For close to two weeks now, Turkana has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Images of desperation have become the face of the county in the wake of drought-linked famine in the expansive county.
But even in the midst of this, there is a beacon of hope in the region. In the scorching sun of Turkana, Katilu Irrigation Scheme flourishes with food despite thousands of residents feeling the heat of the stubborn drought that has exposed many households to a biting hunger.
Turkana has been seeking food assistance every year to feed itself despite having the potential to produce food that can feed the whole of Kenya.
At Katilu, in Turkana South, farmers attached to the scheme harvest between 25 to 30 bags of maize per acre in every planting season, way above the national average of 20 bags, thanks to the available water and good agronomical practices.
The Katilu scheme covers 2,000 acres but the government plans to expand it to 10,000 acres along the Turkwel River.
The scheme benefits about 500,000 households but it is way below its potential, given the water volumes of the Turkwel River.
The scheme was started in 1966 but came into operation in 1970 through a joint effort of the Ministry of Agriculture, which provided recurrent costs and Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) who provided capital and technical personnel.
Farmers grow maize, sorghum and millet and have signed contracts with the World Food Programme (WFP) where they sell their produce. This has ensured a ready market for their crop.
The scheme chairman Milton Loito says even as the rest of Turkana is suffering from hunger, Katilu has sufficient to eat and sell.
“We have just heard of hunger in the other regions of Turkana but for us we have enough for consumption,” said Mr Loito.
Experts accuse the county government of failing to plan and give priority to key agricultural areas that can address these challenges.
“County governments have underfunded some of these major projects because of competing interests and this is what has hampered their completion,” said Tim Njagi, a researcher with Tegemeo Institute of Research and Policy.
“The counties have lacked priority and they spread money to different projects at once instead of focusing on high impact schemes until they are completed,” he added.
Dr Njagi also said that counties lack human resource to execute some of these functions.
For instance in Nakwamoru scheme, where the Turkana county government had put up 600 acres of land under irrigation, the project failed to flourish because the canal could not take in the water to feed the farms.
Dr Njagi said that counties should use equalisation funds that they get on projects that affect the lives of the local people.
The potential of irrigation scheme in Turkana region in making the country food-secure is highlighted by the new maize variety that was introduced at the Katilu scheme last year.
The NIB introduced new maize varieties in the scheme- DKC 90-89, DKC 777 AND SY 594, which are high-yielding and resistant to most crop diseases. Farmers in the scheme have been able to produce between 30 and 35 bags of maize per acre from the DKC 777 variety.
Turkana is one of the counties with the highest number of irrigation schemes, however, the stark contrast is that it suffers every time of drought.
The northern Kenya county is home to 17 irrigation schemes, however, just four of them are functional while others are among the dead despite the devolved government pumping millions of shillings.
But further from Katilu, farmers around other irrigation schemes such as Kakwanyang, Kanaodon, Nakwamoru, Nadoto and Naoros have not benefited as no activity goes on despite millions of shillings pumped into the project by the Turkana government.
Agriculture is devolved to the counties, meaning the regional governments should be in charge of all the activities within the sector.
The National Irrigation Board has been the custodian of the water schemes across the county, managing different projects until devolution came into force. Some county governments took over the running and management of these schemes.
This is partly the reason irrigation schemes in the region are slowly dying; they, among other hiccups, lack sufficient funding.
“We have had to surrender some of the irrigation schemes to county governments because ideally the agricultural function is devolved, but again, the very local governments have failed to manage them,” said Daniel Waweru, head of Katilu Irrigation Scheme.
Mr Waweru also said that they are facing challenges of farmers not taking good care of their crops after planting, but lack of certified farming inputs has pushed food production from bad to worse.
“Even here in Katilu, you would realise that there are farmers who have failed crop husbandry and this has been a serious challenge that has cut on production,” he said.
World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021
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.
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.
Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans
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.
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.
Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets
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.
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.