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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Narudi Nyumbani, but I am on a mission

NARUDI NYUMBANI, BUT I AM ON A MISSION

It's 2013, I receive news about the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week set to take place in Accra, Ghana. I really want to attend this event to learn and network.

I submit my case study: "Improving access and application of information and knowledge for agriculture by transforming telecentres into agricultural knowledge hubs," to be presented under the information and knowledge for food security in Africa, side event.

My cases study is accepted and I get full sponsorship to attend and present at the one week conference. At the same time, I get support as a youth participant. I am so excited. Thanks to FARA and CTA.
Simon at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week 2013

It turns out to be a very successful trip. I return home on South African Airways, connecting from Accra to Nairobi, to Johannesburg, then Bulawayo and finally Lusaka.

Just when we are about to land, a beautiful song plays, it arouses my emotions and I cannot hold my tears... The song is 'Coming Home' by Nameless, a Kenyan pop artist.

I know I have a long way to go. I am reminded I am supposed to do more for my country, in my little way.

Can I do one more thing before I die!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Do Not Wait for a Fatal Incident

Deep in the bush was our camp. A makeshift house made out of a military tent, furnished with camp beds with water flowing beneath following a heavy downpour, gave us a shelter that kept our eyes from glancing at the beautiful night stars of a forestry bush.

He was an old-almost retiring high ranking Paramilitary. Like wine getting better with age, he had grown some admirable tactics and had a lot of wisdom wrapped in his service stories. His machine gun and knife on the side, his eyes popped up, his feet well stamped to the ground, ready to take defense should the bandits, commonly the Nyamulenge on the loose, attempt to attack.
We had just smashed our meal that evening and chipped into a series of conversations. "There was confusion during the construction of the Kariba Dam." He recalled. About 57,000 people were set to be relocated. He went on explaining how dangerous it was for people to settle around that area as any accident that would lead to the breaking of the wall that far constructed would sweep inhabitants away. Interesting to hear was how people rioted as part of their resistance gimmicks-not some good sight unfolding of events at all.
One sad day, in defense, the security forces fired live bullets which resulted into a fatal incident. its only after this incident that residents of this area complied with the order of being relocated.
It does not need to get to that. People should not plan or be incited to rise against actions meant to save them and others. It should never be time for opponents to rise against executing authorities as this may work against them in future. Authorities should also put in place urgent measures to cushion the loss of income citizens are suffering. While solutions to curb problems are identified promptly, it proves that solutions to help citizens recover quickly from their loss should also be identified promptly.
Some of the immediate interventions would be instituting a relief fund to provide food supplies to the worst hit citizens, and there after relocation and small amount for capital.
At the end of the story, I had benefited from a wealthy of experience in tactics to tackle some dangerous situations that would put my life in danger.

(Photo Credit: Anonymous, Kariba Dam Bridge, 21st Century)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Escaping poverty to be subjected to abuse; the ugly face of human trafficking haunting girls and young women in Africa

“I have the best offer for you,” she said. To entice me, she went further promising what she called a better deal for a young man of my looks. “Just a 100 US Dollars and I will unwrap for you some sweet wine,” she said, while tossing a cigarette butt off the edge of the table.


It’s a beautiful country, full of happy people. They have finger-biting food and I move from one restaurant to the other hunting for some of the best traditional dishes and local delicatessen. Being an adventurous lad, the first thing I choose to embrace is the local culture. The language, food, how to conduct myself and get along with the local people, religion, popular places, entertainment activities, local transport, and other key must-know things.

I have an eye on what, to the open eye, seems to be small things; I am a good listener and like paying attention to unsaid words hidden in body expressions. So, with knowledge of very few words I can get an idea about what could be in the conversation. This is one of my strengths on my escapades.

Before I travelled, I had so much in anticipation. As usual, I took time to read about the city I was about to visit, local food, local languages, transport and other few things pertaining to the local culture. 

