, HOLA, Kenya, Aug 17 – President Mwai Kibaki has directed all government departments charged with the mandate of environmental conservation to urgently avert further environmental degradation in the country.
Speaking on Monday during the official launching of the National Economic Stimulus Programme on Food Production in Hola, President Kibaki asserted that environmental degradation had greatly compromised food security in the country.
The President said that food imports that consume huge reserves of the country’s foreign currency could only be avoided through stepped up measures to rectify the current miserable forestry and water situation in the country.
“Therefore, I direct the Ministries of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment, Finance and Internal Security with support of all other Ministries, to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the forestry and water situation is rectified without further delay. With such measures and with our added investments in agriculture, and with the commitment and determination of the people, I am confident that food imports will soon become an issue of the past. The time to act is now,” the Head of State said.
President Kibaki noted that the nation must admit the effects of climatic changes were real and had contributed to erratic rainfall in the country and had considerably caused the current drought conditions that persisted for longer periods.
“In Kenya rain failure has been experienced over the last six planting seasons in a row. This has negatively affected our food production leading to serious food crisis. As a result, we have been forced to import huge amounts of food using valuable foreign exchange reserves,” President Kibaki said.
The Head of State said that human activities; invasion and wanton of destruction of forests, planting of eucalyptus trees and negligent interference with river beds had led to the drying up of very many perennial rivers thus worsening the situation.
“Trees like Eucalyptus, apparently intended to produce firewood to fire tea factory boilers, have caused several rivers to dry up thereby leading to untold suffering. The bulk of our hilly land remains un-terraced, thus failing to retain rainfall water in a bid to replenish our water supply in the land. The list is endless,” said the Head of State.
The President outlined a list of critical measures that must be implemented without further delay among them immediate use of irrigation and reforestation to make the country food secure.
He declared that the Government’s target was to increase the current land area under irrigation from the current 120,000 hectares to 400,000 hectares using available water resources but with a long-term vision to achieve the full potential of 1.3 million hectares.
The President confirmed that the Government was already in the process of increasing the level of water storage capacity with an initial investment of Sh2 billion during this financial year with a pledge to increase the funds in subsequent years.
President Kibaki said: “As Kenyans can see, the programme we are launching today is part of an overall strategy of ensuring food security for Kenya within five years through irrigated agriculture. My Government intends to increase the area under irrigation from the current 120,000 hectares to 400,000 hectares using available water resources. However, the long term goal is to exploit the full potential of 1.3 million hectares which will require substantial investment in water storage.”
The Head of State affirmed that the country must urgently adopt wide scale irrigation in order to produce food and other vital plant products to not only spur but also sustain high economic growth.
Stated the President “As a government we are determined to ensure that Kenya becomes a food surplus nation. With the experience the country has gone through in the last three years, it is time for Kenyans to end their state of denial and accept that climatic change is here with us. The reality now requires a complete paradigm shift. We need to urgently change the way we do things as a nation.”
He further advocated for quick replanting of the country’s forests and urgent replacement of the eucalyptus with water friendly trees all over the hills, mountains and valleys.
The newly launched National Economic Stimulus Programme is designed to achieve various goals among them to stimulate the economy during the current global financial crisis, create job opportunities and to stimulate the agricultural sector.
President Kibaki stated, “This injection of 2 billion shillings into the economy will stimulate the Agriculture sector. Secondly, the programme will increase employment opportunities in production, processing and marketing of the maize and rice produce. Thirdly, the irrigated maize and rice locally produced will eliminate the need for huge food imports and lead to saving of valuable foreign exchange.”
The programme will put an additional 40,000 hectares under irrigation to produce 370,000 bags of maize and 600,000 bags of rice by February, 2010 at a cost of 2 billion shillings and promised to together with the Prime Minister to closely monitor the implementation of this programme.
The Head of State promised that other irrigation schemes in the country among them Tana Delta, Perkerra, Mwea, Ahero, West Kano, and Bunyala will also be put under maize and rice crops by October this year.
In attendance were Cabinet ministers Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto Fred Gumo, Mohammed Elmi, Naomi Shabaan, Charity Ngilu Beth Mugo several assistant Ministers and Members of Parliament and other senior Government officials.