Food insecurity always affects our country and relief food supplies in drier regions have soiled the image of a nation which is making tremendous progress in several sectors of development.
Most Kenyans have therefore come out strongly on how to overcome issues of drought, famine and reliance on external food donations to feed our fast growing population and more so in the Northern Kenya.
Professor Shaukat Abdulrazak, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Council of Science and Technology says that the country has now appreciated that rain-fed agriculture is unsustainable and must be replaced by alternative mechanisms driven by technology.
Prof. Abdulrazak says: “Any farmer can produce food or milk during wet seasons. With the influence of technology in all sectors today, agriculture must not be left behind.”
In the 2011/2012 budget, the Government allocated Ksh 10 billion to fund existing and new irrigation projects around the country. This development set the precedent for what the NCST now says marks a departure from the past in irrigated agriculture and is firmly the way of the future.
“As we press on to accomplish goals set for the agricultural sector in the vision 2030 blueprint, we anticipate a future where rain-water is accounted for as a supplementary source, not a primary one, while water harvesting, drip irrigation and prudent management of water resources will be emphasized,” he added.
The ministry of Agriculture has initiated and funded several irrigation projects to transform farming and enhance food security in the country. The ministry’s Permanent Secretary Dr. Romano Kiome said that the Government in collaboration with development partners is funding Kabaa small-scale horticultural irrigation scheme in Machakos County at a cost of Sh.2.1 billion.
The irrigation scheme which falls under Small-Scale Horticultural Development Projects is 240 hectares and is earmarked to address perennial food shortage in the region and boost the income of the local residents.
Dr. Kiome said the Government is determined to ensure successful implementation of all irrigation projects in the country through the provision of steady and sufficient water supply, and farm inputs such as fertilizers and seeds.
He added: “The Government will also fast-track the development of infrastructure and provision of management skills capacity for farmers in terms of leadership, planning and conflict resolution to spur agricultural production and increased farm output.”
The ministry of Special Programmes is seeking Sh 1 billion from the treasury to buy maize from farmers to boost the country’s strategic grain reserves and food security measures.
The ministry’s Permanent secretary Dr. Andrew Mondoh said that the Government is buying more maize from farmers to strengthen its grain reserves through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCBP) and protect the farmers from being exploited by unscrupulous businessmen from the neighbouring countries.
The Permanent Secretary who made the remarks during technical meeting of the national drought crisis steering committee meeting which held in Nairobi, asked maize millers to offer competitive maize prices to farmers in a bid to encourage them to produce more during the next planting season.
He said the Government has made plans to buy maize from farmers in South Rift, Eastern region and Tana River to avoid wastage of the crop.
On drought conditions and rainfall patterns in the country, Mr. Mondoh said that farmers will be advised by the Government accordingly, while water and pasture challenges will tackled effectively.
He said the national drought steering committee members and other stakeholders are undertaking studies on how to tackle drought conditions in the country, adding that both scientific and historical issues have been taken into account by drought mitigation experts.
Speaking during the same occasion, Ministry of State for the Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands Permanent Secretary Mr. Lawrence Lenayapa, urged scientists dealing with climate change and environment issues to advise the Government on the best methods of tackling drought, floods and food security issues.
Mr. Lenayapa noted that with adequate food supplies in the country, the cost of living will be manageable and Kenyans will be able to invest the resources from their farming activities in other productive sectors of the economy.
To boost food security and bridge the gap between vision 2030 blueprint target and agricultural projects on the ground, technology has to be applied from the farm through to processing, storage and marketing, and it also requires the implementation of the right policies, finances, insurances, infrastructures and information.
The Permanent Secretary said: “Water and key water service providers have been selected as key entry points in efforts to jump-start development for the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands which are home to 14 million Kenyans and cover about 89 per cent of the country.”
He further said over 70 per cent of the population in these areas live below the poverty line while there is a vast base of natural resources which remains underutilized, adding that despite their high development potential, the ASALs have the lowest development indicators and highest poverty incidence among all areas in Kenya.
Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Agribusiness Development manager Lydiah Saina said commercially viable agriculture can yield food for millions, eliminate hunger and spur wealth creation through agri-enterprises.
Ms Saiya said KCB focuses on the full value chain within agriculture to offer its solutions which includes providing working capital, term loans, soft commodity trading as well as structured finance.
She says with rising population, climate change and shrinking arable land, a paradigm shift is needed on how agriculture is resourced and practiced because Kenya’s economy relies heavily on agriculture.