Thursday, 24 May 2018

Roads top Nyong’o agenda as Kisumu marks 118th jubilee

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o (centre) at a
Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o (centre) at a past function. Prof Nyong’o has pledged to focus on improving infrastructure as the city marks 118th anniversary. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 
By JUSTUS OCHIENG'
More by this Author
By VICTOR RABALLA
More by this Author
As Kisumu City plans to celebrate its 118 years of existence later this year, Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o has promised to relook at the county’s urban planning, barely days after a survey ranked him the best city county governor.
Prof Nyong’o, who took over the county from Mr Jack Ranguma eight months ago, said services like cleaning, unclogging drainages, security lighting, easier payment of fees and market improvements will punctuate his tenure even though this region is also used to “occasional toxic politics”.
Kisumu, one of the three city counties in the country, has had a bloated workforce, recorded low revenue collection and improper structures within and outside the city centre and the governor has vowed to ensure all these are addressed to achieve a clean city with adequate labour for efficient service delivery.
CLEARING DEBT
In November, the governor said he was forced to start clearing a Sh3.5 billion debt owed to utility firms. But not because there was no money, he said. Past officials simply collected revenue and diverted it, he told a press conference.
He said he is committed to creating a conducive environment for business and transforming the lakeside city. “We are establishing proper structures and infrastructure to ensure that businessmen operate in proper environments that would enable them to prosper,” the county chief said.
In the past three weeks, the governor has had to defend his zeal to flatten kiosks and structures he says have been erected on land they shouldn’t. A two-floor apartment was flattened after surveyors found it was erected on a water supply tank. Stalls erected along drainage pathways were also destroyed.
INDUCTION
The governor, who spoke after concluding an induction retreat of county executive committee members, underlined the need to firm up government plans and programmes during his term, spelling out periodic deliverables and results for each department.
“We must align everything to the County Integrated Development Plan II and the Annual Development Plan for 2018/19,” he said.
Prof Nyong’o also stated that the county will strengthen collaboration with non-State actors, national government institutions and elected leaders to ensure effective service delivery to the people of Kisumu.
He promised to work even harder after a survey on Tuesday last week ranked him the best city county chief. But he scored a C+, which he admits is still a low grade.
Kisumu, previously known as Port Florence, started as a railway depot on the lakeside around 1900. Available water and conducive climate attracted the British and Indian workers who had been working on the iconic Kenya-Uganda Railway and the town’s nearness to the lake shores  gave good conditions to serve as a railway centre.
LAND GRABBING
Like most urban areas, its original plan had either been discarded or simply shelved amid land grabbing.
The city has grappled with dumping of garbage and it is only early this year that a decades-long dumping site near the centre of town at Kachok was relocated to Kajulu. However, the contractor and the county still face a court case after petitioners challenged the relocation based on environmental reasons.
Compared to his Nairobi and Mombasa counterparts Mike Sonko and Hassan Joho, Prof Nyong’o emerged the best in the County Citizens’ Score Card by Trends and Insights for Africa.
Respondents rated Kisumu as the best performing county with a score of 56 per cent (C+) followed by Mombasa (53 per cent) and Nairobi (44 per cent).

