Saturday, 31 March 2012

What's Your View on Gender inequality among women and girls in science?

Women and girls start on a high note in science and maths early in life,

And continue on a downward trend as time and age progresses according to various research findings.

The female gender has higher IQ than the male gender at the beginning of life,

But latter in life,things appear otherwise as time advances.

What really happens to the IQ of the female gender as time passes?

We need to reclaim this human resource potential for sustainable development?

Your opinion has been the missing link in solving this puzzle

Inclusiveness is essential for sustainable economic development.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Natural stress relief and management in Kenya

Stress is a natural reaction to a strain upon the body. Healthy eating among other things is essential for health management during and after stress. Balanced diet is necessary for maintaining general good health and wellness. Human body demands increased amounts of all nutrition particularly B vitamins to support the nervous system, and calcium to counteract lactic acid produced by tense muscles. A healthy person has better resilience than a weakling. A diet consisting mainly of unprocessed or whole foods, Fresh fruits and vegetables is great foods for health

Signs and symptoms
·        Severe continuous headaches
·        Low body temperature
·        Poor memory
·        Difficulties in sleeping
·        Hypoglycemia
·        Joint and muscle pain
·        Loss of appetite
·        Lack of energy
·        Heart burn
·        Gas in the stomach production,
·        Isolation
·        Constipation.
·        Osteoporosis
Stress Management guidelines
Vegetable salad

Good nutrition with vitamins and mineral rich foods is invaluable for stress relief and management.Vitamin rich foods strengthen the immune system in addition to increasing the body’s resilience. Some good sources are salads, oranges, blueberries, beef, almonds, almonds.
Magnesium relaxes tense muscles while potassium strengthens the stomach. Good sources are green vegetables, avocadoes, bananas, apricots, tomatoes, squash, peaches, oranges, potatoes and lime.
Calcium neutralizes lactic acid produced by tense muscles Good sources are dairy products, tofu, and chick peas.Good nutrition improves the body's capacity to cope with stress; therefore good nutrition for health should be adhered to for effective management.
Eat high foliate foods which are mainly leafy green vegetables
Eat Omega 3 foods like fish oil, walnuts.
Eat a balanced breakfast meal regularly which prepares the body early in the day to deal with strain. Breakfast is therefore the most important meal of the day. Lack of preparation to cope with the day's strain triggers negative body reactions. Production of stress hormones activates secretion of essential minerals which includes calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc from the body. Without the right nutrients, the effects of stress can be disastrous on your body.
Eat a diversity of foods in order to get all the forty six components for good health and nutrition. No single food can give adequate nutrition.
Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided as they deplete the body of essential B vitamins and triggers sleep disturbances. Alcohol also impairs judgment and interferes with mental capability. Choose good nutrition and have enjoyable meal times.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Farmers: It’s Time to Adopt Climate Smart Agriculture

How has climate change affected your life? No, I don’t mean all that stuff you read in the papers about climate change and how we are all going to die in a few years if we do not change our ways! That may be true but that’s a topic for another day.  Right now I would like to hear how climate change has affected you personally.

While you are thinking about that, there is one group of people whose lives will never be the same again due to climate change: the farmers.  For instance, my grandmother, Grace, is a farmer in a remote part of Kenya. She has been a farmer for more than 50 years and for a long time, she thought she knew all she needed to know about farming. After all, she has over 50 years of experience.

The last time I spoke to her, she was at a loss. She can no longer produce enough food for herself leave alone for her family. In her words, “It doesn’t rain like it used to and the sun doesn’t shine like it used to. Everything has changed.” When I last spoke to her, all I could do was listen because I didn’t have a solution for her. 
However, the Cop 17 conference in Durban Came and went and suddenly there was a new buzz word all over the internet: Climate Smart Agriculture. Climate Smart Agriculture is  a relatively simple climate change adaptation concept that involves farmers changing their agricultural practices to fit new precipitation patterns as  well as diversifying their livelihood strategy so that they aren’t  solely dependent on agriculture.

