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    mefApproximately Sh31.5 million in grants will be released to help farmers with ideas but no funding, yet 70 per cent will return to the donors due to low absorption rate, a trend that has become common. But in a bid to get as more farmers as possible to apply for funding, a model dubbed Mkulima Empowerment Foundation has been set up and now boasts of having assisted over 587 farmers across dairy, horticulture and value addition.

    The Foundation’s chairman Mr. Joseph Mungai who quit his job at a hotel in Dubai to assist farmers says he was moved into the business by farmers struggle in access to finance. “I have been brought up in a farming family. I am a farmer myself. I know how hard it is to get access to finances. It is only recently that financial institutions showed any interest in financing farmers. And even now it is still a herculean task, what with collaterals, bank statements and business plans,” said Mungai.

    The foundation which has a huge network of donors and development partners, tracks the grant issuing periods announced by the donors. They then go through the requirements and come up with a standard proposal which suits the specification and then send the proposals to any members who might be interested who then customize it to their businesses. “We look for farmers who have brilliant ideas but have no source of funding.  They say my people perish because of lack of information. We have seen so much of the donor money returned to the donors because no one farmer knows about it. It is really sad,” Mungai added.

    To qualify to be connected to the funders, a farmer or farmer group must join Mkulima Empowerment Foundation at a cost of Sh50 or Sh100 respectively. The registration is simple. A farmer only needs a phone where they pay the membership from. Farmers are supposed to pay to the till number 997088, pay goods and services option from their Safaricom line. Once the money is received , the farmer’s name is entered into a database and they receive regular updates on funding opportunities. “This is money that has no repayment. It is a grant not   a loan. However the donors are very strict  about the viability of your business and about  a farmer sticking to what they commit to do. They do regular and random checks and should they find you haven’t lived up to what you set out to do, you have to return every single coin. But we are very strict on our members and explain to them about all these requirements,” Mungai said.

    Notable farmer funders that the foundation has worked with include The European Union, World Bank among others.

    Among the most successful projects that have been funded include Inoi Farmers Processing Plant in Kirinyaga which received Sh6.7 million and which is set for official commissioning at the end of July. The cooling plant has removed age old milk woes in Kirinyaga county which saw dairy farming collapse. Exploitation by milk vendors and poor market gave farmers peanuts. With the cooling plants farmers can supply as much milk as they can and earn two times more than they were earning from the vendors.

    The model which targets to move round the country comes at a time when farmer financing especially among women farmers has been identified as one of the major bottlenecks to food production in the country.

    According to the Alliance for Agrarian Revolution in Africa, AGRA, lack of access to credit is farmers’ second biggest headache to crop production after pests, with less than 10 per cent of farmers in Kenya having access to formal credit. Women, AGRA, says fair far worse than men in this aspect.

    Interested farmers can reach Mkulima Farmer Empowerment on



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    Researchers at the international centre of insect physiology and ecology, ICIPE, have discovered 13 previously unknown wasp species in Kenya and Burundi which will bolster the war on pests.

    The researchers, working together their peers from Italy’s University of Tuscia and the Tropical Entomology Research Institute said the discovery will go along way in guiding the war on voracious pests since most of the wasps are parasitic and naturally capable of controlling agricultural pests. By laying their eggs in or on the eggs of other insect species, the eggs mature to larvae which destroy the host insect.  For every insect species that exists, the scientists say, at least one wasp species exists that parasitizes it.

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    “Alongside bees and ants, wasps belong to the third largest order of insects, Hymenoptera, known more commonly as "membrane-winged" insects. Although well over 100,000 species of Hymenoptera are recognized globally, many more are yet to be described, with wasps, and those of Africa particularly, being insufficiently studied,” explains Dr Robert Copeland a scientist from ICIPE.

    The 13 discovered species belong to a moderately sized cosmopolitan family of insects known as Dryinidae, and which are best known for feeding on ‘true bugs’ that attack crops ranging from cereals, to horticultural produce causing considerable damage.  Some of the notable true bugs in Kenya include aphids, leafhoppers, whiteflies.

    “Our studies suggest that many more species of Dryinidae remain to be recorded in Kenya, particularly in the northern and eastern parts of the country where there has been little exploration,” notes Dr. Copeland.

    The findings which were published in the Acta Entomologica Musei Nationalis Pragae also indicate that the total number of wasps in the Dryinidae species and which scientists have relied on for biological pest control in Kenya adds up to 76. Most of the newly discovered ones were collected from culturally important but threatened forests at the coast including Kaya and Mijikenda forests with others being discovered at Ungoye a small forest near Lake Victoria. The researchers named them after the areas they were discovered in, including Dryinus digo sp for the ones discovered in Kaya Kinondo forest and named in honour of the Digo people who live near the forest.

    The discovery comes at a time when research institutions are coming up with potent and modern ways to fight plant pests and diseases which are the biggest threat to crop production in Kenya. While most farmers have traditionally relied on conventional pesticides to counter these pests, the pests have usually developed resistance against the pests. In the wake of the pest control frustration, biological control methods have been the saving grace even as they spare the environment.

    ICIPE has successfully used wasps in controlling some of the most voracious maize, cabbages and mango pests in the country.  A wasp it released to control the notorious Fruit fly, which affects more than four fifths of all Kenya mango harvests, has been more than twice effective in taming the fly. Half an acre only needs 750 wasps. 

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