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Calls to Prioritize Agriculture to Promote Food Security

Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Kenya Member Organizations have asked the current and the incoming National and County governments to prioritize matters of agriculture.

According to the 56 member organizations, Kenya is still lagging behind in meeting the 10 percent allocation of agriculture budget as well as achieving SDG 2 and Vision 2030 on “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition”.

In a joint statement after their Annual General Elections, the Chairperson, PELUM Kenya Board of Directors Collins Ochieng Othieno said the number of people in need of food assistance has increased from 3.5 million in May to 4.1 million in June 2022 and this is worrying.

He noted that as member organizations, they were cognizant of the entangled global food crisis, high food and commodity prices, ongoing COVID and the drought disaster, the level of hunger may worsen and therefore need for more sustainable livelihood interventions.

“Investment in agriculture remains disappointingly low – less than 5 percent of the national budget and this limited investment is largely dedicated to industrial agriculture,” he said adding that industrial agriculture with its green revolution narrative of increasing productivity is responsible for biodiversity loss, environmental pollution, and climate change among other environmental related challenges.

“It is time that the government increased investments and policy support for agro ecology considering that there is a global focus on agro ecology,” Othieno said.

He explained that as an organization, they have held sessions with government officials and stakeholders and lobbied for the enactment of policies that support organic agriculture.

“The time is now for deliberate and increased financing, investments in agro ecology for the health of the people and nation at large and we are urging the National and County government to recognize and adopt agro ecology as a means to transform the agri-food system,” he said.

He however noted that this could only be done through formulating and supporting agro ecology policies and also supporting investments while at the same time mainstreaming agro ecology while recognizing the expertise of small holder farmers as a repository of indigenous knowledge in seed breeding as this would enhance the resilience of small holder farmers and pastoralists.

Othieno also urged stakeholders in the agriculture sector to heighten awareness and education on the adverse effects of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and promote trade and consumption of affordable organic and eco-friendly products by all.

“We further urge the government to issue an immediate ban on all harmful agrochemicals that have active ingredients and have been banned elsewhere yet they are still finding their way into the Kenyan market,” he said.

As an organization that works with small scale farmers, Othieno acknowledged that climate change has affected all sectors and more so food production but called upon the government to prioritize water conservation and retention projects among farming communities that store run off water during the rainy season to be used during the drought seasons.

He added that the government together with other stakeholders in the industry also need to invest in more crop diversification programmes to help farmers adjust to the prolonged drought conditions saying doing this will enable farmers to continue producing despite the occurrence of extreme weather events.

“We realize that sustainable agriculture is dependent on water resources. We urge deliberate and concerted efforts towards conserving and maintaining our water resources through a participatory ecosystem-based approach,” he said.

Farmer Managed Seed Systems (FMSS) support between 70-100 percent of small-scale farmers in Kenya, Othieno said but noted that the existing seed laws developed do not recognize this fact and thus restrict farmers’ rights to sell their indigenous seeds.

“We call for urgent attention to the critical role that indigenous seeds play in promoting and conserving our genetic resources. We call for enhanced recognition and protection of farmer-managed seed systems including through a review and enacting of legislations that recognize and protect indigenous seeds as envisaged by the constitution,” he added

Othieno suggested that in the upcoming presidential debate which is being organized in the course of this week by the Media Council of Kenya, the participants should ensure there is agro ecology inclusion in the presidential debate.

“We want the aspirants to own up to previous challenges bungling the agriculture sector and ensure the content of discussion is more about the socio-economic wellbeing of Kenyans alongside aspects environmental conservation through the agriculture sector,” he said

Rosinah Mbenya, CEO PELUM said agriculture plays a fundamental role in ensuring the right to food for all, promoting employment and social stability.

As member organizations, she noted that the recent importation of yellow maize that the government allowed should not pass as the maize being imported might have traces of GMOs.

“Let the ban on GMO remain as it is and the government should not play double standards when it comes to feed importation until proper research has been done and carried out to ensure that the food for both animals and humans is safe,” Mbenya said.

Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Kenya Member Organizations is made up of 56 organizations and works with small scale farmers, pastoralists and fisher folks in 42 counties.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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