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With right technologies, Kenyans can be saved from hunger

Private sector, counties and national government are in agreement that tough strategies needs to be fast-tracked to reduce post-harvest losses in order to save the country from lasting hunger.

Agriculture value chain players opine drafting of new policies as well effectively enforcing the current ones, improving infrastructure, training of farmers and access to post-harvest reducing technologies needs to be tracked.

Against the background of a growing population, Crops Development Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe recently stated that various strategies are being worked on to help in reducing more food losses.

In the medium term the government, he said, will buy more mobile maize driers to reduce losses in the coming harvest season. “Kenya does not have enough equipment for farmers to dry their maize on time and this could lead to aflatoxin contamination,” said Lesiyampe.

To realise the food and nutrition security under the Big Four agenda, government plans to reduce food losses to 15 per cent by 2022 from current level of more than 30 per cent.

Various international organisations that include Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) , the US based Rockefeller Foundation and African Union are rooting for development of polices and strategies for country specific plans and to reduce post-harvest food losses.

Warehouse receipts

Lesiyampe said under the crops value chains there is establishment of warehouse receipt system (WRS) for storage and marketing of grains and pulses. He added the development of a legislation to govern the system is at an advanced stage.

“Further construction of a modular plant for production of Aflsafe at Kenya Agriculture Research and Livestock Organisations Katumani is complete and production is on. Aflasfe reduces aflatoxin contamination in maize by 90 per cent when applied three weeks before flowering,” he added. The government, he said, in collaboration with FAO, among other stakeholders, is fast-tracking the development of the national post-harvest loss reduction strategy (2016-2021).

Mary Nzomo, the chairperson of caucus of county executives in charge of agriculture in all the counties, says the devolved units are implementing a series of strategies to tame post-harvest losses. “We are providing simple drying technologies training farmers, and providing hematic bags,” says Nzomo.

Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) chief executive officer Hosea Machuki advises that counties need to improve the status of markets by installing cold rooms. “In this way we are sure of less food losses,” says Machuki.

Lilian Kirimi, a senior research fellow at Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy And Development, for instance, says, “At the farm level, farmers can reduce their losses through proper practices such as timely harvesting, proper drying, maintenance of storage hygiene, grain treatment and employment of better processing and transportation techniques.”

She adds, “Use of metal and plastic silos and hermetic bags has been shown to significantly reduce losses from pests. Both the national and county governments need to also ensure better transport infrastructure; promote good on-farm and off-farm produce handling and management practices through extension service provision and warehouse receipt initiatives.”

Further, Kirimi argues that there is need to develop appropriate policies to address maize market imperfections and risks associated with climate change and variability, including price uncertainty.

The policies will also aid in creating right incentives that will promote provision and accessibility to affordable and scalable solutions to the problem of post-harvest losses.

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