Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The making of a digital story; One woman's journey

Its a hot Monday afternoon. Am seated at the German Embassy lobby. Time seems to be dragging away so slowly.Once in while i start a conversation with the people gathered there, mostly  Kenyans and Germans.We are all waiting for the clock to tick 2.30 p.m so that we can  be ushered in for our visa applications. Normally,this is the day reserved for frequent travelers to submit their applications. Am lucky to be one of them as i had two weeks ago mistaken my application date to be on a Thursday whilst i had an appointment  for Tuesday. My turn comes but alas, my original invitation letter is still missing, and in place of it, i have a scanned email copy. Needless to say, my application is rejected on grounds of lacking documentation.

Photo Credit: Enockson, Flickr

Back to the office i go. I correspondence with Sepideh, the awesome lady who on behalf of DW Media services had invited me, and 7 others, for a Digital Storytelling workshop in Bonn. After getting the tracking number for the invitation letters from her, i realize the letter was still lying at the GPO post office, a month after it was sent. Checking with GPO, i realize the letter is in City Square and i receive it just in time for their office closure time.( The innings of the post office is a story for another day) 
A screenshot of the status of my letter a month after it was sent

I have all the documents needed for my application and as such, i present them on Monday  which happens to be a week before my scheduled travel.
"One week is quite a lot of time " says one of the applicant's i remember from the last appointment. I believe her.

 My turn comes and after  presenting my documents, the lady at the counter, feels that even after giving all my work details, i need someone at my office to certify am working, a signature or something of the sort. Am distraught! So much time is being lost in this my application and this has to be the first time so much is being asked from me.I stare at her wondering, half mad half suppressing  laughter. I heartily laugh in such situations. She changes her mind and accepts my application on condition i bring the letter in the course of the day. I frankly tell her i can't as i have two high profile events to attend and after too many negotiations, we settle on my colleague submitting it on Thursday morning as i had some scheduled work commitments to catch up on.

That's not it all. Its Wednesday, the day am supposed to travels and still i have no visa. Between coordinating an M&E reporting workshop, and after many a calls to the Embassy, i get my visa at 6.00 p.m and with my flight departure set for 2.00 a.m, it becomes a mad rush to pack,wind up pending office work and be at the airport in time. Thanks goodness, everything goes as planned and in not time, i feel welcomed to Bonn as i walk to my hotel
A caption on Bonn west train station of two people doing what i love most
26th June 2014; Meeting the Team in Bonn

While having breakfast, am approached by two very friendly people, asking me if  am part of the DST workshop, which i respond in the affirmative. I excuse myself from my newly found friend from Cologne who had come to Bonn for work reasons and grateful to have meet her and liked her in such a short time.Slowly i dissolve to a whole new set of people whose names i forgot as soon as the introductions ended :) Anyways, with time the names stuck in my head; as thus
Trainers (Guido Kowalski- Germany , Sarlote Berke- Hungary,  Annette Scheinder- Germany. She doubled up as a head counter to ensure no one got lost  :) 
Participants (Burak Sayin from Turkey;Thalia Rahme from Lebanon;Olek shykarenko from Ukraine;Azza Kamel from Egypt; May Thandar  from Mynamar;Ha Ann from Vietnam;Roy Thaniango from Indonesia and Emmie Kio from Kenya)

Back row: L-R Guido, Burak, Oleg, Roy, Annette
Front Row: L-R  Sarlote, Emmie, Azza, Ha, May, Thalia

To kick the session off, Guido gave us an overview of what digital storytelling is all about and if i am to borrow the description from Wikipedia, then its " a short form of digital media production that allows everyday people to share aspects of their life story" .It  can be in form of personal stories, stories that instruct or stories retelling  historical events. Ideally, these stories are 2-3 minutes long with a range of 200 -300 words. Among the early  pioneers credited with the development of DST include Dana Atchley, Ken Burns and Joe Lambert.  Watch an earlier video by Dana Atchley  Home Movies courtesy of  Center for Digital Storytelling . 

