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Feedback: Easy way to better alkaline soils





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I own a farm, one part of which was not being cultivated. It had lush grass where cows used to graze and during heavy rains, water used to settle there.

I did soil analysis and the results indicated the soil pH was highly alkaline for crop growth. That is it had high values of electric conductivity and sodium, suggesting saline-sodic conditions.

Nitrogen and zinc were deficient. After applying manure, zinc sulphate together with ammonium sulphate as advised, the area is still not productive as the vegetables I grew there died.

How can I make this area productive as well as control flash flooding?

I wish you indicated your geographical location because this would have helped me know the exact soil type in your locality for specific advice.

Nevertheless, in your analysis, it seems you based much on the chemical and nutritional aspect of the soil characteristics, which was a good idea.

However, the problem might be emanating from the physical conditions. The long-term grazing of the livestock on the farm has beneficial effects on the soil properties as it leads to addition of nutrients to the soil through the incorporation of the animal droppings (after decomposition).

On the other hand, it also has detrimental effects on the soil’s physical properties as it leads to compaction. Compacted soil leads to high bulk density and low water infiltration.

The low water infiltration rate might be the reason for the collection and settlement of rainwater on the farm surface for quite some time.

When soil is compacted, it hinders root penetration and development, leading to crop failure. Compacted soil also leads to less porous soils.

This has an impact on the soil air circulation, hence not supporting the micro-organisms in the soil, and as mentioned earlier, the animal droppings need to be decomposed for them to release nutrients, a process that is facilitated by these soil micro-organisms.

When soil aeration is affected, water circulation in the soil is hindered since they both use the pore spaces for their flow through the soil.

It is a good attempt to add manure into the soil. You are headed in the right direction since the compost can help in bettering the chemical as well as physical problems of your soil.

Vegetables require a fertile, well-aerated and well-drained soils, resulting from a gently sloping landscape. Another way of solving the compaction problem is through the use of good ploughing methods that would turn the soils and break the debris into smaller pieces, which in turn will improve aeration.

I would recommend that you do the physical analysis, then know the best amendment to apply for favourable output.

Sillus Otieno Odour,
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University.

There are a number of ways you can continue to improve the productivity of your farm. One, you can use gypsum or agricultural lime to reclaim the sodic soil. Also, add organic matter such as straw, livestock manure or green compost.

Do deep ripping of the soil to break up sodic and other hardpans to provide internal drainage. To control floods, you can dig a deep trench around the farm to divert the flush waters to other areas.

Plant crop varieties that have higher tolerances for salt or sodium such as sorghum.

Hezekiah Korir,
Crops, Horticulture and Soils Department, Egerton University.


I need help on arrowroot growing, specifically the upland variety.

Arrowroot is healthy food rich in starch and a good source of dietary fibre. The tubers are mostly grown along riverbeds because of their high consumption of water.

They can, however, be propagated away from riverbeds by planting them in trenches. Successful farming involves the digging of trenches and use of heavy gauge polythene as lining at the bottom.

A mixture of soil and manure is then put in the trench. Planting is then done. The trench should not be more than a meter wide to provide ample space for proper weeding.


Watering is done every week to keep the soil moist. Mulching will help in keeping the moisture in the soil. Harvest time is after about six months and a good indicator is the shrinking and colour change of the leaves.

The Eddoe variety does well in areas away from riverbeds because it tolerates less water, unlike the Dasheen variety.

Faith Ndungi,
Department of Human Nutrition, Egerton University.


My day-old calf’s poop is black and it gnaws its teeth. Any alarm?

It is normal for young ones to pass such poop, known as meconium. These contents have been in the system during gestation and passing it is a good sign of functioning gastrointestinal system of the calf.

The colour usually changes after suckling to yellowish or whitish due to colostrum. After birth, suckling reflex is triggered, causing the calf to suckle and that may cause movements of the jaws. So if these are the only peculiar signs you are observing, there should be no cause of alarm.

Dr Ngetich Wyckliff, Department of Veterinary Surgery, Theriogenology and Medicine (VSTM),
Egerton University.

I am interested in growing the mighty fruit in my small compound after reading Faith Ndungi’s article. My question is, can the fruit do well in Kitengela? Also, where can I get the seedlings?

Jackfruit tree requires well-drained, fertile soils with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5 and will not tolerate moisture stress or waterlogging.

Supplementing the soil with organic fertiliser will help in growth of the tree. Generally, it grows under rain-fed conditions. If grown in hot dry weather, the tree needs regular watering during the initial two to three years.

The frequency of irrigation depends on soil moisture-holding capacity. Watering is not needed in rainy seasons. In case of heavy rains, water should be drained out of the soil to avoid waterlogging, which affects the tree’s growth and fruit development.

General weeding and mulching should be done for proper growth of the tree. The seedlings are available at Tree Biotech nursery in Karura, off Kiambu road. Call 0725886014/0202020641/0202519959.

Faith Ndungi,
Department of Human Nutrition, Egerton University.

I would like to start mint production. I have already done research on the crop and I am ready to try it out and see how it will fare.

I, however, do not know where to get the seeds. If you could refer me to someone who has them, I would be grateful.

They are available at Tree Biotech nursery in Karura, off Kiambu road. Call 0725886014/0202020641/0202519959.

Faith Ndungi,
Department of Human Nutrition, Egerton University.


I have a small cow whose skin is peeling off. Recently, the ears got cut off, as happens with a dog bite. Please help.

Such skin conditions are common and the cause depends on the breed and skin colour of the cow. For light-coloured animals, photosensitisation can be the common cause of skin discolouration, thickening, pruritus, exudation and peeling off.

The signs are commonly seen on the white parts of the skin, muzzles, around the nostrils and ears. This is as a result of energisation of photodynamic agents in the skin, which cause tissue injury. This could also be hepatobilliary disease that causes hepato-genous photosensitisation.

A closer examination of the animal by a veterinarian is advised so that he can rule out other possible causes. Management includes keeping the cow away from sunlight, that is, in a shade or grazing during darkness.

Apply soothing topical creams on affected areas; corticosteroids in early stages and secondary bacterial infection treated with antibiotics.

Dr Ngetich Wyckliff,
Department of Veterinary Surgery, Theriogenology and Medicine (VSTM), Egerton University.


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




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.


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




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




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.


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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