Food security cornerstone of a robust economy

One of Kenya’s most pressing issues is the country’s food security.

In basic terms, food security is having reliable access to quality, affordable, nutritious food.

The four pillars under food security as described by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are food availability, access to food, utilisation and stability. 

Like military security, making sure a country is food secure is a constant group effort. The Government has to work with its own civilians as well as other countries to make sure that there are no food shortages. 

But sometimes tragedies occur that discombobulate the system. The locust infestation over the last few weeks poses a major threat to Kenya’s food security. As farmers in Isiolo and elsewhere grapple with the outcomes of the invasion, they must immediately begin to consider how to effectively move forward. 

It is no coincidence that the Government has identified food security as one of the key components of the Big Four development agenda.

Empowering farmers has been a cornerstone of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration from the beginning. Just as national security is a key priority, so is making sure that farmers have the tools they need to provide the country with food. Farming in itself is a matter of national importance. Unfortunately, Kenyan farmers have had to deal with many barriers to productivity, efficiency and profit in the past year, such as drought, disease and soil degradation.

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But more modern technologies than ever are available to them to boost crop yields. If farmers prepare their land for farming as early as possible and use the technology available to them, improvements are possible.  For example, Kenya Seed Company has developed around 60 high-yielding hybrid seeds that can fend off pests, disease and drought. Farmers who use such seeds are far more likely to see their crops persevere and multiply. And though heavy rains have discouraged many farmers from continuing for another season, there is much to be hopeful for. While a 90kg bag of maize was selling at Sh2,500 in 2018, the price increased to Sh3,000 last year.

The State is putting in efforts to make sure that farmers are fairly compensated for their sweat.

Researchers say climate change impact is one of the biggest problems facing the agricultural sector. Currently, infant mortality is on the decline, and the population is rising due to constantly improving health care services. But an increase in population and a reduction in arable land mean that farmers have more difficulties. But if they are given access to information about new advances in agtech, they will be empowered to plan better and deal with future roadblocks.

The writer is Personal Assistant to the Devolution and ASALs Cabinet Secretary.  

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Kizito TembaFood securityEconomyFood and Agriculture OrganisationFAO