The Government has ordered for fresh formulation of the national organic policy, an action that has elicited sharp reactions from agriculture experts.
Last week during the first ever International Conference on Agro-ecology Transforming Agriculture & Food Systems in Africa conference held in Nairobi, organic farming proponents decried lack of commitment by government to fast track the National Organic Policy.
In 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture and other stakeholders under the umbrella of Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) initiated the process to draft a policy to promote organic farming in Kenya.
Once enacted, the policy will help in developing value chain of organic products to ensure market differentiation between organically and conventionally produced crops.
In 2016, the draft policy of the organic agriculture that was developed by experts drawn from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) had been completed and waiting to be subjected to the normal process of approval.
Speaking last week during a week-long ecological conference in Nairobi that brought experts from various fields in the agriculture sector, a policy and advocacy specialist, Dr. Edith Kareko Munene claimed that the Government has stopped the discussions of the policy and ordered it be done afresh.
“For the last decade, the policy has gone through various stages. But the new development is that the Government wants it to be done afresh. This will not augur well within the sector. It is a waste of resources and as well frustrates the value chain players. Other countries around the world have enacted organic policy to promote organic farming,” said Dr. Munene.
She claims organizations and prominent personalities who have been aggressively championing for the adoption and promotion of genetically modified crops could be behind the delay of the enactment of the policy. “We suspect there could be a hand by the proponents of GMOs to frustrate the policy enactment process,” she adds.
In a study that Dr Munene carried out last year in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia on organic policy and environment, Kenya was leading in terms of the policy formulation. But following the orders that the policy be redone puts Uganda ahead of Kenya.
Dr Munene said Uganda is almost in the final stages before enactment into a policy while in Ethiopia, although nothing meaningful has been done, there are positive talks by the government.
“My study on the policy and environment on the organic policy has shown that although nothing has taken place on the issue in Ethiopia, there is hope and a lot of talk by the government unlike Kenya while Uganda is leading with their policy almost approved,” she said.
Dr Munene said there was need for an organized push for the policy to be passed saying that both convention and organic could co-exist in ensuring food security for the country.
“It’s either conventional, organic or nothing at all and personally I believe both the organic and conventional can co-exist. Look at Coca Cola and Pepsi companies that produce the same brands but are accommodating,” she said.
Dr. Munene urged the national Government and counties to ensure the policy is enacted to offer guidance as stipulated in the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods and the Agenda 2063.
“We need to go the organic way; it however requires method and process and am sure it can be resolved. Our forefathers practiced the ecological farming where they ate organic food so the issue of the country not being able to feed itself is nowhere,” adds Dr. Munene.
She explained that organic farming could be done through the kitchen gardens which could be done in small areas and even sacks adding that it’s a fallacy to keep on, saying we don’t have enough land.
The Country Coordinator for PELUM – Kenya a network of civil society organizations working with grassroots communities, Zachary Makanya said delay to pass the National Organic Policy was disappointing especially to the farmers. “We have done a lot of work to reach where we are in terms of the policy development. But the government has put a break thus frustrating our passion to promote organic farming,” said Makanya.
Agro-ecology, he added, could benefit small holder farmers and equally governments should do more in terms of supporting them from grass root by addressing their problems.
“Governments of Africa should adhere to the declarations made in Maputo by allocating 10 percent of their national budgets to Agriculture,” he said, noting that most countries in Africa are still at 5 percent.
Considering that over 80 percent of the country’s population practice farming budget allocation has been minimal.
The Director Research and Innovation Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Oscar Magenya agreed that the organic policy is yet to be passed but hastened to add that the strategy requires a lot of stakeholder involvement.
“The passing of the policy might be on a slow delay but I can assure you the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary will be giving a position on this soon,” he said.
Dr. Magenya added that organic farming is one of components the country uses for food production and as it embraces technologies and options that can help improve food for the country, Agro-ecology is one of the areas and options.
On fertilizer usage, Dr. Magenya said the country has had some difficulties and required new strategies on how to solve the food crisis issue. He said organic fertilizer could help in solving the problem though not fully but added that research knowledge needed to be used to help in decision making and policy to increase food production in the country.
“Application of organic fertilizer is one of the options the Government is pursuing but in a judicious way. And this takes care of not only human health but also increases food production since we are a country that is food deficit,” Dr. Magenya said.
The Ecological three day conference in Nairobi brought experts to discuss how countries could transform agriculture and foods systems in Africa by reducing synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
By Wangari Ndirangu