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Gloom amid plenty: The story of disillusioned Ahero farmers : The Standard

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Anjeline Akinyi, a worker weeds in a rice field at Ahero irrigation scheme in Kisumu County. (Denish Ochieng, Standard)
Farmers in Nyanza’s largest rice farming belt, Ahero and West Kano irrigation schemes, are abandoning the crop in their numbers due to a myriad of challenges the government seems to have turned a blind eye to.

Investigations and interviews with various stakeholders revealed that farmers are increasingly leasing out their paddies after failed efforts to earn a living from the crop.
Interestingly, rice is said to be overtaking maize as the staple food, buoyed by declining production and a good share of challenges facing the former, as well as changing lifestyle, especially of the middle class.
A survey by Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development shows rural households consuming maize flour declined to 78 per cent in 2015, from 86 per cent in 2013 while households consuming rice increased from 54 to 61 per cent in the same period.
SEE ALSO :Sh16.5 million to boost farming in MeruThese promising numbers were reflected in the two schemes where production has steadily risen, with 15,000 acres brought under rice production from about 8,000 acres 10 years ago.
The bright prospects paint a picture of a rosy situation where there is an apparent lure to rice production and farmers toiling in the paddies smile all the way to the bank at the end of a season.
But on the ground, the farmers are a bitter lot.
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Floods and hailstorm
From a rising cost of production to lack of extension officers, grain-destroying birds and floods and hailstorm, farmers weather great odds.
SEE ALSO :Two killed in Kilifi as clashes between farmers and herders escalate“The cost of production increases every year. Inputs like fertilisers and weed and pest control measures are rising and the government is not keen on taming this,” said George Okaka, the chairman of West Kano Irrigation Scheme.
And if they surmount the costs to cultivate the grain, they still face the grain-destroying red-billed quelea birds, heavy floods and hailstorm at harvest.
And these are compounded by poor uptake of crop insurance, draining hopes of ever-breaking even with the crop.
“We also no longer get extension officers to advise us on good practice and when to harvest.
“The consequence is that farmers gauge for themselves when to harvest and in many cases do so either too soon or too late and this affects quality of the rice milled,” said Okaka, explaining why the local produce has remained unable to compete with imports flooding in.
SEE ALSO :Break marketing cartels to increase local coffee incomeHe said mistimed harvesting left farmers with grain with the wrong moisture content, hence reduced rice quality.
Although Ugandan traders have been raiding the two schemes to mop up the produce at rates slightly higher than what is offered by local millers, farmers have decried production costs, which thin their margins, pushing them into poverty at a time when they should be getting richer.
Control the birds
Okaka said the birds menace was getting worse since devolution of agriculture because the Kisumu County government has failed to control the birds’ population as was done under the centralised government.
“The county should concede that it lacks the capacity to control the birds so that the national government can come to our rescue. It is really disheartening to lose ready grain to pests when there is a body that should shield farmers against that,” he said.
SEE ALSO :Nyeri farmers to get coffee education“We cannot worry about floods and hailstorm which we cannot control and still worry about birds whose mitigation has existed for years.”
For  long, lack of a proper mill has also stood in the way of proper production in Nyanza but this was mitigated when the Lake Basin Development Authority revived its 24,000 tonne capacity mill in Kibos and received Sh200 million to mop up rice from farmers in the two schemes.
The farmers are also working towards operationalisation of their own mill, which has been lying idle due to an incomplete set up, according to Okaka. This, he said, will eliminate middlemen, expanding their margins.
Rice farming in Ahero received a major boost in 2015 when the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) bought a Sh200 million subsidised mechanisation equipment for the farmers.
The rise has also been buoyed by the shift from better harvest to reliable market, courtesy of a new technology dubbed system for rice intensification (SRI).
The system, borrowed from Mwea Irrigation Scheme, involves intensive utilisation of water, where farmers have equal access to the limited commodity for a particular number of days, then they give it to other farmers, and the cycle continues.
The system also promotes mechanisation, use of certified seeds and intensive sensitisation. This has seen the likes of Beatrice Awino, a farmer, embrace team work right from land preparation, planting, harvesting and marketing.
Nyanza NIB Regional Manager Joel Tanui however asked the rice farmers to insure their crops so they can be compensated in the event of crop failure caused largely by natural calamities such as hailstorms and the birds.
“We are asking farmers to embrace the idea of insuring their crops as is being promoted by the government, so that in the event of calamities, they are compensated,” Tanui said.
He said some rice farmers fear the insurance premiums could be a costly undertaking. He said insurance cover would cost between Sh2,000 and Sh4,000, depending on acreage and estimated production output.

