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Man who caused bomb scare inside Kenya Airways plane jailed

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An Ethiopian man has been sentenced to four months in prison or a Sh100,000 fine for raising a false alarm in a Johannesburg-bound Kenya Airways plane in April forcing the flight to abort take off.

Chifraye Bekele’s false alarm led to a three-hour shutdown of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

Bekele was found guilty of “imperiling the safety of aircraft and persons on board” by Magistrate Christine Njagi.

The passenger is said to have mentioned the word ‘bomb’ during an argument, causing a scare in the plane which was taxing ready for take-off.

All the passengers had to disembark from the plane resulting in the cancellation of the flight.

The man was immediately handed over to the Anti-Terror Police Unit for interrogation.

Bekele was taken into custody and has been in prison since then.

While testifying in court via a translator, he said he did not make the joke as he only spoke Amharic and not English.

By nairobinews

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Kenyan scientist Muthoni Masinde created an app that predicts droughts

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An app is combining weather station data with the traditional knowledge of African farmers to predict droughts.

To help prepare farmers for the effects of climate change, Kenyan computer scientist Muthoni Masinde has created mobile platform ITIKI.

The name stands for Information Technology and Indigenous Knowledge, and the platform sends farmers drought forecasts via an app or SMS message.

Although it uses meteorological data, Masinde says most African farmers can better relate to the traditional knowledge that is also used to formulate the platform’s predictions.

“I grew up in a [Kenyan] village and I noticed that most farmers do not have any form of science to tell [them] when to plant,” Masinde told CNN Business.

“They watch insects, they watch the behavior of animals and then they make a decision, ‘I think it’ll rain in two weeks’ time.’”

ITIKI employs young people in farming communities to gather photos and updates about animal behavior and local vegetation, such as which trees are flowering.

They capture their findings on the ITIKI app, and ITIKI collates this information with data from local weather stations to model weather patterns months in advance.

Farmers can subscribe to the service for just a few cents, and receive regular updates in their local language, helping them make early decisions about which crops they should grow and whether to sell or save their produce.

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Economic impact of drought

Many African countries are especially vulnerable to climate change and small-scale farmers in particular, who rely on rainfall for their harvests, could face poverty and food insecurity, according to UN climate experts.

That could have major economic repercussions. Agriculture contributes about 15% to Africa’s total GDP, according to a 2017 UN report, and accounts for around half of the continent’s employment, according to the African Development Bank.

Now a professor at the Central University of Technology Free State, in South Africa, Masinde launched the app in 2016 in Kenya, where agriculture makes up around a third of GDP.

“Investments in climate adaptation solutions, especially targeting small scale farmers, would lead to GDP growth [in Africa],” said Masinde.

She added that African governments tend to react to drought and extreme weather, rather than proactively planning for these events.

“We do not prepare for [drought],” she said. “It’s like we just wake up and discover that people in rural Kenya are starving, that people on one side of the country have no rain.”

Masinde says ITIKI is now used by more than 15,000 farmers in Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa. Since farmers started using the app their crop yields have increased by an average of 11%, according to Masinde.

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ITIKI has received $750,000 in funding from the US and South African governments, which will be used to scale up operations. By the end of this year, Masinde hopes to have signed up over 100,000 farmers to the platform.

BY Citizen

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Why I grow my moringa inside a greenhouse

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Some two kilometres from Soy trading centre in Aligula, Likuyani, Kakamega County, Nelson Njuguna runs a moringa farm.

He grows the crop inside a greenhouse tucked in a section of his 30-acre family farm, with the rest hosting maize and beans, the dominant crops in the region.

The 8m-by-15m structure hosts 500 moringa plants, as he planted 700 but 200 died.
“Most people assume that you can only grow tomatoes or capsicum in a greenhouse, but here is the proof that moringa also does well in the structure,” says the 50-year-old farmer.

He developed interest in the crop in 2014 when he met an exhibitor at the Eldoret Agricultural Show, who sold him one kilo of seeds.

“I was impressed at the numerous benefits of the crop, which include its various nutrients and uses, which range from nourishing the human skin, protecting the liver, fighting bacterial infections to preventing cancer,” notes the farmer who quit teaching in 2008 after 15 years in the profession.

Njuguna funneled Sh300,000 into the business, starting with propagating seedlings and selling each at Sh100.

“I used to sell about 800 seedlings every year at an average of Sh100. I realised this did not make economic sense and shifted to growing the plants in the greenhouse for value addition,” he explains, adding that he first grows the plants in a seedbed.

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The seeds germinate in two weeks, after which he transfers them in polythene pots where they stay for two to three months before he moves them to the greenhouse, where he plants them.

