Bozo Jenje - MESHA Chairman

Kenya to host global meeting of agricultural journalists

Bozo Jenje - MESHA Chairman

By Christine Ochogo I

Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA) will host the International Federation of Agriculture Journalists (ifaj) Congress in 2025. 

While making the announcement to members of the giant Kenyan science journalist’s association, the Board Chairman, Bozo Jenje said the decision to host the conference in Nairobi was a move in the right direction and that it would allow the country to showcase its milestones in agricultural development.

The showpiece, he added, will also give the world a glimpse of how Kenyans tell the African science story.

“Perhaps this is the peak of MESHA’s recognition for the excellent trailblazing it has undertaken in bringing science journalists together not just in Kenya but in Africa as well,” added John Riaga, the treasurer.

The annual fete will take place in Africa only for the second time after South Africa hosted in 2017. Initially, Kenya was to host in 2026 but the decision to bring it to Nairobi a year earlier was made after Israel dropped its bid to host in 2025. The congress brings together journalists from all over the world.

MESHA Secretary, Aghan Daniel termed the decision “a huge responsibility” that had been bestowed upon MESHA. “This is a very big honour, big statement of trust that the world has about our ability and I am confident that we will hold a memorable conference bringing together agriculture journalists from all over the world,” he said in a statement to members of Africa’s most active science journalists’ association.

Other MESHA members also welcomed the decision and vowed to get down to start preparations for hosting.

“We have a strong team of agriculture writers who will be meeting in the next few days to begin the preliminary discussions,” said Aghan.



Hellen Nasha Lelegwe pose in her farm Lching'ei village.She has turned to kitchen garden to dodge climate change

Samburu women turn to kitchen gardens to dodge changing weather patterns

Pirauni Lebarleiya an agro-pastoralists

By Clifford Akumu

Across the open plains of Lching’ei Village in Samburu County, a herd of goats roam the scape, nibbling at tiny twigs of stout acacia shrubs scattered across the expanse.

Further afield, manyattas – dome-shaped temporary pastoralists shelters made of mud and sticks – dot the village like overgrown ant-hills.

Not far away, Hellen Nasha Lelegwe’s one-acre farm rolls by with rows of leafy sukuma-wiki and amaranth intercropped among maize, with napier grass seated on the edges of the farm.

The veggies, says Mrs Lelegwe, have been an important source of food and nutrition for her family and fellow villagers, particularly during the searing drought that tore the region’s food security apart.

She grows a variety of vegetables, ranging from sukuma-wiki, cabbages, onions, tomatoes, saget, African nightshade (managu), green pepper to sweet potatoes.

In most villages in the larger Suguta Mar Mar ward in Samburu Central where Lelegwe lives, the aftermath of failed rains is evident; pastoralists possessing a handful of livestock, and men have migrated as far as Isiolo and Laikipia in search of pasture and water for their livestock, leaving women to head households.

The women, abandoned by their husbands, are at the core of family life and the economy of the villages. They have a key role in food production, animal husbandry and raising children.

With nearest water sources running dry, food production has slowed and livelihoods have worsened. What now worries the community most is the ripple effect on their nutritional status.

“Dry seasons are now progressively getting worse. This time, our livestock have perished and left us with nothing,” Lelegwe narrates while weeding her plot. Her family lost 17 cattle and over 100 goats to the drought.


Unfortunately, in Lching’ei, it’s not only the changing weather patterns or conflict with wild animals that the locals are wary of. Armed bandits too have been a cause of pain, injuries and loss of livelihoods as they forcefully break into cattle sheds and drive away with droves of livestock. Every few miles of our journey to meet the farmer was met with pockets of the National Police Reservists patrolling the area to provide security. 

Although the government has continued to upscale the security operation against banditry, pastoralist communities are still losing the remaining livestock to bandits. Lching’ei village borders Amaiya and Nasur villages.

However, Lching’ei residents have since found ways of adapting. Every evening, together with their children and livestock, they flock to the Logorate shopping centre one by one ready to spend the night.

“We neither sleep in our houses nor do our animals in the compound. We only come during the day to cook and tend to the crops,” says Mrs Lelegwe, adding that the police provide security at the Logorate centre.

“We are safer at the shopping centre.”

Pirauni Lebarleiya is an agro-pastoralists who used to help his wife water their vegetable garden planted on gunny bags before drought set in and pushed him and the cattle to as far as Isiolo County in search of pasture and water.

“I used to go for water in the dam with my motorcycle to water our vegetables. When drought set in, I took all my sheep and goats to Kilimon area. And later moved with 25 cattle to Ngarantare (Nanyuki-Isiolo border) and later proceeded to Sieku in Isiolo in search of water and pasture. I only came back with three cows,” says Lebarleiya, gazing at his empty Kraal. He lost the rest of the cows to the drought.                                                                                         Lebarleiya reckons that his farming activities have reduced following prolonged drought. Currently, he is preparing a comeback with new vegetable seedlings to transplant in new gunny bags. He used to grow cabbage, sukuma wiki, managu, onions, among others.

Classified as an Arid and Semi-Arid area, Samburu is a water scarce county, and the situation has been getting worse due to the frequent and prolonged bouts of intense drought.

According to the March 2023 Drought Early Warning Bulletin produced by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), Samburu County was in the alarm drought phase.

The report further indicates that the majority of villagers accessed water from boreholes and wells. Boreholes and wells were relied on by 40 and 30 per cent of the households, respectively.

Mrs Lelegwe is part of a 30-member Sipat Women Group (formerly Beans Growers Women Group) who have sought out new farming methods to respond and adapt to the changing weather patterns and save their village.

She is practising climate-smart agriculture to diversify her source of livelihood, from solely depending on livestock keeping to other income generating activities like agro-pastoralism.

Until the women group received training on kitchen garden, multi-cropping, seedbed establishment among many other climate smart farming techniques, Mrs Lelegwe and other members of the group engaged in businesses and traditional small-scale farming.

But income from their farming was low and produce did not yield enough profits to sustain the activity.