So we know what the problem is i.e. the lack of food security and we know the solution i.e. climate smart agriculture. It’s now time to act. A time has come when farmers must adopt new agricultural practices and diversify their livelihoods by engaging in non-agricultural activities.  It’s no longer enough for farmers, especially small scale farmers like my grandmother to rely purely on agriculture for their livelihood. If we want to achieve food security, we cannot continue to do things like we did in the past and expect different results. 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Oyster mushrooms cultivation in Kenya

Mushrooms can be defined as fruiting bodies of fungi. They have no chlorophyll and therefore lack the ability to synthesize their own food.They get nutrients from supplements like wheat or rice bran. Oyster mushrooms cultivation produces organically grown health food. Oyster mushrooms cultivation is the most economical way to utilize agricultural by products which would otherwise be burned or left to rot in the field polluting the environment. The spent mushroom cultivation media can be used as compost or livestock feed. Therefore mushroom cultivation is a good environmental conservation method.Oyster mushrooms cultivation which is common in Kenya is inexpensive and has a readily available market. Oyster mushrooms cultivation can be done using readily available inexpensive substrates which include straw, sugarcane baggase, coffee residues, straw, banana waste, cotton seed hulls and sawdust. Oyster mushrooms cultivation requirements are Spawns, Substrate, and a room, Supplements like wheat or rise bran, Agricultural lime, Poly bags, string and Water.

The following are the ingredient ratios for oyster mushrooms cultivation media preparation; 1kg supplement: 4kilograms substrate: 8litres water per poly bag.75% moisture is recommended to avoid water logging.Sterile conditions are essential for oyster mushrooms cultivation; therefore preparation starts with pasteurization which involves chopping of the substrate and soaking overnight for moistening, then packing it in poly bags, followed by submerging the poly bags for 2 hours in boiling water at 90ºC and above, and then cool the bags for 24-48 hours.
Bleach method is an alternative sterilization method in oyster mushrooms cultivation and it involves the use of household bleach 5.25 percentage of sodium hypochlorite.5-6 cups of the bleach is added to 190 litres of water, after which the substrate is submerged for 4-12 hours. As a caution, the bleach solution which remains should be drained off where there is no vegetation to avoid scorching.

Spawning or sowing the seeds is the next step which is carried out in a dark room, followed by tying the poly bag at the top. Open after 28 days while white colonies start appearing. Open the top of the bag only to avoid sprouting from several surfaces which might lead to a glut leading to marketing problem. 3 days after opening the bags, white pin heads appear and water spray should be done to facilitate pinheads opening. Damp conditions are critically required at this point of oyster mushrooms cultivation and hence earth floors should be should be sprinkled with water while cemented floors are covered with a damp Hessian Cloth. Harvesting starts 30-40 days after spawning or sowing and optimal cropping cycle is 70-80 days, thus harvesting can continue for a period of 8 weeks.
The ventilation space between the wall and the roof should be minimized during construction to avoid excess moisture loss or adapted if an already constructed structure is used. The shelves which hold the poly bags should be made on double rows in order to allow space for watering and harvesting. The shelves should be 1 metre wide while the lowest shelf should be 15 cm from above ground.

Friday, 9 March 2012

‘Smart phones’ facilitate virtual agricultural extension

Lack of access to adequate agricultural extension services is a major problem hindering achievement of sustainable agriculture and food security in Africa and other developing countries. Achievement of food security is the dream of most governments and agricultural development agencies in Africa and the rest of the developing world. Food security exists when all the people at all times have physical and economic access to adequate, nutritious and safe food for a healthy and active life. The United Nations identifies adequate access to food as a human right issue. Food security and sustainable agriculture are inseparable bedfellows, without which sustainable development is just but an illusion. Agriculture and food production constitutes the largest economic sector in the world providing livelihood for 40% of the global population. The millennium development goal number one aspires to eradicate extreme poverty and food insecurity. Agricultural knowledge and agricultural information are critical for achievement of food security in Africa and globally. The state organs which are mostly plagued by financial insecurity are the key providers of agricultural extension services in Africa.