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FarmersAheroWest Kano irrigation schemesRice

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New home for hand-reared orphaned elephant calves: The Standard

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Four orphaned elephant calves are re-introduced to the wild of Sera Community Sanctuary in Laikipia from Reteti Community Sanctuary in Samburu County. [Jayne Rose Gacheri, Standard]
Rift ValleyLoisaba, Baawa, Lchurai and Nadasoit were rescued at young ages, weaned successfully and are now ready to live on their own in the wild.

Four rescued orphaned elephant calves have been re-introduced to their natural environment after a successful weaning process by the Reteti Community Sanctuary.

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The calves were released into their new home at Sera Wildlife Conservancy in Laikipia County.
The four – Loisaba, Baawa, Lchurai and Nadasoit – were moved to Sera after the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) scientists approved the sanctuary as a suitable “home” for the hand-reared calves.
This is due to Sera’s proximity to Reteti. Considered too was its perfect security as the sanctuary has a perimeter fence that keeps at bay large predators such as lions.
SEE ALSO: KWS driver collapses, dies in line of duty
Other preferences that made Sera Rhino Sanctuary an ideal home for the young elephants were that it has an enhanced security team comprising KWS rangers and community scouts, in addition to minimal human activity. The elephant population in the sanctuary is also not a large one.
Reteti manager Moses Lenaipa said the translocation process was agreed on after KWS scientists completed an ecological assessment of the area and determined that the conditions were optimal for the reintroduction.
Perfect sanctuary
Lenaipa said the recent rains have provided a variety of forage as well as surface water and full waterholes for the four elephants. The calves were released in perfect health.
“This brings to 10 the number of calves that have been successfully released from Reteti, and we are proud and thrilled to share this widely, being the only community-owned and managed elephant sanctuary in Kenya,” he said.
SEE ALSO: Residents living near forest accuse rangers of brutality
The manager said this is the third release of hand-reared elephants into the Sera Sanctuary since Reteti was established in 2016. Sera is also a community-run sanctuary. The two are part of the larger Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy.
“Barely three and a half years since launching Reteti, we feel proud of what the sanctuary has achieved in the rescue and release of orphaned elephant calves,” said Lenaipa, adding that the establishment would continue to build partnerships with stakeholders in conservation.
Loisaba, Baawa, Lchurai and Nadasoit were selected for this latest release because of their age. They are aged between three and four years and have been weaned off their special milk formula.
“They have also gained valuable experience in the bush guided by their handlers, and were in great physical condition at the time of release,” said Lenaipa.
He said in the build-up to the release, the calves were familiarised with their travel crate and fitted with GPS tracking collars. This process, he said, was carried out in partnership with KWS personnel who developed the post-release monitoring strategy.
SEE ALSO: Conservationist fears for life after group invades property
“This will enable the monitoring and documentation of the elephants’ health, safety and integration,” said Lenaipa.
“KWS is proud of its veterinary team that has worked in partnership with Reteti to ensure the calves were rescued most humanely and professionally, given the required medical care and nurtured with the highest animal welfare standard,” said Simon Gitau, Assistant Director of Mountain Conservation Area.
According to Antony Wandera, Senior Research and Monitoring officer, Northern Rangelands Trust, the four elephants will be monitored closely for learning purposes.
“The close follow-up will help us to continuously improve the welfare of the elephants and the rewilding process,” said the officer.
Bawa, now three and a half years old, was rescued from Nga’bolo after he was found abandoned and stuck in the mud at four months old. “It took a long time for handlers and KWS vet team to wean him back to health,” said Lenaipa.
SEE ALSO: Shinyalu locals suffer at the hand of rogue forest officers
Loisaba, three years and four months old now, was found wondering by Loisaba Conservancy rangers at eight months. He was orphaned by the tough drought at the time, but endured to regain strength and be finally released to the wild.
Lchurai, another victim of the drought, was rescued at the Lchurai (after which he is named) area of Laikipia, stressed and traumatised at nine months old. However, the professional handling at the sanctuary made him fit for the wild release, aged three years and seven months old.
Close monitoring
Lastly, Nadasoit was the youngest to arrive at the sanctuary at only three weeks old. He was found in a community well at Naunyak Community Conservancy.
“She had taken a lot of water and was sick with pneumonia, but she proved to be a tough girl and found her way to good health by the time of release at three years and two months old,” said Lenaipa.
SEE ALSO: MP wants frequent jumbo attacks halted
The two earlier releases saw Warges, Lingwezi and Sosian reintroduced to the wild in May 2019 while Shaba, Pokot and Mpala were released in November 2019.
“Their release was quite successful as they are currently spending time with wild herds in the area and living without any human contact at all,” said Naomi Leshonguro, one of the longest-serving handlers at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary and the first woman elephant handler in Kenya.
David Daballen, head of field operations at the Save the Elephants organization, says data on elephants in the wild released in 2019 shows orphaned jumbos are increasingly integrating with wild ones.
“The data shows their range overlaps with wild elephants with whom they share water points and are often in close contact,” says Daballen, adding that the organisation is pleased with the progress of the orphans.
“We look forward to watching them grow to mature males and females and eventually feed on the fenced environment of Sera Rhino Sanctuary to be truly wild.”