In 2022, Caritas Maralal engaged an agronomist to train the women group on climate-smart agriculture under the WWF-Kenya’s Voices for Just Climate Action (VCA) funding programme to strengthen indigenous communities’ response and adaptation to climate change.

The VCA project aims to raise the voices and capacity of underrepresented or marginalised groups to enable them take on a central role as creators, facilitators and advocates of innovative and inclusive climate solutions. The mission is to create awareness of how climate change affects vulnerable/marginalised groups such as pastoralists, women, children and people with disability and efforts to alleviate these effects.

“I partitioned the farm as per the lessons from our training and I must admit, the harvest has been plenty and lasted longer than the previous harvests. I’m able to sell to my neighbours and other business people in Longeiwan and Suguta markets and restaurants in Maralal town,” says Mrs Lelegwe.

The aim of the livelihoods diversification programme across the pastoralists region was to rehabilitate farmland in an environmentally sustainable way, and ensure households have a supply of fresh vegetables for food security and nutrition, says Coleta Nyaenya, the programmes manager at Caritas Maralal.

“Women farmers who planted indigenous vegetables recorded improved intake and growth from their children as compared to when they only fed them on porridge (locally known as Kitegen),” Nyaenya says.

“Now the women have become entirely independent. They are now able to sustain their households during drought periods even when their husbands migrate in search of water and pasture for the livestock.”

But in Samburu, as is the case in many parts of ASAL regions, women and children are disproportionately affected by the drought, which has increased their vulnerability to food security, ill health, violence and drastically reduced their access to nutritious food.

According to the ‘2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Agrifood Economics Division, the number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021.

In Kenya, more than 37 million people representing over 80 per cent of the population cannot afford a healthy diet, which has particularly negative nutritional consequences for women and children.

According to a recently released report by Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), at least 970,000 children below five years and 142,000 pregnant women and lactating mothers are suffering from acute malnutrition.

Nationally, one out of five children below five years are stunted, meaning they are short for their age, with a majority living in rural areas, according to the 2022 Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS).

Kepha Nyanumba, consultant nutritionist at Crystal Health Consultants Limited, says kitchen garden farming promotes food and nutrition security.

“It ensures people have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and preferences,” says Nyanumba.

“It plays a key role in fighting the nutritional deficiencies associated with food scarcity.”                                 

This oasis on the border with Amaiya village has had a fair share of challenges in the quest to grow and consume indigenous vegetables. Until Mrs Lelegwe started irrigating her plot of land using pipes, she used to fetch water from Logorate dam, 500 metres away, to water her crops.

“I started farming in 2019 on half an acre. I planted green pepper, onions, sukuma wiki and tomatoes,” she says.

She would later expand to one acre. “I later bought pipes for irrigation through the help of World Vision. I also bought a generator at Sh35,000 after selling maize from my farm that I used to drain water from the dam and irrigate the field.”

Several kilometers away in Lorrok village, Porro ward, Miriam Lekarabi, 32, has tasted the fruits of climate-smart agriculture.

She says, “Last year I planted sukuma-wiki which I sold at Porro market at Ksh50 (US$0.37) a bunch. I also harvested two full sacks of potatoes, which I sold at Ksh3,500-4,500 ($26-33),” says Lekarabi who belongs to Mayian Village Savings and Loans Group.

Lekarabi and Lelegwe’s practice of climate-smart farming has led to improved living conditions and they are now beginning to put back power in women’s hands and halt the climate migration.

“We now have money in the family, even when the livestock dies due to drought, we live better. Our children too are able to go to school and are feeding on nutritious food,” says Mrs Lelegwe, who has since become a model farmer in her village.

“We now have financial independence and a choice. If we all change our ways as a community and get bumper harvests from our farms, we will get rid of climate-change-induced hunger and malnutrition.”

This story was produced with support from WWF-K VCA project and MESHA

Caption: Dr Patrick Oyaro: Myths and misconceptions affect the uptake of vaccines hence need to report on how prevention and control measures benefitted other health aspects.

Study: Immunisation programs unaffected by COVID-19

Caption: Dr Patrick Oyaro: Myths and misconceptions affect the uptake of vaccines hence need to report on how prevention and control measures benefitted other health aspects.

By Asha Bekidusa I

MOMBASA, May 18, 2023 – Immunisation programs in Kenya’s Kilifi county did not suffer adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new research has revealed.

The study called Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vaccine coverage in Kilifi, Kenya: a retrospective cohort study found out that despite many countries experiencing disruptions in out-patient visits and routine immunisation services during the early days of COVID-19, immunisation of children within the Kilifi County was not affected by the pandemic.

It also revealed that immunisation visits for the third dose of the Pentavalent vaccine and Measles containing vaccine were maintained during the first year and increased during the second year of the pandemic.

According to Dr Ruth Lucinde, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, who led the study, issuance of guidelines for continuity of essential services and exemption of healthcare workers and individuals seeking care from movement restrictions may have contributed to this scenario.

Additionally, supplying counties with extra vaccines and immunisation supplies and postponing routine weighing services for children but advising mothers to return for all their vaccination visits also contributed towards this positive report.

While making a presentation, COVID-19 Vaccination Integration into Routine Immunisation noted that currently there is still uptake as health workers implement door to door vaccination. He also said that partners have formed the County Technical Working Group which is multisector for planning and coordination; and to assess readiness.

“We know that COVID-19 is no longer an emergency, but this does not mean it is over,” he cautioned the journalists attending the 80th Science Media café by Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA) yesterday.

Dr. Oyaro added that when COVID-19 measures were relaxed in the country there was a decline of uptake of vaccine in most counties including the Coastal region. Therefore, clear messaging and interpretation of public notice is important in managing responses to public health measures.

Naming myths and misconceptions as challenges affecting the uptake of vaccine, he advised journalists to report on the positives on how the infection prevention and control measures like wearing a mask and regular hand washing benefitted other health aspects like prevention/reduction of other respiratory and diarrheal diseases.

Anne Mweu from National Nurses Association of Kenya acknowledged the challenges that came with COVID-19 but noted that nurses are now better prepared to handle a pandemic than ever before as the shock and anxiety that at first accompanied the pandemic has been overcome by regular sensitization by the government.

