Month: January 2014

Women marginalization rampant in natural resources management

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By Florence Gichoya

While Coastal region is endowed with variety of natural resources, it is unfortunate that it’s mostly men who are benefiting. Women are marginalized yet they have a right to play key role in generating income from the resources.

A major concern is women and land ownership in the region. A Mombasa resident said that when it comes to land ownership, the constitution is not followed because traditional cultures and norms take precedent on who owns and manages the natural resources. This norm makes the majority women to lose interest in owning land or venture into economic activities like fishing and mining.

Najib Samshali, the Kenya Alliance board member said that, when girls are born in the region they are socialized differently from boys. They are taught to be home makers and when it comes to inheritance boys often get the lion share. They are not encouraged to own land and as they grow up it’s not surprising they lack interest in owning and managing land resources. It is usually evident in the community barazas when women shy away from making decisions on land issues affecting the local communities. This should not be the case because mothers do a good job in influencing decisions in their families. Dialogue and sensitization should be emphasized so that more women can be empowered.

Najib also emphasized that joint ownership on land should be embraced by married couples. This compels both parties to consult whenever there are grievances. When solving disputes it is good to come up with solutions that are for posterity, blaming one another and finger pointing is degenerating and does not benefit anyone.

Dr Jane Thuo, the Executive Director of Association of Media Women in Kenya said that family conflicts due to land ownership and inheritance should be handled carefully. The foundation of families is love, it should be the glue that holds them together and this can eventually help couples and families to solve disputes. If families lack the harmony and don’t consult each other then there is a possibility of one party crying foul. Families don’t have to break because of conflict over land.

Jane added that spiritual matters play a big role in families, it is imperative that both conflicting parties transform their perceptions and attitudes because what is in the mind dictates the actions. Men and women should complement each other and not compete with each other. Cultures are dynamic and are not cast in stone.

There are some cultures and traditions that dictate that when a woman purchases land, the husband is not allowed to use it. Najib, says that in that instance women can include their children’s names in the registration process. According to Kenya’s constitution, children can be registered as beneficiaries until they attain 18 years when they can acquire IDs and have joint ownership.

Though in some instances women also contribute to their own marginalization by not been assertive when they face discrimination; men are implored to ignore customs that discriminate women in land ownership. Some women are not allowed to inherit land. No culture is superior and citizens should respect all cultures as long as they don’t inhibit women rights.

 Najib gave a success story of Aisha a fisherwoman from Malindi, who ventured into fishing business after her husband died. She now owns two boats and is reaping big in commercial fishing. Aisha is currently supplying fish in Mombasa and Nairobi cities.

There is high level of illiteracy especially in Kwale County, women are most affected. The county government and other stakeholders like religious leaders should focus more on girl child education. This will lead to a transformed and productive society for all.

The government should be commended for latest exercise of issuing 60,000 certificates of titles to residents at the Coast. The judiciary should embark on fast tracking pending cases dealing with land issues.

Media should cover stories that help women know their rights and how to access resources without been marginalized. Success stories of women who have ventured in fishing and mining should be shared so that they can inspire other women. The government and civil society organizations should also create awareness and advocacy to ensure women participation in mining and fishing.

Facts about Rabbits

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  • Kits (baby rabbits) are born blind and without fur
  • A doe (female rabbit) can produce approximately 30 kits in a single breeding season
  • A doe can become pregnant again within hours of giving birth
  • Rabbits are more active at dawn and dusk
  • Rabbits have a near 360-degree vision and can even see behind them
  • If spotted, they flee from prey in a zigzag pattern
  • A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing
  • Rabbits groom themselves
  • Rabbits have 28 teeth
  • Pet rabbits are often referred to as ‘house rabbits’
  • The world’s largest rabbit was named “Darius” and weighed approximately 23 kilograms

 Source: Rabbit Breeders Association of Kenya (RABAK)

Rabbit farmers reap big in Kenya

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By Florence Gichoya

Rabbit farming is growing steadily in Kenya. The practice is referred to as cuniculture. Initially rabbits were mainly kept as pets and few people considered them as a source of income. Farmers interested in rabbit business recognized a gap in the market in supplying rabbit meat. They mobilized each other and formed the Rabbit Breeders Association of Kenya (RABAK). Their goal was to empower communities with health and wealth. By 2005, the association had registered more than 3000 rabbit farmers from different parts of the country. The Kenya government supported the initiative and partnered with the association by offering an office, which is hosted at Thika District Commissioner’s office.