One of the places rich in culture of any place are religious gathering places, restaurants, open market places and pubs. So, I took time before my trip, to learn more about all this and the routes around these places.

I am just an adventurous lad, remember, and my interest in local culture is nothing but just something I like doing out of personal interest. Maybe, I should call it a hobby.

I took up my flight at night and flew for a good chunk of hours. By the time I arrived at the hotel, it was already late. One evening of my adventure crushed. I could not temper with the day as it was fully reserved for my assignment.

Here came the evening of the second day, I was ready. I quickly swapped SIM cards on one of my gadgets with a local one and loaded it with data bundles to ensure my GPS and navigator were on. I planned my root and logged it in. Few dollars in my ‘Bombasa’, some amount of the local currency in different denominations in my front pocket, no wallet of course, and my passport nicely tacked in.

I jumped into a flexible denim, a dull coloured round neck t-shirt, a dark cap and I was ready to roll down the streets.

I had planned to test the local food the next evening. This one was set for night life experience. One would wonder. Back home, I do not club. But I am carried away by curiosity; my homies understand how eager I am to ford sand rivers for pebbles of diamond. I am out for the night.

Few minutes on the roadside, a motorbike came by. I quickly tuned my ascent and greeted the rider in a local language. Being convinced I am a local; the rider had no chance to ask more questions but quickly asked for my destination. “Where to, man?” He asked. Pub xxx, I responded, and we sped off. 

It’s lit, lights flashing, the irresistible beats enticing patrons to shake their waists, and I knew it would be a great night. “A can of tonic water,” I signaled the bar tender as I placed a local currency note on the counter. “What whisky do you prefer?” He asked, as I interjected I needed tonic water only. The bar tender could not resist wonder wrinkles on his partly covered forehead sending me into defense mode to prepare the next response should he question further. 

I went for an empty clear space, grabbed a chair, stretched myself and started throwing my eyes around making my plan. My idea was to ignite a conversation with a local. By the time I made my second sip, boom, I saw her heading to my space.

A curvy, blonde with steps like that of a model headed towards me, happily engulfed in the smoke of a cigarette between her fancy, glittering rings clad fingers. Immediately, an inner voice questioned whether I was at the right place or not. Then the adventurous persona awakens and whispered a go-get-it man kind of energiser.

As I wondered what language she would be comfortable with, I tossed my dice and went for my official language-English. My ascent swept her feet as she interjected with queries of my origin. After some bit of resistance, I thought of giving her a close but fictitious response. “I am from South Africa, you do not sound a xxxxxx, there is something about your ascent, which country do you come from?” I quickly dashed into the eighteen circle area of her thoughts. 

“What are you going for?” I asked her, hoping to create a better rapport to help me learn from her. Holding her first glass, she sat firm, gave a charming smile and whispered, “You are so nice, and I have the best offer for you.” She is a woman seemingly in her mid 30s, well-built curvy blonde.

Just as my mind guesses, she was a commercial sex worker from a nearby country. “I have beautiful girls in my hotel room, aged 15, 16, 17 and more. You can choose the most fresh or go for the most skilled, the choice is yours. For 100 US Dollars, I will unwrap for you some sweet wine. I can get a young one of your choice and I so we can give you a mind-blowing threesome you will never forget,” she pitched in a whisper as she put the glass on the table hopping to close the sale.

At once, I felt shivers sent across my spine at her words. My mind tormented, I tried to pretend I needed to think about it, yet my heart was bleeding. My thirst to understand the whole circle of this business grew. I took a deep sigh, bent on the side and back again to refocus, and I had a couple of questions for her. I knew this was a dangerous mission I had embarked on, so quickly, I sent a text to the taxi I had saved indicating to him he needed to come over at xxxx in the next few minutes and pick me.

It is a country torn by war, leaving a huge population in abject poverty. Could the only sin girls have committed be being born in this country? No one has a choice either. After years of war, like in other war torn countries, young people strive to pursue other means of survival including migrating to other countries in search for greener pastures.

