At first I thought it was a tasteless prank brought on by too much idleness among policymakers in the Agriculture ministry, only to realise that someone was actually serious about banning the use of animal manure to avoid contaminating the soil.
Whoever came up with this gem of an idea to be debated by Parliament contemplates a law that will lead to a comprehensive ban on almost all the cereals, vegetables and legumes consumed by Kenyans, including maize, millet, wheat, beans, peas, sweet potatoes, cassava and other tubers, so long as they are grown using manure.
To be sure, among these proposals are measures intended to make our food exports acceptable in other parts of the world.
But that is only half the story, for it is not quite clear for whom these regulations are meant.
Surely, it cannot be for smallholders, who have no choice but to seek the easiest and cheapest way to fertilise their small pieces of land so that they can attain reasonable harvests on which to subsist.
How can they possibly do it without applying cow, goat, sheep and chicken manure the way they have always done?
Something does not add up here. The proposal has upended all that I thought I knew about subsistence farming.
When I was young, I was taught that manure improves the quality of soil by adding nutrients like nitrogen and other minerals.
It also allows the soil to retain moisture. Now we are being told that we have been doing it all wrong, which does not make much sense, considering that in the past, harvests used to be a lot more bountiful than they are today.
In fact, to coin a phrase, the whole proposal seems to be a load of bull.
What should small farmers use instead? Even if they could get hold of genuine chemical fertilisers, the prices of those additives are way out of reach for those without any other means of making a living.
Is it possible that they are expected to buy fake fertilisers that have been degrading the soils and making them steadily slip from poverty to absolute destitution?
Could it be a ploy to benefit the crooked brokers who have been importing these counterfeits? Or is it a plot by multinational agribusiness corporations to keep raking in super profits by supplying seeds that cannot regerminate?
Another annoyance is that the Crops (Food Crops) Regulations 2018 contains a plethora of penalties for those who would prevent newly appointed food inspectors to do their jobs.
Apparently, these chaps are supposed to check whether food crops conform to local and international standards.
This is really rich, considering that the once vibrant field extension services offered by the ministry died long ago and there have been few efforts to revive them.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to do so instead of checking how and where farmers are growing their food crops?
It is the government’s duty to empower our farmers to grow enough food to feed on before worrying about the delicate stomachs of fellows abroad who throw away more food each year than grows in the whole of Africa.
Banning organic fertilisers is certainly not the way to go, especially in a situation where the country suffers acute food deficits that occur whenever the rains are late, inadequate or poorly distributed.
In a situation where people in some regions are starving to death amid mind-numbing denials by the government, this is certainly the wrong time to start placing strictures on how food crops should be grown.
Food insecurity in Kenya is a reality we cannot run away from, and we need to seek home-grown solutions instead of following the dictates of well-fed foreign lobbyists who pretend to know better than our grandparents how to fill our granaries.
Considering that more than 80 per cent of Kenya’s population makes a living from agriculture-related activities, it is time our policymakers rethought their priorities and stopped copy-pasting solutions to food insufficiency from elsewhere.
On Friday, I was soundly chastised by my editor for agreeing with three Court of Appeal judges who last week recommended that the age of sexual consent be lowered from 18 to 16 years.
I had penned a long, intense harangue, arguing that the judges were right to make such a proposal because 16-year-olds were having sex with wild abandon anyway, and jailing boys for 15 years for doing something that came naturally was a cruel and unusual punishment.
In retrospect, I am glad to say I was wrong and the editor right for pointing out the errors of my way.
After all, the fact that underage girls were consenting to sex, sometimes with men 10 years their seniors, did not make the crime of defilement any less serious, and lowering the age of consent would merely open the door for paedophiles to prey on vulnerable teenagers.
The best solution is not to lower the age of consent but for parents, teachers and preachers to teach these children all about their bodies and how to protect themselves.
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.
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
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.
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.