Smart agriculture for food production and security
Many would have thought that as we began the year 2018, the government would have learnt from past mistakes; politically, socially or economically, which resulted to untold suffering to large segments of the population in terms of food insecurity, as well as complete lack of it in many instances.
The Kenya Food Assistance Factsheet report of September 2017, laid heavy emphasis on lack of rain that resulted in the prolonged drought. While this is fairly “acceptable” given that issues like drought, famine and so on are natural calamities, the government cannot escape blame with all the available resources at its disposal to mitigate such eventualities.
Kenya together with the other East African Community states through the East Africa Community Infrastructural Development Plan of Action, developed a plan to transport oil through a pipeline from the Mombasa oil refinery to Kigali, Rwanda and thereafter to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The question here is, if oil can be transported through pipelines to Kigali from Mombasa, how come we are unable to tap water from water bodies in Mombasa, Kisumu, Turkana, Naivasha and Nakuru and use it to supply and irrigate the country through pipelines similar to those in oil transportation? This would cut down over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture to enhance food production and security. There are various water bodies that can be utilized to achieve this.
Taking a look at Israel, it gives a clear indication of how proper plans could be engineered to suit us so as to start the practice of smart agriculture. Qatar, Middle East, like other Arab countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council, has been borrowed heavily from Israel when it comes to smart agriculture – such as the use of continuous drip-irrigation technique. This system entails desalination of the salty waters from the sea and channelling it through calibrated PCV pipes with small openings along it to supply water to plants and food crops and ensure their survival in the harsh climate in the Middle East. These, together with reduced deforestation, are practices that Kenya should adopt.
Trees play a pivotal role in environmental and climate balance. Areas with plenty of tree cover, experience bumper rain volumes as well as cool environments. Trees are not only important in attracting rain but also assist in balancing soil structure by mitigating soil erosion and holding the soil together. Trees cover allows other residual plants to grow and provide lush fodder which acts as manure. Moreover, it provides for a symbiotic relationship by providing much-needed nutrients to crops and vice versa. Trees are also crucial in attracting underground water that sprouts to form the river/stream mouths necessary for human and animal survival. Trees mitigate environmental challenges and provide oxygen, help absorb carbon dioxide, and provide us with fruits which are an essential part of our diets.
Seed preservation must also be undertaken in order to sustain seasonal crop husbandry monitored under well-structured systems. From research studies, it has been established that some crops that existed 1500 – 2000 years AD are no longer available today, primarily due to lack of seed preservation or extinction altogether. Seed preservation will ensure that many of our exotic crops are preserved and used now and in the future. When such agricultural practices are put into practice, will ensure proper food production and security while feeding and providing many avenues for income generation as well as maintaining good health among populations.
George Lule is a researcher and contributor on agricultural sustainability and food production.