Archive for September 12th, 2011

Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Blood Nation: Statement on arrest at fracturing blockade

Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Blood Nation: Statement on arrest at fracturing blockade


Posted 11 September 2011, by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Censored News,


September 11, 2011

“To members of the Blood Tribe, the Blood Tribe Chief and Council, all levels of government, the media, and the greater public;

My name is Elle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers and I am Blackfoot from Kainai or the Blood Reserve as well as Sámi from northern Norway. I am 26 years old and a recent University graduate.  I am writing this statement with the intention to explain what led us to our actions on September 9, 2011.

On September 9, 2011, we gathered peacefully on the road leading to a newly built Murphy Oil well on the Blood Reserve.  After nearly a year of doing everything in our power to stop hydraulic fracturing from occurring on our land, we felt that time was no longer on our side.  With the imminent threat of hydraulic fracturing about to begin on Blood Tribe land, we decided that we had to act immediately. Over the last year, we have written letters and created petitions, we have tried to raise awareness both within our community and beyond including founding Kainai Earth Watch and the Protect Blood Land website, we have repeatedly contacted the Blood Tribe Chief and Council, Kainai Resources Incorporated, the gas and oil companies, the media, the Energy Resources Conservation Board, and various levels of government including Indian and Northern Affairs Canada but still our rights were violated. Countless times, we were told that this was a matter between members of the Blood Tribe and the Blood Tribe Chief and Council. But as members of the Blood Tribe, we were never asked whether or not we wanted these wells built in the first place.  There was no referendum, no vote, and no transparent consultation process.  If any objective body were to look at the facts, they would see that the actual people who live on this land were both ignored and lied to.  The fact is that we are a marginalized population that has, once again, been exploited by those in power.  We have been cast into a legal no man’s land and were left with few other recourses at that particular moment but to exercise our right as members of the Blood Tribe to peacefully gather on our land and demand justice.  We were an unarmed group of people who numbered less than twelve at any given time.  We remained on Blood Tribe land and did not step foot on the well site.  We treated those working on the well along with the security personnel with respect.  After being told by the law enforcement officers present that the Blood Tribe Chief and Council refused to meet with us, we were given no other option but to stand our ground and refuse that any of the Murphy Oil vehicles carrying these harmful chemicals be allowed to leave the well site and enter tribal land.  At this point, Lois Frank, Jill Crop Eared Wolf, and myself were all arrested and handcuffed by the Blood Tribe Police while R.C.M.P. officers stood by.  Just after 9 PM, we were all placed in a Blood Tribe holding cell and held without charge for approximately four hours.  After we were charged with violating Section 423 (1)(G) of the criminal code for “intimidation”, we were not released until 7 AM the next morning.  One of the conditions of our release is that we do not attend any gas or oil site on the Blood Reserve.

Recently, Canada endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  We understand that this declaration is not legally binding, however if Canada wishes to recognize the rights set forth in the charter then it is clear that our rights as Indigenous peoples have been blatantly violated.  In particular, Article 29 of the Declaration states that “(1) Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination. ?(2) States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent. ?(3) States shall also take effective measures to ensure, as needed, that programmes for monitoring, maintaining and restoring the health of indigenous peoples, as developed and implemented by the peoples affected by such materials, are duly implemented.”

I do not feel as though what we did was heroic.  We were a handful of people, including a couple of children, who gathered for a common purpose; to prevent any further desecration of the land.  For us, this place is more than just land; it is the place that has given life to our people since time immemorial. Our culture, our language, our identity comes from the land and it is to the land that we owe our very existence.  This knowledge is something that our ancestors have passed on from the beginning; this land is our mother and we must always respect that. So when I say that I do not feel that what we did was heroic, I mean that we were just doing the right thing.   It is important to understand our actions were not rooted in politics because this issue is more than just politics; it is about doing the right thing.  I don’t think in any of our hearts, and I mean the collective “we”, that there is any denying what the right thing to do is. This earth is all we have. It is just that simple.  Without it, there is no “us” and there is no “we”.

