It's time for us to bid goodbye to the ‘poor hungry Kenyan’ phrase

With the lush green plenty of our nation’s soils, a solid agricultural backbone of our economy and a president committed to food security, we must now move beyond excuses and make the phrase ‘hungry Kenyan’ disappear from our vocabulary. To succeed, team effort is necessary.

We have the most diversified economy in the region, yet even with high-tech ventures flourishing and manufacturing finding its feet, most Kenyans still make their living from agriculture, and the sector accounts for about one fifth of our GDP. Nevertheless, our agriculture is still vulnerable.

With drought, global warming and population growth, yields are struggling to keep up. Technology and modern tactics, the likes of which our president speaks of, must now keep up with these incessant challenges thrown in the way of our farmers’ success.

The vast majority of our farmers still work with the most basic of inputs, and unfortunately still lack sufficient finance. With drought always around the corner and the rains letting us down, we must continue to work with the international community to alleviate potential pain.

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The Big 4 Agenda is actively searching for, and implementing where possible, immediate solutions for productivity, clean water, reliable energy and ensuring finance for farmers, just as their urban counterparts benefit as entrepreneurs. Things are getting better and we are heading in the right direction; but we have much more work to do.

Gaining access

Projects are already impacting dairy, livestock, horticulture, and staple foods such as maize, millet and sorghum.  The heavy investment in infrastructure over the recent years is also enabling farmers to reach markets with greater ease, increasing access to inputs and the services of the city.

New water treatment plants sprouting up across the country help protect herds and farmers alike, as well as their urban counterparts.

While hundreds of thousands of Kenyans are gaining access to clean water every day, millions of Kenyans still go without. We must support and encourage further government efforts to bring in water desalination, purification and high-tech irrigation solutions from around the world.

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It’s important to come up with strategic water storage programme plans to increase the number of Kenyans connected to safe piped water by nine million people by 2022.

Dams in Nakuru and West Pokot Counties, as well as projects in Thwake (Kitui) and Thiba (Kirinyaga) show a commitment to providing water across the country.

Subsidy boosting production in a tactical manner, with no long-term goals must now end. It is time to empower the small farmers, and to invest in long term sustainable agriculture. Today, everything is measurable.

Kenya’s agricultural revolution therefore must be data driven; technology oriented.From what we see, the Jubilee administration is committed to find solutions to support the stimulation of crop and livestock yields, the basis of our improved productivity; and in turn our food security.

Kenyan farmers

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Diplomacy is already helping. Chinese funding builds the roads. Israeli technology purifies the water. American cooperation will help make us food secure.

The US Government through USAID has, for example, provided Sh11.5 billion for food security and agribusiness under the Feed the Country Plan. Millions of Kenyans are benefiting from this programme already.

In addition, the USAID Feed the Future program has invested well over Sh22 billion in Kenya to help over a million Kenyan farmers and pastoralists. The result has been security, stability in the countryside, and food in the cities! We should not delude ourselves.

Not every country in the region receives this sort of treatment. This special relationship with the US brings with it unique benefits. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s dalliance with the international community is paying off handsomely.

However, while international cooperation is vital for our long-term development and national prosperity, looking abroad is not the long-term solution.

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Kenyan research organisations, entrepreneurs and farmers must be part of this transformation of Kenyan agriculture. Food security is a declared goal of the Big 4 Agenda, and while it cannot succeed in a vacuum, the sustainable solutions will emanate from Kenya.

Ms Kibaara is a communications consultant in Nairobi

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