Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nguruman farmers keen on Market curtails

Farmers within Nguruman irrigation scheme have been keen on market curtails which has since then exploited their potential to have their right share in their pockets. Intensive training on market survey and gross margin analysis by ALIN and Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has played a vital roles in enlightening the farmers to change their perspective and embrace 'farming as a business' model.

Many a times farmers have registered  huge losses which have lowered their chances to sustain themselves economically and due to their dark experiences, they resolved to form marketing groups depending on the produce to keep off middle men who make a kill out of their fortunes. During a meeting organized by MOA, farmers shared their grievances and agreed to work together to avert their losses.

DAO Adressing meeting participants

"Its something we can work out if we cooperate as farmers and work closely with other stakeholders... we look forward for a time when we will be able to get our 100% share from our produce..." Said Mr Munyere, one of the farmers. "Some years back we used to earn good money from our farms but when we welcomed brokers, things changed completely..." Added Mr. Toroke, community elder.

During the meeting, The Sub-county Agricultural Officer, Mr Henry Siro urged the farmers to embrace Mobile technologies and online platforms to ensure they have up-to-date information on markets and emerging farming technologies and recognized ALIN's bold move to launch a mobile platform Sokopepe which is user friendly and every farmer can use with ease. He also urged farmers to come out and show what they are able to produce so they can sell their produce through the platform.

A community elder contributing to the discussion

In response farmers narrated how they have lost lots of money to buyers who carry their farm produce and promise to send them money only to disappear.

"We have in the past seen people posing as buyers only to walk away with our hard earned produce and never come back... we now prefer using other platforms like sokopepe where we are sure our produce will be handled safely.." Said Mr. Mburu who practices mixed farming.

The farmers agreed with one voice to cooperate with other stakeholders to ensure they benefit fully from their produce and make use of resources and information within their reach to improve their livelihoods.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nguruman Farmers embrace Sokopepe

Farmers around Nguruman irrigation scheme have embraced new marketing strategy  and have been visiting Nguruman Maarifa centre in response to Sokopepe mobile registration feedback SMS which requires them to visit the nearest agent with the details for further advice.

Sokopepe is an initiative of Arid Lands Information Networks (ALIN) aimed at harnessing the power of information and communication technologies in enabling farmers to efficiently reach and exploit a fair market for their produce. At the same time, it increases efficiency in the agriculture value chain providing  a platform  for farmers  to share information and execute electronic transactions.

Youth accessing Sokopepe information at the Maarifa centre
More than 300 farmers have registered for sokopepe in Nguruman alone. The same exercise has been on going in six other Maarifa centres spread across other counties. The innovation has received a warm welcome by community members with majority being the youth farmers who foresee a revolution in farming and access to markets as an opportunity to improve their livelihoods.

"I am pleased to have interacted with the system after I registered and successfully logged in... I was able to view the goods on sale.. I encourage other community members to use the system and enjoy access to better markets..." Joephilova loongiti. ....the registration process is simple and every farmer can register from a simple mobile handset.. thanks for the information. He added..

A farmer who represented Nguruman community during Sokopepe launching at Ng'arua Maarifa centre thanked ALIN for entrusting him and added that, he had lots of information to share with fellow farmers from the experience he obtained from  the exposure.

Jacob Naipaa, A young farmer who represented Nguruman community during sokopepe launching harvesting his Tomato crop
How to register
For one to register for Sokopepe, he/she needs to have a mobile phone not necessarily an internet enabled one.

Send an SMS to 20245:
Example: REG#2234524#Samuel#Kilovoo#Kajiado

Other services
To get market prices, send an SMS to 20245:
Example: Price#Beans#Nairobi

To get farming tips, send an SMS to 20245:
Example: Tip#watermelon

ALIN's Sokopepe innovation  has also been covered in print and online national media quoting it as 'changing the face of farming' and also ' connecting farmers with top buyers'.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rabbit keeping earnings enables a farmer to buy a dairy goat

Small stock farming is taking shape among communities living in Arid and semi-arid areas in kenya. A few years ago in Magadi division you could hardly find farmers practising rabbit keeping as many of them had large herds of cattle that supported their livelihoods until 2008 when some farmers lost almost all their animals to drought. An immediate approach was therefore called for to address the issue. ALIN in collaboration with other stakeholders worked closely to address the gap and this saw some farmers innovatively championing projects that have had great returns.

