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DJ turns tables on virus pain with onion farming

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By IRENE MUGO

The Covid-19 pandemic has handed many people lemons and the optimists are making lemonades out of them.

Alex Gatheru, who goes by the name DJ Leqs in the entertainment circles in Nairobi, is one of the optimists.

With entertainment spots closed to curb the spread of the virus, Gatheru turned to his second passion – farming – to earn a living.

The DJ, who is signed by Kaka Empire, was growing various crops as a telephone farmer in Gatarakwa, Kieni constituency, before the pandemic, but has since fully transited into farming.

His farm, one acre inherited from his parents and three leased, hosts maize, napier grass and the latest addition comprises three varieties of onions namely garlic, bulb and spring.

“I have always had a passion for farming, but my deejaying job kept me in Nairobi, so I farmed through the telephone but would visit the farm once in a while,” he recounts.

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He started onion farming last year, but little did he know that it would turn out to be his lifeline months later.

“The three onion varieties sit on at least three acres but bulb onions occupy the largest space. I grow the Russet F1 variety,” he says.

He says the beauty of onion growing is that they take three to four months to mature.

FOR A GOOD HARVEST

“And with bulb onions, you can harvest, cure and store them for up to six months if prices in the market are not good,” says Gatheru, noting that curing of onion is very important.

For a good harvest, the DJ says he goes for hybrid seeds. 

“I then prepare a nursery bed, add manure and plant the seeds. Onion seeds are very tiny, therefore, they should be planted shallowly. I later transfer the seedlings after a month to an already tilled farm for planting,” he said.

In the field, he spaces the plants 15cm apart, which is alo the case for the spring and garlic onions.

For garlic, he first separates the bulb into cloves and then chooses the large cloves, which he plants.

He does soil testing before planting in order to know how to apply fertiliser and practices crop rotation to curb diseases and for better yields. DJ Leqs says he also  visits other farmers for lessons.

He produces 20-25 tonnes of bulb onions that are currently going for at least Sh100 per kilo, garlic from Sh200 to Sh400 a kilo and spring onion for up to Sh80 a kilo.

“I harvest about five tonnes of garlic and seven to eight tonnes of spring onion. One garlic bulb is made up of smaller pieces known as cloves that are used for growing the crop,” he crops.

According to Gatheru, too much rain or damp soil is not good for onions. He, therefore, uses drip irrigation system, which also saves him water.

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For bulb onions, during harvesting, he normally uproots the plants and leaves them to dry for two weeks, after which the leaves and stem are chopped off with a sharp knife.

His sojourn in onion farming could not have come at a better time, he says, noting that the market is currently favourable following restricted imports due to measures to control Covid-19.

PRICES ARE VERY GOOD

“Prices are very good currently because a kilo is going for between Sh100 and Sh120 at the farm gate and traders are selling at Sh150 to Sh180,” says Gatheru, 29, who uses social media to market his produce and has six workers.

In addition, he personally ferries the produce for sale in Nyeri and is also contracted as a supplier by some hotels in the county. 

So, asked to choose between deejaying and farming, which one would he go for?

“Honestly, I cannot because I love both and I have seen the advantage of not putting eggs in one basket. I have a plan for both since I do deejaying on weekends and at night and visit the farm during weekdays,” he says, adding that he farms the three onion varieties to diversify his earnings. 

John Wambugu, an agronomist at Wambugu Agricultural Training Centre in Nyeri, notes that farmers should consider the crop calendar before planting onions, adding the market should dictate when one should plant.

“One should ensure they have a market for their produce as well as proper infrastructure to transport their produce to buyers. Besides onions, leafy vegetables such as collard greens, spinach and spices such as corriander, capsicum and lettuce are fast-maturing and do well in the market, enabling one to get income faster if they do well,” he says.

He adds that the pandemic has proved that farmers are key essential service providers.

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Tips on farming good onions

  1. Onions grow well in well-drained, fertile, sandy loam, non-compacted soils.
  2. The ideal pH is 5.8 to 6.8. Onion farming is a good venture since it’s possible to grow them throughout the year with irrigation. 
  3. An acre requires 1-1.5kg of seeds, depending on variety and spacing. 
  4. The spacing normally affects the size of the bulb onions. 
  5. Just like other vegetables planted on nursery bed, site selection is key to proper planning for production.
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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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