Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Uganda’s Coffee agribusiness incubator

Coffee  farming in Africa  is being overtaken  by the  need  for  real estate  more and  more  people  are  uprooting their  trees to  build  residential apartments.

With  the  growing  demand  for  urban and  semi urban  living coffee  farmers  tired  of meager  earnings  from bonuses  are opting out  of the trade.

In my view  it is solely because  farmers have left the  whole coffee  value chains to the  hands  of  companies, and cooperatives who are  supposed to collect the berries in bulk  fetching   better prices.

The outcome is that more people do not get the value of their investments and end up getting mere peanuts   for bonuses at the end of the year.

Uganda however is taking a better approach to this challenge with the launch of an agribusiness incubator focused on the coffee value chain.

Not only will this  help farmers learn how to add  value  to their berries  they  will also  be  equipped with  entrepreneurship  skills to better understand market  demands.

The  country provider popular Robusta beans, used in French and Italian roasts.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Donkey milk please!!

Donkeys carry water containers in Kenya. ©The Brooke

There is a saying in Swahili Asante ya punda ni mateke...(The thanks of a donkey are his kicks)

As such there has often been a perception that the donkey is a very ungrateful creature. 

For this reason the donkey has been branded a beast of burden the world over suffering several acts of cruelty as they transport different farm and household goods.

A  recommendation  by the  Food and  Agriculture  organization that donkey  milk  be  used  to  counteract the global demand  of  cow  milk and other dairy products  is  certain to make  donkey  owners  more  kind   to  their  animals.

The UN food  agency  late  last year recommended more usage of  milk  from  a variety of animals including  camels, llamas and  donkeys  due to the increasing  high milk prices  especially in the world.

Apart from goat, sheep  and buffalos that  are  currently being kept in  different parts  of the world  for  provision of milk Fao recommends  that the  Alpaca, Moose, Reindeer and Yaks can also be  milked.

A camel herder milks one of his camels in Oman Photo: ALAMY
Rapid urbanization in  Africa and  the  growing  middle class  means that  more  people are  having an increase in their  disposable income  and as a  result  can a afford a change of lifestyle eating more  diary and  meat  products.

Fao predicts  that  by  2025 diary consumption in  developing  countries  will grow by  25  per  cent  because  of   population growth and rising incomes and  cow milk  which most people are currently  dependent on will not be  sufficient to  supple  the  most  vulnerable households.

Consumption of camel milk has been growing Ethiopia, Mali and Somalia and the trend is quickly picking up in Kenya. 

With their milk being fronted as more nutritious and healthy. Though it is not for the fainthearted, you will have a thoroughly cleansed stomach before your intestines get used to the milk.

Making a quick buck: A woman selling donkey milk to slum dwellers in Vijayawada. — PHOTO: V.RAJU
Its popularity has vastly spread that it is not common for one to order camel milk tea of the menu in a restaurant in Nairobi. Am guessing though in the next five years we will be doing the same for donkeys?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life

Fish is a delicacy the world over but according to a new report by FAO, harmful practices and poor  management  are a threat to the  fisheries and aquaculture sector.

Over the  years  production  from the sector  has been  increasing  gradually  with  the total production in 2012  estimated at  158 million tones.

In Kenya fish farming has gained popularity at the grass root level.  During the tenure of President Mwai Kibaki, fish farming was promoted within the constituencies under the economic stimulus program as a way of providing locals with not only an alternative source of food but also a different source of income.

 With the introduction of  counties under the  new  constitution that was adopted by the country in 2010,  Governors and other  county leadership have  fronted  fish  farming in  areas   where   the meal  was not an indigenous delicacy.

Recently a member of parliament  from central Kenya  offered  public  training  on how to  breed and cook  fish and  some of the constituents ended up fighting  for the pieces that had been  pan-fried.

This attests   to the  State  of the World  Fisheries and Aquaculture 2014  report which  show that  most of the growth in the  sector is  driven  by small scale farming.

Fish now accounts for almost 17 percent of the global population’s intake of protein -- in some coastal and island countries it can top 70 percent.

The sector also supports the livelihoods of 10–12 percent of the world’s population meaning if our water systems are managed well there is  even a greater potential of job creation.

The report also notes that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing remains a major threat to marine ecosystems and also impacts negatively on livelihoods, local economies and food supplies.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish you feed him for life

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Schooling African women farmers will boost agricultural productivity

The whole world is racing against time trying to find ways of boosting food production for the global population expected to double by 2050.

Rural woman farmer Mali works her land. Kaidia Samak√©’s village has formed a women’s association that helps women who are working in agriculture in the region with jobs and small loans. Image: F. Fiondella/IRI

Questions as to whether genetically modified foods can assist in reducing the hefty burden have been raised attracting support and critics in equal measure.

 But there is a new school of thought in town. If a majority of the farming carried out in the continent is done on small scale farming and undertaken mostly by the women in these households, why not empower them with all the agricultural information available.

One of    the continent’s greatest scholars, Prof. Calestous Juma is advocating for higher technical training for African women farmers arguing that it is the only way that the continent can make agriculture  an engine for the region’s development.

This he says will not only build Africa’s capacity to feed itself but also become an important player in global food trade.

A good case study that he gives is the African Rural University (ARU) for women inaugurated in Kibaale district of western Uganda in 2011. The sole purpose is to train women focusing on rural development and entrepreneurship.

And I agree with him.

African Rural University (ARU)'s Administration block
Women in rural parts of any country on the continent spend most of their day on the farm and while they provide the intensive labour they hardly reap any rewards as most times it is the men who get the dividends and booms from sale of cash crops into their accounts.

Many of these women are uneducated and still rely on the traditional ways of farming that their grandparents used yet the weather and agricultural systems have not stayed constant.

If we  give these  women the much needed  knowledge in using better seed  Varieties and animal breeds  then we are on step closer  to reducing the agricultural p0roductivity of  our land.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Building better breeds the community way in Ethiopia

Livestock is considered one of the main contributors to the GDP of African countries and as such their health and productivity are of great importance.

Livestock farmers are constantly looking for higher quality breeds whose increased productivity equals greater financial returns.

While crop farmers are more open to higher yielding varieties introduced by research institutions, animal keepers are less accommodative to such ‘lab breeds’.

More often than not farmers tend to borrow from one another the fattened bull or ram for a week in order to service their females

It is no wonder that the community based breeding programs introduced in some rural communities in Ethiopia have begun yielding tremendous results.

Picture courtesy Charlie Pye-Smith/ILRI
The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), and partners from the National Agricultural Research System are implementing breeding programs in Bonga, Horro and Menz with three different sheep breeds.

The project is aimed at improving the productivity of the sheep and increasing the incomes for the 360 households.

Initially the superior variety of rams  were identified  from among the  farmers  and which could be  exchanged in order  to breed  more value  animals.

The animals identified by local community members are then exchanged by farmers within a cooperative based on an agreed upon model.

The committee checks at the conformation, color, horn type, tail type and other criteria in decision making.

 If a farmer with a prized ram wishes the cooperative is at liberty to purchase it in order to continue sharing the valued traits.

More  details of  the project can be gotten here or download the breeding productivity report