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ASAL regions emerging as food production frontiers

For most Kenyans who have not been in the North East, their perception of the counties in this region is that of insecurity, drought, and inter-clan clashes over resources.

This kind of perception has for a long time continued to marginalise and dim the huge potential that can be achieved in this region, from food and livestock production to natural minerals like gypsum.

The River Tana, which is the longest river in the country, covering 1000 kilometres with an average annual flow of above 5,000 million cubic metres. It has the longest stretch in Garissa County, which, if put to proper use, can produce enough food for the country.

After visiting several farms along the River Tana in Garissa County today, Principal Secretary for Crop Production Kello Harsama has called on the country to change its perception of the region, terming it the next frontier for food security.

Harsama, who was joined by MPs Mohamed Dekow (Garissa Township) and Umulkher Harun (Nominated), said that the ASAL regions have the highest potential for food production if utilised well.

“These areas, which have been termed arid and semi-arid, are the next frontiers for keeping the country’s food secure. The other regions in the country where we traditionally got food from are now food insecure because we do not have the kind of land we have here,” Harsama said.

“There is the availability of millions of hectares of land which can help us produce food for this country not only for local consumption but also for export. The soil and weather of this place are good to produce any food that is produced in the Mount Kenya region,” he added.

The PS further noted that his state department, together with other relevant ministries in food security, will start investing in the Northern and northern-eastern regions to ensure that we have enough food produced.

He said that they would build support for the small farmers while also directing donors and investors to the region.

The PS also said that his ministry would start opening regional offices for all food production-related government agencies, such as the Seeds Company and Pest Control, to help farmers improve their yields.

“There is a need for new technologies, marketing, and pest control to be invested here. My state department has the units concerned with these aspects and will be visiting these farms to advise and take necessary measures to control pests and diseases,” the Ps said.

Dekow echoed the words of the PS, saying that there are close to 40,000 hectares along the River Tana available for irrigation.

He urged the national government to support the farmers in line with the bottom-up economic programme because the county government may not have enough to fully support farming.

On her part, youth-nominated MP Harun said that, together with the area political leaders, they have been meeting the young people in order to encourage them into farming.

By Erick Kyalo

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