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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Launching of Sokopepe at Sipili


The day that we had waited for so long finally came and it was celebrated with pomp and colour. The guest of honour was the Assistant Deputy County Commissioner of Laikipia County. Farmers were represented from all the 7 Maarifa centers in the Kenya namely Kyuso,Isinya, Nguruman, Mutomo, Ndhiwa, Marigat and of course the host Ng’arua. They had all carried samples of what they will market with the help of sokopepe.

Penina's poster

 I represented Isinya Maarifa center which is predominantly a pastoral region. I showcased my commodity of yoghurt made from milk from my cattle. The yoghurt is home-made and is a great way to fetch higher prices for our milk.
My visit to Ng’arua was very educative as I was able to learn a lot from the rest of the farmers representing other Maarifa centers and counties. I got to know their day to day activities and what farming practices and techniques they use to be successful in their farming.
Penina Tompo displays her beadwork
On the other hand, I was also able to teach on yoghurt making with most emphasis on boiling and cleanliness to ensure good hygiene and avoid illnesses caused by contaminated milk. There were a few people I met who had skills on how to make yoghurt who insisted that boiled milk could not bear good results. However, I changed their belief by displaying my home-made yoghurt whose milk had been boiled thoroughly to get rid of germs that may cause illnesses and cause danger to its consumers.
Way Forward
After the visit and launching of the platform, my eyes were opened on the great minefield we had been sitting on in form of the Isinya Maarifa center. I have therefore purposed to ensure that the entire Kajiado County is aware of the center and use maximally for their benefit. This is because some people have taken too long to realize the knowledge within the center and have not made enough use of it, to wake up and own it. These are mostly marginalized women, the youth and other disadvantaged groups.
I will continue working with the women’s groups that we network so that they can all benefit from this project of yoghurt making. This project will help groups generate income from their milk who have nowhere to sell their milk especially during the rainy season. They often sell the milk at very low prices which is very demoralizing.
I will work together with the other representatives of the counties where ALIN is represented by Maarifa centers so that together with them, we shall form the Transmedia County Forum. We hope that this group will unite us and give us a platform to share and highlight challenges that we are facing in our daily activities.
My expectations
I expect to continue learning problem solving techniques for use in group situations as we mostly work in groups.
I hope to continue sharing experiences from farmers in my county and in other counties too.
I look forward to to continue how to be an effective leader so as to be more effective in my group.
I expect to learn how to work in a team and achieve maximum results
I look ahead to to learn how to best reach those who live in the interiors and assist them better their livelihoods
I hope to learn how to encourage one another as farmers and disadvantaged groups
I look forward to learn how to identify other new networks that will assist us in improving our livelihoods.
I look ahead to best learn from the success and failures of other groups and other farmers around the county and country at large.

Thanks to ALIN for this chance and the exposure. I shall be a role model to my fellow farmers I Isinya and will use sokopepe the best I can to market my milk and that of others.


By Penina Tompo- Farmer, Isinya

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ladies Learn How to Make Home-made Yorghurt

By Sheila Ngigi

In every business, the rule of demand and supply applies the world over, and determines a great deal what either party takes home after a transaction. This has been particularly true and distressing for the residents of Isinya. The Maasai , who are the predominant community in Isinya, are known for their love of cattle keeping for many centuries and cows and goats are characteristic of every homestead.
This has played out negatively to the detriment of the community especially during the wet season. During this time, pasture is in plenty for all farmers which results into plenty of milk. Resultantly, milk prices usually fall drastically because the supply is higher than the demand. Milk prices can fall to as low as twenty five shillings as per liter while in other areas of the country, the same liter can cost up to eighty shillings.
This has disheartened the famers who say they do not benefit from their cattle ventures at all, neither in the dry seasons nor during the rainy seasons. They are trapped in a rat race where the little income gained can only be for subsistence over and over again and not to better their living conditions.
However, every sky has a silver lining as there is hope for a group of women who belong to Nasaru Ntoyie women’s group. On the 30th of August, the group was taken through the process of preparing natural home-made yoghurt in a bid to add value to their milk. This was by the ministry of Agriculture officer, Ms. Loise Gakuru in partnership with ALIN.
Ladies preparing for the training

