Sunday, November 21, 2010

KFS Launches First Mobile Phone-Based Monitoring & Evaluation System In Africa


The Sustainable Livelihood Development Project (SLDP) in Mau Complex was approved in December, 2009, initiated its field activities in January 2010 and is scheduled to end in December 2011. The Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) budget is USD 450 000 and the Project is managed by Kenya Forest Service with FAO’s technical support.

The project’s main aim is to facilitate the increased adoption of sustainable economic or livelihood activities by communities living adjacent to national forests and other protected areas. Major outputs of the project include:  

Ø  Provision of  skills required to support sustainable livelihoods development
Ø   Testing and adoption of the livelihood Support Approach (LFFS)
Ø  Development and implementation of a livelihood support management system. The most important element of this output is the development of a Mobile Phone-Based Monitoring System.

A national consultant from ATS- Africa (Mr. Patrick Mburu) was contracted to develop the mobile phone base monitoring and evaluation system in early may 2010. The system design was finalised during the visit by Mr Takayuki Hagawira (FAO Investment centre, Rome) in October 2010 backstopping Mission to Kenya and the launch and training scheduled for the Month of November 2010.

In this activity, a mobile phone-based data management platform to enable project managers monitor the progress of target groups as they implement the activities of the LFFSs was developed. The system comprises of software development and provision of mobile cell phones to farmers. To ensure operationalization of the system, a training was organised on the 8th Of November 2010 at the Kericho  Forest Zonal Manager’s Compound. Over 40 farmer field school members and 8 farmer field schools facilitators participated in the training.

The content for the day’s training included; Introductory remarks to project background, Framework of reporting and system operational design, Application of the system and use of the cell phone functionalities to input information, Practical session on the use of cellphones to enter and send reports and the display of the final processed report via computer screen

All the sixteen LLFS groups were issued with mobile phones and group representatives had hands on experience on the use of the cellphones and how to compile and send session reports. LFFS representatives were requested to record available airtime before compiling and sending the reports using the cellphone.  After sending the reports, LFFS group members and facilitators were amazed at the low cost which ranged from 0.08 to 0.57 cents per report sent via the cellphone.  

The participants and the trainers appreciated the training and all concluded that it was very successful. The participants requested that the reporting be expanded to cover all components of the LFFS that are usually reported on a monthly basis.

During the training, the Consultant was accompanied by the Project Coordinator (Oscar Simanto), Assistant  field coordinator ( Mr. Thomas Kiptoo) and FAO/KFS Kenya Liaison  staff, Mr. John Ngatia. 

Report By Oscar Simanto

Dire Shortage Of Timber Forcing Merchants To Import Commodity

NAIROBI  (Xinhua) -- A chronic timber shortage has hit Kenya forcing the country to turn to expensive imports from neighbouring countries.

Latest statistics indicate that the country spends more than 37. 5 million U.S. dollars annually on timber imports compared with U.S. $62,000 dollars in 1999, to meet rising demand that now stands at 38 million cubic meters annually.

For the past 10 years, Tanzania has been the major supplier for Kenya’s construction industry as the government banned logging in 2000.

Shortage of timber in the market has led to over-cutting of private forests and wood-lots, trees that are meant for soil and water conservation on farm lands.

Given the high demand of housing in Nairobi and other towns in its environs that has led to the increase of the construction industry in the past three years; the country is now turning to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola’s Cabinda area for more supplies.

According to Nelson Omollo, a carpenter in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa, it looks like the country has exhausted the Tanzanian market as the price of acquiring timber from suppliers has increased tremendously.

He attributes the shortage to the logging ban that was imposed by the government in the year 2000 that has led to the importation of timber from the equatorial rainforest and that has increased timber costs locally.

Omollo says that prior to the logging ban; most of the timber in the local market was sourced from gazetted forest plantations.
"There was a shortage of timber after the ban but the supply gradually improved as demand was met from farms and increased importation.
"Unfortunately, most farmers have already sold their mature trees and are now selling immature trees," he adds.
He says that the situation has forced most carpenters in Nairobi and other urban towns to increase the price of their furniture with exception of those in rural areas who rely on local timber from the villages.
Besides the carbon trading business that is yet to pick up with tree farmers in most parts of the country, there is no incentive for farmers engaged in tree farming to date.

