Waiguru articulate strides made by counties in enhancing Food Security at UN women Conference

The Council of Governors Chair, Anne Waiguru, says county governments have made tremendous strides in enhancing food security through adoption of modern technologies in agriculture.

The Kirinyaga County governor recognized that the value in agriculture is more pronounced in rural areas where it provides 70% of employment, with small holder farming leading while women provide 70% of labor force doing the bulk of the work to produce, process and market the produce. The governor says the devolved units are therefore helping women farmers to integrate innovative technologies in crop and livestock farming to boost food production and income.

The governor who spoke on Monday at a side event of the United Nation’s 67th Session of the Commission on Status of Women (CSW) in New York, where she noted that through Agricultural Extension Officers, counties are training farmers on best farming practices to improve production and on value addition for their produce to fetch more money and to avoid food loss and waste.

County governments managed to reach out to 4,523,889 farmers with extension service within the year while pointing out low use of extension services as one of the challenges facing the sector. “Whereas County governments continue to expand outreach to farmers, rural women face barriers and constraints, including limited education, and low household incomes,” Waiguru said. Counties are now exploring the use of Digital Extension services to overcome some of these gender nuanced challenges. The COG Chair said that the counties approach in developing the agriculture sector has now been focused on using technological innovations to address critical constraints faced by farmers over the last 10 years in devolution.

Towards accelerating Food security, counties have invested in agricultural machinery with additional purchase of 350 tractors operating in 29 Agriculture mechanization stations. In the development and commercialization of the livestock sector, she said counties have procured 10,782,369 doses of various vaccines for livestock vaccination, conducted 369,788 subsidized Artificial Insemination (AI) services; procured 449,673 straws of semen, distributed 4,376 cattle, goat, and sheep breeding stock and installed 68 milk coolers.

“The county governments have also introduced commercial poultry farming by supporting farmers with 1,608,108 improved organic chicks and distributed close to 3 million fingerings to support farmers to grow fish,” she added. All this, she said is helping farmers increase food production, tackle post-harvest losses and add value to their products. The Kirinyaga Governor said that agriculture accounts for 22.4% of nominal GDP in Kenya making it a key employer which absorbed over 1.6 million additional workers during Covid-19 pandemic increasing its share from 47 to 54 percent.

In 2021/2022 financial year, the COG chair said that County Governments allocated Ksh. 35.5 billion of their budgets to the agriculture sector development and in the wake of climate change and high demand for fruits in the global market, county governments distributed 643,686 of assorted fruit trees seedlings. “In appreciation of the importance of potatoes as a source of food, income, and employment, Counties distributed 45 metric tonnes potato vines. This is expected to go a long way in improving farmers’ incomes and increasing foreign exchange,” said the governor noting that counties also distributed 66,718, 50kg bags of assorted subsidized fertilizers, 507,786 avocado seedlings, 401,000 coffee seedlings, 38,000 coconut seedlings, 46,400 tissue culture bananas and 2,090 irrigation kits.

Gradual integration of technology in agriculture is drawing women and young people to the sector, she observed. Counties are also helping women to leverage on mobile phones and digital applications like phone apps, e-commerce, websites, and other online platforms to get markets for their agricultural produce.

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