Food security: Farmers urged to plant short-term crops - BREAKING KENYA NEWS

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Friday, 12 April 2019

Food security: Farmers urged to plant short-term crops

drought

By LEOPOLD OBI
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By AGGREY OMBOKI
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Counties have been asked to support farmers who have lost their crops in the drought in a bid to forestall a food security crisis.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri on Thursday said many farmers in the country’s bread basket regions of North Rift and parts of western planted early but lost their crops after the rains delayed.
In mid-March parts of the country received some rainfall, prompting farmers to plant, but the rains disappeared shortly thereafter causing the seeds to rot.
“The rains are likely to start late this season, which might affect harvest by the end of the year and the country’s food security in general,” Mr Kiunjuri said.
Asked if counties have budgets for farm inputs, Mr Kiunjuri said Agriculture is a devolved function and that counties have a contingency fund of up to Sh20 million.
He advised farmers to go for short-term crops, warning that late and depressed rainfall might not support the late maturing crop varieties of maize. The weatherman has warned of early cessation of rainfall.
IMPORTS
Further compounding the food situation, neighbouring countries, from which Kenya usually imports maize to bridge its deficit, have also been affected by drought.
But Mr Kiunjuri insisted that the national food security situation was stable except in pastoral and arid counties.
“Our assessment indicates that the country has an estimated maize stock of 21.3 million bags,” Mr Kiunjuri said.
The available stock at household level is 13.04 million 90kg bags, 3.35 million bags of maize are with traders, while 4.3 million bags are held at NCPB depots and 680,588 bags by millers.
The minister spoke even as leaders from north eastern region accused the government of refusing to invest in sustainable food security and perennially dishing out relief food, which they said is a cash cow for a few people.
SUSTAINABILITY
Led by Eldas MP Aden Keynan, the leaders coalescing around the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands Stakeholders, hit out at the government for engaging in quick fixes when dealing with the crisis that has so far affected 13 counties.
“Food security is not a one-day process. For how long can the government continue to feed its people with relief food?” Mr Keynan asked.
He asked the government to implement Sessional Paper of 2012, which, among other raft of recommendations, called for the establishment of sustainable programmes such as irrigation and water management.
“If you ask the CS how much they spend on relief food, you will be shocked to find [out] that it runs into billions of shillings. How does the government prepare to feed its people year after year?” he posed.
PREPARATION
Mr Keynan said the government’s lack of seriousness could be seen in the failure to revive the Kenya Meat Commission.
“The title deed to the land belonging to the Kenya Meat Commission is now in the hands of private individuals. This is why the government has failed to revive the state body,” he claimed.
Dadaab MP Mohammed Dahiye said the government perennially ignores warning signs of drought.
Ijara MP Sophia Abdi Noor said the country needs tangible projects that address food security.
“Our people’s problems are not the channel for a few individuals to profit. We will not accept to be used as a cash cow,” she said, but did not give names.
Ms Noor said the act of queuing for relief food is humiliating to her people, adding that the Hunger Safety Net Programme should be used to send cash directly to affected families “so that they can choose what to buy”.

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