Irrigation best way out of perennial food shortages

Farmers irrigate newly planted orange-fleshed potato variety, at a farm in Maralal, Samburu County on April 6, 2022.  [Mercy Kahenda, Standard]

President William Ruto addressed the nation in his first Mashujaa Day celebration as head of state yesterday. On this day, Kenya celebrates its heroes and heroines whose struggles and sacrifices set us free from the oppressive yoke of colonialism. 

On this occasion, the president also outlines his achievements and what his government has set out to achieve. Dr Ruto took over the reins of leadership at a most difficult time in our history. 

The cost of living has shot through the roof and millions of families can barely afford a single meal a day. Ordinarily, Kenyans attend national celebrations in their numbers, but yesterday was different. The poor attendance across the country tells its own tale of despair and frustration among Kenyans.

Their hopes were buoyed by Kenya Kwanza's campaigns promises that immediately they took office, the price of unga would come down. To their disappointment, a month after Dr Ruto was sworn in, matters have gotten worse.

In keeping with tradition, the president outlined the many good plans his government has, which include improved housing and ensuring that government agencies like the Kenya Police Service, the anti-corruption agency and the Director of Public Prosecutions are not suffocated by the Executive arm of government.

But while such promises are good and welcome, it is his government's plans to improve agricultural production that deserves praise. Nearly half of the 47 Kenyan counties bear the brunt of ravaging drought following three years of failed rains. Clearly, rain-fed agriculture is no longer viable.

The government's plan to get into public-private partners to sink boreholes and dams for irrigation purposes and to immediately put three million acres of land under irrigation is laudable, but must be actualised to excite Kenyans. 

As the president noted, there is a 10 million-bag maize deficit and this can only be taken care of through enhanced agricultural production. Farmers should be facilitated with improved seeds and subsidised fertliser as the government has committed to do. 

The Standard
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