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President William Ruto's 13-point agriculture, climate change plan

President William Ruto inspects a guard of honor during the 59th Mashujaa Day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Agriculture, the impact of climate change in Kenya, and the Hustlers Fund topped President William Ruto’s Madaraka Day speech on Thursday.

The government has laid out a five-point recovery plan geared towards eradicating hunger in the country and transforming the agriculture sector by increasing productivity.

The president acknowledged a dire food shortage situation in Kenya owing to prolonged drought and poor rainfall.

“The situation in the country is wanting and we have a severe food shortage as a result of a prolonged drought in Kenya and the larger Horn of Africa region, the worst in nearly half a century, with three years of failed rain,” Ruto said.

Five of the mitigation measures that his administration hopes to put in place include addressing a lengthened fertiliser shortage and high prices. Though, the National Government has already begun the process to address this by releasing 1.4 million fertiliser bags to farmers.

“We have also made arrangements to make another six million bags of various types of fertiliser available for the long rains season,” the Head of State announced.

Other short-term measures to end hunger and dependency on rain-fed agriculture include increasing agriculture productivity by providing farmers with access to quality inputs such as seeds, fertiliser, and pesticides, and a plan to have fertiliser manufactured in partnership with the East African Community (EAC) countries.

Ruto, however, believes that the ultimate solution to food security in the country is irrigation. He said that plans were underway to double the land under irrigation to 1.4 million acres in the next three years.

According to the Head of State, 200,000acres will be under rice irrigation, and 500,000 under other food crops.

The government also says it has begun steps to address the high cost of feed and storage and preservation of milk and access to markets.

“We have taken immediate steps to reinstate the stalled milk coolers’ programme and the distribution of 650 milk coolers will resume shortly. In our plan, we have identified dairy and livestock economy as sub-sectors with the quickest economic turnaround time and they will become key drivers in improving food security, creating jobs and boosting exports.”

Effects of Climate Change

On climate change, President Ruto averred that Kenya needs to increase its tree and forest cover to more than 30 per cent by 2032, as part of the national efforts to address the adverse effects of climate change.

In this light, he has directed the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to hire some 2,700 forest rangers and 600 forest officers to protect water towers and fight off encroachment.

Kenya currently has a 12.13 per cent tree cover, (two per cent more than its 2022 minimum target of 10 per cent tree cover) and an 8.83 per cent forest cover.

Ruto said he will also appoint the Climate Change Council tasked with steering Kenya’s climate action through stakeholder engagements coordinated in the presidency.

“The programme also responds to Kenya’s commitments to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions articulated in various multilateral environmental agreements. Kenya will rally the globe towards more ambitious climate action in next month’s 27th UN Climate Change Conference, at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt,” said Ruto.

Hustlers Fund

President Ruto will formally launch the Hustlers Fund credit and savings product on December 1, 2022, aimed at enabling borrowers to access credit on both short and long-term functions.

“All borrowers on this platform will also participate in a short-term savings plan and long-term pensions program. Every saving made by borrowers on this platform will be merged by the government of Kenya on a 2:1 ratio to a level to be determined by the program.”