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How Bt cotton can revive collapsed textile industry

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By PAUL KIMURTO
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By ESTHER KIMANI
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The first results of the national performance trials (NPT) of genetically modified (GM) cotton done by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) in partnership with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), universities and several scientists, which are due this year, are eagerly awaited by stakeholders in the texture industry.

The performance trial was done after an environmental release approval by the National Bio-safety Authority (NBA) in 2016, based on Environmental Impact Assessment clearance certificate and licence for open field trials issued in 2018.

The progress is a major breakthrough for Kenya, which lags behind other African countries in deployment of Bt technology despite enormous knowledge in plant breeding for insect-resistance cotton and many crops including maize.

Bt technology has been used to mitigate effects of pests and diseases, drought stress and other challenges facing farmers globally with broader advantage of reduced production costs, improved crop quality and environmental protection from use of excessive pesticides through chemical sprays.

Comparative analysis of Kenya and peer countries

Kenya and South Africa initiated GM crops’ research and trials almost simultaneously (Kenya in 2001, South Africa 1998), but the latter has become the first country in Africa to release its first commercial GM crop — insect-resistant (Bollgard II cotton) — that was subsequently adopted for commercial production four years later in 2002.

Surprisingly, the adoption rapidly expanded following the first commercial release, and by 2001-2002, it was estimated that approximately 90 per cent of farmers were growing Bt cotton and now it is 100 per cent Bt seed.

If Bt cotton will be released in Kenya and adopted for commercial production in 2019/2020, it will have taken us 18 years to set up appropriate bio-safety legislations, conduct confined field trials (CFTs) and NPTs.

This is comparatively a very slow pace of regulation and technology adoption.

India accounts for the largest area of Bt cotton in the world, with more than 10 million hectares planted in 2016.

Lesser technologically developed countries like Burkina Faso and Sudan are among the four African countries producing Bt cotton.

Non-existent bio-safety risks

Several health and bio-safety concerns raised by Kenyans over the years, including threats to life, could have been more serious in India where seven million farmers have been growing GM cotton on 12 million hectares, (approximately a quarter of cotton demand globally) throughout the country since it was introduced 16 years ago, according to published data.

In Philippines, 80 per cent of Filipino yellow corn farmers are planting biotech maize, which is currently under ban in Kenya.

Socio-economic and environmental merits of using Bt cotton

It is highly expected that adoption and commercialisation of Bt cotton will revitalise the textile industry and by extension contribute to the revival of the cotton sector and create up to 600,000 jobs on farms and apparel factories.

Bt cotton has a potential to produce 260,000 bales of cotton per hectare annually as compared to none Bt varieties, which stand at 28,000-30,000 bales, translating to about 572kg/hectare against a potential of 2,500kg/hectare.

In Australia, cotton production area increased by 89 per cent after introduction of Bt cotton variety (BollgardIII/RR Flex cotton), which was adopted by many farmers.

When current Bt varieties are released in Kenya, similar increase in acreage is expected. Farm labour allocated to spraying is expected to reduce significantly.

The greatest threat to Bt crop varieties is the ability of insects to adapt to bio-insecticides synthesised by Bt crop. This may eventually lead to the development of resistance to Bt toxins by the insects, which is a genetically based decrease in the frequency of individuals susceptible to the toxin in a population that has been previously exposed to them.

STRATEGIES TO MINIMISE RESISTANCE

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a) Use of refuge crops
The key strategy to the delay in the emergence of insect resistance is planting of conventional (non-GM) cotton in or near Bt cotton fields, or the planting of other suitable crops that ensure that there are available refuge crops to promote the survival of susceptible insects.

This will ensure that there is high population of susceptible insects that will mate with the rare resistant individuals surviving on Bt cotton and thus reduce build-up of resistance.

Insect resistance may also be delayed by the use of plants producing two distinct toxins popularly known as gene pyramid strategy (stacking).

The most widespread current example is Bollgard II, which produces Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab genes that are more sustainable than using single genes.

c) Extension training and education on integrated pest management

Bt cotton production should not be left primarily to smallholder farmers without proper training and education on the value chain. Adequate training and extension by target county governments is mandatory.

Seed companies, NBA, Kalro and Kephis should provide sufficient information on any risk management strategy including dangers on emergence of insect-resistance by enforcing implementation of refuge policy and adequate monitoring of compliance.

A good strategy to achieve this is to ensure that farmers reserve land for non-Bt cotton and the seed company provides them with the requisite amount of non-GM seed when purchasing Bt cotton.

Good agronomic practices will be required to obtain a yield gain sufficient to cover the additional input cost incurred in purchase of Bt technology seed, which may be 3-5 more expensive.

After release, the spread and adoption of Bt cotton among smallholder farmers may never be achieved without combined collaboration of various public and private institutions of research (Kalro and universities), regulation (Kephis), seed companies, agrovets and county governments for seed maintenance, regeneration, production, extension and knowledge management.

d) Implementation of agro-biodiversity strategy

The Bt genes can be introduced into many existing cotton varieties like HART90 with desirable staple and fibre length to maintain crop agro-biodiversity that contribute to species and varietal diversity used in agricultural production.

There is a risk of few Bt cotton varieties to dominate a large area in the country leading to reduced agro-biodiversity and nation’s cropping patterns, resulting in reduced sources of resistance traits for diseases, quality and contributing to agro-biodiversity erosion.

Kephis should conduct adequate NPTs before release and avoid dominance of few varieties in cropping system. There is also need to strengthen cotton breeding and seed production in Kenya.

India has managed to maintain cotton varietal diversity by mixing Bt cotton and conventional varieties.

e) Development of input and output markets

The current status of cotton ginneries is gloomy and factories like Kicomi and Rivatex are not processing any meaningful product that can contribute to planned revival of manufacturing sector.

As Kenya readies to release new Bt varieties, there is need to invest in the value chain as the smallholder cotton growers, who are the majority, will acquire the necessary production inputs to boost their productivity regardless of whether the crop is Bt or conventional cotton.

Key productivity-enhancing inputs such as adequate quality seed of adapted varieties, fertilisers, irrigation and right training and information need to be established now.

Investments in cotton processing factories as is currently happening with Rivatex-Eldoret under Moi University need to be done across major growing areas.

Using agro-processing economic zones and industrial parks would be a great idea. Providing appropriate credit to farmers through co-operatives for easy financing of their activities would eliminate the major constraint of lack of resources.

This will in turn create jobs, achieving government agenda of using cotton as key ingredient and contributor to manufacturing sector.

Prof Kimurto is a crop expert at Agro-science Park, Egerton University, and Dr Kimani is the managing director of Kephis.



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Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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