UK suspends Beatrice Luciola over patient complaints

Dr Beatrice Luciola
Dr Beatrice Luciola. She studied at the University of Manchester and the Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh), according to information on Beyond Dental Care website. PHOTO | BEYOND DENTAL CARE 
By STELLA CHERONO
More by this Author
A Kenyan-born dentist has been suspended by UK authorities following patients’ complaints on wrong procedures and prescriptions.
The Interim Orders Committee suspended Dr Beatrice Luciola Jepkemoi for 18 months.
COMPLAINTS
Mrs Luciola, a resident of Bexton Lane, Knutsford, UK, has been running the Beyond Dental Care clinic for five years.
The General Dental Council, GDC, was set to hear the case against Dr Luciola on May 4 at the Two East Poultry Avenue, Smithfield, London, but the hearing was adjourned and the suspension imposed instead.
The GDC received the complaints from patients between February and April, with many alarmed by orthodontic dental procedures, allegedly done by Dr Luciola.
They also alleged that she had fled to Kenya after their complaints and that they could not reach her.
But Dr Luciola told the Nation that she had not escaped from her patients, and that she came to Kenya because her father was sick.
She said she was returning to the UK.
In a letter sent to the Nation when we sought to find out if the allegations were true, her Lawyer, Bryan Muindi of TripleOKlaw Advocates, confirmed that Dr Luciola was “in Kenya on compassionate leave tending to her ailing father”. 
LETTER
The letter that sought to stop the Nation from publishing this article, confirmed, “Our client owns and runs Beyond Orthodontics and has practiced as a specialist orthodontist of good repute for 19 years in the United Kingdom…”
The authorities in the UK are also investigating claims that numerous dental memberships listed on her website were not registered.
In the suspension letter issued on May 15, 2018 and posted on the General Dental Council’s website, Interim Orders Committee said there was a clear public interest in the proceedings, given that the allegations against Dr Luciola raised concerns on patient safety.
“The gist of their complaints is that Ms Luciola took advance payment in the sum of several thousand pounds for orthodontic dental treatment from them without starting and/or completing the treatment,” the statement indicated.
REFUNDS
The council also said some of the patients also alleged that Dr Luciola did not respond to telephone calls from them regarding their treatment and that she failed to compensate or refund them for treatment that had been paid for but not started or completed.
The committee, in the letter seen by the Nation, said the suspension was necessary to “protect the public”.
The committee will review the interim order at an administrative meeting within the next six months.
Dr Luciola started working at the Manchester Dental Hospital as a newly qualified specialist orthodontist in 2003 before opening her own practice in 2012.
She helped set up the Operation Smile Kenya that deals with lip reconstruction more than 20 years ago, and still has such clinics to date.
An email sent to the clinic by the Nation enquiring about the allegations of medical misconduct has not been answered.

