Public, private cooperation key to food security - Daily Nation

Public, private cooperation key to food security

Saturday March 10 2018

A farmer inspects his maize crops in Uasin Gishu.

A farmer inspects his maize crops in Uasin Gishu. As a country and the wider African continent, food security still however remains a major challenge. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

More by this Author

Agriculture supports directly and indirectly up to 75 per cent of the Kenyan population and generates almost all the country’s food requirements.

With reliance on rain-fed agricultural production in most parts of the country and infestation by notifiable insects in recent times, Kenya remains susceptible, with the pests putting the country at risk of growing food insecurity.

The prolonged drought witnessed in the first quarter of 2017 and the threat posed by fall armyworm heavily affected the agriculture sector, especially livestock and crop production.

Beyond the production losses, the impact of the dual challenge is awake call for Kenya and indeed other East African countries to develop measures to strengthen the resilience of the agriculture sector and increase investments to boost food security and productivity.

The key to ensuring that the region’s agriculture and aquaculture sectors produce enough food lies in Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).

Agri-PPP has the potential to modernise the agriculture sector and deliver multiple benefits, including pest and insects’ problems, seed production and commercialisation, and small-scale technologies.

From the onset, I would admit that the food situation has in the recent years improved both in Kenya and in Africa.

However, a sizeable number of the population are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition, especially in arid and semi-arid areas. Therefore, as a country and the wider African continent, food security remains a major challenge.

Data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation reveals that between 2014 and 2016, the number of people who were undernourished stood at 23 per cent, which was a significant improvement compared to previous years when the number was at 30 per cent.

In 2017, the Kenya Red Cross announced that three million people were in dire food aid and another 100,000 suffered from malnutrition.

This situation took the government’s and partner organisation’s efforts to salvage; showing the need for collective responsibility if we are to ensure a food secure future.

This year, the government unveiled the Big Four Agenda with food security being one of the priority areas. The government targets to produce 2.76 million bags of farm produce, among them maize.

This calls for collaborative arrangements that bring together government, non-governmental actors, farmers and the private sector for improving productivity and driving growth in agriculture and food sector.

It took the intervention of the government, especially of Trans Nzoia, to control the spread of armyworms through the acquisition of the right pesticides to help combat the destructive animals.

Similar efforts can be promoted to help modernise the agriculture sector to reduce uncertainty and risks are prevalent.

The writer is Bayer East Africa Managing Director.