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Government Embarks on Millet Flour Blending to Promote Production

The government has attributed the low production of millet to poor investment in research and extension services to promote the crop in the country.

Agriculture and Livestock Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi expressed fears that the crop was not accorded the seriousness it deserved leading to low annual production due to emergence of pests and diseases whose control measures were rarely disseminated to farmers.

He decried that majority of millet farmers had limited knowledge on utilization best practices to improve yields and related agro-processing technics because extension services in the sub sector were rarely on call due limited research on the crop.

Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, State Department of Agriculture Principal Secretary Kello Harsama, India High Commissioner to Kenya Namgya Khampa and Ms. Shubha Thakur, Joint Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare, Government of India during the curtain raiser event for the upcoming international millet conference in Kenya.

In a speech read on his behalf by the State Department of Agriculture Principal Secretary Kello Harsama the CS said the country recorded a paltry production of 63,063 tons of millet from at least 106,233 ha farmland under production in 2022 against the potential of 200,000 tons far below the national demand of 138,000 tons annually.

“Millet has been neglected for long, with little support for research and development and little interest from seed companies in multiplying the seeds with farmers still relying on the informal seed system and often continue to recycle seed that have declined in quality through generations of cultivation leading to low productivity”, the CS said.

He told a curtain raiser event ahead of the coming India-Africa International Millet Conference the  has developed a flour blending framework to have wheat and maize flours in the market blended with at least 10 percent  with other commodities like millet, cassava and sorghum and even vegetables in order to  ease the pressure on maize, improve the nutrition status and enhance the resilience to food sources in marginal areas.

During the meeting, PS Harsama explained that the World Bank will extend a Ksh 50 billion concessional loan to the Kenya Government to finance various food crops to increase agricultural productivity and profitability of rural communities in 43 counties.

The funds  he said will finance two major projects namely  the national food systems and national value addition development Programme between 2023 and 2027 period.

“The money to be shared with the County governments will support promotion of mostly the orphans’ crops in the country and this project is a continuation of two other projects that the world bank has been financing between 2017 – 2022 on food security and nutrition.

finger millet

The PS noted that millet, cotton, sorghum, edible oils, coffee, potatoes and rice tops as the agriculture sub sectors that will benefit from the World Bank financing

“The project involves provisions of certified and clean seeds, undertaking capacity building to the farmers and addressing the escalating effects of climate change,” Harsama added.

The Substantial resources under the two programmes will be expended to promote millet farming in the country especially in the Arid and Semi-Arid lands (ASALs) as a climate smart crop.

The PS also confirmed that the Ministry together with other stakeholders have finalized regulations to implement the Food, Drugs and Chemical Substances Act 2012 enacted  11 years ago that requires millers dealing with food crops to enrich them to improve their nutritional value.  The regulations, he explained are awaiting cabinet approval

India High Commissioner to Kenya Namgya Khampa said that her country is planning a high level millet conference in Kenya later next month targeting all African countries that grow millet.

“The India-Africa International Millet Conference to be held on August 30-31 with the theme ‘Promoting the World’s Emerging Smart Food’ is an opportunity for South-South interaction and exchange.

Various Value addition products that can be derived from Millet.Farmers told to diversify and adopt nutritious foods such as the millet. Pictures by Wangari Ndirangu’

We need to ensure market demand, consumer pull to assure profitable livelihoods for farmers and throughout the value chain, whether in India or the African nations,” Ms. Namgya.

During the conference the diplomat stated challenges and opportunities such as policy, seed systems, sustainable mechanization, value addition and digital agriculture will be addressed.

Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT  said that Millets are Smart Food ,  nutritious and can adapt well to challenging environments.

“We need to strengthen the value chains of these crops to ensure consumer demand which will then assure farmers of profitable markets. ICRISAT has the world’s largest public sector repository of millet genetic resources to improve productivity as well as technologies to assure millets are resilient and profitable,” she said

Ms. Shubha Thakur, Joint Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare, Government of India said India produces over 18 million tonnes of millet every year and emphasized the  need to make quality millet seeds available to farmers and develop a sustainable value chain for millet farming.

“The Government of India, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Millets Research, has been addressing concerns related to millet farming since 2018, when India celebrated its National Year of Millets. Our focus has been on ensuring sustainable agricultural practices and enhancing the commercial viability of millet cultivation,” said Thakur.

About 80 percent of the Kenyan population live in the rural areas and depend mainly on agriculture, livestock and fisheries for livelihood. This population mainly practices subsistence agriculture.

The United Nations General Assembly at its 75th session in March 2021 declared 2023 the International Year of Millets (IYM 2023).

By Wangari Ndirangu

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