Land fraudsters shift base to rural areas where folks are still trusting

The Homa Bay Lands Registry, where more than 41,000 title deeds are uncollected . PHOTO| BARACK ODUOR
The Homa Bay Lands Registry, where more than 41,000 title deeds are uncollected . PHOTO| BARACK ODUOR 
24.May 2018
By BARACK ODUOR
More by this Author
The Ministry of Land’s decision to digitise all transactions was prompted in part by the desire to curb fraud.
Land Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri recently said in a statement that the ministry has completed the re-engineering of the way it carries out its processes through the new online Land Management Information  System.
And Land Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney indicated that the new system will be available in Kenya’s 61 registries by 2020.
The ministry’s move to curb fraud has seen fraudsters move to the rural areas, where many people are still not well-versed in technology. 
Mr George Mboya, a secondary school teacher in Homa Bay County, knows just how devastating being conned can be.
Mr Mboya, who wanted to build  a home where he could retire, thought  buying land was a good place to start.  But after paying Sh780,000 for a  piece of land in Homa Bay town  last year, he has nothing to show for it.
“There was a firm advertising a plot in Homa Bay town. I knew that land transactions, especially in urban centres, often go awry, but since this company had an office in the town known to many people,  I believed it was legitimate,” he says.
Mr Mboya paid for the land with his life savings, and the firm’s directors promised to process his title deed fast.  But months after he paid them, the directors went quiet.  All his attempts to contact them were unsuccessful.
Unfortunately, Mr Mboya’s case is not unique; many people have lost  money and parcels of land to smooth-talking fraudsters.
Mr Kenneth Obonyo, the Director of   Lake Surveyors Company, says: “Many Kenyans, especially those upcountry, have lost money, and even parcels of land, to conmen because they do not know  the processes of land transactions.”
Mr Obonyo advises those intending to buy land to ask the owner to give them a copy of the  title deed so that they can  use it to conduct a search at the Ministry of Land offices to determine its true owner(s).
“The search document indicates in the encumbrance section whether other institutions such as banks also have a claim to the land.  This helps you avoid buying land which the owner has used to acquire a loan, for instance,” says Mr Obonyo.
Some fraudsters have invented new tricks to steal land, including resurrecting the dead to  seal deals! 
In the new trend that is worrying legal experts, the fraudsters sell the land to unsuspecting people and vanish into thin air after pocketing millions of shillings, leaving the buyers and the disinherited person(s) to battle it out in court.
The question that arises, therefore, can  a title deed fraudulently acquired on a freehold piece of land can  be revoked?
According Mr Tom Odero, a land surveyor, the law is very clear that a title acquired fraudulently can be revoked.
“If you can prove in a court of law that the title was acquired fraudulently, then a court order can be issued to the relevant land registrar to expunge the contentious records from the land register,” says Mr Odero.
FRAUD
At the Homa Bay County Lands Registry, where more than 41,000 processed title deeds are lying uncollected, fraudsters are taking advantage of community opinion leaders trusted by villagers to commit fraud. 
Homa Bay County Lands Registrar Violet Lamu says unsuspecting residents have been conned through people they trust and have appointed to transact land matters on their behalf.
 “Many fraudsters have colluded with those trusted by the people to transact matters on land on their behalf to defraud them,” says Ms Lamu. 
In February this year, the Physical Planning and Housing department in Kisumu announced  that it will not approve any sale, or transfer, of land to  until a three-month probe is completed. 
This suspension of land transactions is meant to forestall increasing cases of fraud. In the past  month, the county’s Physical Planning and Housing department was inundated with complaints by investors who had lost millions of shillings to fraudsters.
 Land brokers were reportedly hawking fake title deeds in a chain process reportedly involving officials at the Kisumu  land registry.And to tame the fraudsters, the county authorities placed a caveat, through a gazette notice, on land targeted for prospecting. 
According to Lands and Physical Planning Executive Nerry Achar, his office will not approve any building plans until a task force completes its investigations.  
Mr Achar said his office wants to rid the county of illegal land transactions.
Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o expected the task force to look into irregular and multiple allocation of public land, private leases and institutional houses in Kisumu. This came amid growing public complaints about  fraudsters who had conned buyers millions of shillings.
Land tussles are also increasing in Kisii and Nyamira counties.A criminal network that specialises in land grabbing has been blamed.
Targeted for grabbing are pieces of land purchased, but not developed, by Kenyans living abroad.
Land transaction rules stipulate that the owner surrender the original title deed in order to facilitate the creation of the new one.
Mr John Maobe, a resident of Daraja Mbili in Kisii town, says the targeted lands are in Kisii town and its environs, with the most affected areas being Ombaba, Jogoo, Nyamataro, Mwembe, Nyabururu, Nyanchwa, and Nyangena estates.
In Kajiado County, processing land transactions has been heightened through issuing of new-look allotment letters with tamper-proof features aimed at eradicating land fraud. The allotment letter has special security features that make it difficult to forge.