The process of creating a digital story

Creating a story begins with the story circle. Basically you come up with a story, it could be triggered by an object you see, that reminds you of something that happened in the past that was really significant in your life. From this, you write a script of the story in question. While doing so, try to constantly have your audience in mind, for whom the story is intended for. We did this by writing postcards to ourselves regarding a greater decision we all had made in the last 5 years.

One of the DW Akademie Studio
From there on, you do a voice over of the script you have written. Here is where pacing and good intonation comes into play. We did the recording in one of the many DW Akademie studios and fortunately, for most of us it was the first time we were recording . Later on,
with the use of the Sony Movie Studio Platinum 13, we edited the pieces of our audio tracks so as to complete the story

Then came the selection of  photos that match with the story you have just developed and strategic placing of photos where the soundtrack is. For some of the team members, they were able to add music to their stories. Due to copyright issues, its advisable to use your own photos and in case you don't have any, you could use photos that have permission for re-use. Creative Commons on Flickr is quite a good source of copyright re-usable photos and Jamedo (for royalty free music)

After quite some back and forth for three days, at around 7.30 p.m we all had our first digital stories ready and despite the fact we forgot to buy some popcorns, we switched the lights off and enjoyed watching our own films.And it felt soooo good :)  You too can switch the lights off, grab some popcorns and enjoy our first time productions HERE

And oooh before i forget, this the digital story i produced  during the workshop,  how many points would you rate it given i was a first timer ? :)

The GMF workshop sessions

It doesn't end there. As part of the Global Media Forum 2014, Guido, Sarlota and Priya were the facilitators of the session see you in the future, new ways of digital storytelling. They were introducing the various aspects of digital stories as entails the how to create stories,where the stories are being applied to, and the softwares to use. More information on the same can be found on this link http://www.digital-storytelling.info/

Here is the Storify collection for the day one and two workshop sessions as curated by the Grimme Institut
See you in the future. New ways of digital storytelling
Participatory Story; be a part of it

On the second day, participants were invited to take part in the digital storytelling workshop Participatory Story, be a part of it. This is how it went down

In the end, they produced their own digital story featuring Sepideh and  some of the workshop participants. See the digital story that shows a short history of the Global Media Forum

And finally, you can listen to the Soundtrack for the Participatory Story; be a part of it workshop session on soundcloud.

Huh! That was a lengthy blogpost, wasn't it ?

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Why GMOs Aren’t Like Smartphones......

Photo courtesy :  Steve Rhodes, Flickr
We all know that science is hard. Mastery of any new technology is the result of thousands of failures. If we didn’t try and fail so many times, we wouldn’t have things like smartphones, cars, or the Internet.
I used to make the same argument in favor of Genetically Modified Organisms. They were just another technology that we should strive to perfect. We’d work through the bumps and eventually create an abundance of healthy food for all. But I was wrong.
Life isn’t like cellphones, cars, and microchips. Life spreads. Mistakes can permanently pollute and endanger the world’s food supply. Sadly, this is not future speculation. It’s history.
BT Corn
When my kids were born, I started reading more about the food they were eating. I’d always assumed that GMO foods were simply hardier versions of the same crops we grew up with. I was surprised to learn this wasn’t exactly true.
Due to the actions of a company called Monsanto, the majority of the world’s corn now produces it’s own pesticide: BT delta endotoxin.When a pest eats the corn,the pesticide dissolves the walls of their stomach. Here’s how it works:
“Within minutes, the protein binds to the gut wall and the insect stops feeding. Within hours, the gut wall breaks down and normal gut bacteria invade the body cavity. The insect dies of septicaemia as bacteria multiply in the blood.”
From University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture
Lovely. This kills the pests, but there’s one small problem. When we eat the corn, we ingest this same toxin. Unlike conventional pesticides, you can’t wash it off. In a Quebec study, BT toxin was detected in the bloodstream of 67% of the population tested. For pregnant women, this number was much higher: 90%.
OK, so we have some BT toxin in our blood. What’s the big deal?