Virtual outreach system for small scale farmers in the Caribbean Island could be a solution to the deficiencies of the agricultural extension services in Africa. [Software Developed by Anton Robinson]. A partnership between the University of the West Indies and a University of Greenwich graduate is using mobile phones to improve access of agricultural knowledge and information. Virtual agricultural extension  pilot project was tested in St Vincent and the Grenadines between October 2011 and January 2012, permitting adaptation to meet farmers' specific needs. To start with the virtual outreach system tested a question and answer service. This involved sending of questions and photos of pest and disease problems, taken on a mobile phone, through Short Message Service and uploading these on to the virtual outreach system. These were then directed to experts by the service manager. The farmers received a response within 24 hours.

The second trial was on a virtual training programme, consisting of e-courses on compost making and low-cost greenhouses by a team from the University of the West Indies, Trinidad & St. Augustin. The farmers were provided with a laptop and projector as well as training by the virtual outreach system, on use and maintenance of the equipments. Using Skype and YouTube, nine farmers were trained by Dr Wayne Ganpat, a lecturer in agriculture economics and extension. The virtual agricultural outreach system has received a positive response. The farmers have identified additional areas in which they require training and are demanding further virtual capacity building. This is an encouraging step and a security against the current climate change, as the idea can be replicated across developing world. Remember our security is in our hands.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Grow Zucchini squash for income generation in Kenya

Courgettes plants are also called zucchini, summer/winter squash. Zucchini squash belongs to the family cucurbitaceae .These squash are grown for their immature fruits which are used in salads and pickles. The market for zucchini is good in the urban areas of Kenya and consumption of the vegetables is becoming increasingly popular in the rural areas. Zuchini are chiefly warm climate vegetables requiring an optimum temperatures of 17º-22ºC.Zuchini squash requires an optimum water supply of 800mm during the vegetables growing period. With irrigation the vegetables can be grown in dry areas with little rainfall. The squash can be grown from 500 to 2000M altitude, and a wide range of well drained light loam, manure or compost enriched soils, with PH of 5.5-7.5.Zucchini squash is propagated by seed at a rate of 6-8 kg per Ha. Deep soil cultivation is recommended and moulds or ridges 15-20cm high are made cougettes are directly planted on the ridges or moulds spaced at 90cm×90cm.2-3 seeds per hole are planted which are thinned to one plant per hill about 2 weeks after emergence.

One to two shovels of manure per hill (up to 20 tons/ha) and 5g of phosphate fertilizer such as TSP OR DAP (150-200kg/ha) per hill should be applied and mixed well with the soil. After thinning, the vegetables are top dressed with 5g of CAN (26%N) 150-200kg/ha applied prior to flowering.Excessive application of nitrogenous fertilizers and manure to courgettes/zucchini should be avoided because it induces the plants vegetative growth at the expense of fruit setting.Weeding should be done regularly during growth to reduce competition for nutrients. The vegetables should be mulched to retain soil moisture and keep them clean. Strict crop rotation should be practiced using cereals, beans, cabbages, potatoes but never with cucurbitaceae crops.Courgettes plants are affected by various fungal diseases which include powdery mildew, downy mildew and anthracnose. The diseases can be controlled using recommended fungicides.

The vegetables are also attacked by a variety of pests such as cucumber mosaic virus, melon fly, Tobacco whitefly, and aphids which can be controlled through field hygiene and use of recommended pesticides.Zucchini squash harvesting starts 2-2 ½ months after planting and the crop lifespan is 5-6 months. Immature tender vegetables are picked twice a week at a length of 15-20cm.Fruits should not be left to ripen on the vine as the plant growth will stop. Courgettes/zucchini squash can yield 10-12 tons/ha.