For girls, war and poverty put them on the slaughter table. They are vulnerable to different illicit businesses. They are defenseless; they are subjected to abuse of the worst kind. Hopeless and helpless their dignity robbed just so they can have a meal and cover their bodies. What a shame to this World, what a shame to this generation.

My guest on the table comes from this war torn country, in search of greener pastures, she set up a business to traffic young girls into a nearby country. Once these girls are successfully trafficked, they work as commercial sex workers. She books for them hotel rooms where clients are taken. She narrates that she has to get a good amount of pay from clients so that she can manage to buy food, good clothing and accommodation for these poor girls turned to objects.

I felt sorry for her, she was in an illicit business, the girls are being abused, but to all of them, this seemed like the easiest way out for them to survive. What a shame to this World. What a shame to this generation. 

By the time I handed a 50 US Dollar to her, the taxi driver had texted. He was by the car park. So, I told her I needed to pick a call and attend to something that came up. I thanked her for being brave, wished the best for her and the girls, and gave her a 50 note for taking a lot her time.

She looked at me with sorrow in her eyes and wondered where this soul came from. She wondered too how she opened up what she had kept as a secret to her prospects and clients. I was up and on the go.

Human trafficking is real. It is happening every minute. The most vulnerable are girls and young women. The World seems to have closed its eyes. One would wonder if girls and young women especially those living in conflict zones are practically considered valuable.
Let us fight Human Trafficking.

Written by Simon Wandila

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Crafting young farmer success stories that truly inspire young people

 Young people are inspired to engage in agriculture when they listen to success stories about fellow young farmers. For many, making a decision to engage in agriculture comes as a result of change of perception and building a positive attitude towards the practice.


A television programme on ZNBC TV1 on 18th May, 2017, presented a success story for young farmers, which was obviously meant to inspire young people to take up farming. However, my observation is that the development of the story might have not achieved it’s intended purpose due to various reasons. I have discussed my opinions in brief.

Selecting appropriate role models

Young farmer Success Stories have more impact when they are developed with the focus on how an ordinary youth get inspired, learn about how to get started and understand the process, and grow from basic production to commercial levels. This entails crafting the success story in form of a brand that is gradually built. It should be a process of branding agriculture while tackling some of the critical challenges young people face and how the subject survived.

The youth have to see themselves in the shoes of the role model right from the beginning when they were aspiring. They need to relate their story with the state the role model was in at the beginning of this farming journey. Anything less than that puts the youth off. They weigh themselves against the role model's initial story.

Success stories targeting the youth of this country should not pick highly educated young people from wealthy backgrounds. There is a difference between encouraging young people to undertake careers in agriculture and encouraging them to take up farming. This difference guides the approach that should be undertaken when developing success stories. This kind of selection of role models leaves out the most important basic steps and learning points young people need to get inspired.

Learning points youths want from successful young farmers

It needs to be understood that young people need land, skills and knowledge on crop selection and production of the same, how to find market for their produce, and value addition, among other critical issues. Where capital is required, it has to be understood that young people have little to no borrowing power and banks are not a financing option for these beginner farmers. Not even micro finance institutions can risk their monies on young farmers in most cases.

The success story chosen has to showcase how the role model acquired land, came up with a viable agribusiness plan and how they financed it without collateral. Key people they involved and departments that helped them would be good learning points.

Skills and knowledge in crop selection is another important aspect. Young people need to learn from the role model how they acquired that as well as tactics they use to continuously improve.

There are a number of young farmers who have failed to continue farming because they could not find a viable market for their produce. From improving quality of their produce to creating market linkages, young people need learning points on how their produce can meet market standards and gain access to viable markets.

Every success story of a young farmer that feature these critical issues and also seek the voice of young people who aspire to get into farming, while providing answers to their challenges and fears with the role model’s success story, will present re-branded and attractive agriculture.

