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Agroecology as a pathway towards sustainable food systems

There is a need for the government to incorporate agroecological policies and strategies into the nation’s food system for the country to conserve its biodiversity and attain food security.

A University of Nairobi lecturer Dr. Martin Oulu said the country was losing its biodiversity due to excessive use of toxic farm inputs such as pesticides and synthetic fertilizer.

Speaking in Eldoret during a media workshop organized by the Route to Food Initiative, Oulu who is also the coordinator of the Inter-Sectoral Forum on Agroecology and Agrobiodiversity (ISFAA) housed in the Ministry of Agriculture, said agroecology and other nature-based solutions to agriculture were what the country needed to alleviate food insecurity.

In Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties hitherto considered to be the country’s breadbasket, crop productivity, especially cereals, has significantly reduced due to acidity that has affected soil fertility due to prolonged use of certain synthetic fertilizers.

The state of food security by 2021 according to the Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO, 12m Kenyans translating to a quarter of the population are food insecure.

The ISFAA coordinator also said there was a need for the government to invest more in smallholder producers and local agroecological food systems that would establish a food web in Kenya supporting the production of healthy food, protecting the country’s agricultural biodiversity, and enhancing resilience to climate change.

Oulo notes that making the transition from conventional to agroecological agriculture and food system requires a portfolio of incentives, as well as the empowerment and participation of small-scale farmers in decision-making.

Agroecology has been proven to increase the yields of small-scale farmers, enhance their soils, as well as improve their health because they can eat a variety of healthy (no chemical) foods from their gardens, says the University Don.

Besides, agroecology also reduces the cost of agricultural production because the farmers don’t have to spend money on expensive inputs such as fertilizers, and pesticides, because they will be using compost or farmyard manure from their farms, as well as practicing integrated pest management techniques, Oulo says

“Why should we import synthetic fertilizer and yet we could work with extension officers who could train farmers on how to produce manure and organic fertilizer in their backyard. These are simple processes which farmers especially smallholders should be immersed into,” said Oulu.

He challenged institutions of higher learning teaching agriculture to change with time and incorporate agroecology courses as a way of knowledge transfer and also to protect the country’s endangered biodiversity.

Speaking during the same function, Route to Food Communication Coordinator Evelyn Ogutu called on Kenyans to diversify their farming so as not only to have nutritious food from different crops but also to protect the environment.

By Kiptanui Cherono

 

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