The once main plantation species such as cypress and pine, which accounted for over 80 per cent of the country’s total plantation area, are now at risk of extinction as their prices too has also increased by double digits.

The shortage is to blame for the lose of thousands of jobs at a time the country is facing massive youth unemployment.

Prices of timber products have also contributed to the increase coffins prices forcing the bereaved to spend more money than it was previously.

But the situation is likely to improve in the near future following the revelations by Forestry and Wildlife Minister Dr. Noah Wekesa that the partial logging ban imposed in October 1999 will soon be lifted.
"The partial ban on plantation forest harvesting will be done away with soon since we have established that it has given rise to lucrative black market for timber thereby creating an incentive for illegal logging," the minister says.
He notes that the ban has instead increased the cost of forest policing and enforcement and depriving other forest management practices like conservation and forest establishment of scarce resources.

Wekesa observes that the ban though well intended has been an invisible driver of illegal logging by placing the value on timber very high resulting in attractive returns for the illegally obtained forest products especially timber.

He reveals that the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has generated plantation logging plans, and is in the process of completing an inventory that will establish the extent of forest plantations in Kenya.
This plan he says, may help increase the forest cover that currently stands at 312,500 acres that comprises 6 percent of the gazetted forests in the country.
"Once we lift the ban, allocation of harvesting areas will be through the provisions of the Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2005 that provides for competitive bidding, while maintaining a reserve price," he adds.
The chairman of the Kenya Timber Manufacturers Association Samuel Gitonga admits that saw millers are unable to get enough raw materials to sustain business.
He blames the ban on logging for the escalation of timber prices and loss of over 120,000 jobs in sawmilling sector.

Gitonga says that the association id ready to follow forestry management rules in accessing public plantations to meet the local timber demand.

But through innovation a company has already started making coffins from recycled cartons that are biodegradable materials in a bid to save the already depleted forests from extinction.

The East African Packaging Industry makes the coffins from cast- off materials hence reducing wastage and creating more jobs for those who will collect the recycled paper.

The use of wooden coffins harms our environment significantly.

Kenya’s forest cover is on two percent and we cannot afford to continue cut more trees for making coffins," the Chief Environmental Research Officer at the National Environmental Authority (NEMA) Francis Inganga says.

He says that the product is in line with the provisions of Environmental Management and Coordination Act and the government’s vision 2030 on sustainable use natural resources and protection of the environment.

According to statistics, Kenya loses 616,000 trees very year to the coffins industry as 80 per cent of the dead are buried in wooden coffins.

Due to the partial ban, 95,000 acres of over-mature forest industrial plantation valued at over 450 million dollars are undergoing value deterioration as some rot and other falls due to heavy winds.

At the same time, there are approximately 45,000 acres of forest plantations between ages 10 and 22 due for commercial thinning with potential to generate 44 million dollars.

Industry players blame the huge cost gap to the increased timber prices - from U.S. $100 dollars to more than U.S. $375 dollars.

Facing imminent operation problems, the recently rejuvenated 87, 000-tonne capacity Webuye Paper Mills has already started entering into partnerships wit tree farmers in a bid to sustain itself and avoid collapsing again.

The world’s forest biodiversity is threatened by a high global rate of deforestation and forest degradation as well as a decline in primary forest area.

In many countries, however, there is a continued positive trend towards the conservation of forest biological diversity via dedicated conservation areas.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 emphasizes that forests where humans have intervened can still hold important biodiversity values, contribute significantly to environmental protection, and sustain livelihoods, provided they are well managed.

The UN agency notes that South America accounted for the largest proportion of the loss in primary forests, followed by Africa and Asia.

Other threats to forest biodiversity include unsustainable forest management, climate change, forest fires, insect pests and diseases, natural disasters and invasive species - all of which are causing severe damage in some countries.

Greater investments in sustainable forest management are urgently required to better conserve and manage forest biodiversity.

The country also needs to improve affective conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in production forests.

The country currently allows only Comply, Timsales, Raiply and Pan Paper to access public plantations for timber, pulp wood, plywood and transmission poles.

Report Courtesy of Xinhua & Coastweek

Monday, November 15, 2010

Can Biogas From Cow Dung Save Our Forests?

A healthy dairy Kenyan herd 


Piped biogas by Mwangi Mumero

With the rising fuel costs, farmers in Kenya have come up with ways of generating power locally and cheaply.

