Kenya has underscored the importance of agriculture in the eradication of poverty by 2030.
In a message presented at the International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD) by Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary Ms Ann Nyaga, the government noted that ten out of 17 SDGs are related to the performance of agriculture. She called for urgent actions from the global community in order to accelerate the achievement of the goals and the desired results.
“Achieving SDG2 - ending hunger - requires increased and sustained investment in the sustainable food systems which have to be comprehensive and inclusive, efficient, gender-sensitive, utilizing technology and innovation and resilient to climate,” said the CAS.
She also stated that sustainable systems must adopt a one health approach addressing all factors towards food safety, minimize food losses and wastage along the entire value chain, and should adopt sustainable utilization of natural resources especially land, water and the ecosystem service.
Kenya called upon IFAD to enhance its country-level programmatic approach in addressing these highlighted issues. The conference underscored the need for young people to get into agriculture, calling upon governments to make it easier for them and women to own land.
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Ms Nyaga said, “The growth of the agriculture sector cannot be realized without the involvement of the youth who constitute a substantial proportion of population in the developing countries. It is in view of this that Kenya Government led by President Uhuru Kenyatta who is also the Global Champion for the youth Agenda is spearheading implementing several youth programs.”
Kenya recently launched the Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS) 2019-2029 for immediate implementation to position the sector to deliver the desired goals and also approved the IFAD Kenya Country Strategic Opportunities Programme (COSOP) 2020-2025 which is aligned with the strategy.
Ms Nyaga pointed out that climate change and erratic weather patterns continue to pose the biggest challenge to agriculture in Kenya which has been experiencing heavy rains, resulting in widespread flooding, currently, a severe desert locusts’ invasion affecting over 14 counties.
Speaking to the Standard on the sidelines of the event, Esther Kasalu-Coffin, the IFAD Director for Eastern Africa said the fund has funded 18 projects in Kenya to a tune of Sh39 billion.
Kenya’s position comes at a time when the possibility of eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030 hangs in the balance. Gilbert Houngbo, the President of IFAD pointed out that there is reason for concern.
"Eradicating hunger between now and 2030 is beyond our reach and appears like an abstract notion," said Houngbo.
He stated that small holder farmers are the most affected despite being the producers of most of the food in the world adding that those suffering hunger live in these areas.
"Seven out of ten of those suffering from hunger live in rural areas while 63 per cent of the world's poorest working in the food systems. Small holder farmers produce half of all the world's food calories using 30 per cent of the world's farmlands," said Houngbo.
He stated that 80 per cent of extreme poverty will exist in 31 countries if no urgent action is taken.
He, however, warned governments and organisations not to impose their projects on vulnerable communities even as he stated that IFAD had invested Sh200 billion in rural development.
Houngbo's sentiments were echoed by the World Food Programme (WFP). Amir Abdullah, representing WFP executive director David Beasley, said there is a clear warning that SDG Two will not be achieved.
Abdullah underscored the need to have infrastructure quality seeds, opportunities, credit and empowerment of women farmers if the world wants to see growth. He highlighted the importance of the Rome-based agencies working together around the Food Systems Summit next year.
These views come at a time when the number of malnourished children keeps rising. The State of Food Security and Nutritional in the World 2019 noted that 821 million children were undernourished in 2018.
Speaking on the locust situation in Eastern Africa, including Kenya, Houngbo said countries need to put in more resources to tackle the menace. He further reiterated the need to improve agriculture while at the same time preserving the environment.
On the sidelines of the Council, the CAS held several bilateral meetings with the heads of the UN Rome based agencies. She appreciated their work in Kenya and called on more support in tackling prevailing agricultural challenges including the severe locust invasion in Kenya.