, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 30 – CORD leader Raila Odinga says counties should focus more on agriculture in a bid to be self reliant in food production.
In comments made just a day after the government warned of a looming food crisis, the former Prime Minister stated that this will prevent a crisis in the event of drought in the country.
Speaking in Siaya while flagging off tractors to be used for farming, Odinga said: “I challenge the County Government here and all across the country to make agricultural extension officers earn their pay by delivering services to the people. Where improved production has occurred, storage facilities remain in acute supply, so food goes to waste.”
Siaya and Samburu are at the forefront in the initiative after purchasing tractors and fertilizer for farmers.
The government on Wednesday announced that up to 1.7 million people are likely to face acute hunger from June.
“The fertilizers should be with the farmers all over the country. Even where there are fertilisers and seeds, extension services are particularly wanting. The services have virtually collapsed in many parts of the country, although the officers exist and are on a monthly salary, raising our wage bill,” the former PM stated.
He pointed out that poor planning is to blame for the food insecurity that is being experienced in the county.
He explained that past droughts should have served as a lesson to the government to stock up and put mitigating measures in place.
He indicated that issuing an alert when disaster has struck does not serve any purpose and emphasised the need for a comprehensive database on agriculture and food produce so that information may be shared.
“People live around the shores of the lake yet they go hungry because there is no rain. In Egypt, it does not rain but the Egyptians do not die of hunger because it does not rain. This is the very same water coming from here. Why should we allow Egyptians to use the water to feed their people while our people here die of hunger because there is no rain?” he wondered.
He further emphasised the need for farmers to change their attitude by growing crops which are drought resistant.
“We have the right to use this water here and that is why we should find ways and means of exploiting it. We need to provide our people with pumps so that this water can be used for irrigating land lying near the lake and rivers. By doing this, they will be able to produce food not just once, but twice in the year,” he stated.
He revealed that the country loses between 10 to 50 percent of crops to post harvest processes depending on the type of produce.
“Compare that with the loss in Europe and North America where it stands at 1 percent and you will know why in Kenya where everyone calls himself a farmer, hunger remains real and resilient. We need to encourage our farmers and investors to grow any staple food crops for export to countries where they are needed and for local consumption,” he said.