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By MOSES MUTUA

Makueni County is located in the former Eastern Province of Kenya. Makueni has grown to be famous for farming in recent years. Already, there are water management community projects like dams, irrigation schemes, and boreholes that boost agriculture, thereby bringing wealth to all.

Over 27,000 farmers from Makueni County had benefited from certified seeds distributed by the county government of Makueni for planting during the October–December rain season in 2023. Beneficiaries were drawn from II wards that had prioritized planting seeds during the budgeting process for the 2023 financial budget.

Living in Makueni County is Mr. Jimmy M. Sukali; he is a father of three sons, one daughter and a grandfather of two daughters.

“Before I decided to venture fully into farming, I worked as a manager for a tour and travel firm. I worked there until 1998, when there was the bomb blast in Nairobi affecting the company in terms of business and forcing me to go back home and venture fully into farming.”

“My father motivated me to venture into fruit farming. He used to farm oranges and mangoes. He taught me a lot about fruit farming.”

In the late 2000's, I decided to venture fully into fruit farming. I acquired ten (10 acres) of land where I had to call a professional from agriculture to come and do some tests on my soil so that he could advise me on how to go about it and which variety of fruits to plant.

Under the 10 acres, I have planted 1,300 pixie fruit plants, 640 oranges plants and 250 Mango plants. Inside my farm, I do not use fertilizers since they affect soil pH in the long term, but with composed manure, it helps improve the structure and health of the soil by adding organic matter.

In my last harvest, I got  8 tons of pixie fruits, where 1kg of the fruit goes for around 80 to 100 Kenya shillings, depending on the market. In return, I made Kshs 80,000 after selling the pixie fruit. With oranges, I harvested 1 ton and 1kg of oranges for around 30 to 40 Kshs, depending on the market price. In return, I earned up to Kshs 30,000 from 640 Orange plants. Mangoes are not that profitable since brokers purchase them in bulk, with one going for Kshs 5, while in the market they retail for Kshs 10, where the profit is very marginal.

Apart from that, I rear cows, which provide me with milk for sale to the community. I also buy small cows for fattening, and then I sell them for profit. On the other hand, they provide me with manure, which I use on the farm to boost soil nutrients. I have also employed workers who assist me with cultivating and managing the farm.

The main challenges that I face are the infection of pests and diseases in the plants. As of now, the price of insecticide is very expensive. For example, if I apply Thunder to the plants, one litre goes for Kshs 8,000and I must spray 10 acres.

With most people doing farming, the supply is in surplus, making the price shoot further down. This has become a challenge where the cost of living and production is very high since I have to pay my workers and buy insecticides.

By trying to increase the prices so as to get better profits, you end up not getting clients since they are also facing hard economic times. Most farmers in Makueni have also embarked on pixie farming, which has made the competition twice as hard.

For someone who would want to venture into farming, I would advise them to pursue fruit farming since the return on investment is very high and it doesn’t require a lot of input for better yields, which is cost-effective.  Farming is the backbone of our economy.

 

 


A new report released today (Thursday 15th February) reveals, for the first time, strong correlations between news literacy and civic engagement amongst 9- to 11-year-olds in the UK, showing important wider societal reasons for encouraging our children's engagement with the news from an early age.

Research funded by The Nuffield Foundation and conducted by academics from the University of Birmingham and the University of Liverpool involved almost 2,000 participants from 40 schools across the UK. The project aimed to evaluate the NewsWise programme (designed by the Guardian Foundation in partnership with the National Literacy Trust and the PSHE Association) to better understand how news literacy in primary schools could be effectively educated and measured.