In 2013, former Kajiado Governor David Nkedianye  created controversy when he stopped land transactions in the county, citing massive corruption. The move was condemned and praised in equal measure. Those who supported him argued that the he had come to the rescue of poor landowners who had had their land corruptly transferred to others by crooked officials.
Demand for land in Kajiado, coupled with its proximity to Nairobi, has seen the value of property rise rapidly.
An eighth of an acre in areas such as Kitengela and Isinya goes for between Sh3 million and Sh20 million, depending on its location. Not surprisingly, this has attracted fraudsters.
ALL MANNER OF TRICKS
In Thika Town in Kiambu County, land fraudsters are using all manner of tricks to steal parcels of land and sell them to unsuspecting private developers.
The prices of centrally located land parcels have skyrocketed in Thika since the completion of the Superhighway.
In Siaya County, several families have been  dispossessed of their land by conmen who secretly acquire title deeds in Bondo.
All the fraudsters need to do is partner with land officials to pluck out the original documents from the land registry and have new ones issued to facilitate the sale or grabbing of the property.
After Bondo Senior Lands Registrar Gideon Mwinzi announced that more than 30,000 title deeds were lying uncollected at his office last year, Mzee Cornel Sewe from Rahondhe village in Nyamonye Sub-location went to the  office to collect the document. But he was shocked after a clerk told him that a person claiming to be his son had collected the document
The land registrar assured him that the matter would be addressed, but five months later, the-72-year-old, who reported the matter at the Usenge Police Station, is yet to get the title deed.
 Mr Mwinzi has admitted that such incidents are inevitable in a busy land office with hundreds of employees. He said investigations are conducted and appropriate action taken against the culprits.
“We have come across such cases but after we investigate and confirm that a document was irregularly issued, we initiate the process of revoking it,” he said.
When conducting the search, take note of the land’s leasehold. Most land in Kenya has under a 99-year lease.
Another due diligence process that people overlook is finding out how much money the county government claims on a piece of land. Some landowners do not pay annual land rates, so they have huge backlogs. 
For instance, a buyer might pay, say, Sh5 million for a piece of land, only to realise that the county government has a claim of Sh3 million on it in the form of unpaid land rates.
Confirming that a piece of land actually  exists in the area’s survey map is particularly important when conducting a title search. This is because, while conmen forge title search results, survey maps are not easy to tamper with. 
After getting the survey map, it is advisable to go with it to the site and use it to trace the specific piece of land. This can be done with the help of  a professional surveyor.
For a land transaction to be completed, it must get a nod from the district land control board. The boards sits once a month, and both the seller and the buyer should appear before it to show that they are conducting the transaction in good faith. 
Paying for land based on verbal promise is foolhardy. Get a lawyer or a qualified company to draft a sale agreement that spells out the terms and conditions of the transaction. 
***
START READING THE ‘KENYA GAZETTE’
Mr Kenneth Obonyo, a surveyor, says that one platform fraudsters use to con people is the Kenya Gazette, a small booklet released every Friday afternoon by the Government Printer. It contains government notices, and is also the legal instrument land fraudsters often use to hide their crime.
Many people have never seen or read it.
Mr Obonyo says there are many ways in which fraud is done through the publication.
Fraudsters, often in cahoots with unscrupulous officials at land offices, create new documents for the parcel they plan to gain from. They then substitute the original documents, especially the copy of the title deed kept by the Registrar of Lands.
Thereafter, they report the “loss” of the title deed to the police and get a police abstract.
They then swear an affidavit affirming that they are the legal owners of the land before registering a deed of indemnity in order to recreate the file for the lost title deed.
At the Land ministry, the registrar overseeing the case has to ascertain that the land actually belongs to the person claiming it. 
This can be done in many ways. The  owner might be asked to present himself or herself in person to answer basic questions such as when they bought the land,  its location and size.
Meanwhile, they use the affidavit sworn for the lost title to request the director of survey to issue a certified copy of the deed plan to replace the lost one.
After ascertaining that he or she is the “true” owner of the land, the registrar publishes a 60-day notice in the Kenya Gazette for lost title.
This period is crucial because it is at this time that anyone with an interest in the land can lodge their case before the land officials. This includes challenging the validity of the ownership.
If there is no objection at the lapse of the 60-day notice, the Ministry of Land issues a copy of the title using the deed plan ( a document by which the sale of  unregistered land is effected) issued by the Survey of Kenya.
With the provisional title and a deed plan, the person who sold the property earlier can get a new title and proceed to sell it to yet another unsuspecting person.
When the potential buyer goes to the ministry to conduct a search on the land, what he or she often finds is the fake title, which he or she assumes to be genuine.
What follows is eviction from the land by another unsuspecting buyer and then, of course, the inevitable long-drawn costly court case.
The truth often comes out when the unsuspecting buyer starts developing the land, only to be  confronted by the real owner waving genuine documents.
SOURCE 