Availability of resources such as personal protective equipment to protect the nurses and such resources were challenges however she noted that these are now available in the hospitals to offer protection to health workers countrywide.





Women fetch water at Enkongu Enkare spring in Naroosura Narok County Kenya during the World Wetlands Day celebrations recently.

Race to save Narok South’s remaining wetlands and tame climate risks

Women fetch water at Enkongu Enkare spring in Naroosura Narok County Kenya during the World Wetlands Day celebrations recently.

By Clifford Akumu

On the fringe of Naroosura village, several kilometres South of Narok, Patrick Tolo walks in his black sandals made from old tires and a traditional herding stick in his hand on smooth rocks that seem to form a pattern.

Behind him are pastoralists crisscrossing the patched land with their livestock in search of pasture, the goats occasionally munching young fresh acacia leaves. Women can also be seen with jerrycans full of water on their backs and others rolling on the ground.

Mr Tolo is on his way to Enkong’u Enkare water spring (locally known as the eye of water) – a critical fresh water source that sustains the lives and livelihoods of thousands of residents.

Tolo, 51, recalls how the community has been dealing with human-wildlife conflict at the water spring due to prolonged drought. The water level has drastically reduced.

“Many have fallen victims to the wild animals, especially elephants roaming the area in search of food and water. The elephants cleared my sugarcane and banana plantation. I no longer grow them. I have decided to grow fast maturing crops like tomatoes and vegetables,” says Mr Tolo, as he inspects the pipes that he uses to irrigate an adjacent land.

For Sayianka Nkiminis, memories of an encounter with a male buffalo that was destroying his maize are painful. The animal nearly killed him. “The animal charged at me. The only thing I can remember is being airborne, having been lifted by the animal’s horns, before a fall with a thud. One of the horns got lodged between my legs and it nearly mutilated my genitals,” he recalls.

nearby villagers save his life. He lay in a coma at the Narok County Referral Hospital for three days.

“I’m lucky to have made it alive,” Nkiminis says.

-diverse ecosystems on the planet and can only be compared to rainforest and coral reefs. They reduce the likelihood of flooding by soaking up excess water from swollen rivers. They filter pollutants from groundwater before it enters aquifers, and are one of the most effective natural carbon storage systems on the planet.

According to the Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel, wetlands store 35 per cent of the world’s land-based carbon, despite covering just 9 per cent of its surface.

Enkong’u Enkare water catchment has two springs. The cold one diverts to Ntuka Sub-location, supporting four schools and domestic use, while the warm one flows down and becomes the Naroosura river.

Olchoro Ngussur and Olmaisuri Entiapiri wetlands are in Narok South.

WWF programmes Coordinator for Mau-Mara-Loita region Kevin Gichangi says wetlands destruction increases vulnerability to extreme climate change effects, including flooding and drought.

“Enkong’u Enkare is a perennial spring that serves the community and supplies vital habitat and “biological supermarkets” for wildlife,” he says.

few kilometres away, the Embukitaa Hills, the breeding site for elephants, protrude.

r Gichangi says many aquatic species are endangered when wetlands are degraded. “Apart from aquatic species that depend directly on the wetland, it is also a source of water for rivers that sustain wildlife downstream. This spring lies in the Mara Ecosystem that is well known for wildlife,” he says, warning that the rate at which wetlands are being degraded will be detrimental to the country.

90 per cent of the wetlands have been degraded since the 1700s.We are losing wetlands three times faster than we are losing forests” adds Mr Gichangi.

According to the January 2023 National Drought Early Warning bulletin produced by the National Drought Management Authority, Narok County is in the alert drought phase.

The bulletin reveals that the drought situation is critical in 22 of the 23 ASAL counties due to the late onset and poor performance of the much-anticipated October to December 2022 short rains, coupled with previous consecutive failed rainfall seasons.

Preserved by the Ministry of Irrigation in 1982 to provide water for domestic use, Enkong’u Enkare spring remains a critical wetland supporting more than 15,000 people with its more than 29 million cubic metres, as per the records from the Ministry of Water.

Encroachment by humans and wildlife almost risked the water source becoming just another afterthought in a story about restoration. Two years ago the spring was also threatened by siltation and other pollutants flowing into the water pan built to collect the spring’s water. Erratic weather patterns, a perennial drought and sporadic flooding saw the mini dam’s bed filled with harmful waste and silt.

“It was full of silt, which used to fill the whole dam. The dam had also been invaded by water hyacinth,” says Mr Tolo, who grows vegetables, maize and beans nearby.

The WWF Kenya began a rehabilitation project on the dam, removing the silt that had clogged it. It also built several canals to supply directly from the spring to several farms and projects, including Naroosura and Oloiboroing’oni irrigation schemes under the water resource users association.

It also repaired the cattle trough and the communal water points, planting indigenous trees and repairing the fence to keep off wild animals. The farmers grows mainly fast-maturing horticulture crops such as tomatoes, cabbages, onions, beans and maize.

“Were it not for this water, people wouldn’t have lived here because the place is so dry. It had a lot of trees and that is why it is called Naroosura (the green forest),” says James ole Tago, the Naroosura Water Resource Users Association secretary, that ensures the natural resource is protected.

And because of these multi-water uses, the spring needs more protection than any other wetland,” he says.

The WRUA was created to train the community on sustainable farming and come up with water use schedules to avoid water-related conflicts locally.

During dry season, when the water volumes at the spring reduce, Naroosura WRUA advises farmers to farm on small portions of the land to enhance uniform allocation of water in each plot.

 water my crops twice in a week, according to the schedule by the Naroosura WRUA. The farmers group has also drawn a timetable on members that are tasked to oversee the process,” says Tolo.

“We are now able to pump water to irrigate crops. I harvest between eight and 10 bags of maize,” he says.

The irrigation project targeted integrated water resource management through sustainable farming practices. It trained the farmers on how to avoid water pollution by not emptying chemicals and farm waste in the river system to keep river Naroosura clean for downstream users not to get water-borne diseases.

