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Policy experts call for harmonisation of regional seed regulations




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Access to improved quality seed varieties within the Eastern and Southern Africa region still remains low at 23 per cent, according to agriculture policy, trade, and technology transfer experts.

This, they say, is among the most key contributory factors to the low productivity, especially of cereal crops like maize, sorghum and pearl millet, despite countries in the region having a large share of arable land.

The experts who sought to identify bottlenecks in the implementation of harmonised seed regulations in the Eastern and Southern Africa region, as well as develop an action plan towards eliminating these challenges, noted that the continent’s seed sector meets only about 20 per cent of the demand.

This, leading to importation of seed varieties from abroad, despite the potential to produce more seed locally.

Consequences of this have been the continent’s share of seed production for the global market, which is valued at about Sh5.12trillion, dipping to less than 1 per cent.

According to the experts, weak and outdated seed regulatory frameworks have largely been identified as significant contributors to the poor seed production, trade and distribution, leading to low availability of quality seeds for farming communities as well as trade.

Ineffective agricultural extension systems, poor linkages between research and extension systems, long technology testing and release systems, weak public policy and regulatory environments, and the absence of a regionally coordinated efforts to deliver seed variety and technologies across similar agro-ecological zones in the continent, have been identified as other causative factors.

“While much has been done towards making new seed varieties and technologies easily accessible to farming communities, we are aware that some challenges still remain. Seed systems in particular are still relatively inefficient and the movement of plant varieties across regions has been hampered by policy and operational bottlenecks, which make the process of variety release, testing and registration unnecessarily lengthy,” African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Executive Director, Dr Denis Kyetere, said in a recent seed stakeholders’ forum, acknowledging these challenges.

These logjams have in large resulted to lack of faster seed variety and technology registration, and slow-moving implementation of harmonised regional policies.
“For most varieties, the process of release takes at least two years, which implies that if the same variety has to be released and traded for farming in 10 countries, it will take up to 20 years, which is hardly rational,” says Nnenna Nwabufo, the Deputy Director-General, East Africa hub of the Africa Development Bank (AfDB).

Addressing these challenges, according to the experts, is essential to ease rapid deployment of proven seed varieties and technologies across different regions without repeating their efficacies in similar agro-ecological zones.


The African Seed Trade Association (Afsta) in effect, advocates for a review of the outdated national seed policies and implementation of harmonised seed trade regulations, at regional levels to facilitate availability of quality seeds for farmers.

“We have embarked on progressing several factors through the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Seed Trade Harmonisation Implementation Plan (Com-ship) to achieve this,” says Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (Actesa) seed expert, Dr John Mukuka.

These interventions entail supporting countries in aligning to the Comesa seed system through phased domestication, as well as supporting seed companies with varieties in the Comesa variety catalogue, and hence more effectively trade using the bloc’s seed standards.


This catalogue currently has 57 varieties of beans, groundnuts, Irish potatoes, maize, soybeans and wheat, which can be traded in the Comesa bloc’s member countries without being requested to be evaluated for a period in any of these countries.

Dr Mukuka also states that there should be support for the harmonisation of a Comesa bloc-wide plant variety protection (PVP), just like the harmonised PVPs in other blocs. These PVPs are the legal designations designed to protect plant breeders, granting them an intellectual property right over the seed varieties they breed.

He notes that there also needs to be support production of niche seed of small grains and legumes less attracted by regional or international seed companies, as well as establishment of borderless plant health inspections within bilateral agreements, through intensive training of the customs staff and seed companies on the harmonised seed documentations.

In addition, according to him, the bloc should also strive to implement the common variety identification number for same varieties that are marketed under different brand names to facilitate their easy registration in the variety catalogue.

“Key is also training the private seed sector in self-certification of their crop varieties and auditing of their systems, as well as designing, producing and distributing seed system guides and protocols for use by the seed inspectors and analysts,” he adds.

Once the components of the plan are fully implemented, small-scale farmers will have it easy providing food for their households, as well as trading the excess in local and regional markets and hence spur growth in household incomes, according to Dr Mukuka.


Afsta closely works with trade blocs such as the East Africa Community, Southern African Development Community (Sadc), Comesa, and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) towards developing and implementing regional harmonised seed trade regulations, which will ease farmers’ access to quality seeds, across these regions.

According to the association, the population in Comesa countries is steadily increasing at 2.3 per cent annually while their food production grows at only 2 per cent, which has contributed to food insecurity to more than 130m people in the Comesa region alone.

Harmonisation of fertiliser standards, staple food (maize, beans and rice) grades and standards, warehouse receipt systems, and implementation of the regional food balance sheet are also sectors which, according to Aftsa, will improve the region’s farming communities’ food security and livelihoods.

This is, as Afsta also seeks to facilitate harmonisation of the livestock feed sector and implementation of the Comesa biotechnology and biosafety policy implementation plan (Com-bip) in countries whose smallholder farmers have adopted cultivation of bt cotton.

Mrs Nwabufo notes that there is an urgent need to push for harmonisation of these regulations and protocols through regional policy dialogue and consultations to assess what exists, identify the gaps and support the required reforms to accelerate these policies’ harmonisations.

“This will make it easy to get improved varieties and technologies to the farmers in good time, which will not only ensure returns on the heavy investments already made but, also make certain we have the ability and means to gain from our agricultural potential,” said Dr Kyetere.



Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’




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 –




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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard




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.

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