Biogas is increasing becoming a viable alternative to many farmers and especially those in high potential Central Highlands where dairying is common.

The blue slow flame coming from an improved cooker may fool an untrained eye. While the conventional gas cookers roar as they churn out the hot flame, this one is slow and methodical.

Yet, this cooker is running on biogas produced within 10 metres from this fabricated kitchen at Ngukura village in Kieni East District, Central Province .

At least 70 farmers in the region, affiliated to Kathuna Dairy Co-operative Society have initiated a biogas production project that has seen them boost their incomes, reduce their energy costs and generally improve their welfare.

“Biogas is cheap to produce, clean to use and has helped my family utilize the waste from our dairy herd. It has also boosted our crop production through the production of manure in form of slurry”, said Paul Mureithi, a farmer at Ngurukani Village , Kabaru location.

On his farm, Mureithi who has two health dairy cows has installed a 20 cubic metre biogas digester at a cost of Ksh 100,000.

Having constructed a zero-grazing unit where his dairy herd is permanently housed, the farmer is able to collect dung and urine used in the biogas production.

The 70 farmers are beneficiaries of a United Nations Development Programme- Global Environmental Facility (UNDP-GEF) support.

At the Mt Kenya region GEF funding is channeled through COMPACT- Community Management for Protected Areas Conservation.

COMPACT is an initiative addressing environmental concerns and community needs around the Mt Kenya Heritage Site.

“Each was farmer was required to raise 50 per cent of the total cost of installing the biogas unit. They must also have at least two dairy cows under a zero-grazing system to boost collection of animal waste”, asserted Simon Wachira, the technical adviser to the Kathuna Biogas Project for Western Mt Kenya .

Of the Ksh 50,000 each farmer has to pay, Ksh 18,800 is in form of labour costs while the Ksh 31,200 goes to the purchase of building materials such as cement, stones and sand.

For the farmers who were unable to raise the required funds, Wananchi Sacco- a local financial organization- provided loans which were to be repaid through the milk proceeds.

The Ksh 50,000 GEF support per farmer was utilized in purchasing the improved stove, internal fittings and for paying the skilled artisans needed in installation process.

“We supervise to ensure that the fitting is done well and the whole unit is functional and readily usable by farmers. We also train farmers on operations and maintenance of the biogas unit once installation is over”, said Wachira, who heads Lorian Institute of Development that is providing the technical advice on the implementation of the project.

During installation, skilled personal constructs the underground digester and connects the gas pipes to the kitchen ready for use. Polyvinyl Chloride pipes (PVC) are used to channel dung from the zero-grazing unit to the underground digester.

Pressure build-up in the digester, as gas is generated is easily monitored by farmers and regulated.

Biogas originates from bacteria in the process of bio-degradation of organic material under anaerobic conditions.

It is a renewable natural gas containing approximately 55-60 per cent methane (CH4), around 40 per cent carbon dioxide and trace amounts of other gases.

Natural gas has 99 per cent methane but it is non-renewable, a key factor for environmentalists who promote the use of biogas in many households to stem the tide of global warming.

The calorific value of biogas is about 6 kWh/, m3 – which corresponds to about half a litre of diesel.

“We can prepare all types of meals with biogas without having to substitute with fuel wood. It is also cleaner – with no smoke- leaving the cooking utensils shiny unlike when fire wood is used, leading to sooty cooking pans”, said Mrs Ruth Mureithi at her home.

Before the biogas project, Mureithi’s household would utilize at least Ksh 4,000 in form of fuel wood purchased from neighbouring farms.

The gas can also be used for lighting and power generation.

But the use of biogas in households has other benefits both to the farmer and the environment.

“It has cut my operational costs drastically as I no longer need to buy diesel to run the chaff cutter needed for chopping Napier grass. The Ksh 3000 needed monthly for diesel and labour are now my savings”, noted Mureithi, whose dairy cows produce at least 40 litres of milk daily. At Ksh 22 per litre, the farmer earns Ksh 800 daily translating to Ksh 24,000 monthly.

According to Wachira, biogas produced by two cows can run a power generator for chaff cutters and also for production of electricity for the households.

He added that the 20 cubic metre biogas digester installed in the 70 homes produces 15-30 kg of gas daily while for many households the monthly consumption is just 15 kg.