“We also trained the farmers on integrated pest management and how to do organic farming,” explains Mr Tago.

told the government to second an expert to the catchment to determine the extent of the water table to avoid further destruction. “We need an expert who understands the extent of the water table so that we can protect it,” says Bishop Simon Shimpai, the Naroosura WRUA chairman.

 Forestry and Climate Change CS Soipan Tuya says awareness creation on the impact of wetland restoration among community members is vital. “We hope the local communities can take measures to improve government adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Wetland restoration is one such activity,” the CS said during this year’s World Wetlands Day at Enkong’u Enkare, whose theme was “Wetlands Restoration”.

urrently, Narok County has 14.01 percent forest cover and 20 percent tree cover. It still has 300,000ha available for restoration over the next 10 years to meet the 30 percent tree cover as set out by the President.

oipan said her government will establish a “green army” within Nark County to help increase these numbers and sustain the 15 billion trees agenda until maturity.

arok Governor Patrick ole Ntutu has reiterated that his government will identify and restore the natural springs in Narok to mitigate effects of drought. While climate change poses a serious threat to the existing wetlands, our grazing and animals husbandry nature continue to pose an even bigger challenge to our conversation efforts,” said Mr Ntutu.

Overstocking in the conservancies and outside the Masai Mara Natural Reserve has disrupted the flow of the Mara River and shortened the cycle of high and low peak in the flow of the river from 90 to just 16 days during the rainy season,” he added.

tutu urged the national government to put stringent measures to tame encroachment of riparian lands to conserve and preserve the environment.

Faustin Munyazikwiye the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA)  during a panel discussion in March in Kigali Rwanda.

Increase climate research funding to address key issues, Africa told

Faustin Munyazikwiye the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) during a panel discussion in March in Kigali Rwanda.

By Godfrey Ombogo

African governments have been urged to increase funding and support for research on key emerging climate change issues now more than ever.

As the curtains fell on the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) 2023 this week, delegates and their governments were reminded that researches on issues such as climate-health nexus, carbon removal and green cities across Africa can no longer be pushed to the periphery.

Faustin Munyazikwiye, Deputy Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), said climate research funding needs the political goodwill of the top leadership of African countries so that they align the research to the specific challenges they want to tackle.

“We can think globally but act locally and find home-grown solutions. We need to establish our own funds from our domestic sources before we seek international help,” he said.

Modi Mwatsama, Head of Capacity and Field Development at Wellcome Trust, said African governments need to do a lot of mobilization for investment in research that is evidence based and relevant to Africa.

“We must encourage our governments to have climate strategies and increase their budgets for research. They also need to work with other stakeholders to make sure the researches can help the people they are meant for,” said Ms Mwatsama.

 According to a study published in the journal, Climate and Development, more than 75 per cent of funds earmarked for Africa-related climate research go to institutes in the US and Europe.

The study says there is already a deep funding deficit in Africa, with less than five per cent of the funds allocated for climate research globally focusing on African countries, even though the 10 nations considered most vulnerable to climate change impacts in 2020 were all in Africa.

“Of the $620 million that financed Africa-related climate research between 1990 and 2020, research institutions based in Europe and the United States received most of the funding ($480 million), while those based in Africa got less than 15% ($89.15 million),” says the study.

Ms Modi says this skewed financing of Africa-related research can only be solved by Africans themselves developing a more active approach to research funding and building a strong financial base for research.

Dr Cecilia Njenga, Director, Intergovernmental Support and Collective Progress Division at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), said more research needs to be targeted at net zero carbon emissions, climate-health loop and renewable energy.

“Even as we mainstream the health agenda in the climate arena, we need to build a constituency that is able to articulate cross-cutting issues such as indoor health, clean water, agriculture and nutrition,” said Dr Njenga.

Kenya held its first national workshop on carbon removal on February 27 and 28, 2023 in Nairobi, where the government said it was ready to take the lead on carbon removal as the next biggest solution to the climate change crisis.

Ali Mohamed, the Special Secretary for Climate Change at the Executive Office of the President, said Kenya had been pushing the carbon removal agenda since 2018 because the government was convinced that this is the new direction the world needs to take.

“We are willing and ready to carry out all the feasibility studies and tests needed before we roll out the carbon removal process to ensure all the risks are removed,” said Mr Mohamed.

As the plenary at AHAIC 2023 discussed ‘Climate Action in Africa: A Healthier Planet for Healthier Populations’, the panelists were reminded of the importance of carbon removal as the best way to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

A delegate from South Africa said more research needs to be targeted towards carbon removal because “Africa has a lot of promise for carbon capture”.

“Even as we push our governments to put more money in research on climate action, let us encourage them to lay more focus on carbon removal as we aim for a greener and less polluted continent,” said the delegate.

According to an article provided by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and published by Relief Web, African countries have contributed a small fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions, but they face disproportionate risks from climate change. Despite this fact, less than four per cent of global funding for climate change research in the past 30 years has been spent on African topics. 

The article says further that in addition to being the main sources of research funding, institutions based in Europe and North America receive 78 per cent of the funding for climate research on Africa, while African institutions received only 14.5 per cent.

Dr Adelheid Onyango, the Director of Universal Health Coverage/Healthier Populations Cluster at the WHO Africa Office, agrees with this finding, saying that the Global South continues to be pushed to the periphery when it comes to climate change research funding.

“We need to build upon the science by building our political savviness. Who are our negotiators?” posed Dr Onyango.

“The researchers must take on board the health, social and psychological impacts of what they are studying. They also need to include community voices and capture their lived experiences.”

Modi urged researchers to make their studies accessible to those meant to use it by the way they write them and by granting access to journals where these studies are published.

“Research needs to be designed with people going to use it in mind so that they can understand it. The users usually include policymakers, implementers and communities targeted in the research,” she said.


A Nursing Mother from Thaba Phatšoa Ha Toboleloa ‘Mampho Raleting

Paying tribute to midwives around the world

A Nursing Mother from Thaba Phatšoa Ha Toboleloa ‘Mampho Raleting

Liapeng Raliengoane:

LESOTHO, Leribe – As the world commemorates the International Midwifery Day today, several interviews with midwives, village health workers and nursing mothers in the remotest areas of Leribe revealed that the midwives are instrumental in reducing maternal mortality and improving the overall health of mothers and new-borns in Lesotho.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), quality midwifery reduces maternal, new-born mortality and still birth rates by over 80% and reduces pre-term labour and birth by 24%.