We, on the Blood Reserve, have reached a point where we need to set aside politics and family ties and look at the very real issue at hand.  We are about to kill the one thing that has given us life since the very beginning.  How can we look our children and grandchildren in the eye and say that we have let such a thing happen? We are nothing without this place.  There is no simple solution to the greater social issues that come as a result of colonization. However, there is a simple solution to this one problem and that is just to do the right thing.  Set aside your fears and protect what we have, the land, our mother.

I want to believe, more than anything, that those behind our arrest knew in their hearts that treating the earth this way is wrong.  And I want to believe, more than anything, that their actions were motivated by fear; which may explain our criminal charges of “intimidation”.  I look back on the last year and am still in disbelief that it came to this point.  From the actual signing of the gas and oil agreement on the Blood Reserve to the arrest and imprisonment of three unarmed Blood Tribe women.  It feels much like a bad dream but somehow this is our current reality.

I feel that there is no reason for us to have to explain ourselves and our actions but the current state of affairs forces us to do so.  Lois Frank, Jill Crop Eared Wolf and myself are all members of the Blood Tribe. Each of us has a post-secondary education as well as an education in the ways of our people.  We each have a deep love for our homeland and wish for our children and grandchildren to be able to love the land in the same way that our people have since the beginning.

Our court date has been set for September 19, 2011 at 10 am at the Provincial Court Building in Cardston, Alberta.  We have legal council but are asking that anyone that is in the position to help, assist us with the funds needed for the necessary legal fees.

We would also like to gratefully acknowledge the overwhelming support that we have received worldwide throughout this whole ordeal.

For donations, please contact:

Ingrid Hess, Barrister
Elle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers”


(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for more content associated with this article.)


5 micro wind turbines that can have a big impact on the environment


5 micro wind turbines that can have a big impact on the environment


Posted 12 September 2011, by Mahashweta Patra, EcoFriend (Instamedia),



Wind energy generators have been around for centuries in various shapes and sizes. But as the eco-friendliness becomes a constant topic for concern, the wind energy generator or windmills are moving up in the preferred list of those concerned about energy and environment. Wind is one of the natural and renewable sources for thermal power generation. Scientifically, it is defined as conversion of kinetic energy (the motion energy) into mechanical power. However, large sized wind turbines are mainly suitable for the sea side or hill top areas. Therefore, many micro wind turbines (about 5+ meter of height) have been designed and have become very popular for generating sufficient electric power. Micro turbines are mainly suitable for off-grid places, where national grid electricity can not be accessible. The entire process comprises of the storage of generated electricity first in battery banks and then the circulation of the energy via inverters in the form of 240 A.C electricity.


When it was realized that micro turbines were not apt for urban areas, basically because of its noisy generator and poor functionality in low average wind speed, micro wind turbines became very popular. The micro wind turbines also provide an additional support to national grid electricity for specific areas. The micro wind turbine can be fitted on the roof tops conveniently and is capable of producing enough power for basic household consumption. These micro wind turbines are quieter with minimal vibration than the conventional turbines. There are several domestic micro wind turbines such as Windsave 1000 and D400 StealthGen, which are available in cost effective rates and are eco-friendly as well.

Here is the list of various types of micro wind turbines:

1.Skystream 3.7– The Original Skystream Personal Wind Turbine


Skystream 3.7: The Original Skystream Personal Wind Turbine

Skystream 3.7 wind turbine is well suited for homes and business areas. The most exciting feature of this energy generating machine is that, it functions even in low wind environment. It is a user friendly machine and can be easily controlled with the help of Skyview monitoring software installed in your computer system. This Skystream 3.7 comes in a sleek and modish design and there are monopole towers of varied lengths. Good efficiency even in low wind speed (due to presence of special blades which are swept shaped) and excellent durability with easy to operate are some of the highlights of this micro wind turbine. It also comes with a warranty of 5 years. The entire set up is capable of producing 400 Kilowatt hours of electric power per month and is highly recommended for schools and government buildings.

