Food security experts have urged the young generation to embrace agriculture in order to sustain food security and nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa where the demand for food is higher than the supply.
This was the message covered during an interactive open forum organized by the Standard Media Group at Strathmore University themed: Transform Kenya Forum where experts from the government, academia, private sector and the public engaged on matters relating to the state of food security and nutrition in Kenya October 25, 2018.
While acknowledging that there has been an improvement in food security and nutrition in Kenya from 2011-18, the panelists highlighted the importance of universities in the realization of the Government’s Food Security and Nutrition Agenda. They cited expensive farm inputs, lack of markets, poor farmer knowledge of weather patterns and soil compatibility to crops and post-harvest losses among the obstacles to sustainable food security in Kenya.
Prof Mary Abukutsa, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, Production and Extension, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, urged the Government to increase funding to universities to motivate the youth who desire to study agriculture.
She urged the Government to invest in irrigation, post-harvest storage, marketing and proper harvesting methods to reduce losses.
“Rain has become unpredictable due to climate change and so, we should find a way around it with irrigation. We also need practical solutions on distribution of the farm produce,” said Prof. Abukutsa.
On his part, Prof. Hamadi Boga, Principle Secretary State Department of Agricultural Research, stated that the government is ready to partner with the private sector and come up with investment friendly policies.
Prof. Margaret Jesang Hutchison, from the University of Nairobi’s College of Agriculture and Veterinary Services, urged the government and academia to support farmers more to increase productivity.
“We want to come up with good quality seeds for farmers and affordable technology to boost soil and deal with pests to ensure that there is no post-harvest losses,” said Prof. Jesang
She further challenged the government to allocate more land to farming.
Another panelist, Mr. Okisegere Ojepat, a food expert, appealed to the Government to lower the cost of farm inputs and allow the private sector to run irrigation schemes for maximum production.
“It is time for the government to relieve the farmers on the cost of production. The VAT on agro-chemicals which is currently at 16 % is hurting the farmers,” he said.
Mr. Francis Kimemia, the Governor, Nyandarua County, challenged the farmers to move to an automated system of farming to maximize productivity.
The Governor appealed to the government to provide an insurance policy for animals in order to encourage the practice of agriculture countrywide.
“The government should come up with an insurance plan for animals similar to the NHIF for people,” said Mr. Kimemia.