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    By George Munene

    Kenyan insurance surveyor Acre Africa, has developed a pioneering micro-insurance product tailored to help guard smallholder farmers against climate change. Dubbed Bima Pima (‘insurance in affordable bits’) farmers buy a scratchcard that is activated with as little as Sh 50.

    Only three per cent of small-scale Sub-Saharan African farmers are insured. This is even lower in Kenya at 2.4%, with farmers citing the high cost of insurance premiums as the main reason for this. Smallscale farmers account for 78 per cent of the country's agricultural output.

    “At the start of the agricultural season, a farmer buys a Bima Pima scratch card with a bag of seeds or fertilizer, activates the card through his phone, pays an initial premium of Sh 50 ($.50 cents), and can top-up via SMS to increase the level of insurance coverage. ACRE Africa then geo-tags the farm using the mobile localization service,” said Acre Africa’s Ms. Muthithi Kinyanjui, Head of Partnerships and Market Systems to the World Bank journal. 

    The company serves over 70,000 farmers across 15 counties in Kenya.

    Related News: Kenyan insurer buoys smallscale farmers with low-cost insurance

    Acre Africa (Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise Ltd), is an insurance agent in Rwanda and Tanzania and a licensed insurance intermediary in Kenya; working with local insurers and other stakeholders in the agricultural insurance value chain.

    The company, which is a beneficiary of the World Bank's One Million Farmers Platform (OMFP), uses satellite and weather station data to measure for drought or excess rain on a farmer’s land which informs their payouts to farmers. This money is paid directly to their mobile account.

    A premium of Sh50, has a potential payout of up to 10%, the equivalent to Sh500 which could help a farmer purchase a seedling bag.

    Related News: Cooperative insurer launches new project to cover over 250,000 Kenyan farmers with livestock microinsurance

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    “A few days before harvesting, I received an MPESA message from Acre Africa which was a pleasant surprise. I had forgotten that I had purchased a Sh 50 insurance card during a session where they explained that I would be compensated in case of insufficient rainfall,” said Mary Mate, a farmer from Embu County. “Now that I see it works, I will continue to purchase this cover.”

    According to World Bank Senior Agriculture Economist Vinay Vutukuru, the success of BIMA PIMA is a forward-thinking approach that If scaled up and emulated, can potentially propel crop insurance to greater heights and support the sector’s transformation and resilience.

    Acre Africa: +254 719 249 615  

                        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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    bbb31ba545f312355bf7aa379743585c pot plants drainage

    By George Munene

    Vetiver grass is classed as the most cost-efficient living barrier in controlling soil erosion with semi-arid farmers reporting 40-50 per cent yield increases when using vetiver hedges on their farms. 

    Vetiver, which translates to ‘root that is dug deep’, penetrates to depths in excess of three meters in some soil types. These roots literally ‘nail the soil to the ground’. 

    It is a non-invasive (doesn't wander from where it's planted) perennial grass used in soil conservation and slope stabilisation.

    “In protected fields, the implementation of The Vetiver System assists farmers by holding nutrients and moisture in their fields which both improve yields and extend the growing season. 

    In areas where flooding is a challenge vetiver grass spreads excess water across crop areas, equalizing the hydrological pressure, thus preventing or protecting the crop areas from being washed away,” explained Patrick Mukora, a board member of Plus-Kenya.

    Plus-Kenya (Platform for Land Use Sustainability) is a registered NGO, that promotes the use of The Vetiver System to rehabilitate and rehydrate Kenya’s landscapes.

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    Vetiver grass is better in preventing erosion than constructed earth or soil banks in that it is easier to construct and maintain; does not break even under heavy rain; hedges serve to redistribute water in the farm rather than divert it as is the case with artificial banks; while earth banks must follow contours with sharp bends obstructing ploughing, vetiver hedges follow a smooth course. 

    Vetiver also benefits crops with improved fertility, water infiltration, and good quality mulch. 

    Often planted as hedges, vetiver can also be used to help the soil retain moisture and fertility; protect crops against flood damage; function as wind and fire breakers; provide fodder when cut fresh every 4-6 weeks (dry vetiver hay is indigestible); remediation of contaminated water and land; make urine soaking beds for livestock, reduce pests (pull Chilo stem borers from maize as well as being a harbour for predator insects and form a sharp leaf barrier that snakes and rodents can't get through).

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    6-month old vetiver in Mandera

    “For farmers in areas affected by droughts or floods, vetiver grass is an ideal pioneer plant, providing a stable foundation for other plants to establish,” Patrick pointed out.

    Soil erosion is controlled by the grasses' stiff stems which reduce water speed curbing soil loss and water runoff. Soil deposited behind the hedge builds a natural terrace 

    Its strong deeply penetrative root system grows downward meaning it does not compete with neighbouring crops for food. This root system which grows to 3-4 meters makes it drought resistant.

    Established hedges are resistant to overgrazing and fires. 

    It is adaptable to a range of local conditions, problematic soils, hard soil layers, and erratic rains. The grass can grow in highly acidic (pH4) and alkaline (pH8) soils. It is also largely resistant to pests, heavy metals, and toxins.  

    The grass has been promoted by Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) as a hedgerow to curb erosion. Its propagation has also been promoted by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) within Nyanza.

    Originally from India, Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides), has been used in soil conservation especially in tea plantations and in essential oil production in Kenya since the early 1930s/40s. 

    Its roots do not invade adjacent areas as with grasses such as Kikuyu, Couch, and Bermuda. It often doesn’t flower and its seeds are sterile making it easy to domesticate.  

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    Vetiver hedges should be established leaving no gaps (max distance 12-15cm) to be most effective. They are planted across slopes, along gullies or rills, and protect against soil erosion for life.

    It is crucial that farmers plant the recommended Sunshine Vetiver strain as it is totally non-invasive. It is propagated vegetatively by the division of tillers or roots.

    A list of authenticated vetiver growers across the country can be accessed here, 

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    By George Munene

    The Crops (miraa) Regulations Act, 2021 will demand that farmers looking to operate a commercial miraa (khat) nursery obtain an annual license from their county government.

    The license will be issued within five working days if the farmer has complied with Regulations and Miraa (Khat) industry- Code of Practice.

    These include supplying quality planting material and keeping accurate records of distributed planting materials.

    The nursery operator will also be required to submit annual commercial nursery returns to their county government.

    Smallholder farmers are encouraged to register with a growers’ association to access economies of scale. The association should be registered under the Agriculture and Food Authority.

    Related News: Halt in miraa exports grounds Sh16M daily trade

    A miraa dealer entering into a contract with a miraa grower or grower association will need to register the contract with the County Government and submit a copy to the Authority. They’ll need to indicate the price payable to the grower and pay them for the Miraa delivered within seven days.

    Miraa exporters will be registered in 30 days upon payment of Sh20,000 for an exporter's license and Sh2,000 for an exporter's permit. Importers will pay Sh30,000 and Sh5,000. An annual renewal fee of Sh10,000 will be charged for export and Sh15,000 for import.

    Commercial miraa transporters and aggregators (a person who buys, collects, or sells miraa and miraa products to retailers and or exporters) will also be required to register with the Authority.

    Anyone contravening this will be liable to three years imprisonment, a five million shillings fine, or both.

    The packaged weight of miraa will not be allowed to exceed fifty kilograms.

    Miraa vendors will also be required to register with their county government and sell miraa at designated points.

    Related News: Kenya looks to Djibouti for miraa market as Somalia's ban bites

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    The Agriculture and Food Authority in consultation with the County Executive Committee Member will initiate and coordinate training programmes for service providers, growers and dealers to enable them implement these regulations. 

    The body will also hire inspectors and the county governments shall nominate county inspectors to carry out inspections of miraa produce and products to ensure they conform to these regulations, national, regional, and international standards.

    The Crops (miraa) Regulations Act, 2021 also provides for the formation of a miraa pricing formula committee that will be appointed by the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary. 

    For the full report: THE CROPS (MIRAA) REGULATIONS, 2021

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