All the ladies had to purchase was a packet of bacterial culture and two different flavours, which are readily available in supermarkets and milk which they have from their cattle.
during the trainig


Steps to follow while preparing home-made yoghurt
  • Thoroughly boil the milk for at least 10 minutes adding the desired amount of sugar, while beating the milk to kill all bacteria in the milk and dissolve the sugar.
  • Cool the milk to a warm temperature, not too hot, nor too cold.
  • Take a teaspoonful of the culture and dissolve it into a glass of milk, stir to dissolve. (1 teaspoon for 5 litres of milk).
  • Pour the dissolved culture into the rest of the milk and place the milk in a plastic container. ( In the absence of the bacteria culture, already prepared yoghurt from the shop can be used in its place following the procedure).
  • Leave the milk in a covered fireless cooker or wrap it with blankets then place it on a wooden surface(to prevent heat loss) for 5-6 hours.
  • After the 6 hours, the milk has lumped together into a chunk. Add the desired flavor (strawberry, vanilla, banana) or leave it to be natural youghurt.
  • Pass the lump through a sieve pressing onto it with a spoon to smoothen the chunks.
  • The yoghurt is ready; it should be stored in a cool dry place.

Ingredients: Cilture and flavors

















milk in a fireless cooker
















The ladies were amazed to learn the new skills. This way, they do not have to sell their milk at throw away prices. By making yoghurt out of it, they add value to the milk and fetch higher prices for their commodity, which has a ready market at Isinya town.
With assistance from the ministry officials, the plan is to get their yoghurt certified by the ministry of health officials and they can hit the market. In the meantime, they are enjoying sweet healthy yoghurt with their children which they have made themselves!
Home-made yoghurt ready
Baby enjoying the yoghurt

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Filling in the Gap during Nationwide Strike

By Sheila Ngigi
With the ongoing nationwide strike, it has been tough for students and pupils all over the country, Isinya and its environs included, to study. However, the Maarifa centre has turned out to be a safe haven for these children’s quest for knowledge. To state that the strike has affected them is an understatement especially the candidates who are counting less than three months to their final examinations.
Stocked with books on all subjects with relevant information for their studies, only space has been a hindrance to these determined souls. 
Part of the Maarifa centre's library
The children, both from secondary and primary schools, trek many kilometres to come to the Maarifa centre seeking knowledge. At home, the children face the challenge of having to carry out homely chores at the expense of their studies. Moreover, they face countless distractions while they are at home making it difficult to concentrate. In contrast, the Maarifa centre provides the environment and quiet that they need and after some hours of study, they go back to help herding cattle and other duties at home.
Lemayian carrying water 

Lemayian grazing cattle



Young girl working at home











Meet Immaculate Nemoipo, a form three student at eno matassia secondary school. At 17 years old of age, she has to take care of her younger brothers, clean and cook all day long but at the Maarifa she finds a safe haven where she can study for a few hours before embarking on her chores at home.

Immaculate studying at the Maarifa centre
The story is similar for Jason Lemayian, a class eight pupil at Isinya primary school. He starts his studies at 8.30 am, when the Maarifa center opens until 11.30 when he goes and relieves his father off herding their cows, sheep and goats before fetching water for the family. It is impossible to study effectively while walking and running after the animals under the scorching sun and ghastly winds that are characteristic of Isinya.

The students and pupils are glad that they can find books that they need for revision and grateful for the comfortable seats and furniture that they can use for their studies. Though at times they have to be squeezed in the container for each one to find some space, it is more than they could ever ask for.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The future of the rabbit industry around Kajiado County

By Sheila Ngigi

When anything about livestock rearing in Kenya is mentioned, the first thing that comes into one’s mind is dairy cattle, beef cattle, poultry, pigs, sheep and goats almost in that order. For many years, little emphasis has been directed towards small stock as Guinea pigs, guinea fowls, quails, pigeons and rabbits.

