Kenya to chair key regional body in latest agricultural reforms

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi  takes over leadership of the Council of Patron Ministers for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) from  his Ugandan counterpart Frank Tumwebaze. [Ronald Kipruto, Standard]

Kenya has been selected to chair a body mandated to improve livelihoods in the region, through agricultural reforms and sustained economic growth.

The body, known as Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), also champions exclusive development in the region.

Agriculture and Livestock Development Cabinet Secretary, Mithika Linturi was installed as the Chairman during a the third ASARECA Council of Patron Ministers, attended by Agricultural ministries from 15 African countries.

The theme of the third Council of Patron Ministers Meeting is: ‘Together Transforming Agriculture for Improved Livelihoods, Sustained Economic Growth, and Inclusive Development in Eastern and Central Africa’.

Leaders from South Africa, Somalia, Tanzania, Eritrea, Madagascar, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the officials from the member states.

The meeting was also attended by the Board of Directors of ASARECA and other officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.

Linturi took over leadership from Frank Tumwebaze of Uganda who had served for two years.

Tumwebaze underscored the importance of the Council to the region’s economic progress.

“We are emphasizing the importance of pushing our governments to prioritize agriculture research funding, this is because when research is domestically funded, the correct agenda that’s relevant to our problems will be set,” said Tumwebaze.

Linturi assured Kenya's commitment to ensuring the quality and safety of Miraa exports to Somalia while seeking avenues to expand market access and boost trade volumes.

ASARECA Council of Patron Ministers (CPM) is the highest Organ of the Association.

They have a clear mandate to provide guidance to ASARECA on regional and national strategic matters in Agricultural Research for Development.

Speaking after installation, Linturi said ASARECA has so far invested nearly Sh3.2 billion to catalyse agricultural transformation and improved livelihoods.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development has set its sights on raising $12.5 million to transform Kenya's agricultural sector and strengthen food security.

He noted that they seek to establish centers of excellence for selected and priority commodities.

Linturi outlined plans to increase resilience in food production through regional centers of excellence focused on key crops like maize, dairy, and oil seeds.

“We aim to change the lives of citizens through more resilient food systems," he stated.

Linturi said the proposed $12.5 million investment will come from various partners as he recognized the help from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A large chunk of the funds ($8 million) will go towards promoting nutrition and curbing malnutrition through bio fortification of crops like sorghum, maize, sweet potatoes and rice.

Another $7.5 million will be channelled into aflatoxin research and control.

"Aflatoxin is a serious threat affecting the industry. This facility will aid research, improve food safety and create awareness on aflatoxin issues," said Linturi.

Additionally, the ministry aims to tap into youth potential in agriculture by creating opportunities for them to actively participate in production.

"We want to support and sustain youth-led inclusive systems, taking advantage of their energy and innovation," Linturi conclude

The meeting also discussed strengthening strategic partnership with private sectors networks to enhance trade and commercialization of agricultural technologies and innovation.

During the meeting, the Council endorsed ASARECA Priorities and Strategies for the period 2024-2028, reviewed the implementation of the Joint Communiqué signed by the Ministers during the ASARECA Agriculture Ministerial Conference in May 2023.

The Conference was mainly on sustainable financing of ASARECA.

The Council is to approved a joint Communiqué of the National Agricultural Research Systems on Collaboration between ASARECA and the One (1) Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

This was signed by all the Directors General of National Agricultural Research Institutions.

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