The Chairman of RABAK, Peter Waiganjo said that initially, farmers were motivated to rear rabbits for their meat. However, there were a lot of misconceptions in the society about rabbit meat. “Many people kept rabbits in their homes as pets and they were not willing to buy the idea of rabbit meat consumption,” he said. The Association chose to sensitize communities on the nutritional value of rabbit meat. Waiganjo explains that rabbit meat is a type of white meat and it is very nutritious. It has lower fat, cholesterol and calories than chicken, pork and beef. In its sensitization efforts, RABAK organized events and invited various stakeholders who would be key in changing society’s misconceptions about rabbit meat. These were government officials, hoteliers, butchers, journalists and community leaders. They would be served with cooked rabbit meat during the meetings. The feedback was impressive and local butcheries started selling rabbit meat alongside beef and chicken. This prompted farmers to increase production.

Source: Earth times
Source: Earth times

Reaching the market

To stimulate demand for rabbit meat, RABAK has applied aggressive marketing strategies to ensure that farmers are well positioned to determine the market price for their products. One approach was forming associations for farmers in order to avoid exploitation by brokers. Since farmers in Thika had many rabbits to slaughter, they often used the poultry slaughterhouse in the town’s market. When a rabbit is wrongly slaughtered it ‘defends’ itself by urine poisoning making the meat inedible. If that happens the meat should be hanged for about ten hours in order to drain fluids from the meat. It is imperative to have a well-equipped slaughterhouse to prevent urine and fur poisoning of the meat. The Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries offered to build the first rabbit slaughterhouse meeting international standards in Thika town. The construction is almost complete and the slaughterhouse is expected to provide employment to more than 50 people from the local community.

More value addition

In 2012, rabbit farmers received a big boost from Uchumi Supermarkets (a leading supermarkets chain in Kenya) which contracted RABAK to supply 100 kilos of rabbit meat every week. The farmers were involved in the negotiations which saw them secure a profitable market price. Uchumi Supermarket continues to stock rabbit meat due to increasing demand. As more rabbits were slaughtered, farmers saw another opportunity in marketing their skins. On their behalf, RABAK approached the Leather Development Council (LDC) that processes rabbit skin to make inner soles for shoes. This was the beginning of a partnership that is still ongoing. Now the farmers have created a market niche and are able to sell both rabbit’s meat and skins at profitable prices. Jason Nthiga a rabbit farmer in Thika decided to venture in rabbit keeping three years ago and does not regret the decision. Currently he has 65 rabbits housed in a spacious and well aerated hutch. They are kept in different cages according to their age and breeding stage. He normally feeds them with vegetables from his garden once a day and has put a water trough in every cage. Jason slaughters the rabbits when they are at least six months old. He sells the rabbit meat to local butcheries and the rabbit skins to LDC through RABAK. He also discovered that rabbit’s urine is a good pesticide and uses it on his orange trees. Jason concurs that the demand for rabbit meat is high and he intends to increase their number.

Rabbit breeds

There are different Rabbits breeds that are reared in Kenya. They include; Californian, Chinchilla, Flemish Giant, New Zealand White, ILRI Giant, Dutch and French Lope. The breeds vary in body shape, fur color and behavioral characteristics.

Housing

Rabbits housing requires a small space referred to as a hutch. It is constructed using locally available materials such as wire mesh, timber and iron sheets for roofing. It should be raised from the ground to allow good drainage. The hutch should be situated in a well-aerated compound. They should be kept in different cages for proper recording. Rabbits should be fed on good quality pellets, fresh grass, vegetables and water. They are usually slaughtered after six months and should weigh at least two kilograms. They live for 8-12 years. The climate in Kenya and East Africa region is appropriate for rabbit farming.