For ages now, rabbit rearing has been perceived as a preserve for young boys, and even then, they do it as a hobby and have to play hide-and-seek games with their guardians who will never allow them time to look after them at the expense of school time. Many people have never imagined that rabbits can provide enough meat nor be a reliable source of livelihood for their households.


But in the recent past, the livestock industry has been experiencing a major shift with many livestock farmers trying their hands in a number of emerging livestock like fish farming, quails and rabbit keeping.




Lately, this has also been the trend in Kajiado County which has seen a number of farmers venturing in to rabbit rearing. Given its many advantages including high nutritive value, small rearing space, relatively cheaper feeds, many natives of the county are getting in to it. These, coupled with the now highly unpredictable weather conditions and the diminishing land sizes, is increasingly leading to a shift from the traditional pastoralism and way of life towards keeping of small stock like rabbits, dairy goats, fish and poultry.
Through public-private sector partnerships, the Ministry of Livestock Development in collaboration with some Non-Governmental Organizations like ALIN have conducted a number of farmer training seminars on rabbit keeping and the reception has been overwhelming. NGOs, donor organizations, governments and food processing companies have all realized that there is need to expand food production to counter food shortages and the escalating price of grain, vegetables and livestock products while at the same time help farmers earn from their ventures.
Farmers keenly following a training on rabbit rearing



At the moment, a number of groups around the Kajiado County have been trained with some having already embarked on implementing their projects while others are still in the training process.




Major emphasis is put on the importance of value addition to the products in order to increase marketability enabling farmers to fetch more returns. This has also been boosted by the ongoing construction of the tannery in Isinya where the rabbit skins will be tanned enabling various items to be made from the skins. This will ensure that rabbit products are not taken to the market in their raw form and as a result increasing the incomes of farmers.
Another important move is to bring on board more players in the rabbit business as entrepreneurs, as it is already an interest of many around the county.
Moreover, by embracing rabbit keeping, farmers will now have a constant source of income all year long irrespective of weather conditions and low financial status. However, there is need for them to form Common Interest Groups to gain optimally from their ventures. Such organizations enable stakeholders speak in one voice by providing a platform to air views, express issues they face and share ideas aimed at improving their livelihoods.




Though still in infancy stage, if well governed, the rabbit sector can drastically create more jobs (value chains) through slaughter houses and rabbit butcheries. 





There is hope that this emerging practice will change the fortunes of the community around Kajiado County. However, with its launching, Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme, ASDSP, a five year programme, has strategically placed value chain development as one of its main goals which will benefit rabbit farmers a great deal.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New dawn for farmers in Kajiado County


By Sheila Ngigi
With the new constitution and devolution all in place, agricultural stakeholders in Kajiado County have hit the ground running with the aim of working to make farming in the county the success it ought to be.
The 11th of June saw them, Isinya Maarifa center included, converge for a ground breaking meeting to chart the way forward. The meeting was convened by ASDSP “Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme” whose mandate correspond with the former body, NALEP National Agricultural and Livestock Extension Programme”. The multi-stakeholder meeting saw farmers, officials from the Agriculture and Livestock development, Non-governmental organizations, middlemen and agro vet owners all given the same platform to state their expectations and insights on how to improve farming in Kajiado.
ASDSP’s goal is “poverty reduction, food security and equity” while the goal is “ to increase incomes of all players in the value chain of agriculture”. Its 4 arms include:
Coordination
This arm’s duties include monitoring and evaluating programmes on the ground and capacity building of all the players.
Environmental resilience and social inclusion
This is the arm that ensures an ecologically secure enabling environment through protection of the environment. It further ensures that all groups around the County are included; male, female, disabled, youth, the poor etc.
Value chain development  
This arm develops partnerships and promotes commercialization of the agricultural sector. Creation of Common Interest Groups was seen as a great way of achieving this arm’s goals.
Research and extension
This will involve engaging in continued research and actualizing findings by training farmers to implement them.
After the meeting, a prioritization tool was used to determine the most critical produce in the county. Points of reference included: competitiveness, potential for growth, food security and employment.
At the end of the exercise, the top priority farm produce were ranked as follows.
In ascending order with milk being #1 and onion last on the list:
  •          Onion
  •          Mutton (sheep)
  •          Maize
  •          Beef (cattle)
  •          Tomato
  •          Milk (cattle)

It was an eye opening exercise which clearly painted the picture of the county marking an informed beginning for all of us.