2.Bergey Excel


Excel: Bergey Excel

Bergey Excel was introduced first in the year of 1983. This wind turbine is installed at around 1,800 sites across the world till date. Recently, this specific turbine has been upgraded with powerful alternator and larger blades to enhance its efficiency and performance by 25 percent. This machine basically designed with around 7-meter diameter is estimated to produce approx 10,000 W power. Bergey Excel wind turbine is available in two configurations: grid-connected and battery charging form. It is highly reliable turbine and requires very low maintenance and functions in the adverse weather conditions as well. Also available with varied height towers (18m to 43m) and bending versions, these micro wind turbines are also offered as per your location. It is highly recommended for locations like Eco- tourism resorts, larger tele-communication sites, big rural areas, remote villages and places with lesser facilities. The price ranges varies from 25,770$ to 31,770$ due to upgradation with a voltage regulator or a grid synchronous inverter

3.Whisper 500

Whisper 500: Micro wind turbine

The Whisper 500 turbine is specifically designed to encounter the harsh and high speed wind conditions. The attention has been paid to its extraordinary design, which includes two blades with fiberglass reinforced design. The component named angle governor helps in protection of the turbine by turning the blades and alternator out of the wind. As a result, there is less exposure of turbine in high speed environment conditions. The side-furling angle governor basically helps in carrying out smooth functioning of the turbine resulting into the high yield of energy by this machine. It produces around 500 Kilowatt Hours of power every month with the wind speed of 12 mph. The only drawback of this machine is that it is not suitable for the installation in marine areas.

4. AeroVironment Architectural Wind

Architectural Wind: AeroVironment Architectural Wind

This particular kind of turbine is quite different from the conventional wind turbines, specifically in terms of design. The AeroVironment Architectural Wind design is such that it can contribute in easy production of thermal energy. It is mainly designed for commercial buildings and can also add up to the architectural beauty of the building. This micro turbine is to be placed at specific positions of the building to take the complete advantage of accelerated wind that eventually results into 50 percent maximum production of thermal energy than the power generated by the systems located outside the acceleration zone. This clean culture of power generation is very popular and adapted by most of the commercial offices.

5.Southwest Windpower AIR X marine

AIR XSouthwest Windpower AIR X marine

Southwest Windpower AIR X marine is considered as the latest evolution in the history of micro wind turbines. The AIR-X turbine is the world’s largest selling turbine so far. The special features associated with this machine make it more advanced and popular in contemporary time. The additional features include a micro-processor to regulate the speed that helps in enhancing the performance, advanced body charging capability and reduction in loud noise generated by the device. The controller attached to the main machine helps in keeping a track of the wind by controlling the function of the alternator. The main function of the cubic curve alternator is to generate the energy to be delivered to the battery. The smart controller of the turbine helps in proper movement of the blades and reduces the possibilities of flutter noise.

Recently, a new range of carbon reinforced blades with optimum angle direction has been introduced. These are very useful in increasing power production. The noise system is basically controlled by the efficient electronic circuit system of this micro wind turbine type. For example the electronic circuit system slows down the blades in case of heavy winds. Apart from this, special battery set up has also been introduced which mainly focuses on high battery durability and no overcharging. Any battery size bank between 25 amp-25,000 amp hours or higher can easily be associated with this kind of turbine. Also there is a special auto brake feature to slow down the AIR-X turbine to silent spin when the battery is fully charged and indirectly also helps in reducing noise. The highlight of this turbine system is that a manual switch on-off control option is attached to it. This wind turbine design is highly resistant to any critical situation of wind, sun and water and does not require any additional support of a tower.

Related Stories:

A peek at Nacelle, the colossal part of wind turbines

New micro-turbines can produce electricity from slightest of breezes

Wind turbines that are designed to be an architectural asset!



