NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 24 – An association of agricultural professionals has called on the government to urgently put in place a Food Security Act to enable the country effectively handle the perennial food crisis.
Kenya Society for Agricultural Professionals (KESAP) National Chairman Paul Mbuni said on Thursday that a proper legislation would ensure food security initiatives were a continuous process and not activated only after the president had declared food crisis a national disaster.
“An Act of Parliament on food security should also streamline who does what. We have a situation where everybody is doing everything and we end up doing nothing,” the KESAP chair said.
Mr Mbuni said although a recent government initiative to revive three irrigation schemes was a positive move; it would not make significant impact because of the scale of the current food disaster.
He noted that most farm families in Kenya and especially in Arid and Semi Arid regions had no guaranteed access to food and the situation could deteriorate in the event of El Nino rains since excess rains would undermine the performance of the short rain crop.
The Kenya Meteorological Department has predicted that October to December which is the short rain season would experience El Nino rains.
Assistant Secretary General Daniel Gitahi said inefficient production of food was another reason for food insecurity because policies were not conducive for farmers.
“In most cases it is assumed that El Nino will automatically result to increased food production but sometimes it may not,” Mr Gitahi said.
“The other thing we need to do is that we need to know our farmers like the way they do in Europe- they know the farmers by number-that if you are talking about 32 million bags of maize we know farmers one, two and three will give that. But we need to give them incentives,” he added.
It is projected that Kenya would harvest 24 million bags of maize this year.
“Considering we consume close to 700,000 bags of maize per week, the country stands on a deficit of over 12 million bags to the harvest time of the 2010 crop,” he said.
The Association also called on the government to zero rate importation of timber as a way of promoting forest conservation.
The National Chairman said the current 10 percent customs tax and 16 percent VAT on imported timber were prohibitive and encouraged Kenyans to use locally sourced timber, promoting deforestation.
“It is more important and more sustainable to give an alternative of what we are saying,” Mr Mbuni said.
“That’s why we are recommending free flow of imported timber in the country so that we give alternatives to those people because they have to get firewood, they have to get charcoal and so long as they need these forms of energy they will cut down trees,” he stated.
He also called for the urgent ban on importation, sale and use of power saw in Kenya as a way of protecting the forest cover.
“We are calling on people who are seeing the importance of conserving our environment to come up so that we get this disastrous equipment outlawed in Kenya,” he said.
“Such a move will ensure that our forests regenerate because at the moment we are destroying more trees than we are planting and of course this has an impact on the performance of the agriculture.”