Mrs Esther wateri began rearing rabbit way back in 2011. She was drawn in to the business after visiting her rural home where her brothers were making good business out the enterprise and was given a doe and a buck. A search for more information landed her at Nguruman Maarifa centre where she borrowed a book on backyard rabbit keeping in the tropics. "The book gave me information I needed to keep the enterprise rolling..."
Mrs Wateri removing hair from rabbit meat
Esther has so far sold more than 20 mature rabbits to rabbit meat lovers  and more than 12 pups to other farmers interested in starting the enterprise. She now has more than 50 rabbits and targeting bigger orders as she usually sells one rabbit at between Kshs 1000 - 1,500 locally ans feels she can get better market for better prices. The earnings have enabled her to buy a dairy goat which she believes will provide enough milk to her family.
Kamau at the dairy goat barn
 "I will use the money I spent buying milk to expand my rabbit keeping enterprise" she added.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nguruman 'Plant Clinic' Launched

A plant clinic was launched at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Magadi division grounds on 18th June, 2013. The clinic which is the eighth one to be launched in the country aimed at helping farmers identify and treat crop pests and diseases will be held twice a month on the second and the last Thursday of the month.

The occasion saw top officials from the Small-scale Horticultural Development Project (SHDP), Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) scientists Plant wise and CABI visit and give their views and contributions towards the project.

Plant wise, an initiative led by CABI which aims to improve food security and the lives of the rural poor by reducing crop losses in helping countries to establish community-based plant clinics which deliver practical advice to farmers when their crops have a problem. With collaboration from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and fisheries, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the Small-scale Horticultural Development Project (SHDP) the initiative has trained and equipped two plant doctors to run Nguruman Plant Clinic. Other partners include KEPHIS, Nguruman Irrigation Water Users Association (IWUA) and African Development Bank (ADB).
Seniour Officers from MOA head quarters handing over the clinic equipments and
reference materials to IWUA officials
CABI is a non-profit international organization that improves people's lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in Agriculture and the environment. they also have on-line information portal where farmers can access on-line in formation. The officials appreciated the availability of internet services at the ALIN Marifa centre citing  that, it will provide further information to plant doctors and also directly to the farmers. The Maarifa centre will be also used as dissemination point for online materials regarding plant health and  diseases.

The clinic has been equipped with necessary tools to diagnose diseases including micro-organisms and competent staff who have been taken through intensive training on how to handle diverse range of crop diseases. They have also been equipped with picture charts, agrochemical handbook, reference books among other relevant materials. 

KARI will also provide training to community nurses who will assist on surveying farmers’ crops to identify infected crops and also alert farmers in case of an outbreak. The nurses will also educate the community on the importance of plant clinic.
Plant doctors attending to farmers during the Launch
Farmers are expected to carry samples of the affected crops to the clinic where they will be diagnosed for recommendations and control. The farmers will have to purchase the chemicals necessary for treatment. As part of the Small-scale Horticultural Development Project, IWUA will set up an agrochemical outlet chop where farmers will be purchasing farm inputs at an affordable price.

Farmers applauded the initiative noting that losses due to unidentified pests and diseases will drastically reduce. Plant wise has already Launched 8 clinics and are planning to launch 59 by the end of the year.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Local administration relocation set to boost Maarifa centre services

Construction is almost complete for local administration offices, Olkiramatian west location just besides Nguruman Maarifa centre. The building is its finishing stages and will house the area chief and his security team. This is set to boost services offered at the Maarifa centre since majority of community members will be visiting  seeking administrative services as opposed to when the offices were in Olkiramatian market, about 15 kilometres away.

Local Administration block under construction 
Speaking to the Maarifa centre staff during a follow up visit to access the construction progress and damage caused by flash floods, the area Member of County Assembly Magadi ward Hon. Peter Pariken expressed his appreciation for the services offered to members of his community and showed concern to work with the Maarifa centre to market his area and ensure more programmes are included to cater for different community needs.

Some of the local administration officers are ICT training graduands at the Maarifa centre and also regular users of other Maarifa centre services. Notably, Chief Elijah Sereu has been lately utilizing the Maarifa centre to do his on-line studies and submitting his assignments for a administration  studies degree he is doing at Kenyatta University.

The building as seen from the Maarifa centre
He says that the Maarifa centre has been instrumental in his life since he learned his computer usage skills here which inspired him to buy his own laptop computer and now he is using the same facility to do his on-line studies. He urges the young people to take up the task  and utilize the facility to shape up their future.

