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State strategies will increase food security, give youths jobs

OPINION
By Peter Munya | September 6th 2021

CS Peter Munya. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard]

In the last 10 years, about the exact term of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government, Kenya’s population has increased 32 per cent to 53.8 million people. Over this period, the urban population has risen from 10 million to just over 15 million people. These two factors - a general rise in population and an increase in the number of urban dwellers — have tremendously increased the pressure on the country’s food systems, calling for a rethink of how we approach our agri-food investments.

The government listed food security as one of its four priorities for development and while we have made critical steps towards the attainment of 100 per cent food and nutrition security, a lot more needs to be done. The focus must now be skewed to agriculture, which stands out as the backbone of the country’s economy, directly contributing 25 per cent of the GDP and another 25 per cent indirectly.

Undoubtedly, the sector can do even more than this considering that resources such as extensive arable lands, favourable climates and a youthful population remain vastly under-exploited. Indeed, opportunities abound in agriculture for over 500,000 youths who enter the labour market every year, especially now that the government has in place structures allowing for more access to high-quality inputs, better markets and affordable finance.

These are some of the underpinning agenda created to centralise agricultural development in our government’s economic transformation plans. And with the foundation firmly in place, we will now advance to a period of rapid development that will see us shift from net food importation, hunger and nutrition insecurity, and joblessness.

This is our time to intensively tap on youth, science, technology and innovation to enhance food production while de-risking agricultural investment. All these while enhancing intra-regional trade by harmonising policies that allow us to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s food security.

This week Kenya hosts Africa’s heads of state and government, private sector players, farmers, scientists, youth and other partners at the AGRF Summit 2021 in Nairobi to discuss the best ways for harmonising our development agenda for food and nutrition security plus the creation of jobs that improve the livelihoods of people in the continent.

It is, indeed, an honour for Kenya to host this summit for the second time after successfully hosting the AGRF Summit in 2016. The 2021 edition of the AGRF comes at a critical time when the country is working towards rebuilding our food systems following the shocks brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic lay bare the fragility of our food systems, which had already been negatively affected by droughts, floods and locust invasions.

These challenges called us to rethink our approach to food production, and as we now seek to build back better. Additionally, this year’s event has more prominence because it comes in the run-up to the UN Food Systems Summit in New York, where world leaders meet later this month to review the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr Munya is CS, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives

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