Climate change forces Kenyan government to change tact on food security

Kenya has always relied on Maize and wheat production for its domestic as well as exports needs.

Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan are grappling with a severe drought which is ravaging parts of their respective countries, displacing millions of people from their homes as well as exacerbating conflict in the region.

One of the solutions presented to most African countries in combating food shortages has been a shift to more drought resistant crops such as Cassava, however African governments have been slow to adopt the solution and only half-heartedly tried it.

Kenya, however is keen to change this, the Cabinet Secretary for Agricultre, Willy Bett has announced his ministry has partnered with Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, to distribute improved cassava tuber varieties to smallholder farmers through a community-based seed system.

“With climatic change as an emerging phenomenon and its consequences, root and tuber crops offer choices and opportunities as they exhibit higher tolerance threshold to a variety of stresses such as water and heat, water salinity and emergence of new pests,” said Mr Bett.

Mr Bett Yesterday launched a €6.5 million (Sh771.42 million) cassava farming project targeting 28,000 small-scale farmers in Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, Siaya, Busia, Kitui and Kilifi counties to improve the country’s food security by acting as an alternative to maize and wheat.

Kenya has always relied on Maize and wheat production for its domestic as well as exports needs, however lack of enough rainfalls as ensured the two staple crops have consistently fallen below domestic demand, exposing the country to the volatile export market.

The invasions of Army worms to Kenya’s breadbasket counties such as Trans Nzoia as also made an already bad situation worse.

Cassava is largely grown in western Kenya for subsistence use and the government hopes to change this by offering farmers incentives to go commercial.

Mr Bett said cassava had the capacity to stabilise the country’s food security and cited Uganda and Nigeria as an example where the shift has been successful.

The five-year project is funded by the European Union (EU) under the Strengthening the Competitiveness of the Cassava Value Chain in Kenya programme.

A local-based Irish NGO together with Self Help Africa is implementing the programme and seeks to nearly triple subsistence cassava production to seven million tonnes from the present 2.5 tonnes per acre.

“We see a real opportunity for cassava farmers not only because they will increase production for household cooking, but because this project will help meet the growing demand for cassava products in the industrial food, beverage, livestock feed, and textile sectors,” said EU head of rural development and food security Klaus Gautsch


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