There will be no hunger if we exploit counties' vast potential

Turkana residents receive food donations at Kakalel village in Loima sub-County on Nov 03, 2022. [Lucas Ngasike, Standard]

A devastating drought is sweeping across the country with figures of the hungry on the rise. Late last week, reports indicated that the number of hungry Kenyans had crossed the five million mark. And although rain has started falling in parts of the country, farmers can only hold their breath that the skies shall stay open. 

Across the country, food is in short supply. Across the world, we are witnessing the cruel reality and vagaries of climate change. The world is no longer the same. 

But while the situation has worsened our predicament is not entirely new. Drought has been with us for the past few years.

It has been year after year failed crops. Our farmers' toil keeps going to waste. We must address this problem. To get started, we must focus the government’s thinking on the business of edifying our populace's means of production.

“A rising tide does not raise people who do not have a boat. We have to build the boat for them. We have to give them the basic infrastructure to rise with the tide,” said Rahul Gandhi.

We need to equip our people. As the zephyr of tech sweeps across Silicon Savanna, we must provide our digital natives with the skills to enable them to compete in this space.

The government should create an enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem that provides funds and seed capital, nurture budding investments, and especially bring international best practices to our local economy.

Our largest resource remains our people - their resilience and tenacity. We primarily need to pin down the opportunity that is our ebullient youth.

No part of Kenya falls short in potential, no matter how dry.

For the record, Kenya’s land is divided into six agro-climate zones: Zone one is largely mountains-our water towers, key among them being Mt Kenya and Mt Elgon. Zone two is characterised by rainforests and open grasslands.

Most of Kenya’s farming potential lies in semi-humid Zone Three and partly semi-humid- Zone Four.

Zone Four has lower rainfall than Zone Three, while Zone Five is semi-arid with an annual rainfall of 300-600 millimetres. Zone Five is a semi-desert while the driest parts of Kenya are placed in Zone Six. We still have Zone Seven-characterised by the very arid conditions of the Chalbi.

Yet all these zones are endowed with vast potential. One county may host several zones at the same time.

Let’s take Laikipia for example. Most of Laikipia’s land mass falls between agro-climate zones Two (Nyahururu), Three (Ol Jabet, Ol Ng’arua areas) and Four (Vast Laikipia plains), and Five (towards Isiolo).

Laikipia’s soil is fertile and in most areas productive agriculture can be achieved through irrigation, proper variety selection as well as conservation tillage. We must pioneer the most ambitious revolution in production acceleration. We will bolster the economics of agriculture.

Livestock, as a value chain, can employ thousands of our people. Fodder and feeds production present new opportunities in rangeland cultivation and manufacturing. Animal husbandry practices will be tailor-made with a focus on profits. Feedlot farming will gradually replace nomadic pastoralism.

To ensure that we tap into the potential of each zone, we have tailored our development agenda around water (for agricultural use), reclamation of range lands (for fodder production), technology (ICT, internet and outsourcing), and renewable energy (Wind and Solar).

These we believe, shall prove that the vast potential of Kenya’s counties, is yet to be tapped in full.