"I have been one of the beneficiaries of Nguruman Maarifa centre and it has shaped my passion for ICT. I am now a university student and taking my studies from the Maarifa centre Library which is WIFI enabled..." said Mr. Sereu

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A farmer ignores disability and strives to earn a livelihood

People with disability are at times presumed to be a liability in the society and this stigma makes majority of them to sit back and depend on their kins for their livelihoods. This is not the case to Mr Kasifu who is among many people living with disability and has been lobbying and advocating for the rights of the disabled within Magadi division of kajiado county.

A farther of four and a coordinator of Tuko Disabled group has been striving to make ends meet with the little resources available to him on his 2.5 acre farm where he practices mixed farming with 1 acre having bananas and sugarcane as cash crops and 1 acre when he plants his food crops.

Mr kasifu attending to his beans block.
 photo by Tony kimathi.
 Mr kasifu has been the chairman of the Nguruman Maarifa centre advisory committee, a position he holds with enthusiasm and at times spends most of his time at the Maarifa centre responding to mails and tying his personal documents, a skill he learned at the Maarifa.

Mr kasifu was not reluctant to praise the services he has been receiving at  the Maarifa centre at no cost and emphasized that, the skills he learned during ICT training has taken him far and opened a lot of avenues in his life.

 "The Maarifa centre has been very instrumental in my life and my life changed completely when I started utilizing the facility... I have been able to receive small grants from proposals which I  typed and send through the center. Thanks to ALIN for the free ICT training"

Mr kasifu has been able to provide for his family and is glad that, he has linked his group members with National fund For the disabled of Kenya (NFDK) where the body donated some items which they will use to improve their livelihoods.

"I have been able to lobby for Tuko disabled group where through NFDK, some members benefited with Farm kits, Salon kits, sewing Machines and livestock to boost their incomes..." "...I appeal to ass disabled to raise up and fight for their rights and not just sit back and depend on others" he added.

Mr Kasifu responding to enquiries during a Maarifa centre outreach activity.
Photo by Samuel Nzioka
He also highlighted that, 1/2 acre of his farm was swept away by the ranging floods which left many residents puzzled as river Oloibortoto burst its barks and changed its course sweeping away farming land. He appeals to the relevant authority to take action and contain the situation.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Addressing information gap empowers a farmer to venture into African Indigenous vegetable farming

African indigenous crops have been found to be highly nutritive, containing medicinal value and adaptive to changing weather patterns. During information gap analysis on June 2012, many enquiries were recorded and it’s from this time when a farmer showed his interest in growing African indigenous vegetables though he lacked the necessary information.

When ALIN and PA partnered to address farmers enquiries, many information gaps were addressed through individual farmer visits and organized training. Mr Francis Mburu has always been visiting Nguruman Maarifa centre to access information. During our visit, Mr Mburu recorded an enquiry on how to cultivate night black shade and cow peas, African indigenous vegetables gaining popularity among many markets, both local and upcountry. He also narrated how he had followed up and found a market for the vegetables at certain hotel at Magadi. However, the farmer did not have enough information on how to venture in the enterprise. Nguruman Maarifa centre library information played a vital role in addressing the need.

Black night shade vegetables on Mr Mburus Farm
Since the farmer was literate, he was directed to borrow African indigenous vegetables books available at the library. Other extra information was downloaded from on-line sites and shared with the farmer. The farmer followed up on the information and got the crops varieties suitable for his area from Magadi division crops extension officer where he then ventured in to the business. The farmer has been cultivating his crops on a two acre piece of land supplying his produce  since march and has seen a growing market for the same. He has also been selling his produce locally to vegetable vendors at Entasopia and Oloibortoto markets. Mr Mburu has also learned the value of other traditional crops and has considered planting cassava and sweet potatoes, a project he believes will soon boost his family earnings further.

Mr Mburu helping a customer to harvest cow peas vegetable blocks
 Since he ventured in to the business, his family earning have improved. He has been able to pay school fees for his two children in secondary school with earnings gained from the venture. His family diet has also improved as the African indigenous vegetables have constituted most part of his family diet. Mr Mburu has also planted other indigenous crops like cassava and sweet potatoes which will help boost food security for his family. He has also shared the information with farmers who are willing to adopt and he says if all goes well, he will be able to have higher supplies thus reaching higher markets up-country.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Maarifa centre community library promotes a reading culture among students and residents

Residents and students around Nguruman have every reason to thank ALIN for Nguruman Maarifa centre, a facility they say has promoted reading culture among students and other community members. Commending after accessing daily nation on-line version, Mr. James Kamango a teacher by profession could not hide his joy and commented ALIN for keeping the community updated by enabling access to internet services, a service he says can only be accessed some 45 kilometers away through a rough terrain with unreliable transport means.

