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Farmers speak on what they want in 2019

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By SEEDS OF GOLD TEAM
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It was the best of years for some farmers; it was the worst for others in decades.

Bumper harvest, adequate rains and better market prices of produce are among the things that made 2018 memorable for some farmers.

On the contrary, rise in importation of eggs, fish and maize, high cost of inputs following the introduction of 16 per cent value added tax on pest control products, outbreak of diseases, floods, shortage of fertiliser and poor prices are some of the things that make some farmers want the year to end faster.

But as curtains close on 2018, farmers are looking forward to 2019 with great hope and lots of expectations. Seeds of Gold spoke to a number of them from across the country.

Joakim Samoei, 28, horticulture farmer, Kesses in Uasin Gishu County

This year, we have had plenty of pest and disease outbreaks such as blight and Tuta absoluta. But the biggest challenge is that there are few extension officers, which often results in poor disease management.

These pests and diseases can wipe out the entire crop in days if no proper measures are put in place. We need counties to employ more extension officers who will help to identify, monitor and recommend the best control mechanisms.

Although there has been good market for farm produce, the challenge is that most of the farm inputs like pesticides whose prices rose have become very costly. With affordable farm inputs like fertiliser and pesticides, the cost of production will come down.

I also hope that this year, soil mapping will be conducted across the country to make us understand the soil type and the requirements since different areas require different farm inputs.

Johnson Murei, maize farmer, Moiben, Uasin Gishu County

This year has been difficult for most maize farmers yet we had bumper harvest due to good rains. In 2017, we had the fall armyworm invasion but this year, the problem declined. However, the price of our produce, at Sh2,300, announced by the government is too low yet production costs are rising.

We have plenty of maize in our stores, which in my case I expect to deliver to the National Cereals and Produce Board. But it still owes many farmers money from previous harvest. I think if things don’t change, most farmers may not plant maize for commercial purposes going forward. Myself I intend to grow wheat, keep cows and maybe plant seeds for Kenya Seed Company. I further expect timely delivery of fertiliser this time round, which should be distributed to genuine farmers.

Willy Kirwa, large-scale dairy farmer Kapseret, Uasin Gishu

This year, we had good rains which means most farmers have stocked adequate feeds such as silage and pasture.

But we also had several challenges as dairy farmers. The most pressing for me is that we now have to use semen two to three times for the cow to conceive.

We don’t know whether the challenge is with the preservation of the semen straws or with our cows. No one has come out to explain to farmers.

Going forward, I hope that universities will move and engage dairy farmers directly on latest technologies so that we can improve production. As farmers, we need to know what researchers in our universities are doing so that we have superior breeds like in Netherlands or Isreal that produce more milk.

This will also help to significantly lower the cost of production at the farm level.

Dairy farmers face constant milk price fluctuation from processors. Sometimes you enter into an agreement only for them renege on it. I think is time for farmers come together and form or strengthen existing co-operative movements like most countries across the world and start adding value to their milk to address some of these challenges.

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Jerim Odada, cane farmer in Muhoroni, Kisumu County

I am optimistic that national government will honour its pledge to settle the Sh2.6 billion debt it owes farmers next year.

Sugar cane farmers should be paid promptly to enable them prepare their land ahead of the planting season.I also expect the national government to revive the operations of sugar milling factories such Muhoroni and Chemelil, which have stalled.

Steve Kamwa, Kamsa Poultry Farm, Kisumu

The cheap eggs from Uganda are a huge headache to poultry farmers in western and other parts of the country.

Currently, a tray of the Ugandan eggs which have flooded Kisumu goes for between Sh200 to Sh220.

This has made us experience losses because we cannot sell our produce. The government should reduce the taxation of agricultural inputs so that we can be able to compete with farmers from across the border.

A 50kg bag of layers mash is currently going for Sh2,500. You cannot spend that much and make profit by selling the 30 eggs at Sh200.

We are currently working on a network of small farmers so that we can pool our produce together and sell eggs to the wholesale market.

Naisiadet Kitai, Chui Villa Farm in Kakamega County

My biggest expectation is that fuel prices will decline so that our production costs can fall.

This year, we have been hit hard by the 8 per cent increase in tax on fuel products like petrol, which I use. If the fuel prices go down, it will mean I spend less money on delivering my milk and running gadgets like chaff-cutter.

I also hope that the weather will be favourable so that it supports the growth of crops. Usually, the country experiences a dry spell from January to March, paving way for the long rains season. I hope this year the rains would start as scheduled and they will be enough to make us grow pasture and other crops. At a personal level, I plan to set up a modern shed for my 13 dairy cows and invest in a borehole.

I am also planning to set up a milk shop to maximise on the sale of 100 litres I get daily.

Prof Ezekiel Okemwa, fish farmer, Mtwapa and Technical University of Mombasa lecturer in the faculty of Applied and Health Sciences

I have seven acres and I use part to keep tilapia and catfish. I have ponds with a capacity of between 80,000 and 100,000 fish at various stages of growing every month.

My main expectation is that in 2019, the government would formulate policies that would regulate importation of fish, especially from China.

That said, I am going to revive poultry farming by breeding the Kienyeji birds.

My wish is also to expand my dairy farm that hosts Jersey and Friesian cows to increase production so that I can supply milk to restaurant and hotels.

Finally, I will start to host agro-tourists on my farm from other parts of the country for lessons and sharing of ideas.

Ali Said, farmer Kilifi County.

Despite the challenges in 2018 in the agribusiness industry, I expect the market for fruits to grow and the price of inputs to remain affordable. This is because I plan to increase the acreage of my pawpaws from four to eight acres.

I have about 3,000 plants at different stages of growth and my expectation is to add at least 4,000 more in 2019 since the market is growing.

To achieve the strategy, I have completed a dam that has a capacity of a million litres. Also, my plan is to grow about 900 trees of pomegrantes fruits on two acres.

I also expect to have a good relationship with the community and I have embarked on providing free seedlings to farmers that are interested in agribusiness.
By Bozo Jenje



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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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