Veges for to light up homes

By Charles Muasya

Intensive use of biomass fuel in the industrial sector in Kenya is set to reduce following a new technology to transform renewable energies using vegetable, sugarcane and coffee dust waste.

In the technology spearheaded by the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) in partnership with the European Union- Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund, manufacturers are being encouraged to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

” The partners have conceived the Regional Technical Assistance Programme (RTAP) in order to transform how renewable energy and energy efficiency markets operate and development of additional solutions to achieve the diversification of energy resources in the East African region”, said energy resolutions engineer George Nyakondo who is in charge of Ruiru Briquettes station.

He said lean energy solutions biomass project will not only cut down the manufacturers power bill but will also create jobs to the locals creating 12 man working days per day.

The technology involves making non carbon briquettes from mainly coffee husks and sugarcane waste producing one tonne of biomass briquettes from the waste in a day.

” The technology can save 25 percent on fuels bills with one of lean energy’s boiler solutions compared to an equivalent fuel oil solution with the added benefit of being a carbon-neutral solution”, he told science journalists attending this year’s African Science journalist conference taking place in a Nairobi hotel.

He said eight manufacturing companies in Kenya are now using lean energy solutions biomass concept of providing affordable credit lines.

Nyakondo said RTAP programme aims at providing support for the financing of selected investments in renewable energy projects of small hydro, wind, biomass,cogeneration and solar as well as in the energy efficiency projects in agribusiness and hospitality sectors.

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African Conference of Science Journalists 2014 – Reflections from the secretary

African Conference of Science Journalists 2014 –  Reflections from the secretary

By Aghan Daniel

NAIROBI, 3 SEPTEMBER 2014 - At the end of 2005, I returned to Kenya from Tanzania after nearly a year of an environmental journalists’ exchange program.  What I learnt from Tanzania was that a well run journalists network could work. I was attached to the Journalists of Environment Association of Tanzania (JET) who somehow made it happen in the world of environmental journalists.

WP_20140904_001In the meantime, many communication officers in Kenya, were feeling very frustrated that they could not bring themselves to network effectively with science journalists. Not only were there few science journalists but the few who were there had a lot of shortcomings in terms of effective reporting. Something had to be done and after few email exchanges, we decided to meet as communication officers and a few journalists active in the media.

The meetings culminated into formation of the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA). The major objective of MESHA was by then to provide a platform where journalists and communication officers could meet and talk professional matters. To kill professional loneliness. We wanted to go out and tell scientific institutions that to him/her that little is given, little is expected. They had to invest in science journalists if they wanted to turn around the standard of reporting science in the country.

And how time flies, it is now nearly ten years since this giant network was born. Of all the achievements that we have had, bringing science journalists from all over Africa, now two times in two years really stand out. The journey to hosting these conferences has not been smooth either. Tired of holding annual general meetings, the membership decided in 2010 that moving forward, they would invite scientific organisations to talk to them during their annual gathering on what research they do that touch lives.

Today, we are proud to have hit the more than 100 mark in membership, up from 12 in 2006. We also need to remember that in 2007, we partnered with Panos South Africa to bring together 40 journalists from Eastern and Southern Africa in Lusaka, Zambia to discuss issues of climate change and reporting water issues. It is in 2007 that we changed the way science journalists’ conferences are done. We took the approach of making the conferences busy, by ensuring that each journalist published a substantive story. We organised and took journalists to a radio station and worked overnight on stories that were sent to radio stations in the morning. Basically our conferences are not talk shops, they are busy and rewarding.

As we hold the 2014 second Conference of Science Journalists from Oct 13 to 15, we want to reflect on where we want to go as a network that is growing each day. Just how busy will the participants to this Conference be? Each day we will be sending clips to TV stations and sit well past midnight doing a daily bulletin. Besides, we expect every participant to send at least ten tweets per session. Given that we have 8 sessions per day, we expect a total of 800 tweets per day from the Conference and over 50 posts on facebook and 10 blogs per day.

To our members and partners, I must confess that mobilising resources for this year’s conference has been the biggest challenge for our secretariat. First, we have been greatly been destabilized by the change of venue from Mombasa to Nairobi.  We not only lost time but also lost a great host in the Kenya Coast Development Program. They had big plans and support for the conference, but once again, science journalism has been shaken by terrorism. We are everyday grateful to the partners who have always trusted us and believed in us. All their logos will be on our website shortly.

