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    Kenya has secured a KSh6.3 billion from the African Development Bank (AFDB), for use in the irrigation of at least 7,400 acres of arable land in six years.
    Of the amount, KSh4billion was given as a loan that will be repaid in 25 years at 2 per cent interest per annum, while KSh2.3billion was awarded as a grant that will complement the credit facility in boosting food security for about 30,000 households.
    Bringing more land under cultivation out of the 70 per cent arid and semi arid land would be an upfront strategy to mitigate hunger, with New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) statistics showing that in Africa 12 people die of famine in one minute.
    Potential 
    The Alliance of Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) estimates that Kenya can triple current rain-fed production if 50 per cent of arid and semi arid land is put under irrigation.
    This will see the country produce surplus food and seal importation holes, while strengthening its export capacity.
    Speaking during the signing of the loan agreement, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said small scale irrigation and value addition projects would benefit 11 semi arid counties.
    "At least 300km access roads, water conservation facilities and farmers education are among the strategies that would help the country realise the irrigation dream," the minister said.
    The AFDB Regional Director for the East Africa Resource Centre, Gabriel Negatu, said the project, which targets smallholder farmers who produce about 70 per cent of food, will reverse the sad food and nutrition situation in the country.
    The Famine Early Warning Systems Network and Drought Management Authority estimate that 65 per cent of the country receives annual rainfall of between 200-600mm, which is insufficient for major crops such as maize and beans.
    Increased yield
    On average, maize, which is Kenya’s staple food, requires 600-800mm per year hence rendering much of the country’s land unsuitable for the crop. Last year, Kenya produced 30 million bags of maize against its consumption of 45million bags, forcing the State to import the deficit.
    Counties that will benefit from this project include Kitui, Makueni, Nyandarua, Tharaka Nithi, Kajiado, Machakos, Tana River, Murang'a, Nyeri, Bomet and Meru.

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    The Nyandarua County government will officially launch the planned cheap artificial insemination (AI) service programme by the end of February this year despite opposition from a section of veterinary practitioners.

    County Executive for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Agatha Thuo, said improving the quality of cattle is for the benefit of farmers and nothing will block them from rolling out the programme slated for February 26.

    Opposition 

    Kenya Veterinary Para-professionals Association Chairman, John Ngigi, had earlier accused the county of planning to institute the programme in disregard of laws governing AIand professionalism.

    The paraprofessionals claimed that only Kenya Animal Genetic Resource Centre (KAGRIC) is allowed by law to distribute semen.

    Ahead of the roll-out, two veterinary practitioners from 25 wards were recruited, interviewed and approved for the exercise, Thuo said.

    “The county recruited 50 competent practitioners to efficiently handle the exercise. They are all certified by the Kenya Veterinary Board. They produced their certificates, which we verified. We want quality; we cannot afford to recruit people who will not give us the desired results,” she said.

    Two weeks ago, she said, the county signed a memorandum of understanding with KAGRIC. The memorandum allowed them to distribute liquid nitrogen and semen to the veterinary officers.

    READ ALSO:The county is giving motorbikes to the professionals on loan to help them reach the farmers

    “Farmers will be getting the services at their dooor-step at half the current cost of AI. Most of the certified professionals offer the service at a cost of between Sh1,200 and Sh1,500. But under this programme, they will part with Sh700 only,” Thuo said.

    The officer assured farmers that upgrading indigenous cattle and sustaining the current high-yielding dairy breed would improve earnings and transform the economy of the region.

    Besides the semen being certified by the various government agencies, Thuo said, rogue practitioners who have been extorting money from the unsuspecting farmers will be rooted out.

    “It is one way of regulating the administration of this service. Many quacks have infiltrated the field and farmers may not be knowing. Registration and certification would help us drive out those purporting to be professionals,” she told Farmbiz on telephone.

    Liquid nitrogen preserves semen under the required conditions to maintain its viability after harvesting from the bull breed.

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    The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)has unveiled a high yielding, fast maturing, easy to maintain and disease resistant indigenous chicken variety that has the ability to lay 220-280 eggs in a year, double the yield capacity of ordinary indigenous chicken. 
    High yielding and less production costs
    Dubbed the ‘improved KALRO indigenous chicken’, the breed start laying eggs only five months after being hatched and produces an average meat weight of 1.5kg. A cock, at five months, weighs 2kg, almost the weight of a three-year old local cockerel, which weighs between 2.5-2.8kg.
    This new free range breed in the market requires no special care and can be feed just like other indigenous chicken, hence low cost of production. The chicken has the capacity to withstand any climatic condition and is resistant to common chicken diseases like new castle.
    According to Dr. David Miano of KALRO’s Non-Ruminant Research Center, this superior breed has a quiet temperament, excellent feathering and is able to adapt fast to the conditions under which it is kept compared to other breeds. ‘’ unlike other indigenous chicken which produces 100-180 eggs in a year, improved KALRO indigenous chicken lay up to 280 high value eggs,’’ said Dr. Miano.
    The production ability of this chicken breed gently slow down as it ages with an estimated egg fall of 10-15 per year after 5 years compared to a sharp decrease in other breeds.
    READ ALSO: Enterprising youth hatches fortunes with chicken sourcing business
    This breed enters the Kenya market at the time the country is witnessing high market prices for indigenous chicken product. Currently, an egg from indigenous chicken retails for Sh25-30 compared to those from hybrid layers which retails for Sh12-15. The statistics from the National Farmers Information System further shows that a 3kg indigenous chicken retails for Sh600-800 with the price likely to be higher in major cities like Nairobi and Mombasa.
    KALRO’s Non-Ruminant Research Centres in Kakamega and Naivasha are selling day old chicks at Sh100 while a tray of 30 fertile eggs go for Sh1000. Breeding cocks are sold at sh1200. Interested farmers are asked to place their orders on the agency’s social media sites or by calling Naivasha or Kakamega office and pay 25 per cent upfront fee to show commitment via M-Pesa pay bill number 597638.

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