LAIKIPIA, Kenya (PAMACC News) - The Romantic Village is a camp in Dimcom Eden Villa Farm in Sipili, Ng’arua area, Laikipia County. “Making Agriculture and Environmental Conservation Romantic,” is the farm’s vision.

At this small park, Charles Mureithi, a secondary school teacher, receives scores of farmers. He offers free lectures on how to transform a semi-arid parcel of land into an arable piece to enhance food security.

“I try to make agriculture attractive to young people,” Mureithi explains. “If I don’t, our children will hate farming.”

Mureithi envisions his farm turning out the most beautiful in the world. “I know I can make it,” he exudes confidence. “People will come from very far to visit my farm. They’ll pay me a lot of money while I watch television over there,” he says, pointing at the cottage in which he receives visitors.

“There is a very good future in farming. Some years from now, farmers will be among the richest people,” he predicts. “I’ll sell my pineapple at shillings 500 because the demand will be high.”

Mureithi bought the seven-and-a-half-acre land in 2001 and started growing maize and wheat. He chanced on fruit farming after some embarrassment.
“I came back one day from work only to find my two kids eating the peals of pineapples supplied by a certain vendor, “ he recalls. “These vendors were poorer and had smaller farms than mine.” The picture that confronted him was the turning point for him.

When he planted his fruits in 2005, the 150 vines of passion he started with, “had given me so much money that all my input was recovered.” Since then, “I realized there is money in fruits and I have never looked back.”

JICA funded a trip to Japan in 2011 for 19 participants from 11 African countries. Mureithi was among them. They attended a course on the Implementation and Promotion of Agri-business in African Countries.  

It’s while in Japan that he learned of the “one village one product” concept. This implies growing the right crop for the right region. “At times we force ourselves on what is not meant for our regions,” he laments.

Mureithi is convinced that Ng’arua, is not a place for maize and wheat. “Fruits are our products. They can make us very rich.”

Mureithi does grafting himself.  A fruit-tree costs shillings 50 before grafting. After grafting, he makes shillings 100 more. When visitors come over, he imparts these grafting skills on them and even asks them to do it practically as he conducts them on a tour of his farm.

He’s grafted his mangoes in a way that he reaps five or seven varieties from the same tree. “These trees are like my social security fund,” he says, gesturing towards the trees spanning his farm.

“I’m teaching you hoping that you’ll share this knowledge with others. I believe we have the ability but we don’t want to fully exploit our potential.”
He tells all to discard the impression that greenhouses are very expensive to construct. He spent sh. 25,000 on his, using local material.

“My dad doesn’t like it when we throw away seeds,” his eldest daughter, Doreen Maina, 17, asserts. To her father, this is tantamount to throwing away money.  

 If Mureithi spots an avocado seed by the roadside, he picks it. For him this is sh. 150.  

His farm help, Samuel Kamau assists him to plant pawpaw seeds in polythene papers. The seeds germinate a few days later.  “This plant is shillings 50,” from a seed that was initially disregarded. “If one has 50 pawpaws how much is that?”

He believes if he were to sell every plant in his greenhouse, he could easily pay his children’s school fees for a whole year.

In this greenhouse are also coffee, cotton and other plants that are not for commercial use. Many school children have never seen such plants. When they come on a learning tour, they satisfy their curiosity.

“The issue of food security is not the government’s responsibility. It’s ours,” Mureithi says. “Every time we bother the government for aid yet we have land,” he finds it ridiculous.

He guides us to a yam he says he planted in 2004.  Some of us see this for the first time. This is a tuber many read about mostly in West African literature. Every year he harvests a substantial amount.

His farm-help, Kamau, is busy plucking the yams from underneath the surface of the ground. “If there was famine now, my family and I would be safe while others would go to bed hungry,” Mureithi declares.

“I have never used any fertilizer or chemical. I don’t even weed,” he says. He promises to demonstrate his hospitality by feeding all of us with the yams at lunchtime! “Next year I’ll come to the same spot for another harvest.”

Yams are not for ancient people. He pleads with the team to ask how they are grown so that these farmers replicate the crops in their farms.
Everything here is done from a business perspective. “If I take this pawpaw and eat it with my family, I assume I have bought it at say, sh. 100. I record in my diary.”

If he does some work, he assesses how much he would have paid himself and fills this in his diary as well. Even his children know this approach.  At the end of the year he analyzes the data to gauge whether this agricultural venture is viable or not.

“The fruit with the biggest profit margin is the pineapple,” he says, continuing, “It’s drought-resistant. It collects the morning dew and directs it to the plant. It can keep producing for about 7 years.”

Perched on a mound of soil and stones scooped from a deep furrow, he explains how he harvests surface run-off water when it rains and channels it to the desired area. This could be into a ‘storage tank’ excavated from the ground or directly into some furrows. One result is giant, healthy kales. He rarely buys vegetables.

His youngest child, Ivy Maina, 10, says, “We come here, pick some fruits even if it is not harvesting time.” She enjoys helping her father to plant various seeds. Her sister Doreen Maina says, “The best part is harvesting because we harvest as we eat.”

