Agriculture has the capacity of rooting out poverty if only the entrenched systems of a top-down approach were overhauled to enable farmers to drive the sector since they are the bona fide owners and understand their needs better.
The Chairman of South Rift Farmers’ Association, Justus Monda said the top-down approach has not only increased food insecurity but has also denied the farmers a chance to address factors which they know affect their day to day operations.
He was addressing a press conference in Nakuru town on Tuesday.
The Chairman said the country relied only on ten per cent of her landmass for food, adding 80 per cent is the home to 36 per cent of the country’s population but is classified under arid and semi-arid land. “Regrettably irrigation has not been entrenched in the agricultural systems,” he added.
Monda said the country’s food was produced by millions of smallholder farmers on land as small as a quarter of an acre, practicing rain-fed agriculture with inefficient traditional farming methods resulting to shortfalls in food supply due to poor harvest.
However, he said, instead of increasing water accessibility to farmers, the government has increased the importation of food by 12.5 per cent, earmarking Sh.109 billion in June this year. If farmers had been consulted they would have recommended the money to been channeled to irrigation so that those who live in large arid and semi-arid regions would increase food production.
He added that transformation of farming and reducing food deficit and nutritional challenges facing the country was not as difficult as it appears because the innovative local farmers have the answers and capacity at their fingertips but sadly are never consulted because it’s assumed by experts that they know nothing.
Monda said the current heavy rains have increased vegetable production but farmers have no capacity of storing them for the next drought season and so just watch as they go to waste.
He also gave an example of tea farmers who have resorted to hawking their produce due to lack of money but instead of the government intervening, the leadership is just watching as they ‘dig own graves.’
The Chairman urged the Building Bridges Initiative experts to also include farmers’ leaders in preparing the next step of the report because the nation’s stability was more dependent on food security than politics.
By Veronica Bosibori