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The sun waters my avocado trees

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By STANLEY KIMUGE
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The little-known Kapsoen village, a few kilometres off the Eldoret-Iten road in Moiben, Uasin Gishu County, is currently dusty and hot.

As in many other parts of the country, it has not rained in the area for months, and, therefore, most farms are hosting scorched plants.

On the 50-acre Limpompo Farm, however, things are much different as avocado plants on the vast establishment are greener.

Micah Cheserem, the former chairman of the Commission on Revenue Allocation, attributes his lush crop to the intense sun.

“If it was not for the sun, my crops would not be this green,” says Cheserem, catching the Seeds of Gold team unawares because none of the farmers in the surrounding can attest to his statement.

But he explains. “I use solar power to pump water from my reservoirs into the farm to water the fruit trees that sit on 38 acres out of the 50. The solar panels also light the farm and power all my machines.”

His is a farm that runs purely on green energy, with the established farmer saying use of solar power has helped him save an average of Sh100,000 a month that would have gone on electricity bills.

The farm is dotted with hundreds of avocado trees of various sizes, with the farmer saying he spent over Sh2 million in April 2017 to start the venture after visiting the Murang’a-based Kakuzi Company, which has some 3,000 contracted farmers. The bulk of the cash went on the 114 solar panels on the farm and a computer system.

Part of the money went to grafted seedlings, which he bought at Sh150 a piece from a certified nursery located in Eldoret.

He started with 1,200 avocado seedlings and then last year in March, added 4,600 more.

“I have portioned the farm into six blocks. The trees I started with are now fruiting and I am harvesting them,” he offers, adding each fruit goes for an average of Sh6.

Each fruit tree has a drip line that releases drops of water to the plants. The lines are connected to three huge water tanks with a capacity of 170,000 cubic litres.

AUTOMATICALLY MONITOR AMOUNT OF WATER

The irrigation water in the tanks comes from four ponds sunk on his farm, which collect water during the rainy season. The water is then pumped to the storage tanks using the solar energy as well as a wind mill.

“If you want to engage in farming, you must have water all-round the year. The rain is the best source of irrigation water as long as it is harvested and stored,” observes Cheserem as he leads the Seeds of Gold team to houses where water is pumped from.

Mr Cheserem next to a reservoir in his Moiben farm.

Mr Cheserem next to a reservoir in his Moiben farm. The irrigation system on the farm that employs 20 workers is computerised, with each crop getting just as much water as it needs. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Atop the houses are solar panels. The expansive farm, which uses 340,000 litres of water daily, has 114 solar panels that tap direct power from the sun, which is then converted to alternate current to power machines.

“From the tanks, the water passes through smaller filter tanks where impurities are removed before it gets into the irrigation system, therefore, curbing the clogging of the drip lines,” says Cheserem, who acknowledges that the initial cost for solar installation may be high but the long-term gains are worth it.

The irrigation system on the farm that employs 20 workers is computerised, with each crop getting just as much water as it needs, says Cheserem, who also grows rose flowers for export and keeps dairy cows.

“Each section of the farm has different number of plants. The sensor is able to automatically monitor the amount of water required for each crop. In the next two years, I plan to connect the system to my smartphone and also introduce drone technology so that I’m able to monitor all activities on my farm,” adds the farmer.

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Cheserem, who is also a former Central Bank governor, has planted the Hass, Pinkerton and Fuerte avocado varieties. The Hass variety constitutes 70 per cent of the fruit trees.

He said he has planted the Fuerte crop to help in the pollination of the Hass variety. The farm also boosts of 100 hives where he keeps bees to pollinate the crop.

“The Hass variety is preferred in the market. It takes six months to mature and turns dark from green when it is ripening,” says Cheserem.

To grow the seedlings, Noah Lagat, the farm manager, explains that one must make holes (3 by 2 feet), which are spaced 5 metres by 5 metres.

One plant requires 60kg of compost manure, which should be mixed with soil and left for a month before planting the grafted seedlings.

“We also put about 40kg of compost manure on each tree every six months to support the growth of the crop. We also raise the ground where we plant the tree to prevent waterlogging,” says Lagat.

In between the avocado plants, they have intercropped lucerne and sweet potatoes (for dairy cows that provide the farm with compost manure) to improve soil fertility and conserve water in the soils.

Carol Mutua, a horticulture expert at Egerton University, says that an avocado tree produces one or two million flowers in a single flowering period although only about 200-300 fruits mature. Flowers have a single pistil with one carpel and one ovule.

The farmer showcases some of the avocado plant varieties he grows in the farm

The farmer showcases some of the avocado plant varieties he grows in the farm. He has planted the Hass, Pinkerton and Fuerte avocado varieties, with the Hass variety constituting 70 per cent of the fruit trees. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

“Hass avocado belongs to type A cultivar while Fuerte is type B, therefore, intercropping the two cultivars will increase the chances of pollination and fruit set. More fruits will thus be produced compared to when each variety is planted alone,” she says, adding growing type A tree and type B varieties increases the chances of pollination if insect pollinators are available.

Cheserem, an economist, observes that with the recent deal signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta between Kenya and China, there is a silver lining for avocado farmers.

Some of his challenges include pests like False Codling Moth and diseases such as black spot that affect the crop.

Cheserem notes that the use of technology is key in farming and he encourages young people to take food production since it is a worth investment with good returns.

“Farming must be modernised because you cannot use a jembe if you are farming for commercial purposes. Young people need to know that the future lies on the farms. The next millionaires will be those who engage in farming since everyone must eat.”

Understanding kinds of cultivars

Avocado cultivars are grouped into two classes on the basis of their flowering behaviour. For Class A, flowers open in the morning for 2-3 hours, functioning as females with a white stigma while the stamens remain closed.

The flowers close at approximately noon and reopen the following day during the afternoon hours for 3-4 hours, functioning then as males with the stigmas no longer functioning.

On the other hand, Class B flowers open in the afternoon as females, the stamens remain closed. These flowers close in the evening and reopen the next morning as males.



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General

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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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

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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