Agriculture is a crucial component of any nation. This is the reason President Uhuru Kenyatta has placed food security as one of the Big Four Agenda. Kenya is a rich country with vast lands that are mostly arable. Moreover, even in the arid and semi-arid areas, the situation is not as grim as in desert lands like in Israel and in other arid nations.
However, there are external factors that could affect agriculture such as climate change, widespread global desertification and water crises and the extinction of animal and plant species.
These and other issues are threatening our ability to supply food over the long term. As a result, it is important to strive to achieve food security through agricultural practices that do not adversely affect the environment and the climate.
The entrance of Covid-19 has exposed a global economic crisis: The world is food insecure. Leading food producers have placed limitations on the export of agricultural goods from their territories, disturbances and interruptions have been encountered along the entire global supply chains from production to the international marketing of food.
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There is also decline in demand and purchasing power due to the global economic recession, shortage of farm-hands and workers in the food-packing factories.
Not too long ago, the UN published its annual report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020. According to its projections, the world is not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 and, despite some progress, most indicators are also not on track to meet global nutrition targets. The World Food Programme states that the number of people who will suffer from acute food insecurity will double from 135 million in 2019 to 265 million at the end of 2020.
The harsh circumstances that Israel has faced since its re-establishment in 1948 - from hostile neighbours to tough climatic conditions, forced our nation to adapt creative technologies to bloom the desert, thus becoming a leader in innovative agriculture.
Drip irrigation is one of the best examples of this. Moving to irrigated farming would increase the crop yield, save water and greenhouse gases, and, over time, create food security. It is worth noting that to date, most agricultural crops in many parts of the world are still grown by “dry farming”, that is farming that is reliant on rain.
“Precise agriculture”, which supplies all plants’ needs on an almost individual basis, is another example. Today, sensors are capable of informing precisely how much water and fertiliser is required for each tree and from what diseases it is suffering.
Subsequently, an individualised treatment, which is often administered via drones or other methods, is implemented. The use of satellites for information gathering and remote sensing, computerised greenhouses and continuous monitoring of temperature, humidity and pests from afar also increase crop yields and create more food.
That said, Israel has been co-operating with Kenya in many different aspects of agriculture. One very crucial programme is the 11-month agricultural training programme between our two governments where students who have graduated in Kenyan academic institutions are sent to Israel to undertake a theoretical and practical training programme that exposes them to Israel’s technological expertise and experience.
The Israeli Embassy has taken this collaboration a step further and engaged the students who returned to Kenya to ensure that the training they acquired would continue to be beneficial to them and to the communities where they come from.
On August 5, and for the first time, the embassy organised an event dubbed ‘AgriNow2020’, a platform meant to transform the trained students to agripreneurs.
In the event, these young agripreneurs were given the opportunity to present their agribusiness ideas and to connect with government institutions, financial partners, agricultural organisations, Israeli companies working in Kenya, all in an effort to jointly address Kenya’s food security challenges.
The Kenyan government was represented in the event by the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Peter Munya as well as Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki, chair of Agriculture Committee in the Council of Governors. This demonstrates our ongoing commitment to continue with the Israel–Kenya food security cooperation and to empower Kenya’s young agripreneurs.
In the wake of Covid-19, it is very important to understand the fragility of the global food supply chains, the vulnerability of food security to different sources of disturbance, and to increase local food production.
Israel would be both happy and honoured to continue to partner with a friend and ally like Kenya, and together explore solutions that would make our nations' resilience in food supply even in unprecedented and challenging times.
Mr Oded is ambassador of Israel to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Seychelles