In Summary
  • Primary schools have been encouraged to set up agricultural groups, commonly known as 4K Clubs, to help address malnutrition among children.
  • Lack of clear policies in the management of urban agriculture is exposing town dwellers to more health risks, researchers have warned.
  • A new app that seeks to help farmers make data-driven decisions around water, climate, mobility and performance of their physical operations has been launched.
  • A dairy cooperative has partnered with a Dutch semen importer, Bles Dairies East Africa Ltd, to directly access the product for high milk production.

Counties asked to help farmers form stable cooperative societies

County governments have been asked to assist farmers market their produce to reap maximum benefits.

Speaking during a farmers’ conference in Thogoto, Kiambu County, the Kenya National Farmers Federation (KENAFF) chief executive Mwenda M'Mailutha said county governments need to come to the aid of farmers, who despite their hard work find themselves stranded with perishable products with no market.

He noted that lack of market for farm produce has been identified as a key challenge facing farmers across the country making them incur huge losses, thus, perpetuating a cycle of poverty.

He said the achievement of the food security part of the Big Four Agenda, Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy and Kenya Vision 2030 relies heavily on farmers.

“All these strategies depend on how well the agricultural sector performs and this is all about farmers,’’ he said.

He further stated that devolution of agriculture continues to impact positively on the sector. Therefore, county governments need to closely engage with farmers to better the sector.

He advised farmers to form co-operatives and run them themselves for better income.

“This will enable farmers gain more control in marketing their products to increase the price they receive and reduce the costs of obtaining agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertiliser,” he said.

“The co-operatives accomplish these objectives by performing functions such as packing, storing, cooling, shipping, promoting and selling,” he added.

Co-operatives also negotiate for better market terms because of huge volumes and variety offered by their members and buying production inputs such as seeds, fertiliser and containers in large volumes at lower prices.

Other challenges farmers face, according to the meeting, are climate change, emerging pests and diseases, suboptimal supportive policy frameworks, unsustainable land use and management practices (including land fragmentation) and inefficient technical advisory services.

M’Mailutha said the role of KENAFF is to be farmers’ voice in the country.

“We do this by actively engaging county governments to implement strategies that will empower farmers at the grass roots and create a more organised and sustainable farming sector,” he said.

-Claire Wasilwa

****

Set up 4K Clubs to help curb malnutrition, schools told

Primary schools have been encouraged to set up agricultural groups, commonly known as 4K Clubs, to help address malnutrition among children.

Speaking during the launch of an agricultural club at Nchaure Primary School in Meru this week, Nestlé Kenya head of corporate affairs James Ojiambo said the clubs help raise food and nutrition awareness among children.

Nestlé Kenya, through its Nestlé Healthier Kids programme, is supporting schools to set up the clubs and the gardens in Nyeri, Meru and Murang’a counties.

The programme seeks to provide pupils with learning materials on nutrition as well as supporting schools to set up kitchen gardens. The organisation will spend Sh10 million in the three counties.

Ojiambo said the school kitchen gardens would cover 50 out of 700 schools currently benefiting from Nestlé Healthier Kids learning materials.

"Nestlé Kenya is facilitating the formation of 4K clubs and supplying them with seedlings, organic fertiliser and giving the learners technical support to take care of the gardens. We have partnered with the county governments to provide support to the schools," he said.

Ojiambo said the revival of the 4K Clubs will instil hands-on skills among lower primary school learners in line with the competency based curriculum.

Under the programme, the clubs sell the produce to their schools and use the income to expand their garden at the institutions as well as their homes.

-David Muchui

****

Poor policies on urban farming exposing consumers to health risks, researchers caution

Lack of clear policies in the management of urban agriculture is exposing town dwellers to more health risks, researchers have warned.

Dr Diana Lee-Smith, an associate at Mazingira Institute, noted that other than Nairobi city, major towns like Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kakamega lack clear policies to govern urban farming.

“So far only Nairobi city has policies to mitigate the health risks that could come with urban farming. They have about 250 staff who are directly involved in the task,” said Dr Lee-Smith in Kisumu this week.

About 40 per cent households in urban areas grow their own food in kitchen gardens.

However, there are health risks when a greater number of farmers use untreated sewer water to produce their crops.
“We really have a problem with enforcement of existing laws. There are two types of health risks that come with urban farming. First there is bacteriological risks and, second, use of toxic chemicals which cause chronic illness,” said Dr Lee-Smith. Some of the chemicals comprise of heavy metals which usually lodge in the body therefore causing chronic diseases such as cancer, she said.

The enforcement of existing laws such as the Public Health Act, Food, Drugs and Chemicals Substances Act and EMCA would help in taming the health risks in urban agriculture, according to the researcher.

“There is need for urban agriculture to be included in urban food and planning policies to ensure sustainable urban food system. It is also essential to identify and address the risks along the food chains with different stakeholders.”

Dr Samuel Onyango, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, said that nine years ago, the national government had drafted policies on urban agriculture which are yet to be implemented.

“Since 2010, we have had a draft policy on urban farming and livestock production. But it seems the county governments are confused as to who is to take the lead in policymaking in urban farming,” said Dr Onyango.

Since agriculture is a devolved function, the policymaking role has been left to county governments.

“What most counties are doing currently is the implementation of the Urban Areas and Cities Act and discussing on the best way forward to incorporate urban farming in city planning,” he said.

He added: “As researchers, we are trying to step in and help the county governments in formulating policies on urban farming. There are so many opportunities in urban farming that should be exploited.”

-Elizabeth Ojina

****

Firm unveils app to help agribusinesses make data-driven decisions

A new app that seeks to help farmers make data-driven decisions around water, climate, mobility and performance of their physical operations has been launched.

Dubbed Vipimo, the internet of things platform by Upande was launched yesterday at the ongoing Naivasha Horticultural Fair.

Vipimo, a Swahili word for measurement, is a sensor subscription service for farmers who need to make crucial decision on their activities using reliable data.

Speaking during the launch at the fair, Mark De Blois, the chief executive of Upande, underscored the importance of planning for farmers, adding that having a platform to measure all variables that facilitate a successful planting season would help farmers get maximum returns during the harvesting season.

“Weather patterns are shifting; climate variability is a fact. This brings further challenges to already challenging conditions for most farmers in Kenya. When do you plant? When do you irrigate? How do you ensure you get maximum returns on your inputs? How do you make sure your farm is run well throughout the year? This is where technology comes in handy,” he said.

Page 1 of 2