Sunday, July 29, 2012

Farmers benefit from bamboo farming as a new cash cow

Millicent Atieno tending to her Bamboo groove at Kadika Village, Migori County   

A group of bamboo farmers in Kadika Village of Migori County are reaping major benefits after veering away from the common tobacco and sugarcane farming in the area.
The about 80 farmers who benefited from an initiative by Maseno University which gave them 30 seedlings each a decade ago now boast of a steady income and are safe from health risk from tobacco curing and smoking which causes TB and makes children to be smokers when they grow up.
In addition the farmers are now avoiding the long queues and delays they had to be content with to get their pay from tobacco and sugarcane firms in the area.
Among the farmers who started with only a quarter an acre when approached is Mrs. Millicent Atieno who has so far increased her area to 5 acres after getting the befit of bamboo farming.
“I started harvesting my bamboos after two years and haven’t stopped ever since which gives me a steady income, a shoot can give up to 200 suckers in one hole and can be used in different stages and functions” Atieno says.
 “When the shoots are young they only require minimal tendering as the leaves that fall at the base of the bamboo grooves act as a herbicide and mulch which goes on to retain moisture and preserve the soil” she adds.
The farmers are now turning the venture on a full scale basis as they benefit from making furniture, buildings, firewood and twigs and trunks used to make ornaments and sandals.
A bamboo yacht from the group
“Right now I’m sitting on a chair and using a table made of bamboo with my house having structures from bamboo. Apart from making ornaments to sell in the market, I have a steady supply of firewood and charcoal in my homestead which i also sell to my neighbours” she adds.
When the farmers started harvesting the bamboos they came together to help cut out middle men who were exploiting them and help give value to their products.
Under the Kadika Bamboo Sacco, the farmers have established a workshop at the village which is only four kilometres from Migori town to make out finished products, look for the market and offer advise with the farmers getting 90% if the income with the remaining being ploughed back into running the Sacco.
The Sacco makes trays for display which sell at Sh250, office pens and mobile holder for Sh200, yacht for Sh250, Sh1,200 tables, chairs for Sh650 among other products.
“From these proceeds we have managed to employ 5 artisans and sales people who are helping us with turning finishing the products and get the bamboos directly from farmers” Mr. Ezekiel  Onganjo, a farmer who also the manger at the Sacco says.
Ongajo adds that the Sacco runs a tree nursery of the three species of bamboo with the giant specie mainly used for making building and chairs going for Sh250 while bambusa and vulgaria going for Sh150.
“The sales from these seedling is high as it surpasses eucalyptus which seedlings which are sold at Sh2 and grows three times with easy propagating as only a shoot can producer over 200 suckers” he says.
“The roots of the giant and bambusa species are also used as tubers as food and vegetables. With the most buyers being from Chinese and Korean constructors in the county involved in water and infrastructure projects” he adds.
Mr. Zabedeus Nyamari, the Migori county forest officer has lauded the group and calls on Kenyans to take bamboo farming seriously to help reach the 10% forest cover in the country as envisioned in Vision 2030 and Millennium Development Goals, MDGs.
Bamboo chairs from the group
“Bamboo has the ability to absorb up to 12 tonnes of carbon for every hectare which makes it ideal for reducing the effects of global warming in the world. Sadly for over 150,000 hectares of 22 species of bamboo in the country, 95% are protected in government forestes which gives the number in farmers’ hand to be very little even with this huge benefits” Mr. Nyamari says.
In Africa Ethiopia leads with over 1 million hectares of the plant while China is the biggest producer in the world at 80% with 60% consumed internally. This shows how far Kenya is placed in the bamboo industry is globally worth $11 billion annually and sustains over 1.5 billion people according to figures obtained from the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR).

©Manuel Odeny 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Human Rights Watch raise concerns over Kenya, Ethiopia Gibe III dam project.

