Africa runs on agriculture. Seven out of ten Africans depend on Agriculture for their livelihoods.In Kenya, agriculture directly contributes 24 percent of the GDP annually,which is directly valued at Kshs 342 billion. Agriculture accounts for 65 percent of Kenya’s exports, 18 percent of formal employment and an even much higher percentage of informal employment.
Despite these exploits, many small scale farmers – smallholders – continue to languish in poverty. Unsustainable and unprofitable agricultural practices both locally and nationally continuously undermine their huge potential.Smallholders constitute 75 per cent of Kenya’s total agricultural output and are critical to the country’s overall food security.
For agriculture in Kenya and Africa to ensure that our tables remain full of food, we need to say no to unsustainable, business-as-usual agriculture.We need a green agriculture that flourishes livelihoods and replenishes natural resources. Green agriculture involves scaling up farming practices that maintain the resource base, so that it continues to support food security and rural development.
If people keep sleeping hungry, then there is something wrong. If smallholders can’t earn reliable revenue from their farms, something is amiss. If agricultural produce is lost between the farm and the market, something is wrong. If foodstuff rots somewhere when there are hungry people elsewhere, something is wrong. Green agriculture can correct these wrongs through simple, yet powerful practices in farms, marketplaces and policy frameworks.
Green agriculture involves saving rainwater and using it for irrigation on a sunny day. It entails planting the best seeds and nurturing them with manure. As noted in the Kenya Government’s Agricultural Sector Development Strategy, use of improved seeds has remained low due to poor distribution and only about 24.3 percent of the farmers use manure to improve soil fertility.
So important is agriculture to Africa that the African Union set aside 2014 as ‘the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.’Since 2003, AU has committed itself to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture. The International Fund for Agriculture and Development has noted that greening agriculture will bring about competitive economic returns, the supply of essential and life-supporting ecosystem services, decent jobs and livelihoods, a smaller ecological footprint, increased resilience to climate change, and enhanced food security.
UNEP’s Foresight Process on Emerging Environmental Issues ranked ‘Challenges for Ensuring Food Safety and Food Security for 9 Billion People,’ as one of this century’s top issues. It is indeed a top challenge for 40 million Kenyans and green agriculture can help us to overcome this challenge. If we meet the economic challenge of our smallholders, they will greatly assist in meeting the food challenge of the entire nation.
Globally, smallholders manage over 80 percent of the world’s 500 small farms and provide eighty percent of food that is mostly consumed in the developing world. Smallholders are therefore pillars not just of agriculture but also food security. Right here in Kenya and all across Africa, smallholders should be fully empowered to practice green agriculture so that they can continue feeding the society as society empowers them economically.
Think Green, act Green.Dr. Isaac Kalua is a renown Kenyan environmentalist and founder of Green Africa Foundation. He regularly writes letters, like this piece that can be found here
Category: Frank Talk