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Shift focus to farmers, researchers told

NAIROBI, September 29 – Research institutions have been urged to ensure newly discovered hybrid seeds reach farmers.

Agriculture Secretary Wilson Songa said on Tuesday that despite the introduction of a number of new varieties of different crops in the country, farmers were yet to start growing them.

“Now, when it comes to proven technologies, is it really important to come up with these new crops if maybe only a quarter of the varieties actually reach the farmer?” he asked.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), a non-political body that operates in the two regions, Songa challenged participants to come up with concrete ideas on how this gap could be filled.

“It is in a regional forum like this that solutions to such problems should be tackled and decisions reached,” he emphasised.

ASARECA has secured funding to the tune of Sh5.8 billion from a number of development partners to be disbursed over the next six years to carry out agricultural research.
Mr Songa observed that with the current food insecurity in the country there was dire need to link new discoveries to farmers.

He however explained that the shortage of extension officers in the country had posed a great challenge in making the linkages a reality but noted that the government was working on a solution to the problem.

“We are very happy that the government has enabled us to recruit more than 340 extension officers every year for the last three years and we believe if this trend continues we should be able to make the link between research and extension much better than its is now,” Mr Songa explained. 

Meanwhile the secretary revealed that the proposed formation of an Agricultural Development Fund by ministers in the social sectors was still on course. Mr Songa said the paper to be presented to the Cabinet over the Fund was ready. 
He said part of the Sh78 billion initiative would be used for research which currently attracts a measly 0.01percent funding from the government.

“The initiative has moved on and a summarised paper is on its way to see whether it gets the necessary government approval. Of course we will never have enough to do everything but we will definitely come down and concentrate on key priorities that will make the sector move a little faster than it is doing now, especially as we are having serious issue with food security,” he said

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The idea of the Fund was mooted at a meeting in Naivasha by five ministers several months ago as part of the solution to food insecurity in Kenya.

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