For the first time, the resulting report, 'Educating & Measuring News Literacy and Civic Engagement in 9- to 11-year olds', revealed a strong positive relationship between news literacy and civic engagement among this age group in the UK. This means that news literacy levels can be used to predict civic engagement and vice versa. The research also revealed key findings pertaining to children's attitudes of news literacy and civic engagement. These include:

  • Only three in ten 9- to 11-year-olds in the UK are interested in the news.
  • While the majority believe the news should be truthful and balanced, less than half (47%) know how to spot fake news.
  • Only 52% can name trustworthy places to find news and find it is easy to tell if a news story is real.  
  • 68% strongly agree or agree that adults should vote in elections, yet just under half say they will vote in an election themselves when they grow up (49% extremely likely or likely).
  • 90% strongly agree or agree that it is important to know what is happening in the world.
  • 57% believe adults should take part in peaceful protests.
  • And 61% say that when they grow up, they will regularly volunteer their time for good causes.

Researchers found that the participating schools selected to implement the NewsWise programme in classrooms demonstrated a clear improvement in the ability of their 9-11-year-old pupils to detect fake news, and that this improvement sustained over time. This finding is particularly significant as it was based on a performance-based, rather than self-report, measure used in the study.

Prof. Tom Harrison, Professor of Education and Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor: Education Innovation at University of Birmingham and the study's primary investigator says: "The need to educate our children in the realms of mis- and dis-information has been clear for a while, but what these findings really suggest for the first time is the ways in which our pupils' learnings around these subjects and engagement with the news have wider positive implications for society."

The research uncovered strong correlations between all dimensions of news literacy and of civic engagement among 9-11-year-olds, including:

  1. their awareness of socio-political issues and motivation to follow the news,
  2. such awareness and their self-reported ability to evaluate news stories, and
  3. their participation in civic life (e.g., through community involvement) and interest in the news.

"These findings should make us all stop and ask ourselves, 'what's the purpose of education for this generation?'", Prof. Harrison continues. "Yes, literacy and numeracy are very important but in a world where career paths are no longer clear, space should be made in the curriculum for helping our children to develop the competencies, character and human qualities necessary to navigate the complexities and challenges of the modern world."

Elli Narewska, Head of NewsWise and Primary education at The Guardian Foundation adds: "There is a critical need for engaging and effective news and media literacy education in the 21st century, where there is potential for even greater spread of mis- and disinformation, which may be exacerbated through the rise of generative AI and other emerging technologies.

"The NewsWise programme was designed to equip primary school children aged 9-11 in the UK with the news literacy skills they need in order to thrive in the digital age and the findings from this research have shown it to be an effective tool that has wider implications beyond the education system. The relationship between news literacy and civic engagement is something we have seen in our work with children and teachers across a number of years; meaning that news literacy contributes to society in general."

Elli goes on to say: "As a result, key recommendations of this report are that policymakers and educators should consider news literacy and civic engagement from an early age, what children are learning in this space and how this can be enhanced through effective teaching methods and how it is measured. This can foster news literacy and civic engagement more effectively in our young learners, which is important in an era of rapid technological transformation."

Nuffield Foundation Programme Head, Ruth Maisey said: "To address the challenges of the future, education needs to equip children with the means to fully participate in society as responsible, engaged citizens. So, it is encouraging to see the development of interventions like NewsWise to help children detect misinformation, and the potential for news literacy interventions to enhance civic engagement."

The full 'Educating & Measuring News Literacy and Civic Engagement in 9- to 11-year olds' report can be found here.

Mogadishu, Somalia – February 17, 2024 – The Federal Republic of Somalia has accused Ethiopia of making a “provocative attempt” to obstruct the Somali President’s delegation from attending the ongoing African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa.

A press statement issued by the Somali Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation today strongly condemned the alleged action, calling it a breach of diplomatic protocols and established AU traditions. 

The statement did not specify the nature of the alleged obstruction, but emphasized that Ethiopia, as the host nation of the AU headquarters, has an obligation to treat all African leaders with equality and respect.

“Hosting the AU is both an honor and a privilege for Ethiopia,” the statement reads. “However, if its government fails to uphold this honor and responsibility with the necessary decorum, it may be necessary for the African Union to reevaluate the location of its headquarters.” 

Somalia further urged the AU to conduct a “credible and independent investigation” into the matter, in line with the union’s protocols.

As of now, there has been no official response from Ethiopia or the African Union regarding the allegations.

