Feeds

Kenyan farmers save for a rainy day

Whatever the weather

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.
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.