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How William Ruto plans to reform agriculture, tackle climate crisis

Business
 President William Ruto during a roundtable meeting with Kenya - US business executives in New York. [PSCU, Standard]

President William Ruto has illustrated his ambitious plan to use agriculture to respond to the adverse effect of the climate change crisis in Kenya.

In his maiden speech at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Ruto said his government intends to invest in modern agricultural technology as a high-priority action to tackle prevailing environmental challenges.

At the core of his 10-year strategy for Agricultural Sector Growth and Transformation, Ruto said farmers will be registered to direct incentives and be educated on beneficial farming practices through customised extension services.

Mr Ruto also announced that there will be regular monitoring of emergency food reserve stocks using a Digital Food Balance Sheet and the use of an Early Warning System to monitor food supplies and market prices.

“Agriculture remains the bedrock of the development of many nations, and will thus continue to hold the key to the creation of equitable and sustainable growth for our people.

“Agriculture remains the bedrock of the development of many nations and the sector has an important part to play in reducing the severity of climate change. No country, large or small, has ever attained significant growth without modernising its agricultural sector,” said

Scientists have demonstrated that a number of farming practices have a positive or negative bearing on various dimensions of the environment, but Ruto noted that his government would respond to the crisis through substantial investment in climate-resilient agriculture.

Distribution of subsidised fertilisers to farmers across the county is also among his key actionable plans to revolutionise agriculture and mitigate the global food crisis.

“As we rededicate ourselves to these (climate change) targets, we must, in the immediate term, find answers to the severe deficit in the availability, flow and accessibility of fertiliser to our farmers worldwide. “

He continued; “I couldn’t agree more with Secretary General (Antonio) Guterres on his warning right here yesterday, that “without action now, the global fertiliser shortage will quickly morph into a global food shortage.”

Reducing fertiliser prices to improve food production was among Ruto’s first pronouncements after he got into office.

While illustrating Kenya’s fair share of the adverse effects of the climate crisis, Ruto also pressed the developed and highly-industrialised countries to cooperate in financing the countries Kenya which have suffered effects of pollution and other climatic changes which he termed a grave threat to human well-being.

“Many countries now bear witness to the unsettling phenomena of rivers, canals and water reservoirs that are drying up on account of droughts and heat waves occasioned by climate change. Kenya is no exception.”

“The northern, arid and semi-arid rangelands of our country have been gravely impacted by drought whose severity has not been experienced in 40 years. 3.1 million residents of these ASALs are now severely food-insecure on account of scarce rainfall over three consecutive seasons, leading to poor crop and pasture,” Ruto told the assembly.

The head of state said the drought crisis has worsened water scarcity and starvation, rising food prices and consequently complicating Kenya’s roadmap towards delivering good quality of life.

“Severe drought has not only affected the Horn of Africa and the Sahel regions, but continues to devastate many others, including Asia, Europe and the Americas. If for no other reason, the fact that we are in this together must strengthen the case for concerted efforts across the continents,” he posed.

Kenya is among the African countries predicted to experience high and dangerous temperatures in a few years to come due to global warming.

For instance, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at COP 26 projected that the glacial ice cover on Mount Kenya will completely disappear by 2030 hence resulting in low river flows and loss of nature-based tourism.

It also projects that a number of East African cities will have an up to a 2000-fold increase in exposure to dangerous heat compared to 1985-2005.

“This means, children born in 2020 will be exposed to three to five times more heatwaves in their lifetime compared to people born in 1960,” reads the report I part.

The irregular rainfall pattern which has interrupted the farming sessions in Kenya has also been linked to the climate crisis.

As a result, Ruto called for a demonstration of political will and climate financing through sharing land restoration and climate adaptation technologies.

“We have a rendezvous with a climate disaster and we are running out of time. The latest IPCC report reminds us that we cannot afford to waste another moment debating the merits of doing something with regard to doing nothing. It will soon be too late to reverse the course of events, and then, even the best possible interventions will not suffice,” Ruto warned.

The president also mentioned that Kenya is committed to work closely with other nations to pursue legally binding instruments aimed at bringing an end to plastic pollution

As nations prepare for COP 27 which will be held in Egypt in November, Ruto called upon all member states to urgently deliver on all commitments made towards climate financing.

 “This is our opportunity to mobilise with tremendous urgency and take action at once. At this watershed moment, we must not only choose, but also act decisively to bequeath to our children and their children a greener, safer, healthier and more abundant Earth,” Ruto urged.

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