Everything I need to know about generating power from tides

Everything I need to know about generating power from tides

Tidal Energy: generating green power from tides


Posted 10 September 2011, by Marcus Clay,  EcoFriend (Instamedia),


While technology has done a lot to improve lifestyles, the numerous inventions and man-made machines require energy to run on and depend on some form of fuel. The high demand for fuel has caused the most-widely used fossil fuels to become dearer and the challenge for today’s scientists is how to generate energy.

Again, technology comes to the rescue with tidal power. Scientists and environmentalists have developed ways to harness the tremendous power of violent ocean tides.


Jung Seung Woo, Seung Woo Jung, Kim Min Jung, and Kim Hyun Jun from Korea have developed a prototype of a wave and solar energy generator that works day and night. While during the day, the devices that float on the ocean surface trap solar and tidal energy, during the night, it works as a tidal power generator. The device uses some of the power generated to glow at night acting as beacons to guide ships safely away from them. The electricity which is generated is sent ashore via underwater cables.

France has also been actively exploring ways of tapping tidal power with its ambitious €40m (£35m) Paimpol-Bréhat project. The project will see the world’s largest tidal array that consists of four 16-metre turbines, being installed out at sea. Initially, one of the turbines will be tested in 35 meters of water off the Bréhat Island. The other three turbines will be installed in 2012. 2 MWs of power generated by this array will be sufficient to power 4,000 French households.

The Benefits

While the world explores several sources of clean energy, tidal power has several advantages over other forms of green and alternative energy.

a. Unlike solar and wind power that largely depend on weather conditions, tidal movements are very predictable and reliable.
b. The density of water being much higher than air it means that a turbine used to harness tidal power can be significantly smaller than a wind turbine that generates the amount of electrical output.
c. Tidal turbines work noiselessly. Although industrial wind turbines are relatively silent, utility-sized wind turbines are known to generate low-frequency noise that people living in the vicinity complain about.
d. Since these turbines do not use oils or grease for lubrication, they pose no threat to the environment.

The Lowdown

a. Environmental hazard

Setting up large structures on the seabed causes considerable damage to the ecosystem. Also, placing these objects in the water reduces the amount of water that moves between a basin where the power is generated and the sea, leading to higher chances of pollution. This reduced exchange of water would also reduce the salinity of water in the basin, significantly affecting life on the seabed.

b. Fish and marine life
As marine life forms and fish pass through these barrages, even the most innovatively designed barrages are responsible for about 15 per cent of the mortality per pass through. Hence, in the long run, marine life can be severely impacted.

c. Irregular power supply
Power can be generated only when there is tidal movement in or out of the basin. Although tides are predictable, they are not constant. Hence, power can be generated only during particular times of the day.

d. High start-up cost
The cost of setting up a tidal array is astronomically high. This may discourage investors from putting their money in tidal power generation.

e. Damage
Erratic weather conditions and frequent hurricanes raise the fear of damage to the expensive equipment installed on the floor of the ocean. Although this was a major concern during the recent Hurricane Irene, Ocean Power Technologies’ PowerBuoy deployed off the coast of New Jersey withstood the severe conditions experienced during the hurricane. Surprisingly, after facing the onslaught for two days, the PowerBuoy emerged undamaged and fully operational. It even maintained a regular supply of electricity during the hurricane. Although this is a testament to the high levels of engineering skills, it highlights the need for the best engineering and materials that should be used in making turbines. This further raises the cost of manufacturing tidal turbines.

The Impact
Every country is looking for ways and means of responding to the high demand for energy. And, with the focus on the need for green and renewable energy, governments are leaving no stone unturned, even if it lies on the bottom of the ocean. Tidal power looks more prospective, with wind and solar energy being very seasonal and time bound. The popular saying, ‘time and tide waits for none’ makes tidal energy the much-preferred source of energy in the future.

