Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Olkiramatian goup ranch women eager to understand land tenure

By Kelvin Koinet

Over a hundred and fifty women of Olkiramatian location gathered in St. Mary’s ACK church Entasopia on Thursday the 21st March 2013 to discuss land issues mainly impacts of land sub-division.

Though it was a community forum where all group ranch members were invited there were only ten men present among whom eight were community leaders. 
When Nguruman community voices(NCV) inquired why men were few, we were told women in the group ranch have recently been gathering for some communal activities such as demonstration against alcohol and other drugs, therefore message reached them easily. other reason given was, since the Organisation that organised the forum has been conduction women forums, many people thought it was the same.   

 Olkiramatian Group ranch women at the community forum. 
(photo- Kelvin Koinet)

The forum was organized by Centre for Indigenous Women and Children (CIWOCH) under its Land Rights and Natural Resource Management program.  Key objectives of the program as explained by its project officer are; promoting gender main-streaming in community owned lands-group ranches, improved engagement of community members in national land reforms processes and sensitize communities on impacts of land sub-division.

The forum’s facilitator led the discussion through advantages and disadvantages of communally owned lands and individually owned lands. Advantages given to communal lands stood imminent which were;

It is not possible for an individual to sell without consent of the other members,

It makes it easy to sub- divide land into blocks of different uses as it is in Olkiramatian group ranch where it is divided into three areas; the grazing area, the conservation area and the agriculture area. 

Members use the grazing area collectively while the agriculture area is sub-divided into cultivation plots among members but still under one group ranch title deed. The conservation area is an independent project run by a conservation committee that is a sub-committee of the main group ranch management committee. The revenue collected from the conservation project is supposed to be ploughed back into the group ranch development projects.

It makes it possible to share a wide ranch of resources within the ranch

For a pastoral community, pasture use and management can be planned for different seasons collectively.

Among disadvantages noted with the communal lands which were the opposed to individual lands are; lack of an individual title deed which can be used as guarantee to secure loans and members of group ranches remain subject to the decisions of the general meetings while individual can be guarantee to loans and one decide on his own without consulting anyone.

It was evident that many have already decided communal land is the best when time to discuss disadvantages with individual lands came. Among issues discussed were;

Sell of land, influx of population and corrosion of culture.  Looking at some examples of sub-divided lands like Kitengela, Isinya and Illodoarriak it was clear that the pastoral community feels like they cannot survive if the land is sub-divided.

The facilitator also gave examples of areas that were once communally owned, later sub-divided but in the long run, they came to a conclusion that their livelihood can only be sustained when they enjoined their individual lands and manage it together, Case example of Maasai Mara.
Mama Sointa, one of the women’s opinion leaders likened land sub-division in pastoral lands with ‘if we had water in one container then we decided each one to hold his/her in the hands.  Within no time, all the water will have slipped through between the fingers. So my advice is, let’s use our water in the container,’ she concluded.

one of the women's leader making announcement after the forum. They will be
 demonstrating following Monday against local brew, spirit alcohols, miraa and bhang
photo-Kelvin Koinet
Other concerns aired by Mama Koleti, was women are not included in the group ranch membership arguing that only few of the members are women.

Answering the question, Kipaseyia Orumoi the secretary to the group ranch committee said, it is possible to add the women into the register but protocol is specified. He said that could only be agreed upon in a group ranch member’s general meeting.

People in the forum said the forum was indeed successful whereby the community members’ knowledge on impacts of land sub-division was increased. The men present were also in a position to understand the rights of women in regard to property ownership as per the new constitution and they agreed that these will be tabled in the group ranch general meeting. The issue of group ranch constitution formulation was also raised where CIWOCH promised to assist in the same as a means to ensure sustainability.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Maarifa Centre empowering Nguruman communities with Information

By Francis Maina

Information is vital in that it creates knowledge that is fundamental in decision making. Sound judgements are always based on information. Though important it must be from a reliable source, free from bias, up-to date, delivered at the right time (when it’s needed) and specific to the problem it’s going to solve or in line with the objectives set.

ALIN, abbreviation for Arid Lands Information Network, isan International NGO whose mission is to improve the livelihoods of arid lands communities in East Africa through delivery of practical information using modern technologies . It mainly ensures that information is flowing or being exchanged among the communities through Maarifa(Knowledge) centers that have been put in place . They also ensure that the community is updated on matters concerning their livelihoods and those pertaining to their development.

Containerized Maarifa Center located at the M.O.A grounds in Magadi Division

A good example of where this type of information is offered is at Nguruman Maarifa centre, one of the two centers in Kajiado County,. It has a well stocked library with  books, journals, periodicals and magazines issuing information on topics that are of concern to this county…this includes information on climate change, sustainable agriculture, marketing information and so forth.

