Take industrialised agriculture route to Kenya food security


Avocados for export. FILE PHOTO | NMG

COP27 is special for many reasons, one being that this is the first time the conference is being held in Africa.

Secondly, it calls for a collaborative effort to combat the adverse effects of climate change, with a clarion call for all to move from negotiations and planning to implementation.

Climate change has led to rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and extreme weather events, which have impacted food production and distribution systems globally.

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According to the World Bank, Climate Change has reduced global agricultural productivity by about 21 per cent since 1961. Furthermore, the State of the Climate in Africa 2021 report indicates that Africa’s agricultural productivity has reduced by 34 per cent since 1961 due to increased temperatures.

This is more than in any other region, and the trend is expected to continue, increasing the risk of acute food insecurity and malnutrition.

Kenya is facing one of the worst droughts, attributed to five successive failed rain seasons.

More than 4.35 million Kenyans across 23 counties are affected, with 942,000 children and 134,000 pregnant and lactating mothers requiring urgent nutritional support.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) recognises that we cannot have a thriving economy if one section of the community is left out.

In the short term, this calls on us all to support those affected by the drought, including assistance with food and livestock feeds.

Long-term, the local industry has singled out industrialised agriculture as a critical pillar to enhance Kenya’s food security through a linkage between the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

According to the government’s plan to grow the economy, two-thirds of Kenyans derive all or part of their income from agriculture.

Furthermore, food accounts for 54 per cent of household expenditures, but the less privileged spend 60 per cent or more.

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Despite this, agricultural productivity has not kept up with population growth, resulting in higher dependence on food imports.

Through the industrialised agriculture pillar, the manufacturing sector aims to increase the productivity of crops that impact our food security to bring down the cost of finished goods, subsequently, lower the cost of living.

On the other hand, we seek to identify crops with the potential for higher value addition to minimise waste and diversify our export portfolio.

For example, processing avocados to make avocado oil and other extracts, pyrethrum to make ingredients for insecticides, and cotton to make fabric.

One of the main issues that have contributed to the food scarcity in the country is massive post-harvest losses that occur due to low-value addition and poor cold chain facilities.

According to an FAO, approximately 14 per cent of the world’s food is lost after harvest, up to, but not including the retail stage of the supply chain.

The failed rain seasons have demonstrated that Climate Change is a growing and undeniable reality that we are currently facing.

It's time for mitigation.

The writer is the chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.