For 2015 and beyond, we look forward to greater partnerships to allow us train our members on skill based areas such as writing effective commentaries; resource mobilisation for science journalism; photography and advocacy journalism.

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High-quality Maternal and Newborn Health Care Starts with Health Workers

When my team comes to work each day at the IntraHealth International office in Nairobi, we focus on strengthening Kenya’s health workforce. This may include human resource management, improving and linking pre-service and in-service training for health workers, reducing bureaucratic obstacles to efficient and equitable hiring processes, or helping the Ministry of Health use HR data to make decisions and advocate for the budget it needs to hire and train more health workers.

On any given day, I may work with Government of Kenya officials, donors, public health specialists, technologists, social entrepreneurs, or health workers. Except for family gatherings and visits to health clinics, I don’t get to interact with many mothers or babies.

But when I read my organization’s new 2013 annual report, I was reminded of three things.

First, our work in Kenya fits into a larger picture of global change and impact. I am proud of Kenya’s contribution to the 178,000 health workers worldwide that IntraHealth reached last year.

Second, our work isn’t ultimately about innovating to improve education and training or improving workforce planning. It’s about bringing high-quality health care to the 356 million people—including millions of mothers and babies—who visited those health workers IntraHealth reached last year.

Finally, I’m reminded that behind these big numbers are individuals.

Individuals are behind the training program we developed at Tenwek Hospital in 2013, as featured in the report. Our FunzoKenya project partnered with the high-achieving hospital to serve as a training center for health workers throughout the district, many of whom work in underserved rural communities. This model provides hands-on training and experience with clients that can be hard to acquire or to simulate.

As I look through photographs of those health workers, students, mothers, and newborns, I am reminded that every mother and newborn deserves a high level of care. We know that universalizing access to basic, essential newborn care could reduce newborn deaths by 71%. We also know that scaling up the education, training, and production of midwives—and bringing facility-based care closer to home for mothers—has been key to reducing maternal and newborn deaths in several countries. It can for Kenya too!

For every 100,000 live births in Kenya, there are 400 maternal deaths and 270 neonatal deaths. That’s down from 490 and 330 in 1990. But it shows that an unacceptable number of women and newborns are still dying every year. We are making progress, but many mothers in Kenya—particularly in rural areas—continue to deliver at home, and Kenya is far from reaching the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters.

We’re partnering with the Government of Kenya, local partners and experts, entrepreneurs, faith-based organizations, and training institutions to prioritize the health workforce and health systems needed to achieve Kenya’s 2030 Vision and its focus and commitment toward improved maternal and newborn health.

Together, we’ll make sure all of Kenya’s mothers and newborns get the quality of care they deserve, when and where they need it.

Students gather around David Cheruiyot (second from right), a clinical instructor at Tenwek School of Nursing, as he trains nurses from other hospitals around the country on techniques for dealing with maternal and newborn complications. Photo: Trevor Snapp for IntraHealth International

Students gather around David Cheruiyot (second from right), a clinical instructor at Tenwek School of Nursing, as he trains nurses from other hospitals around the country on techniques for dealing with maternal and newborn complications. Photo: Trevor Snapp for IntraHealth International

Learn more in IntraHealth’s 2013 Annual Report.
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MESHA members discuss #African Scientific Revival Day on Facebook

The following is a collection of reactions from a discussion posted on facebook by George Achia,  discussing the  Africa Scientific Revival Daysti photo.

George Achia: June 30th is the African Scientific Revival Day. This day was declared by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor to the African Union (AU), to celebrate the role of science and technology in Africa’s development. During these celebrations, Kenya’s stakeholders will on Monday take stock of the country’s achievements in science and technology while also assessing the status and needs for the future….

Has Kenya done well in its ST&I sector, and has the country demonstrated her ability in utilization of ST&I as the engine for social and economic development? What are some of the practical examples you can point? What are the challenges and way forward? Over to you…

Responses and discussions

Geoffrey Kamadi Venue?

George Achia KARI HQ,

Geoffrey Kamadi: Saa ngapi bwana? Why are you economical with the info

Maina Waruru :Hope to make it,

Maurice Bolo: Thanks George…actually the venue is KARI – NARL (next to ABC place

George Achia: Maurice Bolo kindly answer Geoffrey Kamadi. on time…I know he wants to attend and do some amazing work.

