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Kenya’s perennial food imports worry experts

George Kebaso @Morarak

Local maize researchers are questioning why multiple releases of improved seed varieties in the recent past have not been able to curb the country’s perennial food imports.

More than 160 improved seed varieties with capacity to withstand drought, diseases and pests are in the local market but researchers are questioning why this has not had impact in curing recurrent maize deficits.

Some of those high-yielding climate-smart maize hybrids, according to breeders, are from a number of projects in the last decade including Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA),

Kenya’s food import bill rose by 30.10 per cent in the period between January and April this year compared to Sh52.75 billion in the same period last year. In June this year, Central Bank of Kenya showed that the country’s food imports in the first four months of the year grew by a third to Sh68.63 billion.

Kenya’s reliance on foreign markets to feed her citizens has increased almost five times in a decade since food imports were valued at just Sh15.09 billion in the January to April period.

 However, what is more worrying according to the breeders is that even after showing good yields; only a few farmers have adopted the new maize varieties.

“Why would Kenya continue importing maize from neighbouring countries yet over 160 improved seed varieties have been released?” the breeders asked during a meeting to discuss a new programme aimed at improving maize farming.

According to Africa Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) Senior Manager in charge of Projects Management and Deployment, Gospel Omanya (pictured) the answer lies in the technologies for African transformation (TAAT) project.

TAAT, a key priority of the African Development Bank (AfDB) for agricultural transformation agenda also known as the Feed Africa Strategy, is essentially a knowledge-and innovation-based response to the need for scaling up technologies across Africa to boost productivity, and to make Africa self-sufficient in key commodities.

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