Ethiopian herders at the lower end of the Omo river where the controversial dam Gibe III is set to be built
Kenya’s quest to get power from Ethiopia’s Gibe III dam project by 2014 may receive a setback after Human Rights Watch wrote to World Bank, a major financier against the project.
The rights watchdog have written to WB saying they should stall the funding of the 1,000 kilometer transmission line to the country from the 240m high dam, tallest in Africa, in Southern Ethiopia with a capacity to produce 1,870 megawatts of electricity citing abuse of human rights.
But yesterday Thursday WB agreed to fund the project even though it doesn't meet its project assessment.
 “The World Bank should ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples and the environment are rigorously protected before funding a power transmission line connecting Kenya to the controversial dam in Ethiopia” Human Rights Watch said in a letter to President Jim Yong Kim ahead of Thursday meeting on the project.
“The World Bank shouldn’t think that it’s fine to fund a transmission line while closing its eyes to abuses at the power source, where rights of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people are threatened by the Gibe III dam without protection ” Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions advocate at HRW said in statement posted on their website.
The project is set to double Ethiopia's current power generating capacity which will see excess power being exported to neighboring countries like Kenya whose 80 percent of the population don’t have access to electricity.
Apart from exporting the power, the Ethiopian government is going to use power from the dam supplied by the Omo River which also gives 90% of Lake Turkana water, to supply electricity for her 245,000 hectares of state-run irrigated sugar plantations and other projects.
According to HRW “the dam and related agricultural plans are also likely to dramatically decrease water levels in Kenya’s Lake Turkana to further increasing competition over scarce resources for the additional 300,000 indigenous people who live around Lake Turkana.” The statement says.
The site of the Gibe III dam
Apart from Kenya there have been serious implications of Ethiopia’s sugar plantations project where over 200,000 indigenous residents of the Lower Omo have been forcefully relocate by security forces to affect the loss of grazing land and cultivation sites as they rely on the 760KM long Omo River for their survival.
“State security forces have used intimidation, assaults and arbitrary arrests when people questioned the relocation or refused to move even though The United Nations in 1980 named the area a World Heritage because of its special cultural and physical significance” the statement says.
WB requires that projects it funds should follow and mitigate against adverse environmental and social impacts especially if it will affect loss of livelihood by calling on adequate compensation to at least maintain their previous living standard.
“WB is set to undermine these policies by approving the power transmission line to Kenya with the source of energy highly questionable” the statement says adding that environmental and social assessment should be done on the project on indigenous people before funding the transmission line.
Jim Yong Kim the 12th WB president who took the office on July 1 is faced with his first big test to commitment to human rights and environment issue on the funding of the transmission line to Kenya.
 “Kim should show the people of Ethiopia and Kenya that he will stand for their rights. That means not letting this project proceed until the bank has taken adequate steps to prevent serious harm to peoples’ rights and livelihoods” Evans, the HRW official says.
©Manuel Odeny 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

10 great rules that will help you remain poor all your life by Moses Kiprono and Winny Moimet

Few pointers from my FB friends on how to remains poor all your life and live as an under achiever, got it for the first time from them and I thought I should share them in my blog with my readers;
1.    Never wake up early:
Keep stretching and turning in bed until you get too hungry to continue dozing. If there are no bedbugs, why hurry to get up?
2.    Never plan how to spend your money:
Whenever you get money, start spending it right away and when it is finished, try to count and recall how you spent it.
3.    Don't think of saving until you have real big money:
How can you save when you earn so little? Those telling you to save are not sympathetic to your burning needs.
4.    Don't engage in activities usually reserved for the 'uneducated':
How can you, a graduate, engage in petty trade or home- based production? That is for people who never went to school.
5.    Don't think of starting a business until an angel comes from heaven and gives you capital:
How do they expect you to invest before you get millions of shillings? Even though more than half the businesses in your town were started with a few hundred shillings, you as a smart person can only start with millions.
6.    Complain about everything except your own attitude:
Blame the system, the government and the banks that refuse to lend you money. They are all bad and do not want you to get rich.
7.    Spend more than you earn:
To achieve this, buy consumer products in credit and keep borrowing from friends and employer.
8.    Compete in dressing:
Make sure you wear the latest clothes among all the workers in your office. Whenever your neighbour buys a new phone, get one that is more expensive.
9.    Get yourself a nice second-hand car/mobile/electronic gadget that costs more than three times your gross monthly pay:
That will surely keep you in debt long enough to hinder the implementation of any bad plans that could make you accumulate capital.
10. Give your children/lover everything they ask for since you are such a loving parent/lover:
They should not struggle for anything because you do not want them to suffer. That way, they will grow up lazy and hence poor enough to ensure they cannot help you in your old age.