Related Stories:

Everything I need to know about eco friendly water bottles


Somali Children Bear Brunt Of Horn Of Africa Crisis

Somali Children Bear Brunt
Of Horn Of Africa Crisis


Posted 09 September 2011, by Chrispinus Omar (Xinhua News Service), CoastWeek,


concern about the high mortality rates due to severe
acute malnutrition and diseases AND Also worrying is
the number of separated or unaccompanied children


NAIROBI (Xinhua) — Somali children are the biggest victims of the refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa, according to the latest profiling data collected by UN refugee agency.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the most recent demographic breakdown of the Somali influx into Ethiopia shows that children under the age of 18 are the largest age group among refugees.

Overall, they account for some 80 per cent of the 121,000 refugees sheltered in four camps in south-eastern Ethiopia’s Dollo Ado region.

“We remain concerned about the high mortality rates due to severe acute malnutrition and diseases. Also worrying is the number of separated or unaccompanied children. Initial estimates indicate this number could be as high as 2,500 children in the four camps,” the agency said in a statement received in Nairobi on Tuesday.

“We are carrying out a screening this week in refugee camps in Dollo Ado to better understand the scope of the problem and determine what may be in the best interest of these children.

The statement came as the UN agricultural agency on Monday called for greater efforts bring the food crisis in the Horn of Africa under control, saying that famine conditions had spread to a sixth area in Somalia, putting an estimated 750,000 people in the country at risk of starvation over the next four months.

The latest data released by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSNAU), which is managed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicated that famine has spread to the Bay region, one of Somalia’s most productive areas.

Famine was earlier declared in five other areas in southern and central Somalia.

The number of Somalis in need of humanitarian assistance has increased from 2.4 million to 4 million in the past eight months, with 3 million of them in the country’s south, according to FAO.

The situation is most extreme in the Kobe camp, where children comprise 88.6 per cent of the camp’s over 25,000 population.

Most families are female-headed households with large numbers of children, including young relatives or orphans.

“Many refugee women tell our teams in Ethiopia that it is not safe for Somali men to travel. They fear forced recruitment by armed groups and local militias,” it said.

According to UNHCR, in many cases men stay behind in Somalia to protect whatever property the family may have, to care for those too sick to travel and to tend to any remaining livestock.

“Some families simply have no means for everyone to travel together, so women and children are sent first. However, over the past few weeks our staff have observed that there are more single men arriving from Somalia to join their families,” it said.

Meanwhile in Somalia, UNHCR is supplementing food aid delivered by other agencies in famine-stricken areas in the south.

“We are preparing to distribute 7,500 Emergency Assistance Packages (EAPs) consisting of plastic sheets, sleeping mats, blankets, jerrycans and kitchen utensils for nearly 50,000 people in the Bay region, where famine has just been declared,” UNHCR said.

A further 70,000 people are to be assisted in Lower Shabelle, also in famine. Over 50,000 people will be reached through distributions in Mogadishu and 30,000 will be reached in the Gedo and Lower Juba border areas.

All in all, by the end of August, UNHCR had reached almost 220, 000 people and aims to reach an additional 180,000 by the end of September.

UNHCR Somalia Representative Bruno Geddo said it was imperative to scale up delivery of massive amounts of aid as quickly as possible to needy people inside Somalia “if we are to maintain the recent downward trend in outflows towards Ethiopia and Kenya.”

Geddo recently returned from Dollow on the Somalia-Ethiopian border and Mogadishu, and said that internally displaced Somalis he spoke with continued to express the desire to remain in their country rather than cross an international border in search of assistance.


Remember: you read it first at !


Hunger affects millions in the US: Study


Hunger affects millions in the US: Study


Posted 09 September 2011, By Staff, PressTV,



The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says more than 17.2 million American households faced hunger or could not afford enough food during last year.

A new federal report released Wednesday showed that approximately one in three of these “food insecure” households or 14.5 percent of the US households were suffering from “very low food security,” defined as a reduction of food intake by at least one household member and a disruption of eating patterns because the household lacked resources for food.

According to the USDA report, households living near or below the poverty line, single-parent households, and black or Hispanic households, were mostly affected by food insecurity.

The figures, however, showed slight improvements in food difficulties among American households last year with 0.3 percent households experiencing very low food insecurity compared with 2009.

