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Progressive Kenyan farmers beat dry spell with hydroponics fodder

by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Lush green crops jut out of trays in their hundreds on the dairy goat farm in Kasarani, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

For starters, one may think that the farmer is using some form of magic, but this is hydroponics farming.

The method of farming, which uses no soil but only some little water, has come to the rescue of farmers as a dry spell bites in the east African nation.

Kenya is currently experiencing a dry spell that started in November 2018 and is to last until early next month before it paves way for the long rains season, according to the meteorological department.

The dry spell has seen a decline in fodder production as farmers growing fodder grasses like lucerne and boma rhodes, therefore, have to use irrigation, which is expensive.

Hydroponics has, therefore, become the most appropriate technology for farmers, amid the biting effect of the dry spell.

Farmers are growing quality fodder and harvesting in just seven days using the method.

"Initially, I would have had to go in search of pasture like napier from farms some 10 km away in Kiambu for my goats but hydroponics has saved me a great deal," said Fredrick Kinunge, the owner of the goat farm in Kasarani.

Through hydroponics, the farmer grows barley and wheat in trays.

Experts note that hydroponics is the answer to the climate change, which has made the weather erratic.

"Inside the trays we put water mixed with liquid fertilizer and other nutrients for growth of the plants," he explained the method he adopted two years ago.

To grow barley, he first starts by buying certified seeds and disinfects them using clean water for two hours.

"I, thereafter, drain the water and soak the seeds in another clean water for a day to enhance faster growth," he said, adding that the trays are 80cm by 40cm in size.

The seeds are, then, spread on the tray evenly, with the farmer ensuring that each has enough space for growth.

"The holes should be evenly spread for proper growth of seeds in the hydroponics units.

"The trays are thereafter transferred to the unit where germination begins after about a day," explained Kinunge, adding that the crop is irrigated from day one when they start to sprout to day seven when they are harvested.

Pig farmer Moses Andati, who is based in Kakamega, western Kenya, said on phone that he grows barley for his animals using the method and this has helped him save his costs.

"I give the pigs the barley specifically at the fattening stage.

"An expert advised me to offer the animals 3kg of hydroponics fodder each and 2 kg of dry feeds.

"The pigs reach market weight faster," he said.

Felix Akatch, a livestock specialist at Egerton University noted that besides wheat and barley, one can also farm sorghum and oats for cattle, pigs and poultry.

"Through this method, fodder is produced in a small area, without soil and water and within a short time.

"The farmer therefore does not suffer effects of dry spell," he said.

According to him, 8 kg of hydroponics fodder replaces 3 kg of dairy meal but the dairy cow should be offered hay and silage.

Hydroponics fodder is also good for poultry where 100 layers consumer 8 kg of the feeds in addition to 4 kg of layers mash.
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UPDATES:

Kenya looking at new agricultural strategy to eliminate food insecurity

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya is considering putting in place an agricultural strategy to eliminate food insecurity in the next five years, a government official said on Tuesday, writes RONALD NJOROGE.

Andrew Tuimur, chief administrative secretary of the the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, told an agricultural conference in Nairobi that the draft of Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy has already being developed and would be completed in March.

"The strategy provides a roadmap on how to increase Kenya’s household food resilience by reducing the number of food-insecure Kenyans in the arid and semi-arid regions from 2.7 million on average to zero," said Tuimur.

Tuimur said that the strategy will support Kenya’s short-term aspirations for 100 percent food and nutrition security as well as the longer-term continental and global commitments to the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Tuimur added that the strategy aims to end the situation where about four million Kenyans need humanitarian food assistance during periods of severe drought.

He revealed that the country plans to permanently end food insecurity through promotion of cultivation of drought resistant crops as well as water harvesting to ensure that farmers and pastoralists have access to water throughout the year.

He noted that Kenya plans to boost the food resilience of poor households through a community-driven intervention design.

According to the ministry of agriculture, arid and semi-arid regions cover some 80 percent of Kenya’s land area and are home to more than 35 percent of the population.
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Kenya set to launch food safety authority

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya is set to launch the Kenya Food and Drug Authority (KFDA) to help promote food safety, a government official said on Tuesday.