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Soaring number of sick drivers puts Busia in tight spot: The Standard

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Busia Deputy Governor Moses Mulomi in countersuit (centre) at the Busia One Stop Border Post. [Ignatius Odanga/Standard]
WesternThe facilities have bed capacities of 42 and 200, respectively. Another 50 beds have been added at Alupe that had a 71-bed capacity.

So far, Governor Sospeter Ojaamong’s administration has identified Agricultural Training Centre (ATC) and St Monica Chakol as additional centres.

The facilities have bed capacities of 42 and 200, respectively. Another 50 beds have been added at Alupe that had a 71-bed capacity.
The county has been engaging the national government over possibility of converting the Kenya Medical Training Institute in Busia into another isolation facility to handle rising numbers.
But chief officer-in-charge of Health and Sanitation Isaac Omeri indicated that only asymptomatic patients would be accommodated at the ATC. On top of the preventive measures put in place by the county government, five hotels have been identified in Busia town where truck drivers can put up and six others in Malaba border town.
SEE ALSO: Why partnerships in technology are key in fighting pandemic
Dr Omeri said the hotels were specifically for truck drivers to help minimise scenerios where they mingle freely with locals. 
By yesterday, Busia had recorded 178 positive cases, all of them truck drivers.
“We expect the number to go up in coming days. That is why we have decided to get alternative places for patients to be held as they get medication,” said Omeri.
The county has mounted disinfectant booths and spray tunnels in strategic places, particularly at the Busia and Malaba border posts, for use by clearing agents and truck drivers.
It has also erected water tanks and provided soap for locals to wash hands regularly.
SEE ALSO: What if Kenyans knew Covid-19 was coming?
Food vendors
Following complaints from a section of locals that some food vendors were hawking food to truckers, the county has launched sensitisation programme aimed at educating the sellers not to have close contact with drivers.
“It is a matter of great concern because some drivers mingle with locals before even knowing their status. We are telling our people and specifically those selling food and fruits to avoid getting into close contact with truckers to avoid contracting the virus,” said Omeri.
The Ministry of Health in March identified truck drivers as a weak link in the fight against coronavirus.
For the last three weeks, Busia town and Malaba have been chaotic due to trailer snarl-up.
SEE ALSO: How coronavirus slashed trips to ATMs to an all-time low in April
Uganda has so far returned at least 50 Kenyan truck drivers who tested positive. The county by Thursday had tested more than 7,000 truck drivers.
On Tuesday, Governor Ojaamong and County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri announced that a driver without a certificate to show they are Covid-19 free would not enter the county.
They said drivers would bear the cost of fumigating their trucks. The response team established that some drivers had no certificates.
Shortage of reagents, personal protective equipment, ventilators, face masks and fewer health care providers have remained the biggest challenges in the fight against coronavirus in the county, said Omeri.
Yesterday, he said the department was keen on paying the heath care providers their subsistence allowances.
SEE ALSO: Sacco relaxes loan terms for members as virus looms
This is after some frontline workers lamented that their morale was low since the county was yet to pay them their allowances.
The affected cadres include doctors, nurses, public health officers and laboratory technologists.

