Shifting gears: expansion of e-plant clinics in Kenya

“No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid!”  Passionate words spoken in 2014 during an indelible Oscar moment. The utterance of these words, coupled with the winning of an Academy Award, announced Lupita Nyong’o’s entry into the global stage. Two years later in Lupita’s country of origin, Kenya, long-held dreams in the plant health sector are realized.

Plant doctors (in green lab coats) attending to farmers at Kithumu plant clinic in Embu County

Indeed, the journey to realizing the usefulness of mobile technologies for the plant health sector has been long, and to some extent treacherous. Was the Plantwise program setting up the agricultural extension officers for failure? Was the program having unrealistic expectations? Could it be, in the program’s quest to keep up with the times, it was essentially building an ivory tower? All these were questions Plantwise grappled with in 2014 when it introduced mobile technologies for the running of plant clinics.

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Youth Changing the Face of Agriculture in Kenya

They are young and sophisticated technophiles operating in the fast lane of life. A typical day for them entails spending considerable amounts of time on the cyberspace. Additionally, they are innovative and have a proclivity for taking greater entrepreneurial risks.  Meet the burgeoning youth population that is revolutionizing the agricultural landscape in Kenya.

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Water and oil do mix after all: of great discoveries and the prospects for agriculture in a desolate land

Report by Willis Ochilo and MaryLucy Oronje

After years of desolation, Turkana has come alive with its colossal water reservoir and plenty of oil to boot.

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Water overflowing from a borehole @UNESCO/Nairobi Office

Massive reservoirs of underground water and underground oil have been discovered in a remote part of Kenya – the Turkana region. Turkana is situated on the north-western part of Kenya and shares international borders with Ethiopia to the north, Uganda to the west and Sudan to the northwest. Pastoralism is the main subsistence and economic activity in the region. Crop production is practiced by agro-pastoralists mainly in the few pockets of arable land within flood plains and along riverine areas of Turkwel and Kerio. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Worlds: Favourable Projections, Looming Dearth

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the season of plenty, it is the season of famine – in short, it is that time when the positive medium term outlook for world agriculture is tempered by the “usual suspects.”

For the fourth month running, the FAO Food Price Index – a measure of the monthly change in the international prices of a basket of food commodities – dropped in August reaching its lowest level since 2012. The decline in the index was the result of sustained falls in the international prices of cereals and oils. Together with the Food Price Index, FAO also released a new forecast of world cereal production in 2013. In this forecast, world cereal production was raised to 2,492 million tonnes, up 14 million tonnes (or 0.5 percent) from the July forecast. The rise is predicted to be driven by an expansion of coarse grain output as well as a rise in wheat production. Paradoxically, as FAO was giving relatively favourable prospects for world agriculture, there was a mood of gloom and despondency in Kenya and Zimbabwe! Continue reading

Could Food Insecure Africa Have Found a Saviour in Farming God’s Way?

Proponents term it the long awaited messiah that food-insecure Africa has been yearning for! ‘Farming God’s way’ promises to end fertilizer woes of resource-poor farmers in the continent by providing a cheaper and less labour intensive farming method.

Elizabeth showing how high and dense her "Farming God's Way" - farmed maize has got (A Rocha Kenya)
Elizabeth showing how high and dense her “Farming God’s Way” – farmed maize has got
(A Rocha Kenya)

Food security remains the number one major challenge that citizens across the African continent contend with. While the Green Revolution of the 1960s allowed erstwhile food deficient regions of Asia and Latin America to triple crop yields, food production in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has remained stagnant and in many instances it has even declined. According to IFPRI, among the factors fuelling the continent’s low agricultural outputs include poor resource endowments, minimal use of inputs (fertilizer, improved seeds and irrigation) and adverse policies undermining agriculture. Additionally, continuing environmental degradation, crop pests, high population growth and low levels of investment in agricultural infrastructure has further aggravated the resource limitations of agriculture in Africa.

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