"I'm pleased to see my daughters coming to read from the library since they closed for April Holidays... I have seen  some improvement in their performance at school and i can attribute this to the books they have been borrowing from the Maarifa centre. I have also been using the facility to  access on-line teaching materials and daily happenings from on-line news sites."

James is an ICT graduate and says that, the skills gained have helped him use computers with ease.

Students reading at Nguruman Maarifa  library

A community member at the Maarifa centre library
Maureen Omondi, a teacher at Entasopia primary school says that, she has personally benefited from the facility and has seen students using  the facility improve in their performance in  school.

“I have been able to pass all my exams and submit my assignments on time as compared to my other classmates in rural schools where there are no library services. I have been using the library to prepare my class notes and doing my assignments… I'm currently doing a ECD course and the library has been instrumental in my study since it has a wide range of educational material… I have also noted some improvements in student performances especially in national exams.. I urge other community members to use the library. thanks to ALIN for the facility.”

The library has a diverse range of information materials including, Agriculture, health, business, technical skills, history, Education among others. Community members including professionals have been using the facility  to borrow books. Mr Alfred Nyambane, a nurse has been borrowing nursing books which he says have helped strengthen his skills.

“I have been able to improve my skills and my general knowledge on health issue after using the library materials. The facility has good advanced nursing books for all health practitioners. Thanks for the service"
A community member accessing on-line materials with her laptop at the Maarifa centre library
During Maarifa centre outreach activities supported by ALIN and Practical Action, different information gaps were identified among farmers. some of the materials were available at the Maarifa centre library although the farmers were not aware. Mr. Francis Mburu, a farmer had an enquiry concerning African indigenous vegetable, a puzzle that was solved after accessing agricultural materials available at the library.

“I have been using the library to read information on indigenous vegetables and this has motivated me to venture in to growing a variety of African indigenous vegetables. This boosted my family income and enabled me to pay  school fees for my two children in secondary school as well as improving  family diet...  I also realized that, there is a growing demand for the product and a ready market for the same… Thanks to ALIN and Practical action for enabling Access to free information and addressing our information needs ”

Monday, March 11, 2013

Enabling access for 2012 KCPE and KCSE results

It was not 'business as usual' for 2012 KCPE  and KCSE students around Nguruman as they flocked to the Maarifa centre not to have their usual daily computer classes, but to have access to their results soon after their release by Ministry of Education. Excitement and fear was clearly seen on their faces they scrolled through National Examination Council website not sure about their fate.

The KCPE students and their class teacher had visited the Maarifa centre sometimes last year (New technology for KCPE candidates) to learn how to use computers for communication and soon after their exam, majority of them enrolled for free computer training offered at Nguruman  Maarifa centre.

Some 2012 KCPE & KCSE students during  ICT training session

Rose vivian, a former student at Entasopia primary was very excited to check her results online and had this to say... "I am excited to see my results on-line.. I didn't imagine this could be possible until I succeeded. we  appreciate the ICT training and internet connection  which has made the access possible."

Soon after the form four results were announced, the students were anxious to have their results and flocked at the Maarifa centre to have free on-line access. George Lomunyak, an ICT student at the maarifa centre and former student at Peterson memorial secondary school was glad to have his results and could not hide his joy as he received a printout of the same.

George after receiving a print out of his KCSE results

This is what he had to say... "I am glad to have accessed my KCSE results at Nguruman Maarifa centre and I am taking this print out to my parents at home to see what I scored since I couldn't access it at school as they had closed for mid term and my parents are anxious to see details of the results... I encourage youths around Nguruman to tap the opportunity and get trained on ICT skills..." he added.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Youths and ICT trainees secure Jobs

To many youths around Nguruman and its' environ, the Maarifa centre has been the backbone of their successive job applications since majority of them are either ICT training graduands, or have been sharpening their skills learned elsewhere at the Maarifa centre.

 During the recent IEBC bio-metric voter registration, Eight out of the twelve clerks who were manning the BVR kits in Shompole and Olkiramatian knew about the jobs advert and applied for them at the Maarifa centre while the remaining four did in Nairobi.

The young clerks in the remote Nguruman area expressed their joy and appreciation to ALIN to have facilitated access to information which enabled them apply for the posts on-line without having to travel to Nairobi about 45 km through the rocky road to Magadi and 86 km potholes road to Kiserian. 

