to achieve good results”, she says.

One of her most considerable achievement was biogas installation, which cost her more than a hundred thousand shillings; but says it was so worth it. She is an all round farmer, from crops, pigs, poultry and fish. Nothing at all goes to waste, for instance she uses pig slurry in the biogas.

After less the 3 minutes

“I was spending 3000 shillings on cooking gas every two weeks, but now that’s a story of the past. I am saving a lot of money”, she adds.

Finding a ready market especially for pigs is the biggest challenge she faces.


“I know i have to start from somewhere even though it can be very slow, for now i get comfort  in the fact that pig waste will keep my biogas project going”, said Mrs. Bowen.

The county government has been on the fore front in encouraging people to venture into agricultural activities. This brings about the issue of marketing the surplus produce. If farmers are linked to markets, then farming will be everyone’s hobby; hunger and starvation will be history.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ebola, the lethal virus

By Monica Soila

Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) is a human disease caused by the Ebola virus Symptoms, usually start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus; with a fever, throat and muscle pains, and headaches. There is then normally nausea vomiting and diarrhea, along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys. At this point some people begin to have problems with bleeding.

The disease is usually acquired when a person comes into contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected animal such as a monkey or fruit bat. Fruit bats are believed to carry and spread the virus without being affected by it. Once infection of a human occurs, the disease may be spread from one person to another. Men who survive may be able to transmit the disease sexually for nearly two months. To make the diagnosis, other diseases with similar symptoms such as malaria, cholera and other viral hemorrhagic fever are first excluded. The blood may then be tested for antibodies to the virus, or the viral RNA, or the virus itself, to confirm the diagnosis.

Prevention includes decreasing the spread of the disease from infected monkeys and pigs to humans. This may be done by checking these types of animals for infection and killing and properly disposing of the bodies if the disease is discovered. Properly cooking meat and wearing protective clothing when handling meat may also be helpful, as is wearing protective clothing and washing hands when around a person who has the disease. Samples of bodily fluids and tissues from people with the disease should be handled with special caution.

There is no single treatment for the virus. Efforts to help persons who are infected include giving them either oral rehydration therapy or intravenous fluids. The disease has a high death rate: often between 50% and 90% of those who are infected with the virus. It typically occurs in outbreaks in tropical regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Between 1976, when it was first identified, and 2014, fewer than 1,000 people a year have been infected. The largest outbreak to date is the ongoing 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, which is affecting Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. So far it has killed more than 672 people in the Western Africa region. 

The disease was first identified in the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Efforts are ongoing to develop a vaccine; however, none exists as of 2014.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Benefiting from trees

By Monica Soila

Agroforestry is a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown among crops, to create more diverse, productive, healthy and sustainable land-use systems.

The ministry of agriculture has been encouraging people to implement the practice for its immense benefits, during events such as field days and agricultural shows.

Some of the trees highly recommended include:

Marbery tree which is good for fodder, and also produces fruits. Aside from that it is efficient in nitrogen fixation and conservation of soil and water.

Cordia/mkobokobo tree is good for timber, firewood and nitrogen fixing. It is also good for making traditional bee hives.

Naivasha Thorn commonly known as Olerai is very good for charcoal, firewood and its flowers are healthy for sheep and goats.

Makhamia is good for timber, firewood and making poles. It produces beautiful flowers and grows rather fast.

Silky oak is also good for timber and firewood. It can be used as fodder during drought. It is used as wind breaker in areas with strong winds.

silky oak
This practice comes in handy as it can reduce poverty through increased production of wood and other tree products for home consumption and sale.

The government requires that in every 10 acres of land one owns, 1 acre should comprise of trees. Other than that, trees uses are countless and it’s important especially as the country finds ways to increase tree cover to cope with climate change.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The rains are here finally

By Collins Shahonya

Drought and sunny days throughout the month can be annoyingly disturbing. But with a sudden change of climate in the country and especially Kajiado County, it is a thing of the past for now. The long rains are here with us and are causing lots of havoc. 
a flooded road after a heavy downpour

As you walk through the large trucks of community land in Noosuyian village, tall and bushy grasses which are hiding places for mosquitoes and dangerous snakes are singing merrily to the lots of rain being received in the region. Gully erosion too has dug deep trenches that we could have never imagined.
vast land laying fallow in Noosuyian
But with the climate change posing more questions than answers to everyone from this community, a group of farmers have found it a blessing in disguise. Farming has thrived in this part of Isinya area. No one is taking chances and every drop of the rain has been utilized to realize a bumper harvest in everything they are planting ranging from chilies to maize.
maize almost ready for harvesting on the farm
And with a rumor that chilies are selling like hot cake and they are a potential cash crop to altering our financial muscles and economic growth, some farmers have opted for this cash generating crop which is making them smile all the way to the bank every two weeks.

The land is being leased for one to cultivate in it what he wants and parting away with Ksh. 30,000 for a piece of plot, probably measuring 60×100meters. The owner has decided to generate money from his own land than having it staying fallow.

The chili is practically seeded on a seedbed and after one and a half months, it is transferred to the shamba where it takes two months for one to start harvesting the first round of chilies.

chilies on the farm

Chili harvesting is done every two weeks and to keep them ‘appealing to the buyers eye’; they need a lot of farmyard manure which boosts its capability of flowering. The chili is then sold at Ksh. 80 per Kg, which is undeniably fair market price because they are heavy and a little of them scale down a Kilo very first.
crops on the farm

This has seen many being employed to take care of the cash crops hence earning themselves their daily bread. The weather man has encouraged people from this locality to plant more food which will put at bay hunger soon after the rains have dwindled.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Taming the climate change

By Monica Soila

The Climate Adaptation Project (CAPro) was started in October 2013, in Isinya by Egerton/Laikipia University to counter the adverse effects of climate change.
a tank for harvesting rainwater for drip irrigation

The project is carried out in five counties: Bungoma, Nakuru, Embu, Kajiado and Kilifi.It mostly work through demonstration plots and contact farmers. In Kajiado County the project is in two areas, Isinya and Namanga. There is a 1/2-acre demonstration plot in Multipurpose, Isinya where crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum, maize, pigeon peas, just to mention a few, are grown.
sorghum planted in the demonstration plot
In Namanga, Galla goats are kept by the contact farmers, courtesy of the project.
sweet potatoes

This year, CAPro started seed bulking scheme  in Isinya whereby contact farmers were given katumani beans and green grams seeds, a kilogram of each after which they will return the 2 kg seeds to the project after harvesting so that other farmers around are issued with the same. This seeks to spread these drought resistant types of crops throughout the county. The seeds are of diverse varieties so the farmers were urged to exchange between themselves so as to have different crop varieties.
Mr.Benson Mwangi(extreme left),from Ministry of Agriculture with some of the contact farmers

 The community is changing and adopting to changing times because there is always a solution for everything.