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Woman claims baby swapped with a dead one in hospital: The Standard

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Rift ValleyBut medical superintendent says child was born pre-term and promises to conduct DNA to establish the truth.

A woman has accused Nakuru Level Five Hospital of swapping her newborn with a dead one.
Alice Adhiambo (pictured), 31, said she checked into the facility on May 21 and was admitted after medics reported that she had high blood pressure, thereby placing her and her unborn baby in danger.
“I remained at the hospital until May 29 when I delivered at around 4pm through caesarean section. My baby boy weighed 2.6 kilogrammes at birth and was feeding normally. I spent the day with him on Saturday and Sunday,” said Adhiambo.
SEE ALSO: Standing out as tough times push more to side hustles
Details on the Newborn Unit Exit Form indicated that “the child was born pre-term at 31 weeks and 5 days as compared to 40 weeks for a normal delivery.”
Adhiambo explained that on Sunday evening, she went to breastfeed her child at 6pm and left the nursery at around 7:30pm hoping to check on the baby again by 9pm.
“At 9pm, I left my bed heading to the nursery. There I met two nurses who asked me where the name tag on my child had gone yet I had left it intact. My baby too was not in his bed,” she said.
The distressed mother said the nurses then broke the news to her that her child had died after which she demanded to see the body.
Unique hair
SEE ALSO: Dortmund’s Sancho, Akanji fined for getting haircuts without face masks
“My child had unique hair close to the forehead. I was shown an already wrapped baby whose body colour had turned almost green. The dead child had a birth mark on the face while mine had none. The body was too cold to have died minutes earlier,” said Adhiambo.
Her attempts to get an explanation on the circumstances under which her baby died were futile as none of the nurses had answers to her queries.
But the hospital’s medical superintendent Dr Joseph Mburu has denied Adhiambo’s claims.
“There was nothing like a baby swap. The document in our possession clearly show that the child was born pre-term,” Dr Mburu said.
The situation became more complicated the following day as Adhiambo was paying her bill when it emerged that she had been given a different file as a record for her child.
SEE ALSO: Keter turn guns to Diamond League debut
On the Discharge Summary Form given to Adhiambo, her patient number was recorded as 792173 but at the hospital billing records the number had been assigned to a different patient.
“At the accountant’s desk, the patient number on the form gave the record of a patient named John Ng’ang’a. That was neither me nor my son,” she said.
Dr Mburu admitted that there were some errors on the records but the inpatient number belonged to Adhiambo.
“If the child was not hers, we shall have a DNA conducted to establish the truth of the matter,” said Dr Mburu.
More discrepancies emerged between the birth notification and a burial permit issued to allow the hospital to dispose of the body.
SEE ALSO: Covid-19: A wake-up call to save the Earth
In the two documents seen by The Standard, the Birth Notification issued on June 1 indicates that the child was born dead on May 29 while the burial permit indicated the child died aged one day.
Adhiambo who works as a security guard in Nakuru town said the torment has been hard for her to bear adding that her husband is still held up in Mombasa due to cessation of movement because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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