Connecting the Dots

A recent study by Norwegian professor Åshild Krogdahl compared two groups of animals: one fed GM corn, the other non-GM corn.
After 90 days, the animals fed the GM corn had put on more weight, and had changes in their immune system. The same effect occurred if the animals were fed meat raised on GM corn.
“the ones who had fed on GM corn were slightly larger, they ate slightly more, their intestines had a different microstructure, they were less able to digest proteins, and there were some changes to their immune system. Blood samples also showed some change in the blood.”
“If the same effect applies to humans, how would it impact on people eating this type of corn over a number of years, or even eating meat from animals feeding on this corn? I don’t wish to sound alarmist, but it is an interesting phenomenon and worth exploring further.”
– Dr. Åshild Krogdahl
There are two rising trends in America: childhood obesity and childhood allergies. Let’s take a look at obesity. The purple hockey stick is the US.
Correlation doesn’t equal causation, so we don’t know if BT corn is to blame. However, the timelines do match up: BT corn started gaining steam in the late 90's. This is when childhood obesity in the US kicked into overdrive.

Food Allergies

Alongside an increase in childhood obesity, we’re also seeing more children developing food allergies. From 1997 to 2007, the number of children with food allergies rose 18 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Food allergies happen when the immune system mislabels food as an invader. The most common invaders are bacteria. How does this mislabeling happen? Why is it happening more now than previously? Scientists aren’t sure.
But let’s apply a little common sense. What happens if you put bacteria genes into a plant? Isn’t it possible that the immune system might start to get confused about what’s food and what’s bacteria?
We now run this risk. Let’s look at where the extra genes in BT corn come from. They come from a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis, which grows naturally in the soil. If you don’t wash your produce, you might ingest some of this bacteria. This is nothing to worry about. Your immune system has thousands of years of practice of fighting this kind of bacteria. And that’s part of the problem.
Let’s say you eat some BT corn. As it dissolves in your stomach, it will begin to release BT delta endotoxin. Your immune system, trained by evolution to kill the oh-so-common BT bacteria, has a choice to make. Does it let this slide? Or does it assume it’s dealing with an invader and fight back?

How Do We Know?

Studies follow dollars. In this case, the dollars are on the side of GMO producers. Even if the money is there, we don’t yet have the technology to fully measure and understand the effects of GMO foods on our bodies and environment.
Right now, we’re flying blind. This won’t always be true. One day, we will have the computing power to simulate all possible interactions. We’ll be able to tweak a line of a plant’s genetic code, fast forward 20 years in a few seconds, and see the impact on our bodies and environment.
Today, our simulator is the real world. We are unleashing genetic experiments that can spread and replace native species shaped by millions of years of co-evolution. By the time we understand the results of these experiments, we’ll be stuck with them.
Once again, this isn’t speculation. It’s happening right now.

A One Way Trip

Want to stop eating BT corn? That’s surprisingly difficult to do.
If you buy non-organic corn in the US, it’s almost guaranteed to be BT corn. Corn starch is a common ingredient in snack foods. BT corn is also the main ingredient in most livestock diets.
So, what about good old regular corn? Can’t you get it anymore?
Your only option is to buy organic corn, but that’s getting harder and more expensive to find. Why? Because life spreads, and non-GM corn is becoming an endangered species.
Cross-pollination of conventional fields by GMO strains has become so widespread it is difficult to produce “pure” seeds that are not contaminated.
“It’s become harder and harder for farmers to even find conventional seeds. The big players bought up conventional seed companies and the university public sector breeders which used to produce most of the seeds that farmers used have seen their funding reduced.”
– Bill Freese, Center for Food Safety

Bugs Evolve Faster Than We Do

What is our reward for having nearly wiped out a native life form on our planet? A few corporations made the kind of green that matters most to them. And for a few years, farmers didn’t have to make creative use of ladybugs, decoy crops, and other organic tricks.
But now, the bugs are back. They’ve evolved, and Monstanto has already secured approval for their next salvo in the war: a new corn called SmartStax that contains additional BT genes.
This is a war we can’t win. The reason is simple. Insects have a new generation every season. This means they evolve faster than we do. We can poison the well for both of us. They’ll adapt, and we won’t.

Feeding the World

So how will we feed the world? Let’s start by debunking a myth. Our world’s hunger problem is a social and logistical issue, not a scientific one. Time-tested farming technologies can provide the food that we need.
At the University of California-Davis, agricultural scientist Bill Liebhardt reviewed 154 growing seasons worth of data. The data revealed that organic corn yields were 94 percent of conventional yields, organic wheat yields were 97 percent, and organic soybean yields were 94 percent. Organic tomatoes showed no yield difference.
Based on Dr. Liebhardt’s research, BT corn is gaining us only a 6% improvement in yield. In poorer countries with drier climates, the gap disappeared completely. Organic farms were found to be more efficient.
A seven-year study from Maikaal District in central India involving 1,000 farmers cultivating 3,200 hectares found that average yields for cotton, wheat, chili, and soy were as much as 20 percent higher on the organic farms than on nearby conventionally managed ones. Farmers and agricultural scientists attributed the higher yields in this dry region to the emphasis on cover crops, compost, manure, and other practices that increased organic matter (which helps retain water) in the soils.
– Worldwatch Institute
Organic farming focuses on redirecting the pests to decoy crops, where they are kept small in number by natural predators. By focusing our dollars on studying natural ecosystems, we can use them to our advantage, instead of replacing them. This is a safer and faster way to make progress.

A Safe Alternative

Monsanto created BT corn to deal with the European corn borer. It turns out that this pest has natural predators, and innovative farmers are starting to catch on.
After suffering economic losses from BT corn, farmers in the Philippines discovered a natural way to combat the corn borer: a nano-wasp called Trichogramma. Measuring at 0.18mm, Trichogramma are so small that you can’t actually see them. They destroy the eggs of European corn borers.
The low cost, availability, efficiency and significant reduction of chemical inputs have made Trichogramma an extremely attractive option for farmers. Farmers that have shifted to Trichogramma say they have stopped using chemicals altogether because they have seen its effectiveness in controlling corn borer populations.
These have contributed to the success rate of the program which has effectively reduced the occurrence of corn borer by 80-85% in the province of Isabela.
Greenpeace Report, 2005
Farmers have solved the problem by re-introducing a missing predator and fixing an incomplete ecosystem. This solution is cheap, safe, and tested by millions of years of evolution.
Cornell University has released a guide which can help farmers get started. Everybody wins, except for a few corporations who’d like to insert themselves in the middle, and profit from every bite we eat.

The Moral

Science is all about making mistakes and learning from them. I believe the lesson of BT corn is simple: we need to turn back before it’s too late.
Reblogged from https://medium.com/@DesignPete/why-gmos-arent-like-smartphones-3d2da1dff322

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Birth of Online Petition Farming

That's the message that bombarded my Twitter timeline a week ago under the hashtag, #DoAgric . And as requested, i stopped whatever office work i was doing and instead of heading to a farm, i clicked on the hashtag to get an idea of what was going on with this hashtag that had bombarded my timeline on a Monday, January 29th ,2014.

It didn't take me long to realize that ONE.org a  civil society organization, had created a campaign dubbed "Do Agric, It pays"  in a bid to push African governments to increase investments in the Agricultural sector. Its quite a sore state of agricultural investment in Sub Saharan Africa that since the Maputo declaration of 2003 by African Heads of State and their unanimous pledge to allocate 10% of the national budget to agriculture by 2008 ,only 8 out of the 54 countries in Africa have kept the promise. Kenyan government in itself has only allocated 4.6% of its budget in the agricultural sector.

Source NEPAD

It presents such a gloomy situation considering that agriculture accounts as a source of livelihoods for a majority of people in Sub Saharan Africa. And at the end of it all, we all need food to survive and replenish our bodies. I presume that this was one among the reasons that ONE.org chose celebrities to steer going the campaign.And  its through this that i realized that among the choices of its brand ambassadors was Dbanj and Koko Toure. I must admit that thanks to ONE.org and the hastag, i realized Dbanj had quite an active handle on Twitter. I know, you must be wondering what social media world i live in that i have no knowledge of the existence of Dbanj. Well, i rarely track down celebrities on social media platforms,well unless i hear some continuous buzz on them as a result of the work they do and at times, that could be them winning an Oscar :-)

My Two Cents.........

I couldn't resist visiting the website to get the full information and i happened to stumble upon this message,

Sign The Petition Now....
Dear African Leaders, We can grow a million jobs,Feed Africa and create a better future if you keep your promises to invest in agriculture and support smallholder farmers, especially women. 

I toggled back from the website to their twitter page and saw  Dbanj signing,I didn't think twice. If this award winning musician was getting down to the farm and becoming a real Koko master, then i a young farmer didn't have any reason not to do so.

In any case, i have been very active in signing these online petitions,with the last i remember being one directed to the South African  government to ban  Melissa Bachman entry to the country after she posted a photo of her smiling with a dead lion(her kill) on Twitter.I was very agitated and so i signed that petition with every inch of boiling anger in me. Yeah,this woman had done a bad thing bragging about her kill and the gloomy thought of my grand kinds not having the chance of seeing lions notwithstanding.I signed the petition and despite the petition having been signed more than 1300 times, four months down the line, i have no idea what happened. And so on goes other petitions that i have signed in the past.


I am in no way trying to be skeptical but some things struck my mind.

The "Do Agric" petition will get a lot of attention from the online masses but not the involved governments. Apart from Jakaya Kikwete who i gather graced the launch occasion, where were other heads of state in the same/ representatives of the same? If we create the hype around the campaign using celebrities and influential people in the society without including the intended recipient of the same, I smell a failed petition and e-library stacking with names of they that signed. More like the recommendations that occur in conferences and end up lying somewhere in someone's bookshelf generously gathering dust.

By signing the petition,adding my voice and you presenting my name to the African Leaders, it doesn't/shouldn't end there.The continuity is what matters that a new breed of farmers is continuously brought up to light as we continue advocating for the increase in the agricultural sector investment. Flashy celebs posing for photos among herds of cows won't improve the situation in any bit. We need to go beyond that and be the change we want to see in this sector. Meanwhile, am reading through the "Ripe for Change: The Promise of Africa’s Agricultural Transformation" as i wait  for all these, Do Agric, celebs and
Koko masters to finish wearing their gumboots and join me in my papa's farm; because actions should definitely speak more louder than words and photographs poses :-)

Feel free to share your comments below!

Related Articles/Further Reading:

  1. A storify for Dbanj #DoAgric twitter chat
  2. Slacktivism or This Generation’s Activism: Do Online Petitions Work? 
  3. Ripe for Change: The Promise of Africa’s Agricultural Transformation

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Let's talk about aflatoxins.........

When the word Aflatoxin is mentioned what courses through your mind?

 For many Kenyans, they will relate it  to some massive deaths that occured on the Eastern part of Kenya after the residents consumed aflatoxin exposed maize. The condition is what scientists refer to as aflatoxicosis. Word is, for an average Kenyan, the levels of aflatoxins intoxication has been on the rise, with major contributors to the same being consumption of dairy and meat products from the farms.

So in the real essence, what is  this deadly thing called Aflatoxins?

Aflatoxins and their Effects......
Aflatoxins refer to a group of  about 20 toxic chemicals that are released by the food molds Aspergillus flavas and A. parasticus. The fungus are naturally present in the soil and tends to affect mostly cereals the likes of maize and groundnuts. When these toxic chemicals are ingested in higher quantities,(> than 20 ppb) they result to massive deaths, a condition known as acute aflatoxicosis.
Such is the outbreak that occurred in Kenya in 1994 and in 2004 resulting to deaths of not less than 300 and 150 persons respectively.
Apart from instant deaths, the chemicals released by the fungus have been documented as carcinogenic with continued intake resulting to liver cancer, one of the most deadliest form of cancer.