The highest improvement was among households with children, women living alone, and those with annual incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line, USDA says.

The latest US food security report shows that unemployment and the Great Recession continue to affect the US families, experts suggested.

The “study underscores what we know, that the food security remains a serious problem,” said USDA under Secretary Kevin Concannon.

The federal agency last month announced that nearly 46 million people, or one-in-six Americans, lived with government-issued food coupons in April 2011.


Related Stories:


Himalayan landraces and climate change

Himalayan landraces and climate change


Posted 10 September 2011, by Luigi Guarino, Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog,


I think it may be worth unpacking yesterday’s Himalayan Nibble a little bit. It all started with an IPS story about Nepali women abandoning hybrids and other imported varieties for local landraces in the face of drier and hotter conditions. That’s becoming a metanarrative of sorts, but the interesting thing about this particular example of adaptation is that it came out of a WWF project.

When WWF-Nepal started consultations with villagers on how to protect water resources and crops, the women pointed out that the indigenous seeds they had used in the past were better suited to the changing weather conditions.

One doesn’t as a rule credit WWF with much of an interest in agriculture, or at least I don’t — or didn’t. I’ve now learned better. The piece also highlights the role of community seedbanks (CSB).

Operating from a room in a one-storey building, the seed bank today stocks 68 varieties of seeds, including grains like rice, maize and millets, and vegetables like tomato, green chilli, cauliflower and cabbage. The women’s cooperative runs from the adjacent room.

Which is quite a coincidence because yesterday also saw the paper “Banking for the future: savings, security and seeds: a short study of community seed banks in Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Nepal, Thailand, Zambia and Zimbabwe” summarized over at Eldis. One of the recommendations of the study is that:

agricultural research institutions should extend their expertise and services for free to assist and support communities and NGOs in setting up and maintaining CSBs

Fair enough, but what about extension? I ask because also on Eldis, on the same day, we find the study “Determinants of adoption and extent of agricultural intensification in the central mid-hills of Nepal,” which concludes that:

sustainable agricultural intensification can be achieved by improving extension programmes, credit provision, infrastructural services and the promotion of irrigation facilities

Anyway, be that as it may, I think we can all agree that there’s something interesting going on in Nepal in terms of the use of landraces to adapt to climate change. It may not be the answer, but it certainly seems to be an answer. So why, pray tell, are they not listening in Bhutan? There’s definitely not much talk of community seedbanks and the role of landraces in a SciDev piece, again out on the same day mind, on the problems being faced by that country’s farmers due to climate change. Ah, but:

An upcoming regional meeting on climate change in the Himalayas, to be held in Bhutan in November 2011, will see experts discussing water, energy and biodiversity and devising strategies to build climate change resilience for food security in the region.

I hope those Nepali women with their community seedbank will be invited.


In Kenya, Survey of Female Farmers Uncovers Challenges

In Kenya, Survey of Female Farmers Uncovers Challenges


Posted 09 September 2011, by Staff, The World Bank,


  • Rare survey seeks Kenyan women’s input and data to inform agricultural policy.
  • Female farmers have limited access to water, energy and finance; few women own property they can use as collateral for loans.
  • As agriculture becomes ‘feminized’ and men abandon farms to work in cities, policies must change to meet women’s needs, say experts.

September 9, 2011—Shelmith Wanjiru Kuria leans against the rustic wood fence bordering her farm in the Kenyan highlands, majestic Mount Kenya a picturesque backdrop. The area has some of Kenya’s most productive farmland, and some of its hardest working female farmers, says Shelmith, 34.

“Women are now dominating farming,” she says. She guesses 80% of farmers in her community are female. “Men here are supported by the women. The woman provides everything, even for the man. There’s nothing she can do about it.”

The widowed mother of two was one of many female farmers participating in a gender-disaggregated agricultural survey targeting 2,500 households and 5,000 individuals in eight regions of the Kenya.  The survey was conducted by Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute between April and June 2011, and sponsored by the World Bank and the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture.

