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Kenyan farmers mark global milk day amid calls for adoption of climate-smart animals

Climate change effects have led to erratic pasture production and increased disease and pest incidences.

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A farmer milking his cow. Photo/Courtesy

NAIROBI, June 1 (Xinhua) — Kenyan dairy farmers on Monday joined their counterparts from across the globe to mark the World Milk Day as experts rooted for the adoption of more hardy animals to enhance production amid challenges of climate change.

The day was founded some 20 years ago by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to distinguish the importance of milk as a food and to celebrate the dairy sector.

This year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, FAO discouraged the holding of in-person events, calling for social media celebrations.

After milking their animals on Monday, some of the dairy farmers in the east African nation toasted their produce in celebration of resilience and hope for more production amid rising challenges.

East African nation milk producers are currently facing a myriad of challenges among them shrinking land sizes, erratic weather conditions due to climate change and restrictions to curb the spread of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that have shrunk the market.

Climate change effects have led to erratic pasture production and increased disease and pest incidences.

But still, the farmers have been resilient, producing up to 60 million liters of milk a month or 720 million liters annually, according to the Kenya Dairy Board.

Rachel Kinyua, a farmer from Meru County in central Kenya, is among those earning a living from milk that her six cows, out of the 15 she keeps, produce.

She gets 160 litres of milk every day and delivers to the Meru Union Dairy Cooperative Society, which buys at 35 shillings (about 0.35 U.S. dollars) per liter.

“I am happy with the yield but I want to increase the number of milkers to 10, though challenges like severe drought affect production,” Kinyua, who keeps Friesian animals, which are very high feeders, said.

But as dairy production goes on, experts are calling for the adoption of climate-smart animals that are not only hardy but also offer more on fewer feeds.

These include dairy goats, crossbreed cows, camels and sheep. For the goats, crossbreeds of Alpines and Toggenburgs — European breeds — have emerged as the most popular among Kenyan farmers seeking to produce more milk.

Similarly, crossbreeds of Sahiwals, Fleckvieh and local breed Zebu cattle have also been embraced by dairy farmers in the East African nation.

For sheep, farmers are embracing crossbreeds of traditional Red Maasai, Boer and Dorper, the last two which are resilient and imported from South Africa.

Camels, on the other hand, are being adopted by farmers in arid and semi-arid areas due to their hardy nature.

Initially, the animals were mainly kept in northern Kenya but more farmers in the south, Coast and eastern parts of the country are embracing camels as their milk products like yoghurt, fresh milk and meat become mainstreamed in the East African nation’s market.

There are at least three million camels in Kenya, mostly kept by pastoralists in the north, with the number growing steadily over recent years.

George Gitao, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Nairobi, noted camels are more important now than ever because they are tough, survive in drought and pollute less.

“Camels produce one of the most nutritious milk and the world’s best wools, good leather and extremely healthy meat,” he said.

Bernard Faye, a veterinarian and chair of the International Society of Camelid Research and Development, observed that the global camel market is projected to grow at more than 10 per cent for the next decade, thus, farmers must produce more of its milk and meat in the future to reap from the animals.

Besides the resilient livestock, experts are advising for the adoption of hardy but nutritious fodder that helps in the production of more milk from the animals.

These fodder include panicum, cobra and cayman grasses that are not only nutritious to animals but also regrow faster after cutting, thus, allowing farmers to have plenty of fodder even with little rains, according to Fredrick Muthomi, an agronomist.

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Science and Agriculture

County, Hello Tractors partner to boost farming in Nakuru

The company also helps smallscale farmers connect with the tractor owners through a digital platform.

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The Hello Tractor App

The County Government of Nakuru in partnership with Hello Tractor has launched a mobile farmer school.

The farmer school will be used as a training facility to help farmers understand the benefits of mechanization in food production.

The Hello Tractor is an agricultural technology company that also uses a mobile platform to help tractor owners manage their equipment.

The technology allows farmers to hail the machines through an app that also monitors the vehicles’ movements and transmits usage information such as fuel levels.

The Hello Tractors technology is currently being tested on around 400 tractors in both Kenya and Ghana.

The company also helps smallscale farmers connect with the tractor owners through a digital platform.

Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Dr Immaculate Maina said the technology would increase efficiency.

“The technology will also save time and improved the quality of produce,” she said during the launch at KARLO Njoro.

The Ministre added that smallholder farmers will be offered access to mechanized farming at a convenient and affordable cost.

She encouraged tractor owners to download the app and register to support farm mechanization services.

Hello Tractor CEO and Founder Mr Jehiel Oliver said the partnership will also ensure farmers get affordable and timely tractor services.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 60 per cent of crops are ploughed by hand, which in turn impacts the productivity of their farms and the eventual crop yield.

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Nakuru

Sh20 million Banita livestock market to be opened next month

The 2020 auction was cancelled due to COVID-19 Pandemic threat but was reopened on Saturday ahead of the commissioning.

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Governor Lee Kinyanjui laying the foundation stone on February 27, 2019. Photo/CGN

The Sh20 million modern livestock market at Banita in Soin, Rongai sub-County is ready for an official opening in the coming days.

Governor Lee Kinyanjui laid the foundation stone on February 27, 2019.

Once complete, the facility will have an office block, pavilion, animal paddocks, washrooms and sheds.

Nakuru County Trade minister Raymond Komen said the market is in the last phase of completion and will boost livestock farming and trade in the region.

The inaugural Banita Easter Goat Auction, conducted in April 2018, fetched farmers Sh6 million in a record 37 minutes.

A mature goat or sheep was retailing at Sh10,000, up from Sh4,000 in other market days and elsewhere.

The 2019 auction was cancelled due to an outbreak of anthrax and foot and mouth diseases in neighbouring counties.

The 2020 auction was cancelled due to COVID-19 Pandemic threat but was reopened on Saturday ahead of the commissioning.

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Science and Agriculture

Nakuru County stocks dams with fingerlings

The fish projects are being managed by local women and youth groups as a way of improving communities’ economic and nutritional status.

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Tilapia fingerlings . Photo/Courtesy

More than 20,000 tilapia fingerlings were introduced in several dams in Njoro sub-county over the weekend in a partnership between the county and national government.

The County Government of Nakuru has embarked on a program to stock all permanent water bodies within the region with zone-specific fingerlings.

Eleven dams in Njoro, Molo, Gilgil, Subukia, Rongai, Kuresoi North and Kuresoi South sub-counties will be restocked with 10,000 fingerlings each.

Mugumo/Naishi dam, Belbur and Gathangi in Lare and Njoro wards are the latest beneficiaries. Mugumo/Naishi and Gathangi dams earlier in the year received 3,000 fingerlings each.

The Tilapia species can weigh up to 800 grams and lays after every 21 days ultimately increasing fish population.

The fish projects are being managed by local women and youth groups as a way of improving communities’ economic and nutritional status.

Njoro sub-County Fisheries Officer Mr Erick Kiprop urged committee members to help protect the breeding areas.

“We encourage continuous monitoring and evaluation of the dams for safety and productivity,” he advised.

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