Elizabeth Mintoi, a second year Business Information Technology (BIT) student at Mount Kenya university (MKU) said  that, the centre was an eye opener and motivated her to choose her career.

"I got interested in IT when I regularly begun using the centre where I learned that it's something every body can do... I therefore decided to go and pursue my career..." said Elizabeth. "... I have also successfully applied for IEBC jobs at the centre where I used some of the money to pay for my school fees" she added.

BVR clerks at Olkiramatian registering voters during a community event. Photo by Koinet
John chaure, a youth and a IT student said that he has successfully applied for jobs and does his practice at  the centre.

"I have been able to apply for jobs through the Maarifa centre, latest being the IEBC Biometric voter registration where I worked as a registration clerk. I have also been doing practice  for my college courses at the Maarifa centre..." said Jonh.

Joshua Kisemei, a journalism student at Maseno University and a volunteer at the centre says that he feels motivated when he sees any body from his community yearning for the skills since its the direction the world is moving. 

He has been working as a field assistant for TYPSA, a European engineering consulting company  contracted  by the Kenyan government to do feasibility study on detailed design of water resources related project along Ewaso ngiro south river basin, a job he secured through the maarifa centre.

"I feel motivated to fight for the rights of my community members... if every community member can understand social media platforms including blogs,  then discussing matters affecting them can be easy.. this can be achieved if everyone is ICT compliant... I encourage every one around Nguruman to tap the resources we have... thanks to ALIN for free training and access to information ." said Joshua.

Naomy Tonkey, a volunteer and a ICT graduand at the centre was not hesitant to testify how the centre has been an eye opener and how she has been able to secure different jobs with different institutions within Nguruman due to her competence in computers and other virtues, skills she learned at the Maarifa centre. 

"I have been a volunteer for more than five years and I have learned a lot of virtues and skills which have enabled me to secure different job positions.... I have worked with Patterson memorial secondary school as a secretary, with IEBC as a clerk and a presiding officer and currently with Yellow house construction company as a secretary.. Thanks to ALIN for the facility and ICT training..." Said Naomy.

James Mangoya, a student at Masai technical has also successfully applied for jobs through the Maarifa centre. He has been doing further studies at the centre as well.

"I have worked with IEBC several times, a job I applied through the Maarifa centre. I have also been trained on Excel and power point, areas I needed support and this has improved my computer skills. As a result, I have been able to do and send my assignments with ease..." said James.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Deaf and Dumb... but ICT compliant

Disability is not inability for a boy who is 'dumb and deaf' and who has passion for ICT. 'Zakayo' as they call him is a young boy aged around 10 years and who has unique talents for he quickly learns from  little sign language that Nguruman community members try when they want to communicate with him.

Zakayo has been a regular visitor at the Maarifa centre and all he had to do is to give a broad smile as he reads through books or looks at users working with the computers, either browsing or typing their documents. His passion for ICT called for an action by the Maarifa centre team  who helped him learn how to use computers.

Zakayo typing a document at the Maarifa centre
"It took some time to learn how to communicate with him but eventually we managed to train him...." said Kelvin Koinet, computer trainer. .... "Zakayo can play computer games, type documents and also view video clips without help..." he added. His unique talents surprises every one and his skills even motivates other community members to register for ICT classes offered for free at the Maarifa centre.

Zakayo training his friend how use a computer..
 He also likes to share his new skills with his play and school mates. He is also a student at Entasopia primary school (Special needs section) and his teachers praise him for being an obedient student. The boy depends on well wishers for his daily upkeep including the basic needs.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Practical answers, a solution to Technical Enquiries

Practical Answers is an online technical information service that provides resourceful information on appropriate small-scale technologies that are easy to replicate and can be used to improve the lives of people living in poverty. The service was initiated by Practical Action an NGO that works in over 40 developing countries and uses appropriate technology to challenge poverty. 

The resources range from energy, food and Agriculture,water and sanitation,disaster reduction, Climate Change, Markets, transport, new technologies, waste management, infrastructure, reconstruction and urban poverty. These technologies can be easily replicated. 

A technical enquiry platform has also been developed to cater for extra information that one may need regarding the technologies or any other field. An online enquiry form is available on practical answers website where users fill in  a form with the contact details and the technical enquiry. The requested practical information is therefore send to the enquirer via email, SMS or call back. 

These forms are also available at the Maarifa Centres and one can get one-on-one response to technical enquiries. 

For more information, visit  Practical Answers website or their Knowledge-base.