Press Release: Raila's Office Response to Miguna Miguna:

Kenyans have been treated for quite some time to all sorts of demonization and unfounded allegations against the Prime Minister, as part of a desperate campaign by his political opponents to undercut his undisputed popularity and prevent his coming to power.
The opponents fear that his commitment to reform would seriously challenge impunity as well as their long hold on power.
These anti-reformers have quite brazenly announced their commitment to the status quo by declaring their common goal is "Anyone but Raila." As part of this campaign, Mr. Miguna Miguna's new book recycles past unsubstantiated allegations all these corruption calumnies against the Prime Minister, without offering a shred of evidence that could shed any new light.
His allegations do not deserve a response, and should be treated with contempt. If there was any evidence to back up the campaign against Mr. Odinga, his opponents- many of them powerful figures, unlike Mr. Miguna - would have long ago produced such proof to scuttle his presidential campaign.
But Mr. Miguna went one step beyond regurgitating these falsehoods in his book, and announced that he had evidence that implicates the Prime Minister in post-election violence, whose suspected architects are being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.
Mr. Miguna uses possession of this evidence to threaten and blackmail those who might seek to challenge him, telling them they should "kiss his feet" if they do not want him to reveal all.
Mr. Miguna's withholding such vital information from the authorities on a subject of such grave concern for Kenyans is a disservice to the nation and a further boon to entrenching impunity.
No less important, withholding evidence of a major felony, leave alone of mass murder which rose to the level of international crimes, is a violation of the laws of Kenya. Such silence is considered as abetting the original crime.
Mr. Miguna, while claiming to be motivated only by the highest moral and ethical principles, is in fact obstructing justice in a case of immense national importance.

We know from Mr. Miguna's own assertions that he took no action to expose or report to the authorities the corrupt criminality he claims he saw in the Prime Minister's Office. Nor did he try to preserve his integrity by resigning, choosing to become the "whistleblower" AFTER he was suspended.

Kenyans must demand that Mr. Miguna back up his latest assertion that he has evidence concerning mass violence by disclosing what he knows.

Dennis Onyango,
Spokesman to the Prime Minster
July 16, 2012.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: The Rwizi Arch Hotel in Kampala, Uganda.

The Rwizi Arch pub at the underground in the backyard of the hotel
I was privileged to share abode at Rwizi Arch Hotel at Kansanga area, Kampala together with seven journalists from six African countries from 24-29 June this year.
Together with an equal number of local Ugandan journalists we were attending Financial and Economic reporting course from Reuters Foundation.
During the stay we loved staying at the pub in the back of the hotel taking up the backyard space and the underground floor with a capacity to seat close to thirty patrons.
The pub’s atmosphere though set with a outdoor gardens have the ambience of an extension of the hotel’s dining room with the chairs set at a distance on a soft lighting shades for a quite conversation and dating scene but not for the rowdy football watching crowd as experience in Kenya.
To compound the atmosphere further there is no pool table, ballroom lights or the longer counter bar stools making watching a game to be akin to twiddling with a remote control in your sitting room with the children reading in the background and your wife trying to get her sleep, a quite no shouting affair.
But the huge board which projects games and music is a plus for football watching, though the music is pre mixed and not engaging as there is no dance floor without any DJs.
Though the food is sumptuous as the bar shares the kitchen with the hotel, their drinks are expensive. Kenyan Tusker Lager and Tusker Malt, brands at the bar, go for USh4,500 and USh4,000 respectively while Ugandan special Nile Special goes for Ush3,500. Being a teetotaler, for the two games I watched from the pub i settle for Norvida pineapple and a 300ml Stoney which went for Ush3,500 and Ush2,000 respectively.
The bar counter
I realized the prices were high as which forced me to watch German being bundled out of Euro2012 finals by two Mario Balotelli’s first half goals on pubs along the Kabalagala Street wher drinks are Ush500-1,000 cheaper.
With the quite atmosphere for conversation the pub is best for a business meeting and dating and you can easily reach the hotel,6Km from the CBD along Kabalagala Street in a 30 min drive.
On the down side, for foreign revelers seeking the feeling of Kampala’s night life the pub isn’t ideal with setting and would recommend the numerous pubs along Kabalagala streets which has several East African universities.
                              ©Manuel Odeny 29 June 2012, Kampala-Uganda

