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
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
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
"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,"
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.
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
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.
Kenya set to launch food
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
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.
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
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
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