Raila Odinga honoured with global award on governance

By Jacob Ng'etich | Published Thu, May 24th 2018 at 00:00, Updated May 23rd 2018 at 23:59 GMT +3
Nasa leader Raila Odinga and Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o. The Opposition chief was feted a Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts (BEFFTA) award for global leadership. [File, Standard] 

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has received a global award for for his struggle for better governance. Speaking when he received the Black Entertainment, Film, Fashion, Television and Arts award in London on Monday night, Mr Odinga said the world continues to laud the peace deal he entered with President Uhuru Kenyatta that has seen calm return to the country. ALSO READ: Think again before mooting a change of the Constitution Odinga said they recently met with the president of the African Union in Nairobi who praised the handshake deal as unique and could help resolve conflicts in other African countries.



The award honours the best personalities in showbiz, entertainment, sports and leadership in the black and ethnic communities in the UK, USA, Africa, Caribbean, Canada and globally. The awards ceremony founded by Dr Pauline Long, is the first of its kind rewarding under one roof outstanding achievements and contributions from Africans, Caribbeans and Asians in entertainment, film, fashion, television, arts, sports, leadership, philanthropy and entrepreneurship. According to the Opposition leader, the AU boss said that he had never experienced a situation where leadership within an Africa country can initiate a process of reconciliation and go out of their way to find lasting solutions for their problems. “Most African countries have disputes that last the life of Parliament. We have perpetual conflicts in these countries. We decided that we did not want to be prompted by any foreigner to tell us how to resolve our issues,” said Odinga.  “We decided that we are going we sallow our pride for the sake of unity for the people of Kenya. This award is not for Odinga, it's for the people of Kenya. 


SOURCE

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

MPs get public views on bill to change poll date to December

Moi Avenue Primary School
Voters queue to vote at Moi Avenue Primary School in Nairobi in 2017 General Election. Members of National Assembly's Justice and Constitutional Affairs Committee on May 23, 2018 started collecting public views on a bill to change the election date. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 
By PATRICK LANG'AT
More by this Author
Parliament has on Wednesday started collecting views from members of the public on a bill seeking to change the date of the General Election from August to December.
While the Constitution requires voters to head to the polls every second Tuesday of August every five years, the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2018 sponsored by Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa seeks to change the election date to the third Monday of December every fifth year.
“The amendment seeks to restore the tourism high season and the aspirations of a section of Kenyans who are not able to get time out of their busy schedules to take part in the General Election at their places of preference,” the bill reads.
Talk of returning Kenya to a December General Election has been in the country’s political debate since the adoption of the 2010 Constitution.
Those against the August date argue that it is disruptive, and that the December date, that Kenya had for a long time, was best suited for the country’s system.
“The amendment will also clarify and put to rest all doubts regarding the exact date of the next General Election and the term of the current Parliament.”
The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee on Wednesday started collecting the views of the public in Kisumu, Nairobi and Nakuru, and then proceed to Machakos, Kakamega, and Nyeri and closing the three-day process with Mombasa, Eldoret and Isiolo before heading to Wajir and Turkana on Monday.
The committee will also be seeking views on another bill that seeks to extend the period to achieve the two thirds gender rule to 20 years.