George Achia: I need your opinions on those issues I have raised. …let them come,

Maurice Bolo: Thanks George Achia…Geoffrey Kamadi, the event will start from 8:30 to 5 p.m. We have lined up interesting activities including presentations from practitioners, panel discussions and science competitions for high school students in “communicating science through art” and we shall be awarding the best students in poetry, essay and art….

George Achia:  Otieno Owino, I know that now whets your appetite..”communicatingscience through art”…U got to be there.

Otieno Owino-Mikwa: That’s quite something George it’s time we thought outside the box. Science ought to be much fun just like art.

Geoffrey Kamadi: Sawasawa! Thanks George Achia! Do you mind in boxing the schedule of events on that material day Maurice Bolo? Thanks so much.

Maurice Bolo: Geoffrey, Yes I will. Am out of office at the moment but will share with you the programme later in the day…Please remind me around 3 p.m.

Geoffrey Kamadi: Cool!

Duncan Mboyah: I am watching from a distance….

George Achia: Duncan Mboyah join the conversation. I asked some questions here whichI needed views on, but no one has given me one…Has Kenya done well in its ST&I sector, and has the country demonstrated her ability in utilization of ST&I as the engine for social and economic development? What are some of the practical examples you can point? What are the challenges and way forward? What’s your thought on this?

Duncan Mboyah: I am not very sure whether Kenya has done well or not. What I am sure about is that Kenya has put in place good policy paper on the way forward. The ability is there when one looks at the personnel but it is also zero on funding as govt and experts interests are poles apart. A lot more need to be done and promises – policy papers must be accompanied with funding instead of doing the talking year in year out.

Geoffrey Kamadi: Ok George Achia…the country is not doing well when it comes to ST&I research initiative. Currently, the government’s allocation to research is a dismal 0.5 percent of GDP, which is way below the recommended 2 percent allocation, in accordance with the Science, Technology and Innovation Act of 2013! June 27 at 12:34pm · Like

George Achia: But what are some of the success stories in application and utilization of STI in the country that you can point out Duncan Mboyah and Geoffrey Kamadi? I guess they are a quite a number.

Shaukat Abdulrazak :Kenya needs to implement the 2% of GDP to support STI sector has indicated in STI act. We are on the path but must leapfrog to catch up. Need to set up more centers of excellence in innovation.

Kimani Chege: Kenya is a country in parallels. For the government, STI is still abstract, something slightly better than jua kali. That’s why funding remains slow. The other parallel is private institutions and to some extent Universities. There is a lot going on especially on the engineering and life sciences. It was only yesterday that JKUAT VC acknowledged the role played by private sector in funding research. We have Kevin Desai who have been there for long and now Manu Chandaria. We also have university-industry linkages in IT and engineering (Strathmore). Things ought to be moving. But again what is it that we as science communicators are doing. Are we telling the policy makers what the community needs. Are our reporting helping the researchers and end users? Are our reporting inconsequential that those in decision making cannot take it serious. My last question is on funding. Kenya is one of the countries in Africa that receives huge funding from international organizations. What significant has this money done before we ask for more.

Kiprotich Koros: Methinks the sector that has had some success in rolling out real Kenyan products to the masses has been the jua kali sector despite no or little funding from the government and in most cases little formal education on that industry. Of the few real Kenyan products in our households, quite a number (in fact most) of them will be from the informal sector. The projects from the academia that have been funded heavily by the government in the most part seem to have only managed to replicate the products that are already produced by the informal sector (excluding areas like agricultural and medical research – biological sciences mainly). If we are to learn some lessons from the jua kali sector then it would be that; we make progress when we do things practically. Of course there is a lot of space for advanced research for the academia and I guess government funding should go to this areas if there is a chance they will solve practical problems. At the moment we have enough STI from all over the world. We just need more of ‘doing.’ So as Kimani Chege has asked: “What significant has this money done before we ask for more?

Maurice Bolo:  The role of the private sector seems clear, our recent work shows that the private sector accounts for up to 78% of all patents registered in Kenya sin e 1990; the universities and public research institutes have accounted for a mere 5% in the same period and interestingly individuals have registered 9% of all the patents since 1990. On Monday June 30th during the scientific revival day, I will be making a case for greater citizen engagement in STI policy….be side to join us on twitter @Scinnovent go follow the discussions…..

Maurice Bolo: George Achia et al, We marked the African Scientific Revival Day, (June30th) with the focus on the achievements/impacts of biotechnology on food and nutrition security in Kenya. Highlights included a very lively panel discussion on the question of whether biotechnology has worked for Kenya, what has it done and where is the evidence?