Involve those who understand the challenges


Agriculture extension officers and youth development practitioners are a good source of information that can help to understand the challenges young people face in relation to their engagement in agriculture. Consulting them can help the developers of these success stories to come up with real challenge cases that ought to be answered by the success stories.

Well researched and crafted success stories of young farmers have the potential to re-brand agriculture and help transform young people’s perception. The transformation can help young people to make informed decisions to take up farming. Those privileged with opportunities to develop such stories should therefore pay attention to how they do this and commit to producing truly inspiring stories beyond marketing individuals and their businesses.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Improving the use of ICTs to integrate gender and nutrition in agricultural extension

The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the provision of agricultural extension services improves farmers’ access to information and knowledge. This helps them make informed decisions that improve their production and access to the market, among other benefits. To ensure effective and sustainable integration of gender into agricultural extension services as well as improve food and nutrition security, ICTs can play an important role if and when they are carefully integrated into the system.

Woman farmer receiving mobile money on her phone. Photo by Sayma Islam, Research Assistant, WorldFish/flickr

To integrate ICTs into agricultural extension services systems, a careful analysis of information, communication and knowledge needs of women farmers is essential. Understanding constraining issues that would make this integration a challenge such as women farmers’ access to devices as well as how to respond to handle the barriers is important to the success of this endevour.

Constraints encountered in the implementation of ICTs in provision of agricultural extension services

Some of the commonly used ICT interventions include the use of SMS services, provision of information portals in form of websites, Interactive Voice Response systems, radio programmes, recorded audio playing devices, recorded video playing devices and television programmes and mobile applications, among others. Implementing these interventions is faced with various constraints leading to unsuccessful or less impact projects.

The constraints encountered in the integration of ICT in the provision of agricultural extension services are around issues including language and literacy, trust, access to devices and knowledge of operation, cell phone network coverage and costs, device support, web access, electricity, sustainability and ownership, and lack of effective integration into agricultural extension services systems, among others.

Rethinking the approach to Integrating ICTs into Agricultural Extension Services Systems

Information disseminated to women farmers, whether in form of text, audio or video should be in a language that can be understood by the recipients. Because of low literacy levels among women, information being transmitted should be encoded in a form that makes it easy for them to understand. For instance, information which has been encoded into audio or video and translated into a local language can be understood by most women with low levels of literacy than text even if it were to be translated. Ownership of devices and knowledge on how to operate them is low among women than in men.

Creating an enabling environment for women to own these devices and learn how to operate them would increase their access to information, communication and knowledge. It is also important to ensure that trust is created between women farmers and the source of information. To ensure effectiveness and sustainability, ICTs should be integrated fully in AES systems and not just be implemented as standalone projects. Guidelines can be developed to help institution s integrate ICTs into AES systems, this will ensure careful assessment of needs, choice of relevant ICT tools and methodologies such as the provision of ICT services by local young entrepreneurs, partnerships, capacity development, implementation and monitoring and evaluation.


If effectively integrated into AES systems, ICTs can improve women farmers’ access to information, communication and knowledge. Better access to information, communication and knowledge can improve participation and decision making for women and empower them to improve their production of crops and ruminants. It also improves awareness of nutritional implications of their food systems, an important aspect to help achieve integration of gender and nutrition into AES systems.

By Simon Wandila, Social Reporter. INGENAES Global Symposium and Learning Exchange. January, 2017. Lusaka, Zambia

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Developing women farmer inclusive agricultural extension services systems

Developing Women Farmer Inclusive Agricultural Extension Services Systems.

Agricultural Extension Services (AES) systems play an important role in ensuring participation of women farmers and ensuring they benefit from the nutritional value of their produce. Women farmers’ awareness of nutritional implications of food systems, and their participation in agricultural extension services contribute to food and nutrition security at household level. Food and nutrition security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to food. It exists when they are able to consume it in both sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and they are supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health services, and care, allowing for a healthy and active life (FAO 1996). 