Ex-TV anchor Louis Otieno faces fresh murder probe

Former TV anchor Louis Otieno at the Kibera Law Courts on June 3, 2016.  PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Former TV anchor Louis Otieno at the Kibera Law Courts on June 3, 2016. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 
By BENSON MATHEKA
More by this Author
A court has recommended that former TV news anchor Louis Otieno be subjected to fresh tests to establish whether he was involved in the murder of Careen Chepchumba, his girlfriend who was murdered six years ago. 
Ms Careen was found dead inside her apartment at Santonia Court, Kilimani, on February 12, 2012, and after investigations police said they did not have a suspect.
PUBLIC INQUEST
Accusing police of bungling the investigations and recommending a public inquest, former Kibera Resident magistrate Charles Ondiek urged the Director of Public Prosecutions to direct fresh probe to resolve the murder of Careen.
Mr Otieno denied killing Ms Careen or ever having a romantic affair with her. He however admitted that she was his friend.
“The cause of Careen’s death was not suicide, it was not accidental. The cause of death of Careen Chepchumba Kili can not be said to be undetermined. The cause was strangulation. These are inevitable findings,” the court stated.
The court found that police exonerated Mr Otieno of involvement in the murder even before carrying forensic analysis of his phones and of the deceased to establish where he was at the time Careen was murdered.
“Having found no eye witness, forensic evidence was the sure key to unlock criminal culpability by some known person or persons. In fact, this investigation was hinged and turned on a composite of two key evidence namely forensic and circumstantial,” the inquest found.
FORENSIC EVIDENCE
It follows that in the absence of forensic evidence and having not considered the circumstantial evidence, the far-reaching conclusion by the team of investigators that there was no evidence to support a theory of murder was hollow, devoid of merit and thus clearly unfounded, the court observed.
It has recommended that samples of Mr Otieno’s finger nails be taken in the presence of Head of Government Chemist who shall take them immediately after documentation by police.
The inquest was told how nail clippings taken by police from Otieno turned out to be of Careen during analysis by experts at the Government  Chemist.
The court directed that the mix up of the clippings be investigated too.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Pilot projects using Bt cotton are underway to facilitate its adoption