World Bank: Sub-Saharan Africa growth tied to Euro zone crisis

Ahmadou Moustapha Ndiaye, the Uganda WB country manager.
The World Bank’s forecast of 5% growth for Sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 risks being affected by the Euro zone, a senior bank official has said.
WB projections place the developing world, with Sub-Sahara Africa being the main player, at the centre of recovery from the world economic recession.
Last year, 2011, Sub-Saharan Africa had one of the world’s fastest growth rates at 4.7% average, almost back to the region’s performance before the economic crisis time.
Next year the growth is still projected to increase to 5.3%.
This forecast is placed at the risk of persistent risk of financial recession for developed countries especially after Cyprus asked for help from EU which “brings a lot of uncertainty in the air since developing countries are not isolated from the world” Ahmadou Moustapha Ndiaye, the Uganda WB country manager said.
He added that the Euro zone crisis will constrain growth in the developing countries as Euro governments will need to increase taxes and level on public investment to streamline their budget. This will affect the trade infrastructure and reduce foreign aid.
Ndiaye who was speaking to journalists at WB offices in Kampala said the effect will be felt through low remittance by African immigrants back home due to contracting job market and a reduced number of tourists visiting Africa as high income earners will be faced with new taxes.
But the forecast is set to hold steady if the prices of African commodities in the world market grow and investment flows into in new resources and infrastructure like oil drilling, refineries, roads, and ICT.  
Ndiaye points out that Africa can get finance from bilateral development partners to borrow and invest in infrastructure which will set to increase sub-regional trade which reduces their dependency on Euro zone countries and should place more importance on regional integration like EAC.
According to government’s record Kenya is projecting her growth at 5.0% in the 2012/13 financial year on the back of a SH1.459 trillion budget which highly relies on infrastructure development to spur growth.
“The energy, infrastructure and ICT sector leads on government’s expenditure at 24% allocation on account of on-going road and energy projects as the sector is able to sustain development” a PricewaterhouseCoopers, PwC, analysis points out.
But PwC says this can be challenged by a road maintenance backlog, lack of adequate local construction capacity and delayed uptake of donor funds.
Equally, the country’s budget which relies on 15.4% foreign funding (Sh225.5 billion) from external grants and loan for revenues will be constrained by the Euro zone crisis.
This reliance of sub-Sahara to external grants is what Ndiaye says can be rectified by regional integration and trade.
“Sub regional trade away from Euro-zone can be increased with EAC investing in infrastructure especially in oil exploration and speed up convergence in fiscal policies and the monitory union” he says.
©Manuel Odeny, 29 June 2012 from Reuters Training in Kampala, Uganda

Friday, July 6, 2012

Photography: HIV testing through the eyes of children

A child looks on as a journalist interviews her mother at HIV support center in Kisumu, Kenya
Anxiuos children waiting for HIV results from their aunt as counselors visit their home in Chiga area, Kisumu
Phoebe Anyongo, a HIV +ve mother with her two health twins after a PMTCT in a clinic in Kisumu, Kenya