By Sheila Ngigi


Monday, June 17, 2013

ICT Training benefits poultry man



By Sheila Ngigi
When John Kaboro, a poultry man with Kenchic Limited heard of the free ICT training at the Maarifa center, he doubted, because the offer sounded too good to be true. “I wondered whether this was accurate or just a hoax, because not many things come for free nowadays. That is when I decided to pay the center a visit and confirmed that it was all true,” says John. He immediately registered for the April intake and began classes immediately he was called to begin.
John Kaboro keenly follows a lesson

John was taken through Introduction, Word, excel, PowerPoint and Internet and since getting these skills, life has not been the same again, as he puts it in his own words. As a poultry man at Kenchic Ltd, his job entails caring for chicken, data entry and a lot of filing. “Before I learnt how to use computers, I used to fill in the day’s entries manually into the file and the manager had to transfer them again into the office computer which was time wasting and tiring. However, now I even assist the manager in filling in other employees’ entries into the computer” John says proudly.
Kaboro opens a gmail account

John says he can now write reports to his supervisor comfortably as well as his own notes that he compiles from the internet with no assistance. I am now put in-charge of the office when my boss is away and this has given me prospects of a promotion. Excel is especially important for making the entries, and Kaboro took initiative to come back for extra tuition feeling that he needed to understand more in the package.
And Mr. Kaboro has only praises for the proramme, “I am so glad that I got this chance at the Maarifa center. I hope to save up and buy a laptop so that I can start my own poultry business. This way I can keep my records and run my business in a systematic manner,” he adds. He also hopes to pursue a business management course online, which will assist him in his business.

Monday, June 10, 2013

ONLINE REVISION OF UNIVERSITY COURSES AT MAARIFA CENTER


BY SHARON KUNAI

Emily Muthoni was overjoyed when she got a chance to learn computer skills at Isinya Maarifa center. It was a dream come true, as she had always had the desire to know how to operate the machines but her parents had no means of taking her to college like some of her colleagues. So the Maarifa center free ICT training was like music to her ears and she savored the opportunity. 



She was delighted to learn that she had qualified for admission to a public university after scoring a B in her KCSE. And when the Joint Admission Board announced that revision of courses was only online, this was a welcome move. After all she had the skills and there was a free internet service at the Maarifa center.
The Story is the same for Ann Wambui and Stephen Mokoro. The Isinya Maarifa center has been a bee-hive of activities in the previous two weeks as candidates of 2012, KCSE have been making efforts to revise their courses.



Talking to Ann Wambui who came all the way from Kitengela for the exercise, I sought to find what she thought of the experience. “It’s the first time I am using the Maarifa center as I recently heard about it from a friend.” She said, “I consider myself lucky because in the other years, the ex candidates had to travel far in order to revise their degree choices.” She added.
Stephen Mokoro, who was a frequent at the Isinya 

Maarifa center during the revision exercise, said that was quite pleased with the services offered but noted that the internet services was slow due to traffic in the Joint Admission Board site and this slowed down the process. He also added that there were times the JAB site was sometimes not available and he had to postpone his revision. Despite these shortcomings, he was able to revise his degree courses and he hopes that he will be able to go to The University of Nairobi to study Medicine.

The revision process came to an end on the 31st of May and as usual with Kenyans doing things on the last minute, the Maarifa center was packed from as early as 8.00 am with many ex candidates finalizing on the revision.