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Monday, August 18, 2014

GfGD Blog Competition: Successes Of Geoscience In Development

A runner-up in the GfGD Blog Competition, Hudson Wereh Shiraku gives an interesting overview of the many ways in which geoscience can, and has, made a positive contribution to the lives of communities around the world. Hudson is based in the Environmental Sciences Department at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya.

As a prefix, geo is derived from a Greek word which loosely translates to “earth” usually in the sense of ground or land. Geosciences would therefore include all sciences that deal with the earth and to this end, the list is long – geology, mineralogy, paleontology, stratigraphy etc.

Talking of how geosciences, used in the context of development has brought about positive and sustainable change, the earth is the foundation upon which development depends. Development is either driven by resources from the earth or by land as a resource like in the case of agriculture. Success of a development process and sustainability of the same requires meticulous intervention of a geoscientist to define the balance between society’s demand for these resources, their sustainable use and need to sustain healthy ecosystems.

Success stories of how geosciences have played a fundamental role in development dates back to many years ago. In the early 1930s, a small village in western Kenya was the scene of a gold rush fueled partly by the reports of the geologist Albert Ernest Kitson. In its place now, we have a beautiful town called Kakamega which is the economic hub of the region. Elsewhere, gold has transformed South Africa and its commercial hub Egoli – the city of gold to a heaven for gold diggers and investors to its undisputed status as the continental economic heavy weight – thanks to geoscientists.

Water has brought happiness to these women (Hudson Wereh Shiraku)
If there is no water due to drought, children will miss school because they must help their mothers to fetch water. One can only imagine what implication this has to development but thanks to hydrologists, children from a village in Maralal in Northern Kenya won’t miss school again for this reason. Under the auspices of an international non-government organization (NGO), this class of geoscientists has worked tirelessly to indentify underground water sources and avail water to local communities.

Courtesy of geoscientists, Kenya is tapping into geothermal energy and generating electricity. With the potential of 2000 MW, there is a total of 127 MW installed capacity and the plant meets 11% of the total national electricity supply (MoE, 2008). As a result, geothermal use in Kenya has led to significant socio-economic benefits for the country; a workforce of 493 persons is deployed at the Olkaria power stations considerably contributing to poverty reduction. In Naivasha, a geothermal heat resource is being used in a horticultural farm to control night-time humidity levels in order to reduce the incidence of fungal diseases – a successful instance where Geoscience has drawn from other fields to create a positive change.

Away from home, geothermal power has also been successfully exploited in northern African countries, using geothermal fluid for irrigation of oases as well as heating and irrigation of greenhouses. 

In Israel, the fact that agricultural production continues to grow despite severe water and land limitations is no accident. It is due to a close and ongoing cooperation between researchers, extension workers, farmers and agriculture-related services and industries. Geoscience has been tapped into by agriculture to ensure availability of water and suitable soils for farming.  

Finally, in Kenya we have what has been humorously referred to as “Oil Mania”. Kenyans have run a mock with oil exploration all over the country since oil was recently discovered in the north western town of Turkana. Though we have to wait for some studies to determine its economic feasibility, prospects are high and surely geoscience is an important ingredient of development.

In view of all these success stories, what would my neighbor who threatened to disown his son for wanting to pursue a course in geology against his wish for an educational course do? I suppose he would cover his face in shame.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nourish Our People – Nurture Our Planet!

Given the recent concerns about the global agricultural production systems and dwindling food supplies, there are renewed calls for developing productive as well as environmentally sustainable agroecosystems. In this regard, a High Level Roundtable on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture was held in New York from 15th to 16th March 2012 with the purpose of deriving effective actions towards the implementation of ecologically, socially and economically sustainable agricultural and Food Systems....................................

Tweet to @Hwereh

Friday, April 20, 2012

An increase in mobile use can raise the annual GDP rate in developing countries???

Growing up in in my rural village, I remember owning a phone was reserved for a few individuals - the village elite who could maintain it 'buy airtime'. I remember my uncle warning me against buying a phone from the savings I accrued from burning and selling charcoal (Before I realized the need for conserving tree). "A mobile phone will eat all your money" he told me. To drive the point home, he told me that unlike human beings who runs on ugali served with vegetables, phones will always need money in them in form of airtime and that they devours it faster than one earns. He then advised me to wait until am "rich" before I could afford to buy and maintain one.

"An increase in mobile penetration can raise the annual GDP rate in developing countries" Was a headline in one daily. Without looking at the content, my mind went back to what my late uncle told me and what am going through as a phone owner. In the context of my late uncle, this headline does not hold true but its no basis for dismissing. So the question is, what are the necessary conditions for this headline to be true? Leave your comments please

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Google+ Hangout with the UN Secretary-General


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

African ministers reaffirm ST&I commitments - SciDev.Net

The first African Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Youth Employment, Human Capital Development and Inclusive Growth has concluded with ministers announcing a range of resolutions to harness ST&I for sustainable development.
Initiatives to solve societal problems in areas such as water, health, information and communication technologies (ICTs), renewable energy and agriculture were also agreed at yesterday's ministerial meeting, attended by  57 government ministers with responsibility for science, technology and innovation,finance, planning and education.
They pledged to use ST&I as a driver for inclusive growth and youth empowerment, with a focus on entrepreneurship, through strengthened support for innovation and entrepreneurship programs. Read more here...African ministers reaffirm ST&I commitments - SciDev.Net

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lest you din't know; stress significantly affects decision making

If an important decision looms but your mind is consumed with the fear that you’ve lost your wallet, better save decision making for later. Multiple studies show that stress significantly affects decision making.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Peru Passes Monumental Ten Year Ban on Genetically Engineered Foods

Peru Passes Monumental Ten Year Ban on Genetically Engineered Foods

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rural youth ditch farming for lucrative bodaboda business

Year in, year out, at the onset of every rainy season, Mr James Wanje, a Busia district resident, used to prepare his land for planting. With the help of family labour, the 34-year-old would plough their two-and-a-half-acre piece of land and thereafter sow various food crops.

