FAO Regional Office for Africa

Kenya commits towards wider adoption of Conservation Agriculture

Responding to Climate Change and Food insecurity through Climate-Smart Farming

On-the-Farm Soil Testing (Photo Credit: Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/USAID Kenya)

11 May 2016, NairobiStakeholders have committed to a robust plan of institutionalizing conservation agriculture in Kenya.  This will be achieved through interventions on commercialization, promotion of large scale adoption at national level and making agriculture attractive to the youth, especially as a form of employment.

The two day First National Conservation Agriculture Conference brought together key stakeholders from the government of Kenya, governors, the European Union, the Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations (FAO), farmers and various stakeholders from the private, development, and academic sectors.

Addressing the delegates, FAO Kenya’s representative a.i. Mr. Robert Allport appealed to all players to support the adoption of Conservation Agriculture (CA) in Kenya, which research has shown increased crop yields and profits.  An important aspect of CA is its contribution towards environmental conservation while mitigating damages attributable to climatic changes.

“Imagine a movement where all institutions in the country from banks and processing companies to government, NGOs, civil society and donors are supporting the application of Conservation Agriculture.  Where eighty per cent of the agricultural population have access to training and information on CA and where farm yields increase by factor of fifty percent,” said Robert Allport.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Development representative on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Andrew Tumuir emphasized on the role that the government can play to accelerate the adoption of Conservation Agriculture.

“It is not the business of Government to do business. The ideal role of any Government in development especially that in which a participatory approach is critical is to create an enabling environment for stakeholders to do business, said Dr. Tumuir.

Five key county governments, out of the eight where FAO’s Conservation Agriculture project is under implementation, were represented by Governors and other country representatives as well as farmers. 

Successes and constraints of Conservation Agriculture Technology

While the advantages of adopting and fostering CA were discussed in length, various contextual challenges also came out strongly during presentations by farmers and in the discussions held by the stakeholders.

CA falls within a wider house-holds’ resilience project that aims to increase the productivity and profitability of small holder farmers in productive semi-arid areas of Kenya, by encouraging them to adopt both climate-smart and agri-business approaches. Conservation agriculture, which is one of the Climate Smart Agriculture approach is characterized by three main principles which are: minimum soil tillage, permanent soil cover and crop rotation and appropriate crop integration. Practitioners have recorded increase in productivity and profitability.  These are key aspects to improve households’ resilience to climate shocks, reducing vulnerability to poverty and food deficits.

Food insecurity and malnutrition in Kenya’s arid lands continue to receive humanitarian and media attention, yet high levels of malnutrition prevail in many other parts of the country, particularly the semi-arid lands - largely outside of the public’s attention.  An estimated 10 million people in the country are categorized as chronically food insecure, with the most affected being smallholder farmers.

Speaking at the event, Klaus Dieter Gautsch, the Head of Agriculture and Rural Development at the EU Delegation in Kenya made a strong reference to contextual factors that are negatively impacting on Kenya’s agriculture, a sector that employs over seventy per cent of the country’s rural population and contributes to just over a quarter of the country’s GDP.  Citing land degradation and climate change as ‘emerging key factors’, he gave Conservation Agriculture as an alternative to conventional farming methods which are no longer sustainable, given the environmental fragility.

“The total area of coverage benefiting from Conservation Agriculture in Africa is less than one million hectares, accounting for less than 1% of the 125 million hectares worldwide.  In many African countries, there remains little awareness of Conservation Agriculture.  There is need to ensure that the concept of CA is incorporated in training, extension services, and agricultural research programs”, said Mr. Gautsch.

Pledges to Commit to Adoption

Discussions on various areas that need to be addressed for institutional adoption of Conservation Agriculture to be achieved were held by close to three hundred participants who attended the conference.  Mechanization stood out strongly as an area that needed to be given priority, given the difference between equipment used in conventional and in CA farming.

Bankers, insurers and traders who had an opportunity to show-case and demonstrate machinery also explored how commercialization of the agricultural sector specific to CA can be improved.

Stakeholders were also cognizant of Kenya’s image and perception of agriculture as an area mainly populated by the rural population, and the aged.  Innovation, commercialization and employment opportunities were some of the solutions presented to counter this challenge in a bid to increase the youth’s participation in agriculture, and encourage investors.

The conference was not only appreciated as a spring-board towards an era of adoption of Conservation Agriculture, but also as a promise of bountiful harvests in the future, in areas relegated to aridity in the past.

 

Useful link: Case studies on Conservation Agriculture (CA) 

 

Contact

Ruth Njeng’ere | FAO Kenya - Communications | [email protected]

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