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Include smallholder farmers in food value chain, experts advise

George Kebaso @Morarak

To achieve food security, Kenya must enhance food production technology, tackle high population, watch over policy distortions, weak institutions, poor infrastructure and extreme weather conditions, agricultural experts have said.

After the prolonged electioneering, Kenya’s food imports jumped 58.33 per cent in January 2018 compared to the same period last year, reflecting a huge deficit in production as a result of poor rainfall.

The country’s food import bill shot to Sh20.9 billion from Sh13.2 billion in January 2017, data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows.

Policy experts from Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and European Union’s (EU’s) now say there is need for more government interventions to ensure that even smallholder farmers are included in the value chain.

“Addressing the need for functioning markets to handle the surge in production goes hand-in-hand with addressing the need to educate farmers about new technologies and to ensure that they both have access to inputs and receive a fair reward for their investments,” said FAO Representative in Kenya, Gabriel Rugalema.

Speaking in Nairobi, he outlined four key areas that the government needs to focus on to implement its Big 4 Plan.

“There is need to open new land; enhance water harvesting technologies, convert idle land into farmlands, invest in technology; develop and ensure markets are accessible,” he said.

FAO regional programme leader Abebe Haile-Gabriel advised the government to strengthen policies and strategies on food production to address decreasing productivity.

“As we gear up to combat malnutrition by 2025, it is important that the government focuses on enhancing evidence-based planning and implementation and strengthen food and agriculture policies. It is also important for the government to strengthen the capacity of counties and collaboration as well,” he said.

FAO believes the increase in area cultivated, coupled with poor crop husbandry, resulted in extensive environmental problems such as nutrient mining, desertification degraded soils and loss of forests, wetlands, and pastures.

This poses a challenge to Kenya’s long-term agricultural productivity and the sustainability of its agricultural production.

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