Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why I value the Maarifa (Knowledge) centre: Charles Ngoro.

 Charles Ngoro is a frequent user of Ngarua maarifa centre in Sipili. The 60 year old farmer lives in Karaba village of Muhotetu division, Laikipia County.  Ngoro have been borrowing books and accessing information from the centre for a long time. He reads magazines and other publications. Whenever he returns the publication, he is always armed with a story to tell of what he has learned. 

In august 2011, he borrowed a magazine; ‘‘footsteps issue 48’’. The magazine featured articles on traditional medicine.  He was highly impressed by the title since he wanted to learn the relationships between modern medicine and traditional medicine. Immediately he signed the issuance book. I went with him to the Maarifa library to search for another book on poultry feeds formulation, I picked a pamphlet and he could easily pose; '‘I have already read that one’’. 

 ‘‘After reading the newsletter, I discovered that traditional medicines are derived from trees! I had never estimated the great value in a tree, apart from the common traditional uses like constructions, fuel wood and other small domestic chores, not until I read the stories ’’, Said Charles. 

Neem tree.
He learned about Neem tree (Azadirachta indica). He even identified one in a neighbour’s farm. The tree is widely used for medicinal purposes. It is used to treat diseases like malaria, sleeping sickness, skin problems such as acne, fungal infections, psoriasis, scabies and eczema and infected burns.  It can also be used to control head lice.

·         Malaria:- Make one litre of tea with five grams tried leaves or 40 fresh single, small leaves (not whole bunches) and drink 1 litre of tea during the day.
·         Sleeping sickness: - In addition to the recommended medical drugs, drink 1 litre of ‘‘Neem’’ tea each day.
·         Head lice: - Make a tincture with 10g dried leaves and 100ml alcohol and leave for 7 days. Use the tincture as a hair lotion 3 times a day for five days or pound some Neem seeds into a paste. Wash the hair each evening and then rub about 1 tea spoon of paste into the hair and leave until the next evening. Repeat the necessary.
·         To treat the skin problems mentioned above, make an ointment with 10g of Neem oil and 100g of ointment or make a tincture using 20g dried leaves and 100g alcohol 70% and leave to soak for a week. Apply ointment or mix 1 teaspoon of the leaves in 1 teaspoon of vegetables oil and rub in to affected areas.
·         Infected burns: - To prepare the medicine make a decoction with a handful of fresh leaves in 1 litre of water. Filter while still very hot to avoid contamination and cool. Use to wash and infected burn. Keep the patient under mosquito net to avoid new infection.

Apart from its rich nutritional value Pawpaw (Carica papaya) is used to treat:  intestinal worms, to clean dirty wounds, indigestion, Amoebic dysentery, open boils, infected wound and burns.

·         Intestinal worms. Intestinal worms are nuisance parasites that infect the gastro-intestinal tract in human beings and animals. Though they can live throughout the body they mostly prefer the intestinal tract. Human and animals gets exposed to the worms through several means including: ingestion of undercooked meat, drinking infected water, and skin absorption. Pawpaw latex has been used as a de-wormer. To obtain latex, wash the large unripe fruit still attached to the plant, make several vertical cuts 1 mm deep in the skin and collect the drops of the white sap in a spoon or cup. The knife and spoon used must be stainless steel, as traces of dust destroy the active chemicals, papine. Be careful to keep the latex out of the eyes. 

Dosage: - For adults take 4 teaspoonful of latex in the morning before eating. Repeat one week later. For babies of six months to 1 year give ½ teaspoon, for 1-3 years give 1 teaspoon, 4-6 years 2 teaspoons and 7 -13 year 3 teaspoons.

·         Dirty wounds:-  (to clean them) add a few drops of water to cool, boiled water.

·         Indigestion:- Add 1 or 2 drops of latex to your food or chew 3 pawpaw seeds

·         Amoebic dysentery: - Chew a teaspoon of fresh pawpaw seeds 3 times a day for 7 days for light cases. For serious cases, give 1 table’s spoon of ground seeds 3 times a day for 7 days.

·         Open boils infected wounds and burns: wash and cut the unripe pawpaw. With a clean stainless steel knife, cut a slice a little as a Childs little finger. Lay over the wound and secure with a bandage. Leave for 4 hours: though if it causes pain remove earlier. Repeat 4 times a day until all the infected pus has disappeared. In between these treatment, cover the wound with a honey and sugar mixture.

