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    By George Munene

    The government has suspended all levies on maize and animal feed imports as of 1st July, this year. This initiative is aimed at lowering the cost of maize, flour, and animal feed in the country for three months before the next maize harvest.

    Duty-free access to the Kenyan market will allow millers and animal feed manufacturers to cut down their costs of production.

    The cost of a 90-kilogram bag of maize has risen from Sh2800 at the start of the year to Sh6,500.

    Maize is the main component of both flour, which has more than doubled from the start of the year hitting a record Sh200 to 220 across different parts of the country, and animal feeds which have been on a similar upward trajectory.

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    Related News: Kenya running out of maize & wheat stocks

    “This move opens the way for over 200 trucks stuck at the Kenya-Tanzania border to enter the country carrying maize from Tanzania, Malawi, and Zambia. We want to assure the public that we are working day and night to ensure that the cost of unga comes down,” said Agriculture CS Munya at the Namanga border.

    He further warned farmers and cartels hoarding maize – holding the country at ransom, not to complain once-affordable maize hits the stores.

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    By George Munene

    Kenyan insurance surveyor Acre Africa, has developed a pioneering micro-insurance product tailored to help guard smallholder farmers against climate change. Dubbed Bima Pima (‘insurance in affordable bits’) farmers buy a scratchcard that is activated with as little as Sh 50.

    Only three per cent of small-scale Sub-Saharan African farmers are insured. This is even lower in Kenya at 2.4%, with farmers citing the high cost of insurance premiums as the main reason for this. Smallscale farmers account for 78 per cent of the country's agricultural output.

    “At the start of the agricultural season, a farmer buys a Bima Pima scratch card with a bag of seeds or fertilizer, activates the card through his phone, pays an initial premium of Sh 50 ($.50 cents), and can top-up via SMS to increase the level of insurance coverage. ACRE Africa then geo-tags the farm using the mobile localization service,” said Acre Africa’s Ms. Muthithi Kinyanjui, Head of Partnerships and Market Systems to the World Bank journal. 

    The company serves over 70,000 farmers across 15 counties in Kenya.

    Related News: Kenyan insurer buoys smallscale farmers with low-cost insurance

    Acre Africa (Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise Ltd), is an insurance agent in Rwanda and Tanzania and a licensed insurance intermediary in Kenya; working with local insurers and other stakeholders in the agricultural insurance value chain.

    The company, which is a beneficiary of the World Bank's One Million Farmers Platform (OMFP), uses satellite and weather station data to measure for drought or excess rain on a farmer’s land which informs their payouts to farmers. This money is paid directly to their mobile account.

    A premium of Sh50, has a potential payout of up to 10%, the equivalent to Sh500 which could help a farmer purchase a seedling bag.

    Related News: Cooperative insurer launches new project to cover over 250,000 Kenyan farmers with livestock microinsurance

    Related News: Government launches livestock insurance policy to help farmers prevent losses

    “A few days before harvesting, I received an MPESA message from Acre Africa which was a pleasant surprise. I had forgotten that I had purchased a Sh 50 insurance card during a session where they explained that I would be compensated in case of insufficient rainfall,” said Mary Mate, a farmer from Embu County. “Now that I see it works, I will continue to purchase this cover.”

    According to World Bank Senior Agriculture Economist Vinay Vutukuru, the success of BIMA PIMA is a forward-thinking approach that If scaled up and emulated, can potentially propel crop insurance to greater heights and support the sector’s transformation and resilience.

    Acre Africa: +254 719 249 615  

                        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

     

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    bbb31ba545f312355bf7aa379743585c pot plants drainage

    By George Munene

    Vetiver grass is classed as the most cost-efficient living barrier in controlling soil erosion with semi-arid farmers reporting 40-50 per cent yield increases when using vetiver hedges on their farms. 

    Vetiver, which translates to ‘root that is dug deep’, penetrates to depths in excess of three meters in some soil types. These roots literally ‘nail the soil to the ground’. 

    It is a non-invasive (doesn't wander from where it's planted) perennial grass used in soil conservation and slope stabilisation.

    “In protected fields, the implementation of The Vetiver System assists farmers by holding nutrients and moisture in their fields which both improve yields and extend the growing season. 

    In areas where flooding is a challenge vetiver grass spreads excess water across crop areas, equalizing the hydrological pressure, thus preventing or protecting the crop areas from being washed away,” explained Patrick Mukora, a board member of Plus-Kenya.

    Plus-Kenya (Platform for Land Use Sustainability) is a registered NGO, that promotes the use of The Vetiver System to rehabilitate and rehydrate Kenya’s landscapes.

    Related News: Hybrid Super Napier grass yields 4× regular varieties

    Vetiver grass is better in preventing erosion than constructed earth or soil banks in that it is easier to construct and maintain; does not break even under heavy rain; hedges serve to redistribute water in the farm rather than divert it as is the case with artificial banks; while earth banks must follow contours with sharp bends obstructing ploughing, vetiver hedges follow a smooth course. 

    Vetiver also benefits crops with improved fertility, water infiltration, and good quality mulch. 

    Often planted as hedges, vetiver can also be used to help the soil retain moisture and fertility; protect crops against flood damage; function as wind and fire breakers; provide fodder when cut fresh every 4-6 weeks (dry vetiver hay is indigestible); remediation of contaminated water and land; make urine soaking beds for livestock, reduce pests (pull Chilo stem borers from maize as well as being a harbour for predator insects and form a sharp leaf barrier that snakes and rodents can't get through).

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    6-month old vetiver in Mandera

    “For farmers in areas affected by droughts or floods, vetiver grass is an ideal pioneer plant, providing a stable foundation for other plants to establish,” Patrick pointed out.

    Soil erosion is controlled by the grasses' stiff stems which reduce water speed curbing soil loss and water runoff. Soil deposited behind the hedge builds a natural terrace 

    Its strong deeply penetrative root system grows downward meaning it does not compete with neighbouring crops for food. This root system which grows to 3-4 meters makes it drought resistant.

    Established hedges are resistant to overgrazing and fires. 

    It is adaptable to a range of local conditions, problematic soils, hard soil layers, and erratic rains. The grass can grow in highly acidic (pH4) and alkaline (pH8) soils. It is also largely resistant to pests, heavy metals, and toxins.  

    The grass has been promoted by Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) as a hedgerow to curb erosion. Its propagation has also been promoted by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) within Nyanza.

    Originally from India, Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides), has been used in soil conservation especially in tea plantations and in essential oil production in Kenya since the early 1930s/40s. 

    Its roots do not invade adjacent areas as with grasses such as Kikuyu, Couch, and Bermuda. It often doesn’t flower and its seeds are sterile making it easy to domesticate.  

    Related News: KALRO boosts dual-purpose Teff grass production to help arid farmers combat drought

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    Vetiver hedges should be established leaving no gaps (max distance 12-15cm) to be most effective. They are planted across slopes, along gullies or rills, and protect against soil erosion for life.

    It is crucial that farmers plant the recommended Sunshine Vetiver strain as it is totally non-invasive. It is propagated vegetatively by the division of tillers or roots.

    A list of authenticated vetiver growers across the country can be accessed here, www.vetiver.org 

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