Friday, 26 July 2013

Sitawa Wafula wins the East Africa Youth Philanthropy Award

Sitawa Wafula, a mental Health Crusader was awarded the East Africa Youth philanthropy Award by the East Africa Association of Grant makers.

On receiving the award, through her Twitter feed Sitawa dedicated it to all persons with mental health disorders.

I dedicate my award to all persons living w/#mentalhealth disorders and like me have to be continously on the look out even during fun times
I have moved from Sitawa, rape survivor who has a mental health disorder to Sitawa, who sits on The National Mental Health Policy Review table, Assistant Secretary National Epilepsy Coordinating Committee, Spark*Kenya Change maker 2013 and Winner Youth Philanthropy Award is a process.
In Her own words, she writes on how she did it.

The East Africa Philanthropy Awards (EAPA) was launched in 2011, the program was established to identify, recognize, and celebrate outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations to strategic social development and to the growth of the philanthropic movement in East Africa.

By highlighting their contributions EAAG hopes to create awareness on the significance of giving and create role models for local philanthropy.

The 2013 awards recognized those who through their planned and structured giving of money, time, information, goods and services have given voice and influence towards improvement of the wellbeing of humanity and the communities they live in.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

#HandsOffOurElephant campaign launched to drive awareness and action against the poaching of Elephants in Kenya

Hands off our elephants ( is a Wildlife direct initiative to drive awareness and action against the poaching of Elephants in Kenya.

The campaign spearheaded by Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, has been put together by Wildlife Direct, a wildlife conservation charity, to create awareness, engagement and mobilization on the issue within Kenya, across Africa and around the world.

During its launch in Nairobi, Kenya Airways’ Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Titus Naikuni, said that conservation of elephants and other wildlife is the responsibility of all Kenyan individuals, companies and government agencies.

“Elephants are part of our environment; therefore poaching them harms our country and national heritage. Mother Nature is very unforgiving when we change the balance in the environment. This is the reason we decided to get involved. As Kenya Airways, we do not condone poaching or delivery of poached ivory on our flights, and this message has been passed to our staff and passengers. Any of our staff found involved or abetting poaching will face the consequences.”

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Judi Wakhungu, said that the government is stepping up anti-poaching efforts by deploying modern technology and modernization of the Kenya Wildlife Service; in addition to establishing a Canine Unit to detect movements of illegal ivory at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and Moi International Airports in Mombasa.

“The government has also directed that all poaching cases be prosecuted as economic crimes, and revised penalties to higher fines of over Ksh1 million and sentences of over 5 years. Once the new Wildlife Bill is enacted, these penalties and sentences will be enhanced to make them punitive and discourage poaching and ivory traffickers.”

The director general of the Vision 2030 delivery board, Mugo Kibati, said that elephants are a major factor in the success of the tourism industry, which is one of the major sectors in the economic pillar of Kenya’s Vision 2030.

Walking for elephants with Kenya's most famous matriarch, Margaret Kenyatta PHOTO / courtesy

“In our Medium Term Plan, we have set out to grow tourist numbers from the current 2 million to 3 million by the year 2017. However, this will not happen if our elephants disappear.”

In recent days, there has been a surge in cases of poaching, posing a threat to elephants. According to statistics from the Kenya Wildlife Service, elephant poaching has grown consistently over the last three during which 829 elephants were killed. Last year, Kenya lost 384 elephants to poachers compared to 278 in 2011 and 177 in 2010.

In addition to this, the country has been identified as one of the leading transit routes for smuggling ivory out of Africa, with several incidents of ivory seizures and recovery of wildlife carcasses in recent days.

KWS estimates that more than eight tonnes of raw and worked ivory have been seized since 2009.

The demand for ivory in the Far East, particularly China, has attracted criminal cartels to Kenya, who are feeding the insatiable demand. Conservationists warn that unless the demand is extinguished, poachers will wipe out Africa’s elephants.

The CEO of Wildlife Direct, Dr Paula Kahumbu, lauded the government for welcoming the initiative which brings Kenyans together to save the country’s heritage.

“Kenya traditionally has been at the front line in combating elephant poaching but we have lost that ground in recent years. It is essential that we work together and restore our leadership position in the world to ensuring that we protect our endangered species, and a global heritage. While we crack down on wildlife crime in Kenya, we also need the help of governments of Africa, Thailand, China and US whom we are asking to ban the domestic markets of ivory as legal markets are a cover for laundering illegal ivory. We will also appeal to the hearts of anyone buying ivory in these countries as they are contributing to the slaughter of African elephants.”

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Confident decision making key to agriculture productivity for Western Kenya

Western Kenya region residents depend on agriculture for their livelihood, yet sector inefficiency is widespread across the region and the rest of the country.

Farmers cannot access reliable markets, buyers cannot access reliable markets, source adequate quantities of produce and intermediaries cannot cost- effectively provide services.

The end result is supply chain disorganization that depresses household income, increased food insecurity and hinders business development.

Enhancing inclusive and sustainable current agricultural information systems in different value chains and information needs that would promote development in domestic horticulture are needed to unleash agricultural potential.

Strengthening agriculture especially domestic horticulture is one of the key issues that often bring together various stakeholders from the agriculture sector and famers in trying to focus on creating a dynamic small holder sector. 

A vibrant rural sector in Western Kenya in general generates local demand for locally produced goods and services. In turn this can spur sustainable non-farm employment growth in services, agro-processing and small scale manufacturing.

Alternative farming technology is rarely adopted because farmers lack adequate access to credit inputs and markets. Water is a limiting factor. Only farmers with access to water and efficient water management technologies can effectively practice crop diversification.

Several hindrances include: lack of awareness, lack of institutional framework in terms of non-existent or poor policies at national and local levels, information gaps, low investment in research and development and lack of private sector participation.

Farmers who experience an increased level of income are able to branch out into the unexplored territory of income generating activities such as growing high value crops such as onions, tomatoes and kales.

Building partnerships with agricultural organizations to help small farmers improve their agricultural output and make it easier to buy and sell their products at local or regional markets- food supply for both long and short term expand opportunity and strengthen regional economies.

Fostering opportunities for new business in emerging sectors, creating conditions that will help small innovative firms grow, revitalizing the local economy, including considering the role of economic diversification, building community capacity enhancing knowledge resources and institutional, human and social resources.

The Prime Minister of Viet Nam, Nguyen Tan Dung during the opening of the 2nd Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change “Hunger for Action” in Hanoi of Viet Nam September 2012, said partnerships are important across nations, private partnerships, civil societies and farmers as not only crucial but key in ensuring food security but also curbing new challenges that arise due to climate change.

Alex O. Awiti an Ecosystems Ecologist based at the Aga Khan University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences (East Africa) says, more productive, sustainable and resilient agriculture requires transformations in how rural people manage natural resources and how efficiently they use these resources as inputs for crop production. For these transformations to occur, it is essential that the world's farmers, scientists, researchers, the private sector, development practitioners and food consumers come together to achieve climate-smart agriculture.

“Therefore, targeted investments in food production and high value market-led produce should pay off both in terms of food security at a time of soaring food prices, and in terms of household income and national economic development. The debate now focuses on where that investment should go.”

He thus, says, “The challenge therefore is how to increase productivity among subsistence smallholder farmers. The opportunity and innovation lies in the role of policy, technology, research support and institutional arrangements that can aggregate production of small farm rather aggregating the land resource base, “excerpts from his “Which way for Africa's Agriculture?”

A look at the Economic Recovery Strategy as stated in the Vision 2030 for revitalizing agriculture with an aim of transforming Kenya into“middle Income Country” as well as Millennium Development Goal No.1 which aims to “Eradicate extreme poverty and Hunger” proposes intensive farming for small scale farmers.

Stakeholders in the sector say their drive is to transform agriculture into a profitable economic sector capable of attracting private investments, providing gainful employment and food security for its people in line with the government priorities.

However, this has not been fully realized through the formulation and implementation of policy reforms to enable the farmers and stakeholders to move from subsistence production to market oriented ventures through adoption and use of modern technologies and business practices.
Professor Calestous Juma of the Harvard, Kennedy School interested in innovation for development in The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, the ability of the continent to feed itself will depend largely on the extent to which it is able to harness the world’s scientific and technological knowledge and put it to local uses.

Access to timely information by rural communities cannot not only increase agricultural productivity but enhance social and economic development many farmers in rural areas lack the basic access to information.

According to the Africa Human Development Report 2012 -Towards a food secure future, it says, “With real-time in-formation on prices, transport costs and demand, farmers can adjust their production and marketing and increase their efficiency.”

It adds that, “Information can also reduce food price volatility by better integrating rural markets, and it can expose unscrupulous traders, making it harder for them to cheat farmers. When farmers, transporters, sellers and buyers communicate regularly and rapidly, prices become more transparent, transaction times fall and the bargaining power of small producers increases.”

There is need to bring the knowledge and perspective of farmers together with decision makers at other levels. It is crucial that research in agriculture, food security and climate change conditions to improve and deliver to allow more confident decision making and allocation of limited resources to all.