Aflatoxin Infected groundnuts.Photo PACA
Aflatoxins  prevalence is usually higher in low income countries whose major consumption consists of  staple foods the  likes of  maize and groundnuts. According to IFPRI, approximately 26000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa die annually due to liver cancer which is closely related to aflatoxins exposure. This is further propelled by the fact that most of the markets in these areas are poorly organized, with no (or poor)information  flow on the food quality.

There is also notable immune suppression from overdue exposure of aflatoxins and  in the cases of children, stunted growth is highly evident.

In animals, the results evidence themselves through a reduction in weight mostly due to lower feed intake and the inefficient feed conversion. Consumption of meat and dairy products from animals that have been fed aflatoxin exposed maize results to higher concentrations for the same in the body.

Suggested Solutions

  • Improved cropping practices where in areas where aflatoxin exposure is prevalent, other crops are grown.
  • Proper harvesting and drying of maize.
  • Utilization of food additives like NovaSil that help bind together the toxic chemicals in the gut hence reducing their toxicity. Unfortunately most of these additives are in the trial stages. 
  • Creating awareness of aflatoxins in our communities, by the agricultural extension officers taking the lead to educate communities on the same.
  • Introduction of Aflasafe a bio-competitive sorghum product that works to harbor the Aflatoxins strains in the farm.

Further Reading

Aflatoxins. Finding solutions to improved food safety

Aflatoxin Mitigation in Africa

Monday, 27 January 2014

2013 CAADP Agricultural Journalist of the Year Awards

The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) is an Africa-wide framework for revitalizing agriculture, food security and nutrition. It was formulated in 2003 under the auspices of the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). CAADP is Africa’s policy framework for agriculture and agriculture-led development through which African governments aim to achieve an annual growth rate of 6 per cent and a budget share of 10 per cent for the agricultural sector.

Through CAADP, there has been significant growth in Africa’s largely agrarian economies with a tangible and sustainable impact on improving food security and nutrition, contributing to wealth and job creation, empowering women and youth, as well as enabling the expansion of exports.

In March 2013 at the 9th CAADP Partnership Platform held in Ethiopia, NEPAD and the AUC launched a special CAADP Journalists Network. The goal of this media intervention is to strengthen the coverage of agricultural development in Africa. On the other hand, it also assists in strengthening the capacity of African journalists interested in or working on assignments related to agriculture-related development to work together, share story ideas and useful information, and to remain updated on major regional, continental and global developments relating to agriculture-related development.

The CAADP Journalists Network takes on the role of raising the profile of agriculture. Part of the important work of the CAADP Journalists Network is to work toward increasing the volume and quality of positive news on the role and impact of CAADP in agricultural development in Africa.

Members are drawn from all over Africa, who liaise broadly with wider networks in their countries and regions. Their focus in agriculture is specifically on leadership, smallholder farmers, women and youths. In all their work, the journalists tell the African story of development in agriculture, through responsible and informed coverage.

The CAADP Journalism Awards
In recognising the cardinal role played by the CAADP Journalists Network in the African development agenda, the AUC and NEPAD would like to announce the CAADP Journalist of the Year Awards. The first Awards will coincide with the first anniversary of the CAADP Journalists Network, and will be held at the 10th CAADP Partnership Platform, on March 24, 2014. The awards will be presented in four categories as outlined below:

1. News articles, features and general stories
2. Videos, documentaries and television broadcasts
3. Radio and audio broadcasts
4. Photographs

Journalists are welcome to compete in ONLY ONE of the four above –mentioned categories under any of the following CAADP pillars:
CAADP Pillars
Pillar 1: Extending the area under sustainable land management
Pillar 2: Improving rural infrastructure and trade related capacities for market access
Pillar 3: Increasing food supply and reducing hunger
Pillar 4: Agricultural research, technology dissemination and adoption

 Submission of materials
Entry forms can be downloaded from the following websites:

Journalists should submit their work on CAADP dating from March 2013, together with their entry forms no later than 15 February 2014 to the contact persons listed on the entry forms.

