Feeds

Kenyan farmers save for a rainy day

Whatever the weather

High performance access to file storage

James Muthoka cyclingCase study

Twice a month, farmer James Muthoka gets on his bike and pedals nine kilometres to KARI Katumani, an agricultural research station.

Mr Muthoka owns six acres in an small, enclosed valley in Machakos, a dry, semi-arid region about one-and-a-half hours from Nairobi. The valley is filled from top to bottom with farms. The shamba (field) beside his house is four acres – and the other two acres are "very far away". The farm may be small, but the land is fertile, enabling Mr Muthoka, 53, and his wife Jennifer to raise five children, funding the oldest two through college.

But there is little water, for Machakos, like much of Kenya, is in the grip of drought (Word document) – last rainy season was dismal.

There is a dried river bed in Mr Muthoka's valley – it fills up only in the rainy seasons. And there is also a well nearby – but it is salty and the water is unusable. A pipe brings water into the valley all the way from Kilimanjaro. But this is strictly rationed – it is not for animals or irrigation. And besides, water is expensive by local standards – five Kenyan shillings (4p) for 20 litres.

Lack of water makes pre-planning ever more important for when the rains do come; hence the reason for Mr Muthoka’s regular trips to Katumani (which is named after a drought-resistant maize).

On the 12-acre site – it used to be bigger until squatters grabbed some of the land – Katumani, houses a so-called Agro-Met. This is a meteorological station run by the Kenyan Meteorological Department (KMD), which among other things supports the country's large agricultural sector with rain forecasting services.

For Mr Muthoka, the visits are a double hitter: he can seek advice from the research station on crops and the welfare of his small flock of chickens. When the rains come he has enough water to increase the flock’s size, enabling him to sell the pullets to neighbouring farmers. Also, he can glean advice from the Agro-Met's resident officers, Jackson Mwangani and Frederick Waiinaina, on when the Spring rains will come and - crucially – how much rain can be expected.

James Muthoka

With this knowledge he knows when to prepare his crops and what crops to prepare. "I do a lot of work as if I am doing research," he says.

Another Machakos farmer, Samuel Mweu, 59 - also an Agro-Met "customer" - told me that he "may change my planning if I know that the rain is going to be less than normal". Last season on the advice of the Met station, Mr Mweu plumped for a drought-resistant variety of maize, the local staple crop. The outcome – three bags – was not exactly a huge haul, but as he points out – his neighbours "got nothing".

The Agro-Met at Katumani is one of 35 meteorological ground stations in Kenya. Last year it received its first computer, one of 180 Pentium IIIs for the KMD refurbished by Computer Aid International, the UK PC recycling charity, and funded by the UK Meteorological Office.

High performance access to file storage

Next page: Related links

More from The Register

next story
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.