International Midwifery Day is celebrated on 5th May every year to raise awareness of the role of midwives and to meet the growing needs of more midwives around the world. This year’s theme is “Together again: from evidence to reality.”

The Maternal Death Review Report (2015), has shown that the highest number of maternal deaths occurred in Maseru at Queen ‘Mamohato Hospital where 102 women lost their lives as a result of complications of delivery or inadequate care during pregnancy. Additional figures came from Leribe and Berea with 25 and 19 lives lost respectively.

Currently working at St. Dennis Health Centre, Nurse Midwife Tlaleng Motaba indicated that she studied towards midwifery because she loved it since childhood. She started working as a midwife in 2019.

Midwife Motaba revealed that in the beginning she was scared of delivering babies but as time went on, she got used to it.

The most challenging incident she came across while assisting a mother to deliver was when one day she came across twins, the mother did not go for ultrasound scan beforehand.

“This situation scared both me and the delivering mother as she was not anticipating twins, but all went well, there were no complications both babies and their mother lived,” she said.

She also expressed a wish for midwives to be afforded an opportunity for refresher courses often. Her words of encouragement to other midwives is that they should love their job and also groom expecting and delivering mothers to do the right thing.

From Khabo Health Centre, Nurse Midwife Lahlewe Kao said growing up, she aspired to become a nurse and her dream came true. She started working at the facility in 2022 and has delivered about 15 to 20 babies and they were all alive.

Midwife Kao expressed that seeing both the mother and baby healthy post-delivery, is satisfactory to her and brings a lot of joy in her heart. That one challenge facing them is the shortage of staff.  

She said the most challenging instant in her life was when one midnight she was helping a mother to deliver and came across a complication thus had to refer her to the hospital but none of the emergency ambulances were available.

In the end she got help from a villager’s personal car and the mother was taken to the hospital and was delivered. She said this was the most frustrating event she went through as she was worried about both the mother and the baby when her efforts to get a car proved futile.

To her fellow colleagues this International Midwifery Day, midwife Kao encourages them to work tirelessly in seeing that both the delivering mothers and their babies are safe in their hands.

Although midwifery is a career perceived by society to be for women, Lesotho has beaten this odd, as there are male midwives.

A Nurse Midwife working at Matlameng Health Centre Thabo Makhakhe made known that he became a midwife because he had never seen a male midwife and he wanted to be a trailblazer in that field. He started working as a midwife in 2019 and has delivered many healthy babies.  His message to fellow colleagues today, is that they should always be positive.

Another Nurse Midwife from Matlameng Health Centre Teboho Makhebesela started working as a midwife in 2021. He said he became a midwife because he wanted to become “something big” in life as in his family there were no graduates at all he wanted to defeat the odds.

He explained that he has so far delivered about 20 babies. That he has realized that festive season, is the busiest season whereby many babies are delivered.

His words of encouragement to the fellow midwives is that midwifery is a closed book, that they should update their knowledge often, they should read a lot and also meet with other midwives to discuss the challenges they come across.

To other males who want to become midwives but succumb to societal beliefs, he encouraged them to pursue midwifery and never mind what people are saying. That they should be aware that every now and then, there is a baby born thus they will have job and a well-paying one for that matter.  

A Nursing Mother from Thaba Phatšoa Ha Toboleloa ‘Mampho Raleting related that she got good health services from when she was pregnant, while giving birth and post-delivery. She marvelled at the support the midwives provided and continue to provide in her journey of motherhood.

A Village Heath Worker from Ha Toboleloa ‘Makelello Pitsi expressed joy over the work and services provided by the midwives. She said their dedication goes beyond their scope of work.

“Sometimes when delivering mothers have no clothes, or no money to go to Motebang hospital when they are referred there, the midwives provide them from their own pockets. I have seen it happen many times, they are the real-life savers in every sense of the word,” Pitsi revealed.

These interviews were conducted during a field trip supported by the United Nations Population Fund Lesotho (UNFPA) for journalists to conduct interviews in hard to reach clinics so as to write informed stories that highlight the role of midwives in saving the lives of mothers and babies and focusing on the critical role of midwives in reducing maternal and child mortality in the country.   

 A statement by UNFPA highlights that the midwives and people with midwifery skills are the main caregivers for women and their new-borns during pregnancy, labour, childbirth and in the post-delivery period, therefore, UNFPA stands in solidarity with midwives worldwide and expresses gratitude to them for the life-saving work they do. UNFPA’s theme for this day is “Actioning Evidence: Leading the Way to Enhance Quality Midwifery Care Globally.”

In over 125 countries, UNFPA advances midwifery by strengthening quality education, regulations and workforce policies, and building strong national associations of midwives.

In Lesotho, UNFPA supports the government through the Ministry of Health in advancing the midwifery curriculum and strengthening midwifery services as a strategy of reducing maternal deaths. It also supports training of midwives, emergency obstetric and neonatal care.


Teknolojia ya uvunaji wa maji: Kumaliza tatizo la uhaba wa chakula nchini

Daktari Esther Gikonyo/Picha:Robert Malala


Shirika la kilimo na utafiti la Kenya (KALRO) tawi la Kabete linapatikana takriban kilomita 13 kutoka jijini Nairobi nchini Kenya.

Upande wa kulia mita chache tu baada ya kuingia kwenye lango kuu,unakutana na shamba lenye ukubwa wa ekari moja. Lilikuwa kivutio kikuu kwa watu waliotembelea shirika hilo siku ya maonyesho ya kilimo.

Hii ni kutokana na mazao yaliyonawiri, sio tu kwa rangi yake ya kupendeza ya kibichi, bali pia kwa ubora wa mazao hayo licha ya kuwa ni msimu wa kiangazi.

Shirika hilo,limekuwa likitumia teknolojia ya uvunaji wa maji ya mvua, na kisha kunyunyuzia shamba hilo.

