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    bee hivesA farmer in the arid Matungulu area of Eastern Kenya is shielding himself from dry spells by embracing climate resilient farming like beekeeping and has become a model to others as thousands of customers flock to his farm for quality honey. Gabriel Mbatha Nzomo locally known as Alex is a dedicated dry-land farmer. From his five acre piece of land in Kyakatulu village, the farmer has been able to pay school fees for his children to the university level.

    Apart from keeping bees, which is one of his prime 'farming business, the farmer keeps hundreds of indigenous chicken, goats, and whenever it rains, he rows drought resistant legumes, oranges, mangoes among other crops.

    At ten O'clock in the morning on this particular day, two motorists drive right into the compound in search of honey. “Whenever am not around, my wife is always indoors waiting for clients like the ones who have just arrived. The fastest moving product is honey. But at times I receive buyers of indigenous chicken," said the farmer.

    Alex has 22 Langstroth Beehives on his farm, some of them confined in a grass thatched apiary, while others are hanging on trees and shrubs on the farm. Langstroth Beehives are considered to be the most convenient especially if one has to practice beekeeping as a business. They have rectangular frames made of wire-mesh. The main advantage is that the bees build honeycomb into the wire-meshed frames, making it easy for the farmer to move the combs without trouble.

    “Unlike other beehives, it is easy to pull out one frame after the other from the Langstroth beehive to check whether there is honey without breaking the combs," said the farmer. This means that the farmer has the opportunity to harvest only the honeycombs that are full with honey.

    Following the frame design in a Langstroth beehive, bees do not attach wax honeycomb between the frames or to the walls of the hive. Hence, the farmer does not temper with the wax, one of the most essential components needed for bees to make honey.

    Under normal circumstances, bees consume seven kilograms of nectar in order to make a kilo of wax. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the farmer primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein nutrients. Alex harvests between 15 to 18 kilograms of honey from each beehive twice a year.

    “I have a special machine for extracting honey without getting impurities into the final product, and without damaging the honey-combs, and this is what customers need pure honey," he said. Alex began honey farming in the year 2000 with three Top-bar beehives. But three years later, he was linked to a Belgian Non-Governmental Organization, from which he was fully trained on bee keeping as a business, prompting him to buy the Langstroth beehives.

    To supplement the beekeeping business, Alex engages in indigenous poultry farming. This is a business that most villagers here have tried but failed due to various reasons. “The biggest impediment has always been diseases, particularly the Newcastle disease," he said.

    “Through a program known as Kenya Arid and Semi Arid Land KASAL project, I have been taught how to vaccinate the chicken against the Newcastle disease," said the farmer.  According to Dr Ann Wachira, a poultry expert at KARI, and a KASAL Principal Investigator for the Indigenous chicken pro-gram, the Newcastle disease has no cure. The only way to combat the disease is to stop the chicken form getting it and the best way is through vaccinating the birds, she said.

    As a result, the KASAL group trained 64 trainers of trainees in Eastern Kenya who as well act as community based extension officer to ensure that al chicken are vaccinated at a cost of five shillings per dose administered. Alex is one of the lucky trainers or trainees.

    “It is like another job. I receive orders on daily basis, but I venture out in field to vaccinate chicken in villages twice every week”, said the farmer. Now that the biggest problem for poultry farming in his are ahs been controlled, Alex has been able to improve the stock of birds on his farm. I just sold 120 birds a few days ago. At the moment, am remaining with 197 birds he said.

    However, the farmer as well involves himself in crop farming especially during rainy seasons. “Rains are elusive in this area. As a result, we can only plant whenever it rains sometimes once after three years, he said

    Alex has become a role model to many people in his village and beyond, who visit his farm to learn about techniques one can use to remain productive despite the scorching drought.

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    Kenya has launched a first of its kind climate change lab that will measure greenhouse gas emissions using various sources including livestock and manure, at a time when over reliance on foreign data has failed to paint the actual extent of the emissions.

    The lab dubbed Mazingira Center, and the first of its kind in Africa, has already hit the ground running with preliminary tests revealing that actual emissions from manure could be relatively low, by a factor of four, than the default emission factors currently being used for Kenya.  Such sources of measurement, and including smallholder farms and land uses such as forests, tea and timber plantations are pointing a clear and precise picture on the extent of the greenhouse emissions and therefore informing both mitigation and adaptation measures. The data, experts further explain, could also be of use to neighbouring countries since Kenya that share geophysical and socioeconomic features in calculating their greenhouse gas inventories.

    Traditionally, Kenya has had to rely on the generic default emission factors provided by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to prepare its biennial reports on emissions and removals of greenhouse gases in the country for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
    Part of the problem is the country’s lack of modern equipment to measure actual greenhouse gas emissions from different land uses and in different scenarios, and so had to rely heavily on mostly foreign—and generally costly—consultants to perform these calculations for its greenhouse gas inventory, a key element in national communications with the UNFCCC.

    Charles Mutai, the Deputy Director of Kenya Climate Change Secretariat who is also tasked with Kenya’s greenhouse gas inventory to the UNFCCC is a happy man.
    “Calculation of the emission factors and greenhouse gases from livestock is a very, very good initiative down here in Kenya,” he said. “It’s a first in Africa and I am happy that it came at the right time, just when we are preparing our national reporting application to UNFCCC, which will inform the 2015 climate agreement.”

    The lab is also poised to provide rich training ground for Kenyan and African young scientists and technicians. Already there are 20 students and technicians from Kenya and eight other countries working in the lab and on the projects using its facilities to produce data and analyze samples. Scientists in the lab now hopes it will also grow to become a central hub for environmental excellence in Africa with a network of smaller satellite climate change laboratories across the continent, the first of which is already up and running in Cameroon.

    The revolutionary hub comes at a time when Kenya is experiencing the effects of climate change at their worst. Failed rains have been blamed for poor yields which have ultimately affected food security.  With countries in Africa touted to experience the highest jump in temperatures in the next 30 years which is attributed to climate change, the lab has readied itself to provide timely data that will inspire timely interventions.

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