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Our smallholder farmers hold key to food security

OPINION
By Gerald Lepariyo | July 24th 2021

Gerald Lepariyo. [Courtesy]

The state of food security across the globe paints a dire situation. Early this month, UN Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) warned that millions of people are facing hunger and that many countries had not achieved their goals on food production.

The UN also released a scorecard on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), indicating how the world has stagnated towards beating hunger by 2030. The scorecard showed how the 195 member states had performed.

Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are facing acute food insecurity and malnutrition with children, women and the elderly being the most vulnerable. Kenya is ranked 8th in the region and 118 out of 195 globally with an overall score of 60.60 per cent. Finland, Sweden and Denmark top the list.

Notably, Covid-19 pandemic and climate change shocks have driven millions of people into extreme hunger and poverty, not only in Kenya but worldwide.

A Lolupe villager harvesting vegetables at an irrigation farm in Turkana county. [Fred Kibor, Standard]

According to the latest data from World Vision East Africa, some 2.4 million Kenyans are at risk of starvation and malnutrition especially in arid and semi-arid areas in Baringo, Samburu, Turkana, Marsabit, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera and Isiolo counties.

In Kenya, food security and nutrition landscape received a boost when President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled the Big Four agenda in which food production was identified as a major pillar. Last year, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, desert locusts’ invasion in more than 15 counties, persistent droughts and short rains affected food production.

Despite efforts stepped up by county and national governments to scale up food production, it is projected that Kenya will import more maize from Uganda and Tanzania to boost its food security due to poor harvests, likely caused by short rains in February to September this year.

Uganda, a landlocked country with 39 million people, adopted an early warning system as a measure to boost food security. It supports local large scale food production through irrigation and promotes land conservation.

In Kenya, our strategic focus should now shift to empowering local smallholder farmers. This includes investing in technology to build their capacity and enhance skills, ease access to credit facilities in commercial banks, Agricultural Finance Cooperation (AFC), bolster public-private partnerships, improve markets for farmers and strengthen devolution. This will bolster our food security.

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