Mureithi’s son, Paul Maina, 13, desires to follow his father’s footsteps. “When I grow up, I must have a farm.” He has been observing his father taking farmers round their farm. The boy believes he can explain what happens on their farm as well as his father does.

Mureithi’s wife, Grace Maina, does marketing of their produce. She says there is adequate market for fruits. “Even locally, our customers don’t get enough.”

“If we had many of us growing fruits, we would export to Japan and elsewhere,” Mureithi wishes. “But mine alone is not enough. It’s just meant for the domestic market.”

Based on what he’s seen, Robert Mwangi says, “I didn’t know that there is a lot more I can do on my farm to earn money. I would like to be self-sufficient.”

Lucy Mwangi has been Mureithi’s colleague and customer. “I have decided to increase the fruits on my farm. I’ll use Mureithi’s methods of preserving the seeds of fruits consumed in my home.” She hopes to realize a marked difference in five years.


BONDO, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Losing a husband to death among communities that still cling on cultural practices such as Luo community in Western Kenya can be a nasty experience and one of the worst feminine sorrows.
The mourning process is a painful and a disturbing ritual that sometimes lands the widows into a secondhand sexual partner sometimes without consent, and without any element of love. But even worse, the husband’s property including land can sometimes be taken away by relatives, leaving the widow and her children in a destitute situation.

That is exactly what happened to Rosalia Adhiambo from Pala village in Siaya County, when her husband died in 2004. But today, thanks to the Alternative Dispute Resolution method of settling domestic woes, Adhiambo is in full control of her husband’s estate of more than 50 acres of land, and she has constructed a house where she lives with her children.

“It was the worst experience of my life,” said Adhiambo. “After losing both parents in law, the only brother to my husband, and now my husband, I knew it was the end of the road for me and my children,”

Immediately her husband was laid to rest in Pala village, she was approached by a close relative to her husband seeking to inherit her, as required by the Luo traditions. But given the rituals performed as part of the inheritance process, which includes having unprotected sex with unknown mentally retarded person as a way of casting away demons of death, she turned down the offer.

“That was the beginning of my tribulations,” she said. “I was banished from my matrimonial home later in 2007 by my husband’s cousin who was eying my husband’s property,” she narrated.

She went back to her parents with her three kids, and three more kids belonging to her late brother-in-law, who were left behind after his youthful wife found another husband elsewhere.

“This was a very heavy burden to my parents, but they were ready to help me shoulder it,” she said. But in 2009, Adhiambo returned to her matrimonial home, where she settled in a small house her husband had constructed for a shop.

But all was not well. She could not freely cultivate the land her husband left behind, since it had been taken over by the cousin. The hell broke loose in 2014, ten years after the burial of her husband, when the cousin gave her a 24 hour ultimatum to leave for good.

“He did not even care about the children. He had muzzled support of other relatives and before I know it, all belongings were thrown out of the house.

Thank God, as she shared her tribulations with friends, she came to learn about what ActionAid International Kenya was doing in the area to protect rights of widows and destitute children through community based organisations.

“I begged my husband’s cousin to give me a few more hours to look for a rental house at the nearby market centre,” she said. But in reality, she went to the ActionAid supported para-legal group’s office known as ‘Support Community and Democracy Alliance (SCODA).

“While I was at SCODA, he kept calling, but I assured him that I had found a house, and that I was waiting for the owner to come over so that we can agree on the price,” she said.

That made the husband’s cousin more patient.

At that moment, SCODA mobilised a number of relatives and village elders who were remorseful to her, and summoned them to come over immediately. The area chief was also invited, and to their surprise, those who wanted to evict her were cornered by unexpected set of guests.

Given the big number of remorseful relatives and elders, the cousin had no choice but to listen to them. It was in that meeting when it was resolved that the land belonged to Adhiambo, her children, and her brother-in-law’s children. That marked the turning point.

According to Rogers Ochieng, the Programs Coordinator for SCODA, voices of Luo elders are highly respected in the community. “When they speak, people listen. And now we are using them to resolve such land related cases,” he said.

Today, the widow has constructed a house, and recently, she was able to sell one acre of the land to pay school fees for her son who has joined the university.

“This is a success story. I never knew that I would be allowed to posses all the 50 acres, build a house, and even be allowed to sell part of it for school fees,” she said with a grin on her face.

She has so far joined the para-legal team, and now she helps them trace such cases from the community.

“Since 2002, we have solved hundreds of cases of different nature using the Alternative Conflict Resolution method, thanks to ActionAid who took us through training,” said Ochieng.

Ethiopia’s agricultural transformation is the most promising in Africa despite recent land related conflicts, experts have said.

Grow Africa, an investment company working in 12 African countries including Ethiopia, said the country’s policy is the most successful in Africa in terms of converting agriculture from just production to an agri-business model.

According to Grow Africa’s executive director, William Asiko, the creation of the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) has placed Ethiopia ahead of other African countries in terms of providing extension services to farmers.