“It is possible to commercialize the production and put the gas into canisters for sale although that is not part of the installation project”, he said.

With the excess production of biogas above household needs, prospects of liquefying the gas and selling it in canister may be explored in future. Alternatively, households may connect pipes to their neighbours and sell the gas at mutually agreed terms.

With the biogas installed in many households, the demand for fuel wood had declined

In the past, women had to trek the whole day fetching fuel wood deep inside the forest, exposing themselves to attacks by marauding jumbos and buffalos. The previously wasted time can now be used in productive activities such as farming or domestic chores.

This has also reduced the pressure on fuel wood harvesting from the Mt Kenya forest- that is just 7 kilometres away.

This in turn has reduced the level of forest denudation through illegal fuel wood harvesting, logging and charcoal burning. Soil erosion is also expected to slow down as ground cover increases with reduced cutting of trees.

“Methane is a highly destructive greenhouse gas. Biogas systems utilize the gas in production of energy thereby avoiding its release into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming reduction”, observed Wachira.

Wachira intoned that households utilizing biogas systems should in future be considered for the carbon credits that many tree growers are enjoying in many parts of the world.

During the biogas production process, slurry- well fermented manure- floats out as a by-product.

“This manure provides our farm with all the necessary nutrients when used as fertilizer. Previously, we had to use at least Ksh 12,000 in the purchase of artificial fertilizers which we no longer need. This provides another form of savings on the farm with the installation of the biogas unit”, added Mureithi.

Research conducted in India has shown that fertilizer which comes from a biogas plant contains three times more readily available nitrogen than the best fertilizer made through open air digestion.

For instance, the Indian tests have shown that compost chicken manure will have in it only 1.58-2 per cent nitrogen. Manure digested in a biogas digester will analyse 6 per cent nitrogen.

Another indirect benefit of the biogas units has been improved dairying in terms milk production and quality.

Regular dung collection and cleaning to wash off the urine to the digester results in cleaner livestock herd.

As Mureithi noted, cases of mastitis and other animal ailments that thrive in unhygienic conditions are unheard off in his farm since its inception two years ago.

Human health is also bound to improve with cleaner air –with no smoke – in kitchen where biogas cookers are in use. Cases of respiratory problems such as sneezing and coughing, common in sooty kitchens, are rare.

Meanwhile a National Biogas Promoters conference was recently held in Nairobi and brought together stakeholders in the industry to assist in developing a National Biogas Promotion program. The program aims to install 8,000 units in Kenya within the next 5 years.

A COMPACT site was used for technology selection where fixed dome gas production technologies were compared against the traditional floating dome system. The key consideration included cost effectiveness, durability, gas production capacity and unit size. Units studied ranged from 6- 20 m3. (