Senior scientists, youth, practitioners and farmers deliberated on this topic and had veryinteresting revelations…

Mesha Kenya: Maurice, can you kindly send me the report of this day? Could you alsodiscuss with the MESHA coordinator on how your organisation can participate actively in the Africa Conference of Science Journalists organised by MESHA and due in Sep 15 to 19 in Mombasa?

Maurice Bolo: “Thanks very much Mesha Kenya, We are working on the comprehensive report which will take a week or so, but we are happy to share with you the highlights (which will take shorter to put together). I am also quite happy to engage with the Mesha Coordinator on your upcoming conference in Mombasa…please send/inbox me a contact”

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Amiran launches low cost irrigation kit to spur up new age farming

Amiran launches low cost irrigation kit to spur up new age farming.

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Journalist share thier thoughts on Facebook #Why research is Invisible in Africa

How come that research in Africa in invisible?

July 3, 2013 : The following is a collection of reactions from a discussion posted on facebook by George Achia early last month, discussing the question on Why Research is Invisible in Africa.

George Achia: We know nothing about research happening outside the US and UK. When you look at science coverage you get a sense that the world consists of [only] the UK and the US.” That was the opening salvo by the moderator, Vibeke Hjortlund, at a session discussing science reporting in the so called ‘neglected regions’ during the world conference of science journalists in Helsinki. How much do you agree or disagree with this statement.”

Cosmas Butunyi: “I totally disagree – especially in the case of Africa. There is huge coverage from this side. The moderator was obviously speaking from a point of ignorance.

Mercy: “interesting…and I think I am hopeful now that there is a change and Africa is getting covered positively. Mhh…there was time when science writing in Africa was all about disease and how Africa is suffering when it comes to issues of development. And through my years as a science journalist, there has been a sort of revolution

George Achia, and now we are having A LOT of positive stories coming from Africa, of development, of innovations, of how Africa is rising from the ‘ruins’ and doing a lot when it comes to science, research and development. A lot has to be done, but there is hope :)”

Patrick Luganda: “There is just very minimal research going on in Africa for it to steal the show. Something is being done but a lot more needs to be done. For science reporting most of the agenda setting is by the west. Who do we write for in Africa? Do we write these science stories for a senior citizen in Embu or Kericho or the youth in Gulu or Kampala…NO it is for the educated in our midst and then only a paltry following. Otherwise it is much in line with what is desired by the western universities, research agendas etc. Even stories that concern our scientists in Africa have a bias towards the sponsors of the research from the west. A good example is in GMO coverage. Depending on who is paying the ‘piper’ you can get the feel of the tune and lyrics. The same goes for climate change, technology promotion and also health stories. We still have a lot to get done. One of the approaches is to get more people to understand and therefore appreciate what science and science reporting is all about. That is a big demand among so many competing interests!!”

Jonathan Odhong: “In certain fields of science, yes but generally that’s a false statement by the moderator. Let me try and paraphrase what s/he meant to say: “Both in the UK and US, we are generally ignorant about the research that goes on in the rest of the world. Not only are we ignorant about the science, but also the general news and developments in other regions of the world. “This can be the only true statement s/he could have wanted to make because it only takes a click of the button to find out what research or science is going on in the African continent. We may have not as a continent graduated into the more sophisticated science branches like nanotechnology and others of that kind, but there are numerous other scientific researches going on. Yes most of the funding for on going research from Africa is from the West, but African researchers have lately had more voice in setting the research agenda.”

Redemtor Atieno: “He definitely does not read widely”

Patrick: “Jonathan you raise an interesting point. This is the assumption that people who live in the western world because they have the facilities at hand to access scientific research they actually do so. That is wrong. Most of the ordinary people who access the internet do so for entertainment, general news, shopping, gossip (disguised as chatting) and other seemingly simple reasons (but which are important to them). It is therefore true that they are ignorant about the science news and information first around them but more so from beyond their boundaries. By the way apart from science information most westerners do not even have a wink about where such countries as Uganda or most of the 53 countries in Africa are located or even what they are called. Then how would they bother to learn about science from here. Except that is if you were from a London School of Tropical Medicine etc and you would just most likely know about a small spot on the continent.”

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Need for scientists, regulators and journalists to work together for a biosafe nation

Which Way GMOs

By Aghan Daniel,

Biosafety is important but so is ensuring that GM crops benefit the rural poor and that decisions are based on sound science.