Coast region yet to realize full potential from its natural resources

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By Florence Gichoya

Kenya is the biggest non-mineral economy in Sub-Sahara Africa and soon the country might get a boost in its GDP. There have been numerous discoveries of minerals in the past few years, titanium in Kwale County, coal in Kitui, and oil and water aquifers in Turkana. The coastal region is endowed with various natural resources that are yet to be fully exploited by the local communities. That’s why Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) with funding from Ford Foundation organized a media training session for print and broadcast journalists from the coastal region.

The journalists didn’t have information on how to cover minerals and resources in the area. They also didn’t grasp their important role to sensitize communities on their rights and how they can be involved in mining. These are emerging issues that should be addressed in the right media channels.

There should be increased media coverage on mining issues; journalists should be well informed so that they can report balanced and objective stories on natural resources. For instance, in Kwale County the public is not aware if Titanium miners are still prospecting or whether actual mining has started. Journalists don’t have clear knowledge on how to report mining issues even as minerals are being discovered in the nation.

Najib Samshawi, the Kenya Land Alliance (KLA) board member emphasized that journalists should cover the complete process of mining; these include: activities at the mine, destination of raw materials if exported and if they are processed locally. They should also cover the benefits of the minerals for example; titanium is used to make frames of aircrafts because it is resistant to heat. The public also needs to know the environmental implications of mining activities.

The minerals in Taita Taveta do not benefit the local communities. The miners who are licensed by the government don’t come from the area. Therefore there are high incidences of illegal mining by locals who end up selling the minerals at a throw away price. In Mwatate, the illegal miners are normally referred to as “zurura”.

Fishing is another economic activity whose full potential has not been exploited. Government and fisheries departments have not done much in empowering local communities. Local fishermen need to be taught on new fishing technologies and they should be open to new knowledge in order for them to be globally competitive.

One of the journalists highlighted that the biggest challenge for fishermen in the coastal region is ignorance and overconfidence. They assume that because they come from the region then they have inborn knowledge on fishing matters and coastal resources. Locals are not interested in receiving training on how to utilize their resources.

Coastal people should learn from other fishing communities in the country. When you compare the benefits of fishing in Lake Turkana, Lake Victoria and Indian Ocean, there is a great disparity. In Lake Turkana a lot of the fish rot because there is lack of infrastructure.  In Lake Victoria there is scarcity of fish because of high demand, the fish is supplied to wide a range of market including Nairobi and coastal regions. In contrast, fishing in the Indian Ocean has not been fully exploited. The fishermen use traditional methods to detect fish and do not have access to modern fishing equipment which can help increase yields and become competitive. A journalist said that there is a lot of self-centered activism and not community-centered activism. Local leaders normally give solutions in a reactive manner, only when there are incidences. The crisis on low level of fishing should compel the leaders to offer long lasting solutions.

The media in the region is challenged to cover on emerging issues in natural resources; it is unfortunate that politicians get the most coverage. This should be a wakeup call to all journalists to empower the society and show them that they can improve their lives and make a difference by earning a living through mining.

Are journalists up to the task?

Journalists in the coast region observed that there is lack of political goodwill to expose the illegal mining and unfair exploitation of resources. Sometimes the reporters face conflict with the mine owners who want to determine the content that will be broadcast and reported. Sometimes the reporters are caught up by warring communities who are fighting for resources. Journalists should report from all concerned parties so that they give a balanced story. The sources should be reliable and credible to avoid having a one sided story.

Investigative journalism should be applied when covering mining issues and reporters should be adequately facilitated by their media houses. Nevertheless, there are few people with expert knowledge on natural resources, for instance there are only four geologists in Kenya.

Media has a unique role of acting as a tool to inform, educate and sensitize the public on benefits of natural resources. Empowered residents of the coast region can generate more income through fishing and small scale mining. Media should therefore be proactive in coverage and setting the agenda that is good for the public. Relying on information from the government concerning natural resources is not enough.