“Inside the greenhouse, the plants must be spaced a metre from one row to the next and 0.3 metres from one plant to another. They mature in six months but regular weeding must be done for good growth,” says Njuguna, who notes that he embraced greenhouse moringa farming after birds damaged his crop in the open field.

Besides helping the farmer to curb birds’ damage, the structure makes the crop to grow faster since it thrives in warmer conditions.

Njuguna says the crop has a lifespan of 30 years, but he replaces the plants after four to five years, when the yields starts to go down.

He has embraced value addition, making soap, powder and perfumed and non-perfumed herbal cream from the plant.

“From the 500 plants, I harvest about eight kilos of leaves, which I dry and grind to make the products,” says the farmer, who identifies pests like white flies and spider mites and rust disease as the biggest enemy of the crop.

To make the jelly, after drying the leaves in an oven for eight hours, he mixes them with sunflower (50 per cent) and palm, soya and canola oils (50 per cent).

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He then mixes with beeswax, allowing it to heat up to 70 degrees Celsius and then it cools for 24 hours to form the final product.

DEVELOPMENT OF NEW ONES

To make soap, he uses a similar process but introduces olive and beef oils to the canola, sunflower, soya and palm.

He then mixes with sodium hydroxide solution and leaves it to be ready. He sells soap and the jelly at Sh40 and Sh120 respectively.

He grows the crop organically, using plants like tree tomato, basil, chia, lavender and oregano to attract and repel some of the destructive pests.

“I mix farm-yard manure with inorganic fertiliser during planting and top-dress especially after cutting the branches to allow development of new ones,” notes the farmer, adding that he plants cuttings for faster growth as he still sells the seedlings.

Dr Shem Mwasi, an environmental biologist at the University of Eldoret, explains that moringa oleifera is a fast-growing deciduous soft wood tree that can grow up to 12 metres high and reach a trunk diameter of 45cm when fully mature.

“It grows well in areas with an annual rainfall of 760 to 2,500mm, an annual average temperature of between 18 and 28°C and an altitude of up to 2,000m above sea level.

In Kenya, it can grow in areas that receive an annual rainfall of as low as 300mm,” he says, adding that it can grow in any soil type with a pH of 4.5 to 8, save for areas with a lot of clay soil that is constantly waterlogged.

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Dr Mwasi notes planting is done by sowing seeds or vegetative propagation (use of cuttings).

He said trees raised from seeds produce poorer quality fruits but develop longer roots (an advantage for stability and access to water) compared to those grown from cuttings.

“A single mature tree can produce from 15,000 to 25,000 seeds, with an average weight of 0.3 grams per seed during the harvesting season. Almost all parts of the tree are utilised but leaves and fruits (pods and seeds) are the most used parts.”

Leaves are used in human and animal nutrition and in traditional medicine because they are rich in bioactive compounds. They are rich in mineral, beta-carotene and natural antioxidant compounds.

“They are a good source of natural antioxidants, which protect the human body from free radicals that play a role in the pathogenesis of diseases such as cancer. The leaves added to cow feeds led to an increase in daily weight gain while daily fresh leaves resulted in increased milk production,” he said.

By Seeds of Gold

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Govt demands answers from Fairmont after mass layoffs

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The government has demanded answers from Fairmont Hotels on its reason to sack all staff over what it attributed to uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic.

The hotelier that runs Fairmont the Norfolk and Fairmont Mara Safari Cub said on Wednesday that they have ceased operations as a spiral effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent flooding of Fairmont Mara Safari Club.

In a letter addressed to the Country General Manager, Mehdi Morad, Solicitor General Ken Ogeto on Friday, said the move by the hotel has generated a lot of public interest especially after some of the employees petitioned his office saying the due process was not followed.

“This matter is of public importance and great concern to the government and in view of the Attorney General’s mandate to promote, protect, and uphold the rule of law and defend public interest, this office should be very grateful if you would provide it with clarification regarding the said media reports and complaints from employees including on the veracity thereof and justification for taking such action, if this is the case,” Ogeto said in a letter dated May 29.

Declare all positions redundant

Ogeto noted the move to declare all positions redundant would have far-reaching consequences on the welfare of the employees and the country’s economy.

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“This is therefore a matter of profound public interest, in respect of which this office demands a response,” he added.

In a memo to staff, the country manager said, owing to the uncertainty of the direction the global pandemic will take, they have been forced to terminate employee contracts and close their properties.

“Due to the global Pandemic will result in the business picking up in the near future, we are left with no option but to close down the business indefinitely,” Mr Morad said in the memo.

“It is therefore the decision of the management to terminate the Services of all its employees due to “frustration” by way of mutual separation and taking into account the loyalty and dedication the employees have put into the success of our company in the previous years.”

Employees will receive their termination letters by June 5.

All major hotels in Kenya have remained closed since mid-March when international flights were suspended and movement restrictions imposed by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19.

BY NN

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