The resulting snapshot of farmers’ productivity and overall welfare is expected to influence agricultural, gender, and food security policy as Kenya moves to cope with drought and rising food prices that have driven millions of people to seek food assistance this year.

It will likely also confirm perceptions that more women than ever before are farming as men seek other jobs and migrate to cities and towns, says Beatrice Mwaura, gender officer in the Ministry of Agriculture.

“We need concrete data to inform issues of food security, marketing, access to services and resources,” says Mwaura.

“Agriculture is the backbone of the economy, and there is an awakening among leaders that gender issues could really matter after all. Anybody who doesn’t think it matters is being left behind.”

Most Interviews Are with Women

The survey was designed to capture input from both husband and wife in a household, to ensure it collected data from “people who really farm,” says World Bank Senior Gender Specialist Asa Britta Torkelsson.

“Conventional surveys usually target the head of the household and hence miss out on one side of the story,” says Torkelsson. That fact has contributed to under-reporting of women’s views and involvement in agriculture,  she says.

The survey also collected data on farmers’ access to water, energy and finance – three areas where women face extra burdens and challenges. Women are typically responsible for collecting water and fuel. In addition, few women own property they can use as collateral for loans, she adds.

While full results are not yet available, enumerators who conducted the survey in Central Province say most of their interviews were with women heading households abandoned by men.

Enumerators also note that most farmers have small farms and grow crops for their own consumption, commonly selling them only to raise money to pay a medical bill or other expense.

Even in agriculturally productive regions, farmers have problems getting their produce to relatively nearby markets, let alone to areas of the country with food shortages. Most don’t own a truck, car, or even a bicycle. Female farmers, by custom, mainly walk or use public transportation when available.

As a result, brokers and hawkers with trucks, motorcycles and bicycles commonly transport produce to market, reaping most of the trading benefits. But the brokers won’t travel dirt roads that are washed out by rain, and produce often rots in the fields, farmers say.

Costly Inputs, Slim Profit Margins

In addition, high fertilizer costs and low prices from brokers result in slim profit margins, they add.

Jane Wambul says yields on her 4-acre farm are decreasing because she can’t afford to buy the recommended amount of fertilizer. She says the price for fertilizer has risen from 300 shillings (about $3.25) for a 250 kg bag in 2005, to about 4,000 shillings (about $43) today. Government-subsidized fertilizer, at 2,500 ($26.90) a bag, is rarely available, she says.

Neighbor Veronica Wariumu, 62, supports eight people, including four grandchildren, on her 5-acre farm near Kirimangai, west of the Abedare mountain range. But the family is often short of food. There isn’t enough money to open a bank account. Though power lines pass over their house, they can’t afford to connect to the grid.

“Life is worsening as years go by, because inputs are costly and prices in shops are very high. On the other hand, prices for what we produce are very low,” says Veronica Warimu, 62.

Lure of the City

Veronica’s daughter, Josphine Musa, 27, a single mother of two young children, works with her mother on the farm but says she’d rather be in business – any business—than farming.

“Men get most of the opportunities,” says Josphine, who completed three years of secondary school. “There is a bias toward men when it comes to a job.”

Farming has lost its luster for increasing numbers of young men, who have left for the cities while  women “eke out a living” in rural areas, says Professor Wangari Mwai, who speaks frequently on gender issues.  Just as agriculture has become feminized, policies and assistance must change to meet the needs of women, she says.

“When you target food security issues, you actually target women,” she says. “As a single woman with only one cow, you may not be able to be very productive. But if water points are provided and women are empowered to farm, I believe we can make a great difference in the lives of rural women.”

World Bank Senior Agriculture Economist Andrew Karanja says the survey will help the Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Project better serve women. The survey’s findings will have implications for technology development. Agricultural extension services, too, might change substantially, he says.

“We need to find ways to make it attractive to women, and available at suitable times for women, because they have other issues to deal with.”

Permanent URL for this page: