ABOUT six years ago, the local and international media media were awash with images of people facing starvation in Northern Kenya.
The heart wrenching conditions prompted the ‘Kenyans for Kenya initiative which raised half a billion shillings to aid the suffering people.
While this was a noble initiative, it largely dealt with the effects and not the causes of the famine. As you are aware, we have found ourselves in the same embarrassing situation again.
To prevent this, the country needs to take proactive measures to ensure that this does not happen again.
Here is how:
Irrigation: Investing in irrigation will help increase the volume of food produced and reduce reliance on rain fed agriculture.
Develop new crops: The government should invest in intensive research to develop crops that are best suited for certain areas.
Diversify diet: Kenyans also need to diversify their diets to reduce overdependence on maize.
Streamline markets: The agricultural sector should be streamlined so that farmers always have markets for their food products.
Storage: The government needs to invest in proper processing and modern storage facilities so that when we have food in plenty we can store it for future use.
Milk can be turned into powder that could be stored for maybe up to two years.
By Douglas Mwale
RESEARCH SHOWS VIRUS CAN BE USED TO FIGHT COMMON PIG INFECTIONS
RESEARCHERS at Leicester University have shown that it might be possible to develop an alternative to antibiotics for treating diseases in pigs.
They have identified a range of viruses, called bacteriophages, that can be used to kill common pig infections.
The aim is to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria emerging on farms that could also infect humans.
If trials in pigs work, the new therapy could be extended to treat people.
Prof Martha Clokie presented her interim results to a pig industry meeting in Solihull. She told BBC News that the early results indicated that phage therapy could be “completely transformative for human health”.
“There are many infections that we just can’t treat with antibiotics because they have become resistant to them. So using the phage therapy for specific diseases could change the way we treat infection. It could give us a whole new armoury.”
Scientists have been trying to develop phage treatments for more than a century but they have mostly proved to be unreliable.
But Prof Clokie has found more precise ways of isolating phages and assessing their effectiveness.
The research has been funded by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board which is responding to concerns about the possibility of so called superbugs developing in farm animals and entering the food chain.
“Pig producers are responding to a pig health and also reacting to consumer expectations to help make sure we are being responsible about our antibiotic usage,” she said.
In the UK, 40 per cent of all antibiotics are used to treat animals. They are the same as those used to treat people.
Last year by Lord Jim O’Neil called for reductions in the unnecessary use of antibiotics in agriculture, especially those that were “highly critical” to human health.
FARMERS TOLD TO DIVERSIFY TO BOOST FOOD SECURITY
Farmers have been urged to consider diversifying into other crops as maize shortage bites in the country. Rice is emerging as a novel alternative to maize as it is nutritious and has a higher net worth compared to maize.
In a recent conference, Food Trade East and Southern Africa, John Mann, the Managing Director of Afritec Seeds Company Ltd, said that up to eight new hybrid rice breeds have been fully developed and are only awaiting the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) certification for dissemination for farming purposes.
Mr Mann said the hybrid seeds are capable of growing in both upland and irrigated conditions, requiring little fertiliser while giving high yields.
“They produce up to 2.5 tonnes more per acre and compared to the conventional breeds, they are also insect resistant and survive under dry conditions while still giving quality yields,” he said.
“We are also working on about 280 more new hybrid rice breeds, with about 40 breeds nearing conclusion and eight awaiting Kephis certification before distribution,” he said.
Wachira Kariuki, CEO of Classic Foods Ltd, decried the fact while there are other crops that farmers can grow, it is unfortunate that maize is seemingly irreplaceable, despite the current challenges in its cultivation.
“Soya beans are more profitable and highly nutritious but due to their non-prevalent nature in the region they are not fully exploited. Soya is also beneficial in fixing nitrogen into the soil thus increasing soil fertility,” said Kariuki.
Mr Mann also encouraged smallholder farmers to embrace technology and mechanisation as it is through those that new farming aspects, hybrid seeds and better yields are achieved, sentiments that were echoed by a host of speakers in the conference.
By Brian Okinda