Speakers at forum call for accurate information dissemination and adoption of diversified farming to end frequent food shortages.
The youth and budding entrepreneurs have been urged to take every opportunity to supplement government efforts at ensuring food security.
At the third ‘Transform Kenya’ forum in Nairobi on Thursday, the need to deploy more technology in production, simulation of innovation, rejuvenation of extension services, investment in knowledge and crafting of agriculture-friendly policies were amplified.
Transform Kenya is a Standard Group initiative and in this edition, the Ministry of Agriculture, Twiga Foods, Coopers Kenya, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and Strathmore Business School were partners. Dubbed ‘Transform Kenya Food Security and Nutrition’, this edition followed similar ones held in Kwale and Nairobi but under different themes.
“We need to come up with ways of disseminating accurate, relevant and timely information to the farmer in terms of what seed variety suits given regions, how to deal with pests and diseases, value addition to their products, proper storage and marketing of their produce,” said FAO representative to Kenya Gabriel Rugalema.
He said about 50 per cent of what a Kenyan farmer labours to produce is lost due to improper storage.
Agriculture PS Hamadi Boga said unpredictable weather patterns are part of the new challenges the government is facing. He said the government is working to establish a technology that would ensure farmers get appropriate information about weather patterns. “We want farmers to be guided by evidence and embrace technology,” said Prof Boga.
Speaking at the forum, Standard Group CEO Orlando Lyomu underscored the need for the country to embrace a diversified approach in farming.
“We all know Kenya faces severe food shortages, and access to water is a major challenge, which has a serious knock-on effect on the level of nutrition in the country. Yet we are endowed with some of the best land for agriculture and water masses for fishing, and we happen to enjoy a diverse climate that makes it possible to grow a wide variety of crops and rear livestock,” he said.
Food expert Okisegere Ojepat told the government to lower the prices of farm inputs to create a favourable environment for agriculture. He said heavy taxation makes it difficult for farmers to run their ventures.
“With agriculture being the backbone of the country, we allocate about three per cent of the country’s budget to it, instead of 10 per cent. This is not realistic because you cannot have a backbone and fail to protect it,” said Ojepat.
Prof Mary Abukutsa, Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), urged the youth to embrace agriculture courses to enhance food security.
“We should encourage young people not to view agriculture as a punishment, said Abukutsa.