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 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 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 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: ).
  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.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

2014 - The Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa

Once in a while, i do snoop around my friends Facebook walls to keep up with the ongoing trends and news and i couldn't help notice this post that caught my attention. It through Sheila Komen's  wall that i realized AU had designated 2014 to be the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.This is with the aim of addressing the looming problems that African agriculture faces. Going through the post and the subsequent comments stirred some thinking in me and i thought it wise to share since the points raised address the problems facing agriculture in Kenya and Africa in general. Below find an excerpt from Sheila's  Facebook post and the subsequent comments friends posted on her wall.

Sheila's Facebook Post

"2014 - The Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa 

Despite some strides having been made over the past decade to enhance agricultural development across Africa, there is no escaping the reality that the continent continues to face serious challenges of hunger, malnutrition and rural poverty. This prompted the African Union (AU), Assembly of African Heads of State and Governments to declare 2014 the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa. It is hoped that this will encourage countries to increase food security, reduce poverty, promote economic growth and create wealth through agricultural upliftment.

This declaration is an attempt to secure a re-commitment from African governments towards agriculture and to implementing policies and strategies highlighted following the implementation of the AU’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), developed and adopted in Mozambique by African heads of State and governments in 2003. Herein countries committed to allocate at least 10% of annual budgetary allocations to the agricultural sector and to ensure its growth by at least 6% annually. To date, sadly only nine African countries have exceeded these targets. 

Kenya voluntarily signed the CAADP Compact on July 24th 2010 however, by 2013 is yet to achieve the targeted at least 10% allocation to agriculture. In 2013/2014 budgets, Agriculture was allocated Sh53.5 billion accounting for less than 2 per cent of the budget, which is way short of the compact. Agriculture contributes about 25% of Kenya’s National GDP not to mention the millions of jobs and non-marketed agricultural services, especially in the rural areas, that are not included in the formal GDP calculations. It is thus very concerning and the envisaged economic growth will continue falling short of expectations until the sector is fully funded, 2% does and will not cut it. 

Thus in 2014, the clarion call is for you to join those of us who work in agricultural development to call upon our governments to heed the Maputo Declaration and give Agriculture the priority it deserves."

The Reactionary comments from the post..........
  • Arap Sila The current Kenyan govt is not supportive. By introducing 16% VAT on tractors, implements and spares, they're out of line with this year's African declaration.
    January 2 at 6:04am via mobile · Like · 3
  • Edward Kisali Navwani The big problem in Africa is lack of support from Government. In Kitale for example subsidized fertilizer arrives a month after the planting season!
    January 2 at 6:27am via mobile · Like · 1
  • Karumba Ndiritu sure theres little funding for agricultural projects and some other agri subsectors like aquaculture remains unexploited yet they would boost the economy and enhance food security
    January 2 at 7:07am via mobile · Like · 1
  • Oscar Paul Mutere The implementation of this policy should begin from the Ward leval all the way to National Government as such Governors and their Executive Committes should be looped in and MCA lobbied to legislate laws that will form the framework for implementation from the village leval.That is how the Treasury will be forced to increase budgetary allocation for the Agricultral sector-
    January 2 at 8:12am via mobile · Like · 2
  • Nessie Muthemba Government support towards agriculture will definitely the much needed jobs among the youth and unemployed majority....
    January 2 at 8:34am via mobile · Like · 1
  • Lucy Muchoki Two different things,talk and do...too much talk in Africa and we forget to do!!!I am amazed when i realize how much we forget that we must feed ourselves first before we can become creative.The message is clear,lets get serious about Agriculture in Africa, feed ourselves first even before we think of our plan as the food basket for the world!!!!!!Happy Africa Agricultural and Food Security year!!!
  • John Tanui In foood secure countries farmers are the kings , farm input subsidy and assured markets are the key to unlocking Kenya potential in Agriculture
    January 2 at 1:55pm via mobile · Like · 2
  • Nicholas Kositany Well put Sheila! Kenyan farmer are hardworking but the Government is slow in implementing key policies in Agriculture. May be we should form a lobby group to push the Government to increase budget allocation for Agriculture. Happy 2014:
  • Sheila Komen Lucy Muchoki, it has taken your passion, African Ag to get you to comment on my wall? Hahaha. .. But you are right, we talk a lot more than we act!
    January 2 at 4:29pm via mobile · Like · 1
  • Cecilia Mailu Scalling up to commercial... but government support is imperative to get us back to be competitive.... where we used to be and better!!!
  • Peter Kabangi Maybe Sheila could be the authority i have been waiting for,to expound on sadistic Elite agenda to enslave African farmers.Sheila i visited a place in Morogoro in TZ and the testimony of farmers there is nothing but a sadistic expose of what occultic foreign organizations are doing to kill human populations.For starters AGRA introduced some maize seeds that can only be planted for one season,has caused some strange diseases in TZ etc.What on earth is Koffi Anan,Bill Gates and the Rockerfeller foundation have in common?
  • Sophiah Tipis AFC used to really help farmers a lot but by now i think its another big white elephant
  • Sophiah Tipis KFA too !! Another big white elephant !!!
  • Weinbur Greimann The problem does not just start & stop with bigger budgetary allocation. No, it extends car beyond that both ways. Every year close to 2% of farmers lose they war to corruption, undercutting middle men, archaic and stringent government policies, back b...See More
  • Sheila Komen Peter Kabangi, point of correction!!!! AGRA funds breeding programs within the National Research Institutions of many African Countries. The breeding for improved varieties of seed is in line with country policies and carried out by National breedersin Government labs and fields so in the case of Tanzania any seed that AGRA may have scaled up was bred and released by the Govt of Tanzania through its National Research Centre in the Min of Agric and released by The National Variety Release Committee though donor funded and perhaps by AGRA so, any issue with any seed commercialized in Tanzania or any other country should be taken up with the concerned Ministry. Incidentally, without funding from donors to many of the National Centres, there is hardly any funds allocated by governments for research. I'm 110% sure that the ugali you are going to have today's seed was funded for by a donor.... l I hope this clarifies.

What's your take?

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