“Despite the land conflict, I know the Ethiopian government is way ahead of other African countries in terms of supporting private investment in agricultural production and processing,” said Asiko.

According to Asiko, the government’s creation of a commodities exchange has enabled farmers to sell their produce in bulk during an auction. This has attracted buyers because the prices are determined by the market, he said.

“Policy makers insist that Agriculture is critical in Africa but this is not translating into greater investment into agriculture,” said Asiko. “This is because there is inconsistency in what policy makers say and what is actually happening on the ground. This lack of political will need to be solved.”

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CMMYT) said land conflict in Ethiopia is not likely to affect farmers much because there has been serious investment in the country’s agriculture.     

For instance, maize production has increased from just 1.5 tonnes per hectare 10 years ago to 3.4 tonnes per hectare presently, argued Tsedeke Abate, Leader, Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) at CMMYT.   

“Ethiopia has the largest number of extension workers in Africa,” said Abate. “The government gives farmers inputs like fertilizers and seeds which have increased production.”

Abate said land conflict is not only happening in Ethiopia, but it is an issue that is affecting the whole African continent. This can be resolved through good policies, he said.

World Bank officials said farmers must be able to access land equitably if Africa is to achieve its agricultural transformation.

Ademola Braimoh, the coordinator, climate smart agriculture, Africa Region, at the World Bank, said in cases where foreign investors are involved governments should make policy and tenure reforms to ensure small holder farmers can still access land.

“Africa’s land tenure system should guarantee equal access to land for both locals and foreign investors,” said Braimoh.

Khalid Bomba, chief executive officer, ATA, Ethiopia, said the country can solve land related conflicts by increasing small scale farmers’ incomes.

According to him, ATA’s approach is not shifting away from small scale farming but making it more commercial and market oriented.

“We think this can reduce the type of conflict that sometimes emerges in Ethiopia because the focus is not only in agricultural production but also in processing, value addition, transportation and logistics involving entire communities,” said Bomba.



ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (PAMACC News) - Mainstreaming climate information and climate information services into legislation and development policies in different African countries is the main driver for the much needed actions in the fight against climate change, experts have said.

It is against this backdrop that parliamentarians from African countries joined a training workshop that came immediately after the sixth conference on climate change and development in Africa (CCDA-VI) in Addis Ababa-Ethiopia.

 “This training is geared at setting the scene for lawmakers to factor climate information issues in budgetary allocation in their countries,” said Thierry Amoussougo of Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) who presided over the workshop opening on behalf of the secretary general, Carlos Lopez.

The workshop accordingly focused on building capacities of decision makers in the use of climate information and services for long term planning and decision making in African countries.

“We are looking at strategies and approaches that can be implemented by lawmakers and governments to ensure climate change policies are mainstreamed into development planning and actions in different African countries,” said Stephen Mutimba, managing director of Camco Clean Energy-Kenya and lead trainer at the workshop.

Participants were drilled on the concepts of climate information and services, types of climate information and uses, use of climate information in agriculture, infrastructure, disaster risk reduction, urban and special development and sectoral planning.

The workshop also focused on the role of climate information in domesticating international agreements such as the Paris Climate talks, legislation for improving climate information and services, including budgeting and institutional development and also how to mainstream such information and services into laws, plans and policies for better long term decision making.
The workshop organizers, the African Climate Policy Center of the ECA, pointed out that the training is in recognition of the disproportionate effects of climate change impacts, such as droughts, floods and other extreme weather events on women and youths.

“These vulnerable groups access climate information services differently from the rest of society, thus climate information services, with pro-active targeting where possible, need to be integrated throughout climate interventions for the benefit of women, girls and the youth, “ says James Murombedzi, Officer-in-Charge, ACPC-ECA.

Presenting the training guide on climate change titled “Climate change solutions”, the managing director of Camco-Clean Energy in Kenya said, it was a rich working tool replete with useful information on the intricacies of climate change, especially in the area of availing climate information.

“Climate information refers to climate data that is obtained from observations of climate (temperature ,precipitation from weather centers)and also data from climate model output. It entails the transformation of climate related data together with other related information and data into customized products such as projections, forecast, information, trends, economic analyses, counseling on best practices, development and evaluation of solutions and other services in relation to climate that are useful to society,” the guide explained.

The question of adapted infrastructure in many African countries to tackle climate challenges was also raised by law makers. According to some parliamentarians, human skills and other requirements were necessary for the production and delivery of climate information and services.
“There is need to not only build the capacities of the required human resources but also to invest in adapted climate information infrastructure and the create the enabling environment for the different institutions involved in climate information delivery,” said Chalikosa Mambalaskylvia,MP from Zambia.

Generally participants at the workshop agreed that appropriate and reliable climate information services in Africa are hampered by lack of capacity building, insufficient finance, limited technical capacity to manage weather information system, systematic processes for packaging, translating and disseminating climate information and warnings as well as the lack of integration with disaster management systems.

The three day workshop also saw the participation of civil society organizations, the media represented by the Pan African Media Alliance for Climate Change, PAMACC, who all identified strategies and solutions to the challenges the youths and women face in accessing climate information services.

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