“I planted maize on about one-and-a-half-acres of the land and other crops on the remaining piece. I used most of the harvest for my subsistence and would later sell some,” Mr Wanje recounted last week.

However, times have changed. Today, as rain clouds gather for another season, Mr Wanje cares less about tilling his farm or planting. He is busy all day long ferrying customers to various destinations using his bodaboda.

His drastic change of livelihood is mirrored by hundreds of young men in rural Kenya who have swapped farming for motorbike business.

The bodaboda industry is fast growing and is believed to be lucrative. It has attracted many young men all over the country, many of whom were engaging in agriculture.

Unfortunately, this has caused a worrisome trend, especially in rural areas, as it is the elderly who now till the land to feed their folk.

This pattern has raised the eyebrows of agricultural experts, who believe that motorbikes harbour a potential threat to food production in Kenya.
Like in other African countries, agriculture is the nerve centre of Kenya’s economy.

Currently, the country relies heavily on food imports from its neighbours in East and Southern Africa. Economic analysts blame sky-high prices of food for last year’s decline in value of the shilling against world currencies, where the local unit sunk to a historic low of 107 to the dollar in October.

A ministry of Agriculture report in January shows that Kenya intends to import over 600,000 bags of maize by June.

“Many youths are no longer interested in farming because there are readily available jobs and quick money in bodaboda business,” said Mr Mark Naimo, an agricultural extension officer in Western Kenya.

First, many youths are selling land inherited from their parents to buy motorbikes. And, second, others have shunned agriculture to seek jobs in the transport industry.

“Since most youths cannot afford about $1,050 (Sh87,360), which is the average price of a motorbike, they turn to land, the only resource available to them, and readily dispose it to buy the two-wheelers,” Mr Naimo said.

He noted that land sizes in most parts of rural Kenya are shrinking fast because of subdivisions. “I sold an acre of my land at $3,700 (Sh307,840) and used part of the money to buy two motorbikes at $1,070 (Sh89,000) each. I have employed someone to run one as I ferry people with the other,” said Mr Wanje. He now has just one-and-a-half-acre piece of land.

Mr Naimo says many youths lack patience — a virtue that agriculture demands. Erratic weather patterns have also weighed in, pushing young people to alternative sources of income.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA)

I thought you might be interested.......................

Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA) is a program to provide free or low cost access to major scientific journals in agriculture and related biological, environmental and social sciences to public institutions in developing countries. Launched in October 2003, AGORA will provide access to 1900 journals from the world's leading academic publishers.

Led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the goal of AGORA is to improve the quality and effectiveness of agricultural research, education and training in low-income countries, and in turn, to improve food security. Through AGORA, researchers, policy-makers, educators, students, technical workers and extension specialists have access to high-quality, relevant and timely agricultural information via the Internet.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Women | Farming First

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sharing of information by farmers made easier:Google!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Paul Kagame; If all were like you.............

I have said this many times and am not gonna stop; for agriculture to be more sustainable, environmental friendly and attractive to the youth there is need for change in the way we perceive it and support from all corners given its multifaceted nature.President Paul Kagame of Rwanda understands this too well and other leaders should emulate him. Can you imagine where Africa would be with several other leaders like him? He is rallying support for smallholder farmers.   

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thought you'd like this! Analysis: Land grab or development opportunity?:

With land central to the livelihoods of millions of people in Africa, Lorenzo Cotula of the International Institute for Environment and Development examines the impact of large-scale land acquisitions on the continent's farmers.
"Land grabs" are now one of the biggest issues in Africa.
Over the past few years, companies and foreign governments have been leasing large areas of land in some of Africa's poorest countries.
BBC News - Analysis: Land grab or development opportunity?:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lest you did not know...... can enhance seed security through the FAO's crop calender. The Crop Calendar is a tool that provides timely information about seeds to promote local crop production. It contains information on planting, sowing and harvesting periods of locally adapted crops in specific agro-ecological zones. It also provides information on the sowing rates of seed and planting material and the main agricultural practices.

This tool supports farmers and agriculture extentionists across the world in taking appropriate decisions on crops and their sowing period, respecting the agro-ecological dimension. It also provides a solid base for emergency planning of the rehabilitation of farming systems after disasters.

The Crop Calendar provides information for more that 130 crops, located in 283 agro-ecological zones of 44 countries.

Farmer squeezes Sh2.4m a year from mango trees

Mangoes on the market
As a proponent of the idea that youths need to be involved in agriculture and take it as a form of employment I go great lengths in looking for ways to justify and convince them. One way of doing this is by sharing success stories on how farmers have made it in different agricultural practices and to this effect, I do a lot of reading and research to bring such stories to my readers.
Today, am going to share with you on how Mr Francis Kiplaga has made it from Mango tree farming - a farming venture that one won't even imagine of when planning for his/her farming. This story was featured in one of the Kenyan dailies and it can be accessed here.

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Hudson Wereh


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