Around the world, food security ranks high up on the governments’ development agenda. In Kenya, the Jubilee administration has set out an ambitious plan to soar production of food crops such as maize, potato, and rice in order to cushion the population from hunger. The government aims to increase Kenya’s maize production from the current 40 million bags to 67 million by 2022.
To realize such enviable targets, Kenya will have to surmount a number of challenges facing the agriculture sector. Rising temperatures as a result of climate change has put a strain on crop productivity. Coupled with soil degradation that currently affects over 80% of African soils, new approaches to foster agricultural productivity in the country are required.
As a response, a multidisciplinary group of scientists drawn from Kenya, the United Kingdom and Zambia are pushing for adoption of precision agriculture. With a focus on soil fertility monitoring to enhance knowledge driven small holder farming in Africa, the researchers are currently engaged in a project that seeks to develop soil fertility analyzers that can accurately measure macronutrients, PH, and moisture content.
Speaking during a workshop to promote precision farming, held at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, the lead researcher, Dr. Vijayalakshmi Velusami said the practice can turnaround agricultural productivity in Africa, especially among smallholder farmers.
“Our project aims to ensure farmers in low and middle resource areas have access to cost effective technologies that can foster productivity while promoting health status of the soils,” said Vulesami who is a senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.
She added that the project also aims to address the entire agriculture value chain including market information to farmers on where to sell their produce.
While opening the workshop on Friday March 1, 2019, Principal College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Prof. David Mburu said land degradation and resource management challenge present threats to sustainable agriculture.
Dr. Mburu added that JKUAT will leverage strategic partnerships to promote sustainable farming technologies not only in Kenya but also in the region.
During the workshop that brought together over 100 participants; presentations were made on: precision application of fertilizers, and farming as a business for youth and women.