To lift people out of poverty and ensure food security, a sustained effort is needed to develop Kenya’s agriculture and the associated infrastructure – notably roads, telecommunication, and energy – needed to unleash agricultural potential.
Strengthening agriculture is one of the best investments Kenya can make. Investment in agriculture the country must focus on creating a dynamic smallholder sector.
This is crucial for rural employment, without which poor rural young people will be driven away from their communities in search of work in the cities.
The reasons behind Kenya’s reliance on rain-fed agriculture are varied and complex. Alternative farming technologies are rarely adopted because farmers lack adequate access to credit inputs and markets. Water is another limiting factor. Only farmers with access to water and efficient water management technologies can effectively practice crop diversification.
Despite the potential of rainwater harvesting to empower local communities and enhance their development capacities, there are several hindrances. These include: lack of awareness, lack of institutional framework in terms of non-existent or poor policies at national and local levels, information gaps, low investment in research and development and lack of private sector participation indicates the SFCCD report.
With rainwater harvesting, farmers can regain control over when and how to use water effectively to enhance food production. The utilization of the harvested water is integrated with other complementary technologies (e.g. drip irrigation); improved sanitation; livelihood activities; environmental conservation; and training to ensure a sustainable rainwater harvesting system.
An exhibition on how sprinkle irrigation works for a small-scale farmer by the Kenya Seed Company
On the other hand, will Kenya always rely on Non-Governmental Organizations, Development partners, and donors to come up with model projects that act as an eye opener of the role of small-scale farmers in feeding the nation?
Examples of the achievements to attain food security are: The people of Sauri have worked with experts to diversify the crops currently produced, in order to have wider access. Farmers who experience an increased level of income are able to branch out into the unexplored territory of income generating activities, such as growing high-value crops such as onions, tomatoes, kale, herbs, and fruit as introduced to them through the village program. Sauri looks back on five years of success.
Some years back, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative Closing Plenary said: “Food security is not just about food, it is all about security – economic security, environmental security, even national security.”
“If we can build partnerships with countries to help small farmers improve their agricultural output and make it easier to buy and sell their products at local or regional markets, we can set off a domino effect,” Clinton explained. “We can increase the world’s food supply for both the short and the long-term; diminish hunger; raise farmers’ incomes; improve health; expand opportunity, and strengthen regional economies.”
While delivering his budget statement, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta disclosed that the attainment of food security was adversely affected by effects of climate change on agriculture.
What about the solutions? He proposed the elimination of tax tariffs to cushion the vulnerable groups. Allocating funds to encourage urban farming, more funds allocated for long-term measures, water harvesting and storage, increased acreage under irrigation with an aim of positively affecting the lives of many households.
There should be a focus on improving co-operation between the public, private and voluntary sectors, and on strategies to identify strengths and weaknesses, and on fostering a knowledge-based economy.
Fostering opportunities for new businesses in emerging sectors; creating conditions that will help small innovative firms grow; revitalizing the local economy including considering the role for economic diversification; building community capacity; enhancing knowledge resources, and institutional, human and social resources; shifting to the knowledge economy; and, maximizing the benefits of the stimulus packages while reducing the downside risks.
Access to timely information by rural communities cannot only increase agricultural productivity but enhance social and economic development; many farmers in rural areas lack even the basic access to information.
Agriculture officers demonstrating to farmers and stakeholders on proper crop husbandry
There is a need to bring the knowledge and perspectives of farmers together with decision-makers at other levels. It is crucial that research in agriculture, food security, and climate change continues to improve and deliver, to allow more confident decision-making and allocation of limited resources towards uncertain climatic futures this is according to a Policy Brief from the International Research Institute (IRI) Climate and Society No.1. The brief further state that, incorporating climate information into development decisions allows the risks associated with climate to be better managed and reduces vulnerability among the poor.