Further information concerning the same can be found HERE

Monday, 13 January 2014

FTOK Coffee Marketing Challenge

A farmer in Nyeri inspecting her coffee plants. Photo:Business Daily
Deadline: 31st January,2014

Fair Trade Organisation of Kenya (FTOK), in partnership with Progreso Network, is running a challenge dubbed the Coffee Marketing Challenge.

Coffee sector plays a significant role to East Africa’s economy through foreign exchange earnings and employment creation.Coffee producers require information on good marketing strategies that will guide them in improving their coffee marketing skills to better reach a wide market.

The objective of the “Coffee marketing challenge" is to collect, disseminate and award the best strategies for commercializing coffee products locally or internationally.

Aim of the Coffee Marketing Challenge

The challenge aims at  identifying  and rewarding

  • The most innovative ideas on how to best access new markets for coffee, in both the local and international market, and
  • Experiences that can contribute to growth and recognition of coffee in the global market.
Who can Participate?
All organisations and individuals working in the coffee sector are invited to share and contribute their ideas. In addition to winning a prize, participation will give the opportunity to present your efforts to a wide and diverse community on an international level. Note that participation is free of charge.

How to Participate

  1. Visit the Progreso Network coffee marketing challenge page. Join Progreso Network. (This can be done through this link, which will take you to the coffee marketing challenge page: http://progresonetworkenglish.ning.com/group/marketing-challenge ).
  2. Download the participation guide, which contains all the details of the challenge.
  3. Download the application template on which you will enter your idea for submission.
  4. Submit the application template by uploading into the Coffee Marketing Challenge page.

For further information on the same, visit Progreso Network

PS: Watch the video below highlighting some of the challenges facing  the coffee sector in one of the counties; Nyeri

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Undertanding what Family Farming entails..................

Toki Oshima Potryal of  Family centered farming
If you've been going through most of Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO)  repository from last week of November 2013, you will notice the continued appearance of IYFF or as its called the International Year of Family Farming. Which in turn makes you wonder,what does family farming entail and  why did they  FAO designate 2014 to be the year of family farming?

Picture this hypothetical scenario.

Mary* lives on a 5 acre farm together with her parents and her five siblings. Mary's father acquired this land in Meru after the piece he had inherited from his father became too small for any productive farm activity to be undertaken. In this land which has been Mary's home for the last 10 years, they grow maize, legumes and at the same time keep poultry,sheep and dairy cows.

Being quite a large family, they rarely outsource labour but instead Mary and her siblings provide the same in the farms.The income from the sale of the farm produce is used to cater for some expenses like education, medical and stuff. The family rarely buys food as they get the same from the farm.

For Mary's family, the farm is everything, the producer, the provider, the teacher. Its where Mary and her siblings got firsthand the virtues of hard work and caring for the crops and animals.

Mary's family scenario isn't alone.

Photo Credit: Fredhoogenvorst
They belong together with other 600 million smallholder farmers and herders globally who tirelessly work to provide food to the +7 billion people in the world. This in itself comes with quite a lot of challenges the likes of a rapid growing population in need of being fed, water scarcity for farmlands, lack of land, unending hunger and malnutrition and climate change. In line with recognizing the smallholder farmers and their contribution to food security, FAO designated 2014 as the Year of Family Farming  to bring to attention the family farms, the challenges they face and hence find sustainable ways of helping these farmers .

 Family farms have the potential of not only feeding the population but also for nurturing the next generation of farmers while at the same time providing employment opportunities and caring for the environment. The benefits are quite widespread.

At the same time, let us not forgot that the majority of smallholder farmers are women. Advocating for women and youth inclusive moves would go a long way in meeting the 4 key  objectives of the #IYFF which are outlined as thus;

  • Support the development of  policies that aim at creating a suitable operating environment for family farming.
  • Increase public awareness on the importance of family farming.
  • Enhance the understanding of the potentials and challenges that face family farming.
  • Create synergies  with other global causes to enhance sustainability of the #IYFF

Photo Credit Melanie Cook

The ball is now in our court!

Join/follow the conversation on twitter via  #IYFF

Related Articles for Further Reading
Opinion: This is the moment
Theme overview - Ten qualities of family farming

* Indicates a purely fictional character.