Daktari Esther Gikonyo ni mkurugenzi mkuu wa shirika la KALRO tawi la Kabete,yeye pia ni mtaalamu katika sekta ya rotuba ya udongo.

Alisema teknolojia hiyo ni muhimu katika kuhakikisha kuwa wakulima wanatumia ili kuvuna chakula cha kutosha.

Daktari Esther Gikonyo alisema,kama shirika, walilima shamba hilo mwezi wa Januari na Februari na kunyunyizia maji mazao hayo kwa kutumia maji ambayo walivuna.

Alisema endapo jamii itakumbatia teknolojia ya uvunaji wa maji, basi kila familia itaweza kujitegemea kwa kupata chakula kila siku.

Zaidi, Daktari Gikonyo aliwashauri wakulima kujenga tabia ya kuvuna maji ya mvua hasa katika kipindi ambacho mvua ni chache na haziendani na kalenda ya wakulima.

Sawia kutokana na mabadiliko ya tabia nchi ambayo yamekuwa yakisababisha kukosekana kwa mvua za kutosha na uharibifu wa mazingira.

Hali hiyo imewasababisha wakulima kupata mazao kidogo ama kutovuna kabisa.

Jambo ambalo limekuwa likisababisha baadhi ya maeneo nchini kuwa hatarini kukumbwa na baa la njaa.

 Uvunaji wa maji ya mvua.

Uvunaji wa maji ni mbinu ambayo inazuia maji ya mvua kutiririka hovyo.

Badala yake, maji hukusanywa na kuhifadhiwa na kutumiwa baadaye na watu,wanyama ama kwa kunyunyizia mimea

Francis Karanja ni mhandisi, pia ni mtaalamu anayehusika na teknolojia ya uvunaji wa maji.

Mhandisi Karanja alisema teknolojia hiyo ya uvunaji wa maji ni rahisi na kila mkulima anaweza kuimudu.

“Baadhi ya vifaa ambavyo tulitumia ni karatasi nyeusi ya kufunika bwawa, matangi mawili ya maji ambayo huvutwa kwa kutumia nguvu za miale ya jua.”

Kulingana na mhandisi Karanja, bwawa hilo lina uwezo wa kubeba maji lita 4,500.

Na linaweza kulima shamba la ukubwa wa ekari moja kwa kipindi cha miezi mitatu kukuza aina tofauti tofauti ya mboga.

Mhandisi Karanja alisema bwawa hilo liliwagharimu takriban shilingi laki mbili na elfu hamsini. Huku likitarajiwa kudumu kwa zaidi ya miaka kumi.

Washikadau mbalimbali walionyesha teknolojia mbalimbali wanazotumia kufanya ukulima.

Baadhi yao ni wanafunzi kutoka shule ya msingi ya Kangemi jijini Nairobi.

Wanafunzi walio kwenye kikundi cha kilimo cha 4K Club, wakionyesha weledi wao wa kukuza mazao hasa mboga kupitia teknolojia mbalimbali.

Huku wakitumia maji hayo yaliyovunwa kukuza mboga zao.

Makala haya yamefanikishwa kwa usaidizi kutoka kwa muungano wa wanahabari wanaoandika habari za sayansi(MESHA).

Samwel Montorosi says planting animal feed has kept mathenge at bay and provided feed for his goats despite the just ended drought. Photo Joyce Chimbi

Pastoralists reclaim land from invasive plant that kills other vegetation, grasslands

One of many kilns in Marigat Sub-county where charcoal is produced using mathenge under the seven charcoal production associations. Photo by Joyce Chimbi

By Joyce Chimbi

Despite the ongoing severe drought in northern Kenya, Marigat Sub-county in Baringo is dotted with lush green vegetation that seems not be affected by the dry spell.

This vegetation is Prosopis Juliflora an exotic plant that was introduced by the government in the area years ago as a windbreaker.

However, the pastoralist communities of the Illchamus, Tugen and Pokot do not want the plant in the area. Locally known as mathenge, plant cannot allow vegetation to thrive where it grows. As a result, it has cleared grasslands and tree cover, leaving the pastoralists with nothing to feed their livestock on and exacerbating deforestation.

The animals cannot feed on it either, as it is poisonous. The sweet pods or fruits of mathenge interrupt digestion in goats and cows, leading to death by starvation.  

“The dry seasons are becoming more frequent and longer. Our rivers are drying up and we have to travel longer distances to feed our livestock. We are losing our animals to both drought and mathenge,” says Samwel Montorosi, a resident of Salabani village.

Hannah Sakamo, a pastoralist in Eldepe village, says the community has lost too much to both drought and mathenge.

In this regard, the community is now reclaiming their land from the jaws of the invasive enemy by re-introducing native vegetation, embracing and expanding agricultural areas and grasslands.

The expansive Marigat Sub-county is one of 23 Arid and Semi-Arid (ASAL) regions whose vulnerabilities are multiplied and exacerbated by the most severe drought in the last 40 years.

However, the community is now ready to take climate action in line with Sustainable Development Goal 13 to build resilience against climate change and adopt sustainable practices to save their livelihoods.

To do this, Simon Choge, a senior researcher at Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), says the community must first subdue mathenge.

Removing mathenge and replacing it with food crop and grassland, he says, is a climate change mitigation measure. Choge says studies have shown a serious negative impact of mathenge invasion and grassland degradation on soil organic carbon in sub-locations within Marigat.

To progressively increase soil organic carbon and improve soil health, he says removing mathenge is a priority for it does not inter-crop.

Livestock is a lifeline for the pastoralist community. They are similarly vulnerable from the effects of four consecutive failed rainy seasons.

Baringo is one of Kenya’s nine arid counties. As such, Marigat is characterised by severe living conditions, with little annual rainfall of between 150 and 550 millimetres and very high temperatures.

Choge says at the heart of the community’s vulnerabilities is climate change, land degradation and the dominance of a most invasive species that has choked the environment, blocking climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.


Government data shows that across Kenya’s Arid and Semi-Arid regions (ASAL) spanning over 23 counties, the prolonged dry spell claimed an estimated 1.5 million livestock and brought down the cost of surviving livestock by less than 40 per cent.