A worker at the Thika Cloth Mills Ltd. PHOTO | COURTESY
A worker at the Thika Cloth Mills Ltd. PHOTO | COURTESY 
By BRIAN OKINDA
More by this Author
It is just past noon and the machines and hum monotonously as the workers keep a keen eye on them. We are inside the Thika Cloth Mills Ltd, which was established in 1958, and was one of the country’s major textile producers.
However, the factory is now a pale shadow of what it was in the mid-1980s, when the local cotton and textile industry were flourishing.
Mr John Nzau, a senior industrial relations officer at the factory, recalls with nostalgia the mid-1980s, when a busy railway line passing through the factory’s premises would bring in raw material from as far away as Homa Bay and Busia in western Kenya. Sometimes a consignment was enough to last the factory more than six months.
“Today, that remains a sheer memory of the good old days. Cotton farming in the country declined. The train that used to bring in the raw cotton stopped years ago, and the railway line became overgrown with shrubbery,” says Mr Nzau.
He says that cotton farmers, most of whom were from the coast, eastern, north-eastern, Rift Valley and western parts of the country, lost interest in the crop when invasions by pests and diseases made it expensive to grow. Besides, the local ready market declined as imported textiles flooded the country.
SHORTAGE
In the late 1980s, the production of the crop had all but ceased, with no prospects of revival in the foreseeable future.
Mr Nzau says that Thika Cloth Mills Ltd is operating at less than 60 per cent of its capacity, although it imports most of its raw material from other East African countries.
“Without the imports, we would be operating at less than 50 per cent of the factory’s potential, and this is detrimental, not just to the textile industry, but also to cotton farmers, the country’s economy, people’s livelihoods and the manufacturing, which is one of the main pillars of the ‘Big Four’ agenda” he says.
This shortage of raw materials is replicated, albeit with variations, in other textile factories and ginneries across the country, from the once-famous Rivatex in Eldoret and Kisumu Cotton Mills (Kicomi), to smaller ones around the country.
The country is not producing enough cotton to sustain its textile industry and the cotton sector, Nzau says.
Mr Daniel Macondo, a cotton farmer and also the Chairperson of the Society for Biotech Farmers of Kenya (Sobifak), attributes the crop’s decline to a combination of factors.
First, he says was the lack of a local market for the finished products, since imported textiles started replacing locally produced ones. Besides, the export processing zones (EPZ) source their raw material from other countries such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
He notes that other problems include inadequate quality cotton seed, the high cost of inputs, poor management of pests and diseases, inefficient marketing channels, cheap imports, including cotton lint, dependence on rain-fed cotton and poor management.
However, a shortage of raw material, pests, diseases and marketing, were the main challenges.
At the Thika Cloth Mills, for instance, volumes of ready fabric gather dust in the firm’s warehouses due to lack of a market, while at the same time raw material is hard to come by.
“The irony of the shortage of raw material for producing textile and lack of markets to sell the produced fabric both occurring at the same time is because of the importation of both raw material and inexpensive textile products. This hinders the sale of adequate fabrics made by the country’s cotton industry. The inexpensive imports stifle the cotton industry’s ability to acquire enough raw material from within the country,” he offers.
BT TECHNOLOGY
The answer to the country’s shortage of raw cotton production lies in Bt technology, experts say.
There is a lot of research in technology in relation to a host of other crops such as maize to address the issues of climate change-induced food insecurity, but it is more refined and advanced in cotton currently.
A cotton revival initiative in May 2017 noted that Kenya is doing poorly in the crop’s production because the country does not have quality and sufficient inputs such poor good seeds which produce crops that are less susceptible to pests and diseases.
But Bt technology and other plant-breeding techniques can produce better seeds, Mr Magondu says.
Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a beneficial bacteria that occurs naturally in the soil and has been used commercially in biochemical insecticides for more than 30 years to control vegetable caterpillars, says Dr Charles Waturu, the director of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation’s (Kalro) Horticulture Research Institute in Thika.
“Thus Bt cotton is any variety of cotton genetically enhanced with the Bt-genes to protect it against caterpillar pests, especially the most destructive pest in cotton crops, the African bollworm,” says Dr Waturu, who is an expert in the technology.
He says that a gene in Bt, responsible for the production of a protein which is harmful to caterpillar pests such as the African bollworm, is incorporated in the cotton plant, making it develop self-protection mechanisms by reproducing and regenerating the protein.
This process does not change the plant’s characteristics in any way; it only enhances the plant’s ability to protect itself from pests. These formulations are made stronger and effective when genetically engineered into the cotton plants, Dr Waturu says.
When cotton seeds produced in this manner are used, they reduce the number of times the crops should be sprayed from 12 to three per season, thereby reducing the cost of production.
INNOVATION
The technology also increases the populations of natural pest enemies such as ladybirds, bees, wasps and ants, allowing them, together with other beneficial insects like butterflies, to flourish.
Environmental pollution by insecticides, as well as the exposure of   humans, and animals to the toxic chemicals in pesticides are also controlled, says Dr Roy Mugiira, the technical services director at the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI).
Dr Waturu further points out that returns from Bt-cotton in countries which have adopted the technology have been immense.
India for instance, improved farm income from Bt-cotton by Sh2trillion in the 13-year period from 2002 to 2015, and to Sh131billion in 2015 alone.
China raised its farm income from Bt-cotton by Sh1.9trillion between 1997 and 2015, and to Sh100billion in 2015 alone.
In Argentina, Bt-cotton accounted for revenue of up to 313billion, of which 95 per cent went to farmers while five per cent was distributed between seeds and herbicide suppliers.
And in Myanmar, the benefits were estimated at Sh31billion for the period between 2006 and 2015 and Sh5bn for 2015 alone.
Dr Richard Oduor, a crop biotechnologist and senior lecturer at Kenyatta University, points out that while the government is keen on developing biotechnology in the country, its implementation has been quite slow.
The government’s interest in research, he says, is evident in its involvement, funding and facilitation of projects in institutions such as Kenyatta University, the University of Nairobi, Kalro, the National Biosafety Authority, NACOSTI, the ministries of Industry and Agriculture, and the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), among others.
“We have in the past trained experts from outside the country on biotechnology; some have gone back home to develop the same in their countries,” says Dr Oduor.
He notes that Sudan, for instance, which embraced the technology less than 10 years ago, now has more than 120,000 acres under Bt cotton from its initial 20,000 acres in 2012, compared with Kenya’s paltry 30,000 acres of conventional cotton.
The implementation of the biotechnology research outcomes is a little restrained due to official considerations and the need for public involvement first, according to the experts.
INFORMATION
Dr Oduor also notes that while there have been misconceptions about biotechnology, there have never been any documented cases of its adverse effects on humans, animals and the environment. 
The misapprehensions on the subject are usually  a result of insufficient awareness of genetically-modified crops, lack of  exposure, lack of target research information materials, missing links between farmers and scientists and researchers, and misreporting by the media, with some sensationalising agri-biotechnology, portraying it as outlandish and scary, to elicit public fear of the crops, according to the experts.
“Limited access to accurate and balanced information on biotechnology has resulted in fictitious, distorted, sensational information disseminated to the public, and this has largely contributed to the public’s reluctance to adopt the crops, views that ought to be demystified.
Besides, Bt is a naturally occurring microorganism in the soil, and the process of genetic engineering and biotechnology began when humans started to plant their own crops, domesticate animals, ferment juice into wine, make cheese, and leaven bread,” Dr Oduor says, adding   that the concept has always been among humans.
Conventional cotton, which is the only one cultivated in the country, is prone to attacks by pests such as aphids, red spider mites, cotton stainers, and the different species of African bollworms, which are by far the most devastating to the crop compared to the others, but can be effectively restrained using Bt cotton.
“India, with its 11.6million acres under Bt-cotton, Pakistan with 2.9million acres and Myanmar with 325,000 acres, among others, now have a more thriving textile sector, compared to Kenya’s because of this technology” Dr Waturu notes.

