Feeds

Kenyan farmers save for a rainy day

Whatever the weather

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Next page: Related links

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.