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Kenya hosts 3rd phytosanitary conference

Kenya is looking beyond food availability for its citizens and to ensure its people are food secure, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Peter Munya, has said.

However, he added that two issues stand out namely the impact of pests on crops and the increasing impact of agribusiness as a source of employment, particularly for young people.

In a speech read on his behalf by Douglas Kangi, the Director of Crops Management at the Ministry during the official opening of the 3rd Phytosanitary conference in Nairobi, the CS said that unlike before, agriculture was a source of employment for senior citizens when they finalized their formal employment.

Since studies have shown that agribusiness has the capacity to transform livelihoods, particularly here in Kenya and Africa, Munya said that increased capacity building to meet market standards is, therefore, of necessity to retain overseas markets which are a major source of foreign exchange.

This can only be done by investing in pest management research and interventions by making emerging issues a priority, he said, adding that increased global trade is exposing our country to pests and diseases.

“This calls for greater efforts to mitigate the entrance of pests and diseases into new territories, where they would cause adverse impacts to the economy, environment and human health, derailing us from ability to feed the increasing populations,” he said.

The CS mentioned that with its vast agricultural potential, Africa’s agribusiness sector is predicted to reach USD 1 trillion by 2030 and this means that as the continent produces food, it needs to know how to mitigate against pests and diseases so as to attain the requirements of global markets.

Climate change, the CS further said threatens country’s ability to ensure global food security but noted the need to combat climate change through seed varieties that are tolerant to pests, grow in a short time and require little water.

Studies globally show that pests and diseases affect the quality of crops and reduce crop production by 33 per cent, resulting in loss of income and disruptions of international markets, thus affecting trade between countries.

This, according to experts is a serious consequence as agriculture is the mainstay of many African economies considering that the sector provides 60 per cent of all employment in Africa, the largest contributor to Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and in some countries, the biggest source of foreign exchange.

Robin Achoki, Chairman, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) Board of Directors, said threats to plants such as pests and diseases, cross boundary transfer of pests through international travel and trade, disruptive human activities and climate change are increasingly contributing negatively to food security efforts.

“Experts estimate that up to 40 per cent crop losses occur due to pest invasion, costing the global economy over USD 220 billion annually,” he said

As the world continues to commemorate the International Year of Plant Health, Achoki said that it is important to ensure plant resources are protected.

“We must commit to trade in a safe way so as to guard our agriculture and country against invasion of pests and diseases. Traders must comply with the international plant health standards developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) to control the spread of pests,” the chairman said.

Theophilus Mutui, KEPHIS Managing Director, said trade in agricultural commodities, play an important role in the economic transformation of the country.

He noted that African countries have been lacking effective systems for managing phytosanitary measures at the national level, as well as good regional co-ordination international requirements.

Because of this challenge, Mutui said that KEPHIS officially launched the Centre of Phytosanitary Excellence (COPE) virtual learning centre in 2010 and so far, the program has trained over 4,200 participants drawn from Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Botswana, Lesotho, Nigeria, Somali, Sudan, South Sudan and others.

Today’s 3rd Phytosanitary Conference brought together over 160 delegates and experts   from 15 countries from Africa and the world, participating virtually under the theme, “Enhancing Phytosanitary Systems for Healthy Plants, Safe & Sustainable Trade”

By Wangari Ndirangu

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