Journalists can report on progress being made on various issues on biosafety right from processes, new developments, challenges, available biosafety systems, regulations and policies. How does Kenya compare with other countries, neighbours, internationally etc?

And most importantly the importance of such issues. For regulators, what is your role, challenges, how effective are you in your work, what are some of the processes of getting products? We talk about national performance trials, confined trials etc, what do these mean? What does it take to do all these and why do them in the first place?

The GMOs ban: wonder of wonders that the ban came as a surprise even to the chief regulators and scientific advisors of the government of the day. NBA was caught with her pants down – there was no explanation whatsoever coming from scientists, from NBA – NBA was actually switched off.

The journalists expected at that time that these bodies work together but that was not depicted – journalists ran around and thank God that some bold scientists from the University of Nairobi came to the rescue of journalist by being available for interview as TV is all about sound bytes.

Nearly 6 months later, the then PS for Agriculture in Kenya, Dr Romano Kiome came out in the open to dismiss the ban as being unscientific. To date there is confusion, do we have a ban or not? And by the way, it is important for regulators to explain the process of effecting a ban – is it through a media conference, release, a gazette notice, or an advertisement?

Three years before the ban, Kenya had set up the NBA tasked with supervising the transfer, handling and use of GMOs. It aims at establishing a transparent, science based and predictable process for reviewing use of GMOs. This means that Kenya had already established a scientific agency to assess safety concerns. Yet with all this machinery in place, the ban was hardly explained to the public, but most importantly, the journalists want to know what impact the ban could have on research,
development, trade etc.

I want to continue challenging scientists to join the debate; In Sept 2011, Kenya’s then Agriculture Secretary, Dr Wilson Songa urged scientists to join the debate on GM foods and not leave it to politicians. You of course know the messy and dramatic ways politicians can explain GM related issues, take the case of the immediate MP for Naivasha who served as the chair of the Parliamentary

Committee on Agriculture, Mr Mutotho. He went on to vilify GM foods and biotechnology in general.

Given, researchers have knowledge which they can use to educate the public and save them from the dangerous propaganda going round about GMOs.

Scientists must effectively, competently, and soberly link science with the society. We must provide information that can tantalize the public to appreciate the role of biosafety systems rather than provide alarming information. I was recently in Bujumbura, Burundi where a professor claimed that he was part of the team of scientists who worked with Seralini to conduct research on GMOs and rats. The truth is, he does not even know Seralini is French!

Scientific institutions must come out to demonstrate to the public (to build their confidence in their ability and work) that they indeed have the capacity to deal with biosafety issues.

Terminology: A differentiation should be made by scientists between tolerance and resistance etc.

Does the public know what it takes for a product to reach the market?

Intellectual property and trade: Then there are the issues of IP – are corporations taking ownership of genetic material, undermining the staple practice of farmers using and sharing their own seed from one year to the next?

Danger risk of biodiversity loss: there is need to explain to journalists the impact of GM on insects and birds.

Scientists need to ensure that national agricultural policies take into account the interests of the poor farmers and give rural communities sufficient leverage over decision making to ensure that GM crops meet locally defined needs.

Need to explain how regulations are scientifically sound – some scientists exaggerate the impact of

GM crops eg that they poison the environment, that they are supersedes etc.

Journalists must develop a passion to report on biosafety correctly.

Scientists must embrace that we are past the dawn of social media, that you can use facebook, blogs, participate in citizen journalism so that they make their work known. Think about Norman Borlaug and his time, he had very few media tools and he used them effectively. Are scientists taking advantage of all the new media?

Scientists need to be empowered by the institutions to speak/interact with the media. Perhaps an annual communication/scientific clinic every January/February?

Scientists can creatively work with the media by dedicating a day or two to live a journalist’s life, visit the media house, attend editorial meeting, go out in the field with a reporter, collect the information, get back to the studio/desk and bang/edit the story …..

Finally, we need to think over and over again about our audience. Think about the question we usually ask at the corporate communication level – who is your target? Think about the journalist’s target – donors, school children, donors, professors etc.

We are told you need to write for the common man, are we too concerned with the ordinary man to a point of diluting information?

*This article was first presented at The Second National Biosafety Conference on Thursday, August 8, 2013

**The writer is the Communication and Advocacy Officer at African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) and also the out-going Secretary of MESHA

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