Kenyan Women with Nutritious Crops. Photo: USAID


Characteristics of Agricultural Extension Services systems that ignore women farmers


Agricultural Extension Services systems that are not carefully developed ignore women farmers’ needs and limit their participation. Some of the elements of such systems include concentration on mono cropping that promote market driven incentives; tolerance of culturally influenced restriction of consumption of certain types of food; focusing on market value of principle crops rather than the nutritional value; tolerance of cultural norms that restrict women; emphasizing priorities for men, among others.

An increase in production of nutrition-rich crops, and the associated decrease in prices at market value, is one frequently cited mechanism to ensure greater consumption. When production is concentrated on a limited number of staple crops incentivized by the market- and sometimes due to biased research, EAS, and policy orientation that favors them, diversifying production may eliminate the price distortions that can result from induced scarcity in neglected nutritious crops.

Some cultural practices dictate that a certain gender or group of people especially women and children, should not consume certain types of food. This restricts women and children from benefitting from the nutritional value of the food they are restricted from consuming. Incorporating change of mindset of farmers on cultural practices as well as creating awareness to ensure appreciation of nutritional value of produce whose consumption is culturally restricted, can help achieve food and nutrition security.

Incorporating monitoring and evaluation tools with indicators to track for women farmers’ inclusion

Review of AES systems is important to ensure that they are gender sensitive. Essentially measuring gender integration should be incorporated into AES systems. The process should include review of monitoring and evaluation tools and processes to ensure inclusion of gender and nutrition indicators to track for women farmers’ level of inclusion in agricultural extension services. The results of such evaluations should inform the review of AES systems to ensure they do not ignore women. It is also important to ensure that men are trained in how to reach women farmers as a way of increasing the inclusion of women.


Carefully designed AES systems should ensure women farmers participate and increase their awareness of nutritional implications of their food systems. These systems should have characteristics that improve nutrition through an increase in access and quality of nutritious foods, and ensure that the agricultural sector pay more attention to activities at the intersection of production and consumption.

By Simon Wandila, Social Reporter. INGENAES Global Symposium and Learning Exchange. January, 2017. Lusaka, Zambia

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Study Tour for Farmers on Coping with Climate Change through Livestock - KwaZulu-Natal, Province, South Africa. 26-28th October, 2016



During 2015 and 2016 Southern Africa experienced the driest rainfall season in the last 35 years. FAO (2016) noted that during this period, 634 000 drought-related livestock deaths have occurred in the region, estimated at US$ 220 million. While grain farmers stand to recover in the next season or two, experts believe it will take significantly longer for livestock farmers to recuperate from the drought. In addition to emergency relief measures, efforts to build the resilience of livestock farmers and to learn from one another are increasingly important.


Diversifying farmers livelihoods through livestock and adoption of good practices to manage livestock stock during drought and uncertain weather scenarios are key options to help farmers cope with the effects of climate change. Some good practices are being practised in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province of South Africa.

The Farmer to Farmer Livestock Field Study Visit is organised by the ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), in collaboration with the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU), Heifer Project South Africa (HPSA) and Mdukatshani Rural Development Project (MRDP) who are partners in the Goat Agribusiness Project.

The field tour will enable up to 20 smallholder farmers in Southern Africa learn from fellow farmers in KZN. The aim is to strengthen the capacity of farmers towards diversified livelihood option through practical "Farmer-to-Farmer" sharing of knowledge; the specific aim is to learn from on-the-ground actions taken by local farmers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

The farmers in KZN will host their counterparts, accommodate them in their own village for intensive interaction, and identify best management practices for livestock during drought, including the production of nutrient blocks and fabrication of the block-making tools as a job-creation mechanism for youth.

Follow #CSAFSA @CTAflash and check www.cta.int for updates