Things Looking Up For The Industry

There is good news for the cotton and textile sector, however.
An ongoing programme by Kalro and other institutions is conducting national performance trials (NPTs) for Bt-cotton in nine sites across the country to facilitate its adoption.
Mwea, Katumani, Bura, Kampi ya Mawe, Perkerra, Kibos, Barwesa, Matuga and Alupe in  have been identified for these  trials, and through Nema’s environmental impact assessment, the public recently participated by offering views on the project, Ms Margaret Njuki, Nema’s chief compliance officer, said.
“If the public’s opinions are affirmative, Nema will issue a licence for Kalro to run the programmes,” Ms Njuki said, during a recent forum for sensitising the youth to biotechnology.  She noted that a final verdict from Nema experts, with the consideration of the public’s input, will determine the success of the project and hence the introduction of Bt-cotton farming in the country.
The Ministry of Agriculture, in conjunction with seed companies such as Monsanto and Mahyco, is also working on Bt-cotton seed multiplication in anticipation of the programme.
The official launch of the Bt-cotton planting is planned for November this year since demos are going on in cotton-growing regions.
The experts say that farmers need not worry since markets for cotton are assured, given the government’s pledge to buy the produce, with the expected reopening of textile industries such as Rivatex, among others.
Currently Kenya’s cotton production averages 572 kilogrammes per hectare, compared to an achievable 2,500 kilogrammes per hectare.
The country has the potential to produce 260,000 cotton bales annually but currently produces only 28,000 bales, a deficit that can be filled if better technology were adopted.
The potential available land for cotton cultivation is over 400,000 hectares, but only about 29,000 hectares are currently used.
There are currently about 39,000 cotton farmers in the country while the sector can support over 200,000 farmers.
The industry has the potential to generate more than Sh15 billion annually, with about 69 per cent of this revenue remaining with the farmers.
The African Bollworm can cause 100 percent yield losses within days if it remains unchecked and attacks nearly all parts of the plan
SOURCE