The Yaaku People Of Mukogodo Forest - Laikipia Reclaim Their Language

Last bid to save language of Kenyan ex-cave dwellers

Half a dozen old men, draped in traditional blankets, are chatting under an acacia tree here in the foothills of Mount Kenya; when they die the Yaaku language will die with them.
Its disappearance is unlikely to make headlines: over the past three generations more than 200 languages have disappeared and 2,500 others are in danger of disappearing, out of a total of 6,000 in existence, according to the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, published by UNESCO.
Except that these elders — many of whom are so old they no longer have teeth — have decided to fight for the survival of Yaaku.
“We are the last Yaaku speakers and before our generation disappears we need to pass our knowledge on to the children,” 87-year-old Johana Saroney Ole Matunge told AFP.
The Yaaku are a tribe of hunter-gatherers and beekeepers who lived in caves in their forest until the intermixing of different peoples in the 20th century changed their way of life.
From the 1930s the Yaaku were assimilated into the culture of the Maasai, a warrior tribe with expansionist tendencies. They took to keeping cattle and to wearing the checked magenta and scarlet blankets sported by the Maasai.
They neglected Yaaku, a tongue from a language group called Cushitic, in favour of the Maasai’s language Maa, which is radically different with roots in another group called Nilotic.
Behind this willingness to be assimilated was a profound feeling of inferiority.
It is only recently that the Yaaku realised it was time they make their voices heard.
“We are marginalised, seen by the Maasai as a people with no identity. So I said to myself if we are not Maasai, who are we? Can we re-discover our Yaaku culture?,” explained Manasseh Matunge, a 48-year-old former primary school teacher who is the driving force behind the Yaaku cultural renewal.
In the late 1960s, a German linguist Bernd Heine tried to revive the Yaaku language by convincing a tribesman by the name of Koisa ole Lengei to accompany him to Nairobi University and teach him the Yaaku language.
Lengei, who had spent his childhood in a cave, disappeared after two weeks in the capital, thought to have fallen victim to criminals, and the language project fell through.
In 2004 a team of Dutch linguists managed to put together a manual of the Yaaku language.
Manasseh Matunge, despite not being a fluent Yaaku speaker himself, has been teaching weekly classes in the language at the local school but his classes are limited to basic vocabulary.
A small museum built in 2009 houses, among other items, equipment for bee keeping, the speciality and pride of the Yaaku.
“The Maasai are afraid of bees,” Matunge says with a proud smile.
Cultural museum notwithstanding, the last three real Yaaku speakers identified by the Dutch linguists six years ago are now dead.
But an extinct language can reappear, UNESCO says, and this is what the Yaaku are trying to achieve. They have obtained funding from the French embassy in Kenya to build a classroom to house the language lessons the elders intend to give to schoolchildren.
“I’m afraid we have too little data on Yaaku grammar to revive the original language. The furthest we could get is to use the material we have and somehow ‘mix’ it with Maasai, which all Yaaku speak fluently nowadays,” said Hans Stoks, who has worked with the Maasai and Yaaku community since 1979 and who was part of the team of Dutch linguists.
“As a matter of fact the past generation of Yaaku speakers in the past two or three decades were already doing that. There is nothing wrong with mixing languages. It is done almost everywhere.”
The resuscitation of their language would help the Yaaku regain a sense of identity and in turn re-take possession of “their” forest Mukogodo (35,000 hectares or 86,000 acres), currently managed by Kenya’s forest authority.
Kenya’s new constitution, adopted in a referendum three months ago, recognizes indigenous peoples’ rights to their ancestral lands. The Yaaku have learned that cultural identity is a weapon.
Report Courtesy of

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Finnish Supported Miti Mingi Maisha Bora Programme Launched With Pomp & Colour

The director KFS having a wod with the Minister, on the right is Ms Fatuma Sichale board member.JPG
The Hon. Minister chats with Director and other invited guests

the project manager introducing the MMMB staff members. She is the project manager.JPG
Zipporah Toroitich, the project manager introducing the MMMB staff members
a group photograph after the launch.JPG
A group photo after the launch 

The Minister recieving a gift from Miss Forest Kenya.JPG
Hon. Noah Wekesa receives a gift from Miss Forest

The Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, Dr. Noah Wekesa yesterday faulted the government for underfunding Kenya Forest Service thus making the functioning of this state corporation difficult. He cited that for the institution to fully function then it requires to employee over 5000 staff for both the headquarters and the field units, purchasing of Cars for the Enforcement division and also building of infrastructure. He also mentioned of up lifting of the forest ban to allow the already mature trees that are getting wasted in the forest to be harvested and help the service earn review for its sustainability.

The ban continues to deny the service a lot of revenue and thus not being able to discharge its mandate. The minister urged the board chairman to help him lobby the state to allocate enough money that shall enable the organization to perform satisfyingly. The Minister was speaking during the launch of a Finnish project Called Miti mingi maisha bora.

The event was held at Karura the KFS headquarters. In attendance was the Finnish ambassador to Kenya her Excellency Heli Sirvet, the permanent secretary from the ministry of forestry and wildlife, Mr. Wamwachai, the chairman of the board, other members of the board, the Director KFS and the KFS staff that had converged in the tent following closely the remarks  

The Minister who was the guest of honor officially launched the project that shall run for the next six years. The project aims at working with local communities in offering technical advice and financial support towards ensuring that Kenyan forest reflects those that are in Finland. In his remarks the minister also lauded the government of Finland for the support they have been offering to this country in relation to environmental matters for a while now since early 90s.

In her speech, her Excellency the Finnish ambassador explained on ways on which such projects could stand. She insisted on the point of accountability and also ensuring that everyone working for KFS should be absorbed in the service payroll so that everyone is motivated with the remunerations. The colorfulness ceremony ended with the unveiling of the strategic plan for 2009-2014.

Report By Bwire Vincent