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County working on bill to regulate urban farming

Nakuru County is drafting a Bill that aims at regulating rearing of domestic animals and growing of food crops in urban areas within the devolved unit.
County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture Dr. Immaculate Njuthe Maina said the Urban Agriculture Bill would be subjected to public participation and scrutiny by all stakeholders before it is forwarded to the Assembly for debate and approval.
She said the draft legislation, while promoting a food system that suits urban areas, also aims to restrict growing of crops that may pose security risks such as maize and rearing of livestock prone to disease outbreaks in congested settings.
Dr. Maina argues that the Bill has provisions that promote horticulture, poultry keeping and fish farming in private home backyards.
The draft law also puts in place structures that link rural farmers to consumers in the urban food system.
The devolved unit is partnering with University of Nairobi’s Department of Agricultural Economics among other experts in fine tuning details of the proposed law before it is presented for public debate.
According to Dr. Samuel Onyango Omondi, an Agricultural Economist at the University of Nairobi, 27 per cent of Nakuru population gains food and income from urban farming.
Dr. Onyango said most counties had ignored urban farming as a crucial component in ensuring food security in Kenya.
He noted that its potential to improve nutrition and urban households’ incomes had remained largely unexploited.
In 2010, the Ministry of Agriculture crafted a National Draft on Urban Agriculture which was shelved when the department’s functions were devolved to counties.
So far, only Nairobi County has come up with legislation to promote and regulate urban farming after its Assembly approved and passed the 2015 Urban Agriculture Promotion and Regulation Act.
Dr. Njuthe observes that drafters of the bill were conscious of diminished land due to sub divisions of prime agricultural land to pave way for real estate and that due consideration had been given to crops and animals that could prosper in small spaces.
She cited storied vegetable farms where kales could be grown on apartments’ balconies.
She asserted that once approved and passed, the law would criminalize any forms of crops and livestock that interfere with urban life with a special emphasis on environmental conservation.
Dr. Onyango said once made formal and regulated, health risks that might emanate from the process of growing, transporting and processing foodstuff from urban agriculture would be reduced due to structured monitoring of the sub sector.
The Agricultural economist says all the 47 counties have unique population structures and urban planning hence the need for each to come up with separate legislations that would regulate the sub sector.
Dr. Njuthe notes that the defunct local authorities had operated with outdated pieces of legislation that governed urban agriculture and had been inherited from colonial government.
By Anne Mwale

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