Passion fruits
Passions fruits passiflora edulis, not only supply the body with vitamin C, it also provides a traditional remedy for common colds, sleeplessness, anxiety, spasm (cramps), and asthma. 

·         Sleeplessness, anxiety and cramps. Make a tincture from 10g of dried young leaves in 100ml of alcohol. Use 30 drops 1-3 times a day.  For sleeplessness alone make a decoction by boiling 1 handful of young leaves in just 1 cup of water for 10 minutes. Drink each evening.

·         Asthma. To treat asthma and as a sedative (also for the previous condition), make a decoction by boiling 1 large handful of young leaves in 1 litre of water. Drink 1 litre of the decoction during the day.
Ngoro observed that the use of traditional medicine has greatly advanced in other countries like the democratic republic of Congo, where traditional medicines extracted from tree are used in hospitals.  He believes Kenya lags behind when it comes to the use of traditional medicine.
To him the maarifa centre is a great resource centre, ‘‘without which he would be living in ignorance of many things’’ Said Ngoro. 

He is of the view that the centre should be managing well and the library section improved and to enable easy access, follow up of books lend out. 

Source; footsteps issue 48.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Human wildlife conflict; Laikipia west.

‘‘Human-wildlife conflict referrers to the interaction between wild animals and people and the resultant negative impact on people or their resources, or wild animals or their habitat, it occurs when wildlife needs overlap with those of human populations, creating costs to residents and wild animals’’ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 

  Such conflicts are witnessed in human settlement bordering animal sanctuaries and conservancies. Laikipia west is dotted with forests and conservancies home to wild animals. The rise in human population calls for increased and expansion of development, the global climate changes and other human and environmental factors puts people and wildlife in greater direct competition for the ever diminishing resources.

  A mention of wildlife elicits resentment among the communities of Ngarua laikipia west. Not necessarily because they don’t attach any value to wild life, but because the conflict have continued unabated for long.
  Tourism is now Kenya's largest foreign exchange earning sector, followed by flowers, tea, and coffee. Wildlife conservation is key for economic development. There is need to shift emphasis from reactive mitigation of human wildlife conflict to proactive prevention strategies. Sharing of ideas, information and experiences is essential to preventing and minimizing conflict between animals and human beings. 

 To address the menace of human-wildlife conflict requires greater interaction not only among, conservation organizations and other wildlife agencies, but also with economic and social development organizations, land use planners, agribusiness, and other key decision makers. This will only be achieved by providing a forum for communities to voice their concerns to relevant authorities. Communities in Ngarua have found the Arid lands Information Network’s Maarifa (Knowledge) centre, a useful tool in voicing their concerns. 

 Partnerships, network and Support.
  Information available on the internet indicates that a workshop of conservationist took in place in 2003, in Durban, South Africa, where the needs for a partnership initiative like Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration (H.W.C.C) were identified. The idea evolved from discussions amongst practitioners who realized sharing information was essential to resolve human-wildlife conflicts around the world. In November 2006, more than fifty conservation professionals, representing over forty organizations, convened in Washington, D.C. to identify priorities for collaboration on human wildlife conflict and to develop a framework for pursuing those priorities. 

 The result was the launch of the HWCC with an aim of meeting the collective needs for improved information exchange; Awareness raising and communication among key sectors; capacity building and training among practitioners; improved decision making and policy development; and enhanced understanding of the human dimensions of human-wildlife conflict.

 Forms of human wild life conflict.
In laikipia west, Human-wildlife conflict occurs in various forms. Some of them are as follows;

  Crop damage. Elephants are known for the severity of damage caused in the farms, the animal is also a threat to human security. Wild pigs and porcupines destroy cassava, potatoes, sweet potatoes and beans. Bird mouse commonly known as ‘‘metho’’ in kikuyu, is dreaded for savaging any green leafy vegetables, tomatoes and pawpaws. Baboons are common in areas bordering Laikipia conservancy and Lariak forests like Wangwachi and Karandi, respectively. 

