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Briefly on farming and agribusiness

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By SEEDS OF GOLD TEAM
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Pastoralists advised to keep high-yielding animal breeds

Leaders in Kajiado have asked pastoralists to invest in high-yielding breeds and cut down on the sizes of their herds to get more value from their ventures.

County Assembly Speaker Joseph Osoi, deputy governor Martin Moshisho, and Agriculture executive Jackline Koin said the large herds were no longer profitable.

“It is more profitable to stock a few animals that are high-yielding as compared to having hundreds of indigenous breeds that are less profitable since they require a lot of resources such as acaricides,” said Moshisho this week during a Dorper sheep fair at Erankau Village on Paul Naigisie’s farm.

The fair was organised by Dorper Sheep Breeders Society of Kenya to promote the breeding of dorper, a South African sheep breed known for its fast maturity and tender meat.

The breed is increasingly becoming so popular among livestock farmers that it is seen as a threat to indigenous ones.
Koin announced that the county government and the United Nations Development Programme were in the process of patenting the indigenous Red Maasai sheep to prevent its extinction and to earn the community more value from the hardy breed.

The leaders pledged the support of the county government in promoting the sheep value chain, noting that livestock rearing was critical in realising the government’s agenda on promoting food security.

County offers free seeds to boost bean production

Elgeyo-Marakwet County government is betting on iron-rich beans known as Nyota developed by Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) to lower malnutrition rate among children.

Kalro and the county government have distributed 30 metric tonnes of the drought-tolerant bean seeds to hundreds of farmers in the region for free to boost production.

“The beans contain high content of iron of 78-80 parts per million (ppm), 38 zinc parts per million (ppm) which is 58 to 80 per cent of daily recommended needs compared to other varieties in the market. The harvest of this variety is 10 bags per acre,” Dr Joyce Malinga, director of Food Crops Research Institute at Kalro, said.

The researcher observed that the bean variety was naturally developed and takes two-and-half to three months to mature depending on the ecological zones.

County nutrition coordinator Priscilla Ngetich said lack of iron is to blame for child and maternal mortalities in the region.

She added that iron deficiency in women and children results in reduced cognitive ability, childbirth complications and birth defects, reduced physical capacity and productivity.

“Sometimes mothers take the iron-rich food but there is poor absorption if they take tea or coffee immediately after. It is important that they take the caffeine after one hour,” said health official.

Expectant mothers who suffer from anaemia also give birth to weaker children and complain of dizziness and tiredness due to lack of energy or iron sources in the body.

Farmers to benefit from Sh21 million free seeds from county

The county government of Lamu has purchased seeds worth Sh21 million to be distributed to farmers ahead of the planting season.

Deputy governor Abdulhakim Aboud, who also doubles up as the Agriculture executive, said the county had bought 105 tonnes of seeds comprising sorghum, millet, maize and cow peas.

Aboud said the seeds are expected to benefit over 6,000 farmers. He called on farmers to prepare their farms before the onset of the rains to reap maximum benefits.

He also warned farmers against reselling the seeds.

“We want to reach a level where we have enough food that we can even sell the surplus to other counties. We only ask that people don’t sell these seeds.”

The executive added that more tractors will be bought to boost farming.

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According to Aboud, Lamu currently has 14 tractors which are leased to farmers at a subsidised cost. “We will buy eight new tractors to serve more farmers,” he said.

Free plant clinics launched

Farmers in Kisumu are set to benefit from plant clinics launched by the Centre for Agriculture and Bio-Science International (CABI) in partnership with the county government.

The farmers will learn how to diagnose plant pests and diseases as well as how to manage their crops for improved productivity.

Deputy governor Mathew Owili noted that food insecurity has been a big issue in Kisumu, making the county a net food importer.

“Farmers incur losses due to lack of proper information concerning pests and diseases and best agricultural practices. We are optimistic this programme will change the situation,” said Dr Owili.

Agriculture executive Gilchrist Okuom said farmers will access extension services at designated markets across the seven subcounties.

The plant clinics will be operational every month at Nyamasaria and Katito markets on the first and third Thursday of the month, Daraja Mbili market — first and third Tuesday, Kombewa market — first and third Friday and Rabuor and Ombeyi markets — first and third Wednesdays.

Experts blame poor usage of research data for low yields

There is a huge mismatch between the number of studies done in the country and the usage of the data collected, Food and Agriculture Organisation official Robert Allport said.

Allport noted that Kenya is one of the most-researched countries in Africa yet a large section of its population continues to suffer from hunger and malnutrition due to poor usage of research data.

“If all the data collected by different institutions could be pooled together and made available to farmers, Kenya would have a world-class capacity for agricultural production,” said Allport, who was speaking during the opening of a food industry, nutrition, career and research expo at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

To address the challenge, Mr Allport called for the creation of a single, easily accessible platform that brings together all agricultural information for use by the public. Stella Makokha, an agricultural economist from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, blamed lack of ‘soft skills’ among researchers for decreased uptake of innovations by farmers.

“A majority of farmers in the country are semi-literate, which makes it harder for researchers to reach them. But there are many ways to pass the information, which should be used to better our farming potential,” she said.

Support of rural farmers key to food security, says report

A new food policy report has called for support of rural farmers for economic growth and to boost food security.

The Global Food Policy Report, 2019, sought to highlight how crises in rural areas threaten progress in hunger alleviation, poverty reduction, as well as the urgent need for rural regeneration.

“Rural revitalisation is timely, achievable, and critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade,” said Shenggen Fan, the director-general at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the author of the report.

The report emphasises the fact that in just a decade, rural areas could be made hubs of innovations if they are rejuvenated with focus on creating farm and non-farm rural employment opportunities.

Empowering women, according to Hazel Malapit, a researcher at IFPRI, can improve agricultural productivity.

Achim Steiner, the administrator at the United Nations Development Programme and co-author of the report, indicated that rural transformation requires a holistic approach to connect rural and urban economies.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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