Mathenge has very deep roots that reach the sub-surface water. It consumes a lot of water and dries out all other vegetation. It dominates the environment, making it impossible for native plant species to grow,” he says.

Water stresses from effects of mathenge and climate change spell doom for the indigenous community.

Samwel Montorosi says this goat recently died from side effects of eating pods. The green substance near the intenstines is proof of cause of death. Photo Joyce Chimbi

In 2006, Montorosi was one of 800 members of the community who sued the national government for introducing Prosopis Juliflora without conducting an environmental impact assessment. The court case led to the 2008 declaration that mathenge was a noxious weed, highly harmful to the environment.

Since then, the community has worked with government researchers to find sustainable solutions to the mathenge menace for it is impossible to build climate resilience without removing the ever-green, prolific and environmentally harmful invasive weed.

“We are changing our way of life. We are now removing mathenge and growing native trees such as acacia and planting crops,” Montorosi explains.

Choge says controlling mathenge is in line with the new National Strategy for the Management of Prosopis Juliflora. He says “mathenge thrives on dormant land. By turning to agriculture, the community is removing a plant that consumes a lot of water and, giving way to the diversification of livelihoods as a way to adapt to effects of climate change and biodiversity loss.”

Research and practice show that it is impossible to completely eradicate Prosopis Juliflora once it dominates an area. The plant can only be controlled, hence the national strategy to manage it as opposed to eradication.

“We have seven charcoal production associations that are helping us to earn a living from mathenge and this is motivating the community to continue removing mathenge to grow food and animal feed,” Montorosi says.

Sakamo says women and youth have taken a lead in embracing agriculture and researchers such as Choge are at hand to advise on the most resilient plants to grow in the arid area.

She says the community started with activism to get the attention of the government and has now evolved to community associations that have led to steps in the right direction.

“Farming is becoming very common in the area. We are planting grass, maize and vegetables. The world is changing and we must change or be destroyed by drought,” Sakamo says.

She says while there are big chunks of land in the area, difficulties in manually removing prosopis thickets means that thus far, the community is farming on an average of three acres of land. But she is quick to add that this is the beginning to bigger and bigger agricultural land.

Scientists such as Choge says the community has taken positive and forward moving strides to reclaim their land and build sustainable practices against devastating effects of climate change. Staying on this track will progressively and increasingly strengthen the community’s capacity to be climate resilient.

This story was produced with support from WWF-K VCA Project and MESHA.

Dr Kulani Machaba, AFSTA President

Apex Africa seed congress ends with a call to adopt new technologies

Dr Kulani Machaba, AFSTA President

By Liapeng Raliengoane I

DAKAR, SENEGAL – The African seed sector need to focus its attention on technologies that can help it fight hunger and climate change, a leading seed expert has said.

While addressing the 23rd African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) held in Dakar, from March 6-8, 2023 and attended by over 25 African countries, Dr. Kulani Machaba, the President of Association noted that genome editing and biotechnology ought to be given a chance by leaders.

He noted that the technologies are by and large being discussed and are already contributing to food security in the continent because scientists have proved that they are indeed technologies that can contribute immensely in food security in Africa.

“Such conversations now form large parts of our discussions at the annual congress that continues to grow year after year because the seed people, ably use it as a forum to sow and grow relationships and discuss innovations that work,” he noted.

“The Congress comes at a time when genome editing is by and large being discussed as a possible technology that can contribute immensely in food security in Africa. AFSTA continues to believe that a highly developed seed sector is key to the economic development prosperity of African nations for which agriculture must be practised using modern technologies and smart,” he added.

Dr. Machaba highlighted that for this reason, AFSTA has made continuous efforts to improve the environment for the seed business through its five-year Strategic Plan with a view to meaningfully contribute to the promotion of the transformation of agriculture into an attractive, modern and sustainable livelihood option for communities throughout the Continent.

In his presentation, on the Status of food security and the seed trade in Africa, Dr. Machaba indicated that 60% of the world’s arable land is in Africa, and about 200 m ha is unutilized (Oxford Business Group, 2019), Crop production will increase by 30% from 2018 to 2027 (OECD-FAO, 2018). That IHIS Market forecasts (2021) show that the vegetable seed markets will grow from 55% in 2020 to $267 MM in 2030.  

The Congress, being a gathering of top seed traders and producers traditionally cover a wide spectrum of issues in the seed value chain.

The Congress addressed regional and international seed issues that have scientific and technological implications on seed production and trade including biotechnology, plant breeding innovation, seed treatment, phytosanitary measures, strengthening vegetables production through quality seed trade in Africa and update on technologies for African agricultural transformation.

Protection of seed varieties and fight against “fake” seeds, Soil and root health, Sustainable development – The example of the creation of the plastic recycling sector in Zambia and status of the regional seed harmonisation regulations are among issues that were discussed at the congress. Others were Role of Centre of Excellence of Seed Systems in Africa (CESSA) in the development of the Seed Sector in Africa, Status and implementation of the e-Phyto solution in Africa; and Challenges and opportunities, Update on the statistics on the formal seed sector in Africa.

AFSTA is a not-for-profit membership association which champions the interests of private seed companies in Africa. It is registered in Kenya as an International Organization. The association was started in 2000 in Pretoria, South Africa and it meets annually around the first week of March. It has 120 members of which 27 are African national seed trade associations.

With nearly 300 delegates representing the global seed sector, the Congress which ended with a high note last week after its General Assembly and the delegates came from 60 countries from all over the world.

Temperature check at a roadblock for COVID19.

How efforts to counter resistance to Covid jabs have worked

Temperature check at a roadblock for COVID19.

By Omboki Monayo |

Aparticipation in the Aids Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) science symposium lands me in central Malawi’s Salima District.

The date is November 14, 2020. At the Khombedza Health Centre, Miriam Khatumba arrives for a Covid-19 jab. She is quick to reaffirm that she won’t listen to claims that the prevention measure is satanic.

Such claims spread like wildfire the moment Malawi’s Health ministry introduced COVID vaccines in 2021.

Khatumba, 68, is here for the second dose. The first was in April at this same facility that has existed since 1970s.

