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May 23, 2007

News briefs_May23_2007

Cassava in Zimbabwe : Cassava growing is fast becoming a viable income-generating project in Zimbabwe, especially by rural women. Cassava is less soil nutrient demanding than some other major food crops, making it possible to cultivate it on marginal soils. It is being grown as a complement to maize and small grains.
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S.African province plans new dam, farm projects : South Africa's Eastern Cape province launched a public-private investment initiative on May 20 that aims for 60 billion rands ($8.5 billion) worth of projects in the next 10 years, including a new dam for hydroelectric power and an agricultural irrigation scheme.
The dam envisaged would generate 2,000 megawatts of electricity and be at the heart of an irrigation project. The agriculture projects would include a 100,000 hectares forestry project, and crops such as rapeseed to produce biodiesel. The projects are under the umbrella of the national government's Asgisa initiative to lift annual growth to at least 6 percent by 2010.
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Malawi agric. training center re-opens : Malawi's deputy minister of agriculture accused the previous United Democratic Front (UDF)-led government for its failure to run agricultural training centres in the country during its rule. Bintony Kutsaira was speaking during the official re-opening of Thuchila Residential Training Centre. He said many of the agricultural training centres died during UDF's tenure due to inadequate funding.
"These training centres have not been fully operational for the past 10 years," said the minister. Kutsaira said the UDF government did not realise the importance of agriculture, which he said contributes 40 percent of the GDP, 90 percent of the export earnings and employs 85 percent of the country's working population. He thanked the African Development Bank for funding the rehabilitation of the institute at a cost of K6 million ($43,000).
Principal of Thuchila Farm, Andrew Dominic Mwalukasingo, said the centre, which currently has 30 students, would sharpen farmers' skills. Some of the courses at the institute include irrigation, crop production and management, crop storage, livestock management, land resource, farm planning and agriculture business management.
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Silk farming, Kenya : The Kambogo Women's Group from western Kenya's Rachuonyo district are the only active silkworm farming group in the country. Their turn to sericulture has been so rewarding that some farmers have replaced sugarcane with the mulberry Morus spp., the silkworms' staple diet.
After acquiring basic skills in rearing silkworms from the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), the women sought support from the divisional agricultural office and the Ministry of Livestock to make silk farming a reality. The group of 30 women began planting mulberry in 2001 and currently has over 15 acres of mulberry bushes. The group has now commercialised their activities by selling the cocoons on a monthly basis to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) in Thika. The group also offers lessons, at a small fee, to farmers who want to practice silk farming. A key concern is whether the group will be able to supply enough mulberries and worms to meet growing demand, due to their limited resources.
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Namibia drought, sheep exports : From May 15 until July 15, Namibian sheep farmers will be granted permits to export the equivalent of 20 percent of their sheep stock that were slaughtered between May 1, 2006 and April 30, 2007. With the current drought, farmers are anxious to slaughter and export animals for which there is insufficient grazing land.
The country received below normal rainfall in March. Farmers have to wait for six and at times up to eight weeks to have their slaughter turn at abattoirs because of the high slaughter demand and limited abattoir capacity, resulting in weight loss for the animals. Around 60,000 sheep need to be exported during May and June. Namibia has four small stock abattoirs and exports about 1 million sheep each year.
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