This development comes amidst heightened tensions between Somalia and Ethiopia, particularly regarding ongoing border disputes and regional security concerns. By Abdirisag Shino, Horssed Media

 

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, has announced the theme for Commonwealth Day 2024 as 'One Resilient Common Future'.

Commonwealth Day will be observed on Monday, 11 March, and will start with a series of events and activities, including faith and civic gatherings, debates, school assemblies, flag-raising ceremonies and cultural events. 

Commonwealth Day is celebrated by people across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, the Pacific and Europe.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, said:

"Each year, we observe Commonwealth Day to recognise, celebrate and invigorate our 56 member states, all of whom are committed to the Commonwealth Charter. This year's theme underscores the collective strength that enables us to confront and overcome present challenges, emerging with resilience. This paves the way for a future where wealth isn't just widespread but genuinely equitable.

"We have countries which are amongst both the smallest and largest in the world. What binds us together is our shared values, and those include a commitment to ensuring stronger and stable governance, a more sustainable environment, robust economies, and societies that empower Commonwealth citizens."

Secretary-General Scotland also took the opportunity, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to wish His Majesty King Charles III, the Head of the Commonwealth, a complete and fast recovery.

2024 is a CHOGM Year

This year's Commonwealth Day theme reflects the focus of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will be held in Samoa, in October 2024.

When announcing the CHOGM theme in 2023, Samoa's Prime Minister, Afioga Fiame Naomi Mataafa said:

"We look forward to sharing our unique Samoan communal culture and traditions as we come together to transform our one resilient family into a common wealth."

During Commonwealth Week in March, world leaders, foreign ministers, young advocates and other delegates from across the Commonwealth will come together for wide-ranging conversations. 

Together, they will deliberate and decide on collective actions to solve shared challenges while suggesting initiatives that empower people, encourage growth and bring transformative change.

One of these initiatives is the declaration of the Commonwealth Year of Youth, which has put a focus on increasing projects to support the 1.5 billion young people of the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Day Activities

Countries will observe the day through readings of the Commonwealth Proclamation, hosting celebratory events, or dedicating the week to enlightening citizens about the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Secretariat's website will serve as a central hub, providing free and accessible resources to support these diverse activities.

In London, where the Commonwealth Secretariat's headquarters are located, a reception will be held welcoming invited representatives from across the Commonwealth.  

Additionally, a vibrant multicultural, multi-faith service at Westminster Abbey on 11 March will celebrate the rich tapestry of the Commonwealth's people, history, and culture. The event promises reflections, performances, and readings by individuals spanning the diverse nations of the Commonwealth. Each year, one of the highlights of Commonwealth Day is the procession of Commonwealth flags at Westminster Abbey, with young flag bearers representing each of the 56 member states.

This year, Commonwealth Day events will also include a contingent of Speakers and Presiding Officers from the Commonwealth countries, UK Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies and the UK nations, specially invited by the Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons in the UK.

Each year, Commonwealth Day is commemorated to inspire and foster a dynamic and united community of our 56 member states. This year the Commonwealth will celebrate even more milestones. On 26 April 2024, the 75th Anniversary of the modern Commonwealth will be celebrated.

The accused is one of the directors at Webcon (Pvt) Total Highglen fuel garage.

FORMER Information minister Webster Shamhu’s wife, Constance, yesterday appeared before Harare magistrate Ruth Moyo for failing to display fuel prices at her service station.

The accused is one of the directors at Webcon (Pvt) Total Highglen fuel garage. 

The fuel company was fined US$300 for the offence.

The complainant in the matter was Zimbabwe Energy Regulation Authority (Zera), being represented by regional compliance officer Delight Dembengwa.

According to State papers, on February 14, Dembengwa went to the accused person’s company doing routine checks and discovered that Webcon Total Highglen was not displaying fuel prices though business was in full swing.

Constance (63) was arrested, leading to the closure of the fuel station. 

The fuel was seized and secured under Zera seals at the service station. By TREVOR MUTSVAIRO, NewsDay

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