Farmers need access to technology and research-based information in order to get high yields in this era of climate change.
This is the message that resonated during the FarmKenya Initiative media breakfast hosted by The Standard Group at its Mombasa road headquarters to discuss the interplay between food security and climate change.
Speaking at the event, Head of Seed Certification and Plant Variety Protection at Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) Simon Maina said with unreliable weather patterns occasioned by climate change, farmers need to embrace resilient crop varieties and technology.
“We need crop varieties that mature fast, so that they are able to escape the impacts of unreliable weather. We need varieties that can withstand those harsh conditions,” said Maina.
He noted that farmers need crop varieties that guarantee high yields, are able to withstand the impact of pests and diseases and provide the right nutrition in order for the country to be food secure.
Maina said already, as the regulator, Kephis has certified a number of crop varieties that can withstand climate shocks.
Beatrice Nyamwamu, Head of Food Crops Directorate at the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) said the country is yet to utilise research developed on varieties.
“We are yet to utilise what is at our disposal. If all farmers can adopt those early maturing varieties, we can ensure our crops escape from the impacts of drought,” said Nyamwamu.
She added: “We cannot change the climate but we can mitigate its effects on production. We focus on developed varieties, early maturing varieties and this is purely by research.”
On post-harvest losses, which have been blamed for the loss of more than 30 per cent of national yields every year, Nyamwamu noted that storage facilities are wanting, especially at the farmers’ level.
“When you look at the ways our crops are stored, we waste a lot of food. The Ministry has now launched the Warehouse Receipt System (WRS) whereby grains can be preserved in the right manner,” said Nyamwamu.
She noted that the preservation, to be done at subsidised prices through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), will enable farmers to access loans using their produce.
Director of Livestock Policy Research and Regulation at the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Christopher Wanga, said a new strategy has been developed in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation to control invasive species like locusts and army worms.
“We must address our interventions in a concerted effort because a silo brings the issue of duplicity,” said Wanga.
While narrating the Israeli success story, agronomist Yarav Kedar, the Managing Director of Africa Agri-Green said more needs to be done through use of research and technology for Kenya to attain the target.
Kedar urged agriculture stakeholders to test for new solutions that are more farmer-friendly such as reverse osmosis which has been tested in Israel and South Africa.
Eric Kimunguyi, CEO of the Agrochemical Association of Kenya said for farmers to achieve maximum yield, pest control products are important. “Pest control products reduce the cost of food production by half and triple yields of crops,” said Mr Kimunguyi.?