Information on the advantages of forming farmer groups  is always available, efficiency in production…achieving maximum production by using least/minimum inputs, marketing information…how the market is performing based on individual products, good agriculture practices…and so on.

Children looking at pamphlets during an outreach visit at Olkiramatian Market

Luckily enough they have been boosted by the availability of internet offered in a separate fabricated container hence making it is easier to update  information.

It’s get much better by the availability of consultants. We have ICT trainers to assist and enhance  computer skills  and communication skills. The centre is strategically located  within the ministry of agriculture offices hence making it easy to collaborate and refer when technical issues relating to agriculture are brought forth.
 th Community in this area can therefore improve their livelihoods by incorporating the knowledge obtained in the centre  to indigenous knowledge  and sharing it. Most of the residents here are farmers with some investors practicing the same….keeping limited livestock numbers and practicing crop production. They have been improving ever since this centre was established and are still growing, moving forward towards greater heights of life.

Nguruman has been listed among the most remote areas in the world. It is now a place that’s getting light to what the outside world is doing or performing. Very soon it will lighten up and agriculture investors, sportsmen in hiking, or adventurers will increase interest in this area and developments especially those on transport and connectivity will be enhanced.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Farmers Affected by changing weather patterns

By Joshua Kisemei

Winds stronger than never felt before, sun burning than never before and unexpected rains have become part of the strange weather conditions that residents of Nguruman have had to bear from January to date.

‘We have never experienced these temperatures before, sometimes I think they rise up to 43 degrees or even more’ Estimated Mr. Mathu the environment officer at the ministry of Agriculture, Magadi Division.

The heat has made it impossible for people to work in the farms into the mid mornings. This has forced farmers to wake up earlier than usual to avoid working in the sun. ‘This time round, the sun is punishing the people not even the vegetation’ says a Herder, ‘if you graze your cattle in the field until evening, you return home with a very bad headache'.

herders walking goats and sheep through the dry Olkiramatian Plains

With the rising temperatures other effect like the reducing levels of water in both the Oloibortoto and Entasopia rivers make it impossible for farmers living further from Nguruman escarpments to cultivate their land.

Farmer irrigating his crops

‘Some of us have had to rent farms that are closer to the water source in order to sustain ourselves since agriculture is our only livelihood.’ said a farmer. ‘Even in the farms that are closer to the escarpment, the water is not adequate for all the farmers and disputes are a common occurrence’.

Parts of lake Magadi that always maintained some water even in the dry season have dried up this time round.

Blowing away iron sheet and grass roofing and breaking down trees, the winds that have become a common phenomenon every evening have caused damage to houses and farms in various parts of Nguruman.‘The wind blows sand into your mouth and eyes making it a hustle to walk or even stand outside in the evenings’ Says Mr. Kimani, a Nguruman resident.

In the past five days, unpredictable rains accompanied by thunder and lightning have been experienced in the area raising worries from the residents that the long rains could be coming sooner than expected finding them unprepared to utilize the wet season. The long rains have over the years presented an opportunity for the residents to cultivate larger tracks of land that could not be sustained by rain fed agriculture. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nguruman farmers engage in Contract farming at last

By Samuel Nzioka

Nguruman area has for a long time been known for its high production due to availability of water for irrigation throughout the year. Farmers have been cultivating their crops and selling them without proper channels in place and have sometimes fallen into wrong hands thus suffering losses. This trend didn’t take long before the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and Horticultural Development Authority (HCDA) took action and made it a requirement for every agent to sign a contract with farmers who will be supplying them with farm produce.

The agreement stipulates the produce in terms of type, quantity and quality for a specific period of time and price. To facilitate this process, farmers formed marketing groups under which they signed contracts with the agents on behalf of the exporters. 

Asian vegetable at a collection point in Nguruman

This came at a time when farmers were facing high production costs due to high prices for farm inputs. It was a sign of relief to farmers as strict measures were to be taken to any party breaching the contract terms and conditions. This is an important measure to cushion the farmer from buyers who offers low prices since a standard price for each farm produce was set and any breach will attract a fine or even ban from buying.

Farmers were taken through gross margin analysis to help them figure out how much they spend to produce a carton or kilogram of horticultural crops they have in season. Every buyer or agent is required to have registered with MOA and HCDA before he can be allowed to buy any farm produce under existing conditions. They should also have a list of farmers they are buying from, and how much each farmer is producing together with a signed agreement between the agent and the farmers group.

Farmers were assured that HCDA is mandated to protect them and to ensure fairness they should ensure that they stick to the agreement.