President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared the debilitating drought in 23 arid and semi-arid (Asal) counties a national disaster. A recent National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) report says 2.1 million Kenyans face acute food shortage and need urgent assistance in six months.
While NDMA attributes the current situation to insufficient March-May long rains, effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and desert locust invasion, food insecurity have perennially dogged us.
Yet the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 2 is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.
But our agriculture is notoriously vulnerable to a wide spectrum of problems — like exponential population increase, unfettered urbanisation, and subdivision of agricultural land, soil infertility, expensive agricultural inputs, and vagaries of climate change, post-harvest losses, outdated technology and diminishing farm yields. Worse, lack of infrastructure, violent conflicts, ill-conceived policies and lack of capital have greatly hampered agricultural production.
Regrettably, perishable farm produce aggravates the problem. The country produced 40.7 million, 39 million, 42.5 million, 37.8 million and 39.8 million bags of maize in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2019, respectively. Sadly, the “Economic Survey 2021” unprecedented statistics on agriculture leaves a lot to be desired.
Kenya Vision 2030 has agriculture as an economic pillar. But its flagship projects — such as consolidated agricultural reform legislation, fertiliser cost-reduction initiative, setting up of five livestock-free zones in the Asal regions, and Asal irrigation projects -- but the execution — seem a mirage.
With the need for a vibrant, commercial and modern agricultural sector that can sustainably support economic development, harnessing technology in agriculture is a sine qua non for food security and economic transformation. Farmers need to embrace high-yielding disease-resistant crops. Sustainable agriculture means affordable and healthy food.