Stakeholders rally for nature-positive farming for food security
What you need to know:
- Besides Kisumu, the programme is also being implemented in Vihiga, Kajiado and Turkana counties.
- Globally, the programme is also being implemented in Burkina Faso, Vietnam, Colombia and India.
- Among key stakeholders in the project is the Inter-sectorial Forum on Agro-biodiversity and Agro-ecology.
- ISFAA promotes mainstreaming of biodiversity and ecosystem service within the agriculture sector and its landscapes.
In light of climate change and unpredictability of weather, stakeholders in the agroecology sector converged in Kisumu to discuss how to improve food security in Kenya through nature-positive agricultural ways, particularly by investing more on indigenous, drought resistant crops.
This comes at a time when the country is facing one of the worst droughts in decades, with statistics showing that over six million people are facing food shortage.
At a two-days multi-stakeholders forum held in Kisumu on February 27 and 28, participants called for adoption of practices which will enhance natural soil fertility, moisture retention, seeds saving, more biodiversity and ecosystem services among others.
Such practices include farmers saving and exchanging seeds, soil health measures such as use of animal manure and vermin-culture, moisture retention through mulching and agroforestry among others.
While hybrid seeds have been gradually adopted in the country, they have not brought a sustainable solution as Kenya, like many other African countries, continue to face the challenge of a growing population and stressed food supplies, particularly due to the effects of climate change.
“Kenya would be more food secure even now during drought if only she embraced traditional seeds and crops which are drought resistant,” said Juma Mohammed, a food security specialist who specialises in value chain development and adaptation to climate change.
At the same time, food safety too is key for a healthy population. Conventional agriculture, including the seeds system, requires the use of synthetic inputs which compromise the safety of foods and are linked to non-communicable diseases such as cancer. Such inputs are also harmful to the environment, worsening an already bad situation.
Mr Mohammed called for agricultural measures which ensure food security while conserving the environment as opposed to those which capitalise on production.
“It is time for key stakeholders to rethink and re-strategise towards ensuring production of quality food, which is rich in nutrition and adaptive to climate change,” said Mohammed.
Quoting data from the Global Report on Food Crises 2022, Mr Mohammed noted that an estimated one in every five persons in Africa go to bed hungry, while about 140 million people face acute food security challenges.
Kenya, he added, imports 20 percent of maize, 90 percent of wheat and 40 percent of rice that it consumes. But if people adopt local foods like cassava, traditional leafy vegetables, bananas, sorghum and millet among others, they would not only be food secure but also nutritionally fit, he said.
Instead of focusing on export to earn money then buy imported food, Mr Mohammed recommended an agroecological approach through which farmers sustainably produce food primarily to ensure there is enough for families before thinking about business.
Last year, a programme dubbed Nature-Positive Solutions for Shifting Agrifood Systems to More Resilient and Sustainable Pathways (Nature-positive) was launched in Kisumu with the aim of promoting biodiversity, conservation, land and environmental restoration.
Favourable agroecology policy
A brainchild of the Alliance of Bioversity and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (The Alliance), the programme also aims at ensuring a favourable policy for agroecology and other nature-friendly practices as well as recycling at farm level.
“Agricultural wastes often become polluters and contribute to environmental degradation and we therefore want to ensure that these wastes are used as inputs for example bio fertilisers and bio pesticides,” said Dr Carlo Fadda, the global leader for Nature Positive Project.
The economic component will, among other issues, look into the impact of malnutrition and environmental degradation while seeking to improve the same and increase income at household level.
Besides Kisumu, the programme is also being implemented in Vihiga, Kajiado and Turkana counties. Globally, the programme is also being implemented in Burkina Faso, Vietnam, Colombia and India.
Among key stakeholders in the project is the Inter-sectorial Forum on Agro-biodiversity and Agro-ecology (ISFAA) which promotes mainstreaming of biodiversity and ecosystem service within the agriculture sector and its landscapes.
Platform for stakeholders
Launched in 2020, ISFAA’s main objective is to provide a platform through which stakeholders in agro-biodiversity and agroecology can interact, share knowledge and information as well as influence policy and mobilise resources.
Challenges posed by climate change, occasioned by erratic weather conditions, call for improvement of biodiversity in production systems while enhancing environmental sustainability, according to Dr Fadda.
Kenya, he noted, is often faced with prolonged dry seasons like what is currently happening, and this is sometimes followed by intense rainfall and subsequent floods.
Nature Positive, he added, will look into water conservation and growing of crops which have high nutritional value and can withstand harsh weather conditions.
As an entrepreneur working with smallholder farmers, Caroline Alang’o urged women to normalise production of neglected, yet nutritionally rich and climate change adaptive foods.
For close to 10 years now, Ms Alang’o, who is the team leader at Rongo-based Dash Foods Limited, has been working with thousands of farmers, most of them women, along cassava, amaranth, finger millet, sorghum and other traditional value chains.
“We invest along the whole value chain from seeds to processing, thus offering farmers a ready market while ensuring they too have some nutritious food for their families,” said Ms Alang’o.
She expressed optimism that through partnering with the Nature Positive programme, she will reach out to more smallholder farmers and offer market for some neglected crops.
Dr Gloria Otieno, a genetic resources and food security policy expert at The Alliance, called on smallholder farmers, especially women, to explore opportunities that allow production, consumption and trade of safe and nutritious foods which are climate adaptive and nature positive.
Dr Otieno said women are key decision makers for family diets and should therefore be at the forefront promoting indigenous foods including leafy vegetables, cereals and roots among others.
She called for collective action among all stakeholders in ensuring that the country remains food-secure by restoring the environment and putting into place a favourable policy environment especially for seed systems.