 Livestock depredation. Carnivores like lion, leopards, cheerter and hyenas are known to attack livestock like cattle sheep and goats, other small animals and hawks goes for poultry. The large animals also cause human injuries and sometimes loss of life! A chilling story is being told in N’garua of a woman who was mauled completely by a lion in the recent past! 

 Damage to property. The large animals especially elephants are known to break into houses and granaries in search for grains.   

 Injuries to wildlife. In retaliation, communities may be tempted to attack and injure wild animals which are another source of conflict.

 Destruction of habitat. Destruction of wildlife’s habitat could be the cause of the conflict, wild animals become aggressive or looks for alternative coping mechanism. Wild animals can also destroy human habitats.

 Community responses.
The communities of Wangwachi and Lariak have explored on the issue and devised what is seen as the best long term solution to the problem. With support from CDTF, a 23 Km stretch of electric fence have been installed along the border of wangwachi and Laikipia conservancy to keep the large animals at bay. However the community still lament over small animals like baboons, warthogs that still invades their farms.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Knowledge access through Interactive video shows.

By Bett Kipsang

 Ngarua Maarifa centre is one of ALIN’s many telecentres and acts an information hub serving the communities of Laikipia West through the provision of information aimed at enhancing livelihoods. The old adage ‘‘Knowledge is power’’ is the backbone of our endeavors and our users access Information free of charge, through the internet, books, magazines and development DVDs.

Film review
 For some time now I have been exploring the most effective ways of sharing information. The second weekend of the month of August 2011 is a time I will never forget. This is the time when I started practicing one of the most engaging methods of disseminating information to communities.
Armed with a laptop and a bunch of DVDs, I selected the themes relevant to my audience who in this case were three old men and two young men. Francis Kiarahu, Peter Macharia, Elvis Nderitu, James Muigai and Peter Gituru, who had come to the Maarifa centre to check for ‘‘anything new’’ .
The five DVDs featured topics on passion fruit growing and value addition, production and handling of fresh produce for export market, soil conservation, pest and disease control and gender roles at the family level.

Gender roles
Much has been said about gender, but little attention has been given to building capacities of men on gender related issues. After watching a film on gender, I moderated a survey to gauge the extent of my viewers understanding of the topics covered. I was delighted that the film elicited a lengthy, lively and constructive debate.

About the film
The film was about a peasant farming family, living in a male dominated society. The family had some few dairy cows, fodder crops and a vegetable garden. The two children go to a local primary school and are supported with income from milk and vegetable sales. The male figure in the family is Baba Saru, who does few family chores. He sleeps until late in the day and then goes out out to chat with friends after pocketing all of the revenue from the milk sales. 

Mama Saru; Baba Saru’s wife, is in this case likened to the ‘‘beast of burden!’’, her time to rest is late at night when everyone else has gone to bed. She is also the first one to rise in the morning. Just before dawn, she goes out to milk the cows, prepares breakfast for the family and sees the children off to school. She comes back to cut the fodder and feed the cows. 

An agricultural extension officer often organizes capacity building training for farmers. Baba Saru regularly attends these seminars, leaving his wife, who is the one responsible for most of the farming and livestock husbandry, at home. Mama Saru relies entirely on the secondary teaching received from her husband.

As per usual, the officer came to invite Baba Saru for a seminar, where farmers would be trained on improved zero grazing practices. At that point Mama Saru asked the officer why she could not attend the training. Her husband dismissed her and said ‘‘it is normal for women to quarrel’’. Baba Saru could not consider allowing his wife to go because the place was far and it would take many days, meaning an extended period away from her duties in the home and most specifically looking after the children. 

Seminars proceedings
At the training Baba Saru and the extension Officer joined other farmers, together they visited many farms and had group discussions where the issue of gender roles came about. Farmers shared testimonies as to how their zero grazing projects were successful whilst others were complaining that their women were running down their noble projects. 

 Testimonies were given by women who received assistance from their husbands; they shared duties and made common budgets for household needs from proceeds of milk sales. Baba Saru was surprised, he stood up to strongly oppose the sharing of responsibilities and income. ‘‘I am the head of the family and my word should be final’’ he said. The extension officer and other participants rebuked him for the tough stance he was taking on the issue, especially touching on gender roles and family’s socio-economic affairs. The message had a great impact on him and he left the seminar a changed man.

