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Nakuru taps agri-tech to boost food security, provide jobs

Nakuru County has witnessed an increased crop yield of 25 per cent courtesy of small-scale farmers following the County’s adoption of modern agricultural technologies.

County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Agriculture Mr Leonard Bor said the devolved unit had been actively promoting adoption of digital agricultural technologies as a way of enhancing productivity and profitability adding that 14,000 farmers in the region had embraced the modern technologies, particularly in response to the effects of climate change.

He added that the County government was also helping women and youthful farmers to integrate innovative technologies in crop and livestock farming to boost food production and incomes.

Bor voiced Governor Susan Kihika’s commitment to address the challenges of small-holder farmers lacking technical expertise and the migration of young people from rural areas to urban areas to help increase food production in the rural areas.

“Appropriate agritech technologies such as soil testing, application of recommended fertilizer rates per unit area, and use of certified seeds among others have been deployed in all the 11 Sub-Counties,” said Bor.

The CECM made the remarks at the County headquarters when he hosted a delegation from Projet d’Appui à la Compétitivité des Filières Agricoles et à la Diversification des Exportations (PACOFIDE), a World Bank-funded project in Benin, that visited Nakuru for a benchmarking tour.

Bor indicated that investments by the County government in agritech were timely as agriculture and food security in Africa have been under the pressure from many challenges such as low productivity, lack of knowledge and poor exposure to new farming techniques and limited financial support.

He regretted that Africa’s weather was unpredictable, while its population was exploding, with the poor farming practices depleting farm soil and exacerbating deforestation and water scarcity.

Poor digital literacy in Africa and unwavering respect for traditional ways of farming were blamed for the continued food insecurity and food importation by a majority of African countries.

Bor however said his department was promoting tech start-ups that have developed solutions targeting various aspects of agriculture, including finance, supply chain, retailing, and delivering information on crops and weeds among others which are accessible to farmers through front-end devices such as smartphones and tablets, or even SMS.

He added that agritech had also brought new financial services for farmers, covering credit, farm inputs, insurance and market access through machine learning, remote sensing, and mobile technology.

The CECM said county governments were now training farmers on best farming practices to improve production and on value addition for their produce to fetch more money and to avoid food loss and waste in addition to the counties exploring the use of digital extension services to overcome barriers and constraints faced by rural women.

The benchmarking tour was aimed at exploring opportunities for growth and partnerships for the Benin and Kenya governments and sharing lessons on the effectiveness of an enabling environment for agri-tech startups in the county.

The team visited Bargain and Wakulima markets to learn about Kenya Agricultural Marketing Information Systems (KAMIS).

The system provides members and stakeholders with improved early warning marketing and trade information, leading to more efficient and competitive transactions in food trade between surplus and deficit regions.

The delegation also toured the Elburgon Progressive Cooperative Society Dairy plant in Elburgon ward, a beneficiary of digital agriculture technology under the National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP).

Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana are top agri-tech markets in Africa accounting for over 60 per cent of start-ups that are active on the continent, according to a report by Africa’s start-up portal, Disrupt Africa. The report shows that Kenya accounts for 23.2 per cent of all African agri-tech start-ups.

By Esther Mwangi and Angela Cherotich

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