“I came here for my first shot after authorities asked us to get vaccinated. I ignored the rampant fear-mongering,” she tells Sayansi.

Khomebdza Health Centre serves at least 85,955 people in Salima.

According to Cosmas Phiri, the facility’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) Coordinator, 6,838 (15 per cent) of Khombedza residents are fully vaccinated. Some came from as far as Chimphanga and Makanjira, 14km and 18km away respectively, incurring up to 6,000 Kwacha ($5.8) on transport alone in a country where the Ministry of Labor, Youth and Manpower Development data estimates the December 2022 average monthly wage at $48.77.

Khatumba, accompanied by her husband, says: “I want to protect myself and my family from severe COVID-19 infection and possible death.”

Lucia Frankie, a traditional leader, also got vaccinated, with her first dose coming in January 2022. “It was for my sake and my family’s,” she says at the health centre that started as a dispensary in 1970s before it was upgraded in the 80s.

On the way to becoming a fully-fledged health centre, the facility has been expanded through construction of a theatre, male and female wards and a maternity wing. And now the construction of office blocks and additional housing for nurses and clinical officers is underway.

Thanks to the government and development partners’ investments infrastructure and medical personnel, Khombedza Health Centre is now an established community bulwark against the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

“We treat TB, COVID-19, malaria and other infectious diseases. In addition, we carry out deliveries as well as maternal and child health services. At least 130 deliveries are done here every month,” says Mr Phiri, adding: “We have adult and child vaccination, as well as disease surveillance in the region.”

Although infection rates have reduced globally, COVID-19 still exists, with World Health Organisation (WHO) data showing Malawi as cumulatively recording 88,123 cases and 2,685 deaths by December 16, 2022.

“We started the COVID-19 vaccination in 2021, with Astra Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer doses,” says Phiri, adding: “Almost 4,000 people have since been vaccinated at the facility. Roughly half of them are fully vaccinated, with Chisamba area having the highest coverage rate of 41 per cent.”

This despite the misinformation that seemed to be a hurdle in the drive to fully vaccinate locals.

Ministry of Health statistics shows only 31 per cent of Malawians have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. “We have recorded a low rate partly due to vaccine hesitancy and the global reduction in infections. We are still engaging the public to get more people vaccinated,” says Maureen Luba of the Health Ministry.

The interactive symposium that included representation from the Malawi Ministry of Health, medical experts, science journalists from Malawi, Kenya (by three members of Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA)), Zimbabwe, Uganda and Tanzania, unearths a lot of hesitancy stories.

For Rashid Manganda, a Health Surveillance Assistant (HAS) based in Palombe District on the Malawi-Mozambique border, vaccine hesitancy is a major challenge. Villagers once forced the community health worker to take the HPV vaccine meant to protect girls aged 10 to 14 against development of cervical cancer in their sexually active adult years.

Rashid agreed to take the jab, which is primarily meant for young girls and boys.

“I knew that the vaccine would cause me no harm, even though it was meant for female recipients for the purpose of preventing the development of cervical cancer during their sexually active phase of life,” he said.

The move by the HSAs bore fruit. “After we took the jab, the villagers allowed us to proceed with the rest of the exercise. It is important for us to engage the community if we are to make headway against COVID-19 and other diseases,” he says.

“Many people, including clerics, claimed the jab was a satanic method to control the black population. There were rumours that the vaccinated part of the body would be magnetic,” says Phiri.

Researchers Qun Ao, Robert Egolet, Hui Yin and Fuqian Cui carried out a cross-sectional study in the country, covering 758 participants in 2021.

“Of these, 189 or 24.9 per cent were vaccinated. A further 271 or 35.8 percent were willing to be vaccinated but had not yet received the vaccine, and 298 (39.3 per cent) refused to be vaccinated,” reads the report published in the May 2022 edition of the Swiss MDPI journal.

Vaccine hesitancy is defined by WHO as “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccination services”.

WHO has highlighted hesitancy as one of the 10 threats to global health.

The Health ministry has countered the misinformation, with the help of faith and opinion leaders in awareness campaigns.

The effort, says Phiri, has paid off. “We have recorded significant success in our faith-based vaccination campaigns. For instance Jehovah’s Witness faithful were the first to be vaccinated following directions from their international leadership,” he says.

The country plans to vaccinate 10.97 million people or 60 percent of the population as soon as possible, and Mr Phiri says the vaccine is still available in the facility.

Ms Luba says the ministry intensified the campaign at the grassroots by incorporating Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs). “We brought community leaders and other stakeholders to the table to decide which policies to be implemented. Among them was the involvement of HSAs in the vaccination drive,” she said.

In Khombedza region, some 41 HSAs serve communities under Mr Phiri’s guidance and supervision. Khatumba and Frankie have both benefited from the awareness creation by the HSAs.

Clinical Officer Boniface Chisamba says the HSAs also targeted HIV positive, those with hypertension and diabetes. “People with diabetes, high blood pressure and HIV are at high risk of infection with COVID-19, so we encourage them to be vaccinated.

 We did this for the people living with HIV by combining counselling and antiretroviral services with COVID-19 awareness,” says Mr Chisamba.

Among the cases he handled at the facility was a pregnant woman admitted in May 2021. “We managed her health till the infection cleared. She delivered a baby girl free of COVID-19,” he said.

The medic admits the facility lacks test kits, which are however available at the larger Salima District Hospital. “We refer suspected cases to Salima Hospital and once they are confirmed we manage them until the infection clears,” he says.

At the end of the symposium, Ms Kay Marshall of AVAC urged media to help debunk the myths and misconceptions around vaccination.

“Media should intensify efforts to dispel the rumours around the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. This includes misinformation being peddled by social media sites that lack scientific credibility,” she said, adding that the problem was not unique to Africa.

“Vaccine hesitancy is an issue in the wealthier countries of the Global North, including the USA, due to the political and religious beliefs of many who opted not to get vaccinated,” she told Sayansi.

“Accurate, timely and easily accessible knowledge will help the public to understand the importance of vaccines and the need to take them in large numbers to rapidly achieve herd immunity,” she said.