"The authority is expected to ensure that populations consume safe food as well promote domestic and international trade in Kenyan products," said Harry Kimutai, principal secretary of the State Department for Livestock, during a forum on milk quality and safety in Nairobi.

He said that the authority will enforce regulations to help reduce cases of aflatoxin in milk and cereals, a condition that is currently blamed for the upsurge of cancer cases in the country.

The official noted that the bill leading to the formation of the authority has been discussed by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation and is due to be subjected for validation by stakeholders.

Kimutai said the government has developed an elaborate framework of dairy standards that cover all the major dairy products manufactured or traded locally.

"These standards cover safety requirements as informed and benchmarked on international standards such as those developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission," said Kimutai.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

Digital platforms key to revolutionizing small-holder farming in Africa: experts

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Transformation of subsistence farming in sub-Saharan Africa hinges on availability of new technologies to help farmers access credit, weather information and new markets, experts said at a forum in Nairobi on Tuesday.

According to experts, digital platforms hold key to unlock the potential of small-scale farming in Africa whose growth is constrained by climatic shocks, market volatility, under-funding and skills gap.

"Linking small-holder farmers to digital platforms will boost access to finance required purchasing inputs alongside information on weather and markets," said Andrew Karlyn, director of strategic learning at Mercy Corps.

He spoke on the sideline of the annual learning event organized by Mercy Corps to take stock of impact of its AgriFin Accelerate (AFA) program that seeks to address bottlenecks that hamper productivity at small-holder level.

The five-year program that is being implemented in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia aims to ensure that small-holder farmers have access to affordable financial products and services to enhance their productivity.

About 1.2 million small-scale farmers in the three African countries have benefitted from the 2.5 billion Kenyan shillings (about 25 million U.S. dollars) project.

Myriam Khoury, vice president of innovation at Mercy Corps, said innovative financing options could unlock the untapped potential of African small-holder farmers as the continent embark on charting a future free of hunger, poverty and disease.

"There are huge opportunities for small-holder farmers if they tap into innovative financial products but the public sector must develop policies and regulations to ensure benefits are sustained," said Khoury.

She revealed that AFA program will soon be launched in Ethiopia and Nigeria where it is expected to benefit about one million small-holder farmers.

"We are committed to expanding this model of transforming livelihoods of small-scale farmers through partnership with organizations that have a robust digital ecosystem," said Khoury.
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Poor land use practices fueling forest degradation in Africa: study

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Poor land use practices coupled with governance lapses and climate change are fueling degradation of forest ecosystems in Africa, says a study released in Nairobi on Monday.

The study titled "deforestation and forest degradation as an environmental behavior: unpacking realities shaping community actions" found that subsistence farming contributes heavily to depletion of an ecosystem that is key to provision of food, clean water and energy to millions of people in Africa.

Researchers from Nairobi-based World Agroforestry center (ICRAF), ASB partnership for the tropical forest margins, Africa Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), Ethiopian Environment and Forest Research Institute and the Norwegian Institute for Bio economy Research, conducted the study in forested areas of Menagesha Suba in Ethiopia and Maasai Mau in Kenya.

"We applied behavioral science theories to understand the in-depth contexts among smallholders in relation to deforestation and forest degradation," said Lalisa Duguma, a researcher at World Agroforestry Centre.

"In the past, the search for solutions to curb deforestation largely focused on technical solutions without unearthing the underlying behavioral logic of smallholders as it relates to deforestation," he added.

The study found that smallholder farmers were encroaching on forests to extract firewood or timber for construction against a backdrop of weak enforcement of laws.

According to the study, sub-Saharan Africa is home to the largest proportion of forest dependent small-holder farmers in the world yet over-exploitation of this resource had worsened hunger and poverty in the region.

Researchers agreed that innovative policy and legal interventions are key to halt depletion of African forests and boost the continent’s sustainability agenda.

"A search for innovative ways of understanding the drivers of deforestation and finding corresponding relevant solutions is critical to save forests," said Peter Minang, a co-author of the study.

             

 

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