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    Land in Kenya

    By George Munene

    The Kenyan government will lease out idle land owned by Kenyan parastatals to private farmers in an effort to arrest rising food insecurity in the country.

    The move greenlit by Kenya's cabinet on Thursday seeks to reclaim public land and contract it out to private farmers for intensive agriculture.

    “Cabinet approved the policy on large-scale commercialisation of public land held for agricultural production. The policy seeks to provide a framework for utilising idle land owned by public institutions for large-scale commercial agricultural production,” said a press statement from Thursday's Cabinet meeting.

    Kenya is facing spiking food prices and food shortages caused by a third consecutive below-average rainy season; the Russia-Ukraine war-- two countries that make up a bulk of the country's grain and fertiliser imports -- and skyrocketing global fertiliser prices. 

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    Agriculture and agricultural-based products have risen on average by 20 per cent from this time last year, increasing the cost of living especially for the country’s poor -- 19 million Kenyans for whom 36 per cent of their income goes into buying food. 

    In February 2022, the Kenya Food Security Steering Group reported there were 3.1 million food-insecure people in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas of the country, a 48 per cent increase from August 2021.

    Some of the biggest landowners of unused parastatal land in Kenya include the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Kenya Railways, University of Nairobi, and Kenya Prisons.

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    firstwave aquaculture

    By George Munene

    “When we first started the company in 2015, our minds were fixed on fish production, however, getting adequate fingerlings became an issue, meaning we had to figure out how to spawn our own. Getting quality feeds was the next major hurdle we faced, this necessitated another pivot to include feed production. Lastly, we realised our consumers weren't getting the cost benefits we offered retailers to remedy this we adopted a direct-to-customer marketing channel,” explained FirstWave Group Co-founder Tembwe Mutungu.

    Originally based in Zambia’s Lake Kariba, the company has capitalised on the opportunities across the fish production value chain and is now one of Africa’s leading aquaculture firms, supplying 35 million tilapia per year.

    It has expanded its production operations to Lake Victoria, Uganda, running vertically-integrated companies that cover fish production, distribution, and retail of fish and aquafeed in Southern and Eastern Africa.

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    With Kenya’s annual fish deficit estimated at 400,000 metric tonnes and Chinese fish imports totaling Sh2.2 billion in 2019, FirstWave’s success could provide a blueprint for entrepreneuring Kenyan farmers. 

    For Tembwe this represents a supply deficit that will continue to grow as wild catch (fish from rivers and lakes) alone cannot keep pace with Africa’s fish demand. This presents the continent’s aquaculturists with a great opportunity

    “We are looking to follow the chicken production curve, i.e have our fish stock convert feed to product in the fastest time possible. Despite this, we are only working to develop and improve local fish strains and not import fish genetics which might interfere with the indigenous ecosystem,” said Tembwe.

    Related News: High feed costs leave Kenya reliant on fish imports

    Across agricultural production sub-sectors, he highlights that fish provides the most sustainable and competitive protein sources, with a kilogram of fish feed producing more protein than you'll get from any other livestock. Half as better as chicken, three times better than pigs, and eight to ten times better than cattle. 

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    A study by the In­ter­na­tional Live­stock Re­search In­sti­tute ILRI is ad­voc­at­ing for zero graz­ing sys­tem to con­tain tick borne dis­eases as it emerged that free range sys­tems ex­poses live­stock to ticks-in­creas­ing the chances of con­tract­ing dis­eases.

     “An­im­als sub­jec­ted to zero-graz­ing sys­tems had 80 per cent lower chance of con­tract­ing ECF than in farms where there is no tick con­trol,” noted the study. Re­search­ers put 548 zebu cattle under sur­veil­lance and as­sessed their in­fec­tion and clin­ical status every five weeks.
    The dis­ease is caused by pro­to­zoa known as The­leria parva, East Coast Fever is trans­mit­ted by the brown ear tick, Rhipi­ceph­alus ap­pen­dic­u­latus. Ac­cord­ing to ILRI, one cow every 30 seconds with the lives of more than 25mn cattle at risk in the 11 coun­tries of sub-Saha­ran Africa where the dis­ease is now en­demic.
    Last year re­search­ers from ILRI and the Kenya Ag­ri­cul­tural Re­search in­sti­tute (KARI) launched a vac­cine to con­trol East Coast fever. Kenya’s Dir­ect­or­ate of Veter­in­ary Ser­vices con­duc­ted the tri­als of the ITM vac­cines giv­ing it a clean re­cord on safety and ef­fect­ive­ness.
    “East Coast fever con­tin­ues to cause major eco­nomic and so­cial losses to fam­il­ies in east­ern, cent­ral and south­ern Africa. Of the 46mn cattle in this re­gion al­most half are at risk from this dis­ease,” ob­served Phil Toye and Henry Kiara, two ILRI sci­ent­ists that have been in­volved in the vac­cine re­search that has spanned more than four dec­ades.
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