 One day the officer brought some seeds for a certain herb which is used to feed cattle to Baba Saru’s farm. Baba Saru and the officer sowed the seeds in the farm in the absence of his wife. Following that, Baba Saru never went to the farm again. After some time, the agricultural officer came to follow up on the seeds; he was accompanied to the farm by Baba Saru and found nothing where they had sown. Baba Saru called his wife to ask her about the herbs. His wife confessed she had uprooted them assuming they were weeds. 

 It became apparent to Baba Saru that that his wife Mama Saru also needed to be trained. But he insisted to only allow her to attend a one day seminar specifically when the venue was not far from home, so that she could continue to take care of the children.

Impact of training
 Since then, Baba Saru started waking up earlier to go to the farm, and shared the milk proceeds with his wife. He organized for children to deliver milk on their way to school. Life in that family was never the same again; the change was witnessed in the faces of children and their mother. 

Lessons learned
 After watching the films I organized a discussion, to get the immediate feedback and gauge the possible impact of this method of information dissemination. I was amazed by the feedback. The participants were very happy and I learned that their retaining power was very high. From the passion fruits films Mr. Kiarahu, a diligent farmer, learned that the secret of success lies in acquiring good quality planting material, commitment and focus. James Muigai learned how to prepare the farm before planting.

For the first time he knew that passion fruits produce juice and how to make the juice using water, sugar and oranges. He also learned that passion fruits seedling is grown inside a green house, where adequate supply of water is necessary.
 The video ‘‘keep it fresh’’ talked about the handling of fresh produce for export market. The viewers learned the importance of personal hygiene, proper handling, packing, transportation and maintaining the quality of commodities, in order to fetch higher market value.

‘‘Momonyoko wa udongo’’ is a Swahili title for ‘‘soil erosion’’. We watched the film dealing with soil conservation and my viewers observed that people end up with poor harvest and suffer food shortages due to poor soil conservation. They learned that top fertile soils can be carried away leading to massive crop failure. Mr. Gituro learned of a method of contour ploughing called Fanya Juu, whereby Napier grass is planted on terraces to fix the soil and prevents its downward movement. They also learned that rocky farms are not a hindrance to farming as the rocks are used to make contours and the cleared spaces can be used to grow crops. 

Other pest control measures
After watching a film on crop pest and disease control they observed that there is a need to maintain cleanliness and hygiene on the farm and that weeding on time is necessary and personal hygiene is also key. They also learned that not all animals and insects should be eliminated from the farms and that in some cases small animals like Chameleons feed on the insects which are infecting crops with diseases. Likewise, there are certain plants like the Mexican marigold which produces a scent that can serve to repel insects. 

 Crop rotation is one important method of preventing harmful insects and also ensuring that specific nutrients in the soils are not depleted. Intercropping can also benefit production and a good example is the case of beans and maize which can rely on each other for sustenance. Beans collect nitrogen from the atmosphere and fix it in the soil where it can be utilized by the maize. The maize, in return, can provide supports for beans to climb and also much needed shade against the scorching sun during the dry seasons. 

 We also explored the use of indigenous methods, like the application of ashes, which can act as a way of reducing excessive use of chemicals in the farm. The viewers observed the importance of reading the instructions and labels on chemical containers before using them, and the need to allow time between spraying and the harvesting of crops. They also learned the correct processes for disposing of used containers. 

Vote of thanks
Mr. Kiarahu could not have found better words with which to express his gratitude for the service and the lessons learned from watching the films. ‘‘I am very grateful for the information we accessed today, it is very important and I have learned a lot’’ he said. He added that the same knowledge is needed by farmers who work hard in the farms so that they reap the rewards of their sweat and toil.

 I asked them if they experienced any challenge. They cited a language barrier as one of the main hindrances; though most of the films were in Kiswahili some were narrated in English and it was hard for the older men to get the message.

Information needs 
I thought it was necessary to identify the information needs of this group in order to prepare the relevant information material for future access. They requested more information on the following:
a)      Passion Fruit farming
b)      Pest and disease control
c)       Soil conservation
d)      Livestock husbandry and particularly poultry
e)      Value addition especially cassava
f)       How to make compost manure.
Bett Kipsang is the Field officer working for the Arid Lands Information Network, at the Ngarua Maarifa centre Laikipia West.