Food security is Kenya's top agenda, Linturi tells global summit

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi during the 46th session of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome, Italy. [File, Standard]

The government will prioritise transformation of the agricultural sector to accelerate implementation of the bottom-up economic model.

Agriculture and Livestock Development Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi said this during the ongoing 46th session of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Governing Council meeting in Rome, Italy.

He said the transformation and rapid growth of Kenya's agricultural sector remain central to ensuring the sector consistently contributes towards the ten per cent annual GDP growth as envisioned in Vision 2030.

"The economic pillar under the Vision 2030 places a strong emphasis on agriculture and establishes the agenda for inclusive growth and people-driven sustainable development by 2030. This is in line with the food systems transformation as stipulated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," he told the IFAD Governing Council meeting.

Linturi said the government has identified stakeholder collaboration from the public and private sector as a key driver in food systems transformation.

"IFAD's agricultural transformative initiatives have therefore been timely in supporting the Government efforts of transforming our rural communities economically and socially, as well as promotion of gender equality and inclusiveness," he said.

The CS further stated that among the initiatives put in place by his ministry to accelerate investment in transforming food systems include; using data and digital technologies to equip farmers with integrated agro-advisories, tapping into youth to engage in agricultural value chains by leveraging on digital technologies and innovations, investing in irrigation to use the land, especially in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands, utilisation of public land under the Public Private Partnership approach to increase the area of production, investing in early warning systems - use of aerial surveillance and geospatial technologies for informed decision making, promotion of diversification of diets to bring back traditional high-value crops among others.

Agriculture is the mainstay of Kenya's economy, contributing over 50 per cent of Kenya's gross domestic product with 34 per cent directly and another 27 per cent indirectly through linkages with other sectors.

In addition, agriculture has the highest employment multiplier effect, owing to its strong forward and backward linkages to other sectors of the economy.

"Research conducted by our policymakers shows that livestock (cattle, sheep, and goats), hotels and restaurants, poultry, vegetables, and rice have the highest job-creating impact. It is worth noting that four of these five value chains with the highest job-creating impact in Kenya are agricultural based," said Linturi.

IFAD is a specialised agency of the United Nations and International Financial Institutions.

The meeting was attended by the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, Sheikh Mohamud, Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, President of IFAD Alvaro Lario, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Qu Dongyu, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Antonio Tajani, Kenyan Ambassador to Italy Jackline Yonga, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman James Kamau among other delegates.

IFAD president appealed to all concerned parties in the agricultural sector to scale up the transformation of food systems and improve food security globally.

"The food crisis we face today is too large for any single institution or state to solve on its own. Global challenges require a global response," Lario said.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu called on efforts to improve innovation and technology in agriculture.

"FAO's new Science and Innovation Strategy will enable us to step up our efforts and address the urgent, complex and interlinked challenges facing our agrifood systems, by driving a new business model to help us deliver better," added Dongyu.

Linturi also met Somalia President Sheikh Mohamud on the sidelines of the summit and appealed to him to take advantage of the opportunities in Kenya's agricultural sector, especially in the miraa industry. Somalia is one of the major export markets for the popular Kenyan cash crop.

"We are aiming to increase the miraa exports to Somalia and other nations and also remove trade barriers," Linturi added.

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