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International research institute commended for boosting agriculture

The government together with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and other stakeholders have initiated the process of developing a National seed production strategy for drought tolerant crops.

The first national conference to develop the strategy was held in December 2020 and it is geared towards leveraging on the existing government initiatives, capitalize on Agri-science innovations and use digital technologies for value chain linkage and market intelligence.

Principal Secretary, State Department for development of the ASALs, Micah Powon said today that the government has been collaborating with ICRISAT in technology development, research and also linking farmers to market and value addition.

Speaking during the ICRISAT 50th anniversary celebrations, the PS noted that with the already established partnerships, the country is in the process of realizing food and nutrition security as well as boost incomes to improve livelihoods of the people.

In a speech read on his behalf by Director Administration Kennedy Kimuyu, the PS applauded ICRISAT’s partnership with the government for over 40 years in building resilient agri-food systems through which millions of livelihoods have been transformed economically and nutrition-wise.

He explained that through the development of hundreds of improved seed varieties and several agricultural technologies for semi-arid areas, a huge number of farmers used to recycle seeds but today, there is a notable number that has adopted improved varieties such as millet, sorghum, chickpea, cowpea and other dryland cereals and legumes.

“Through various joint projects, they have built systems to link farmers to markets and a good example is Feed the Future-Accelerated Value Chain Development project funded by USAID, which helped establish 38 aggregation centres in six ASAL counties; 6000 farmers were successfully linked to markets, specifically in Elgeyo Marakwet County, where groundnut farmers earned Sh 25 million from groundnut sales through this initiative,” Powon said.

He noted that food and nutrition security are among the Big Four Agenda of the current government administration with President Uhuru Kenyatta working towards a 34 per cent increase in the average daily income of farmers, a 27 per cent reduction in malnutrition among children under 5 years of age, and a 50 per cent reduction in the number of food-insecure Kenyans among other aspirations.

During ICRISAT’s golden jubilee globally and 40 years in Kenya, the PS said the government commits to continue especially in its support to research infrastructure development in the provision of an enabling environment to ensure this is realized.

Dr J d’A Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT said that as agriculture sector grows and evolves in response to global changes, it is instructive to look at emerging trends when shaping strategies for improving agriculture.

She added that reviving traditional foods such as millets, fonio, tef, and others will contribute to improved incomes for farmers, improve food and nutrition security for farming communities and act as a risk mitigation measure against the impacts of climate change.

“Urbanization and rising incomes are changing food choices, changing lifestyles and dietary habits therefore give rise to new opportunities and food processors can cash in on these opportunities by developing ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat products with forgotten crops as the primary ingredient,” she said.

Dr. Hughes added that as ICRISAT moves forwards into the next 50 years, partnerships are the only way in which global challenges can be tackled, and the best local solutions created.

“Partnerships are critical at all steps of agricultural research and innovation for development to not only better understand local and diverse needs, ensure sustainable solutions but also advocate for appropriate approaches and solutions,” he noted

Dr. Hughes assured that ICRISAT will transcend research and delivery boundaries to build productive, resilient, sustainable, inclusive, healthy and profitable food systems for the drylands.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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