Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kenya shifts from rain-fed agriculture to stem food crisis

Dave Opiyo in via the Daily Nation (Kenya): Kenya marked a major milestone when President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga launched a multi-billion-shilling initiative that is expected to end perennial food shortages in the country. For the first time since independence, the government showed its seriousness to shift from rain-fed agriculture to irrigation that would in five years see more than one million hectares put under crop production.

The two leaders and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka on Monday oversaw the rehabilitation of the 2,500-hectare Hola Irrigation Scheme that collapsed 20 years ago. Currently the country, which consumes 33 million bags of maize annually, faces serious shortage with the yields predicted to drop from targeted 27 million to 20 million bags due to poor rains this year.

Apart from Hola, three other irrigation schemes - Mwea, Ahero and Bura - are also to be expanded and revived under the government's new grand plan. If fully utilised, the irrigation schemes could help the country realise an extra 14 million bags of maize per season.

…But the Head of State was disappointed that the agricultural sector in the country was highly dependent on rainfall, which had now become "unpredictable and unreliable". "Today, drought conditions are persisting for longer periods and rainfall has become erratic. This has negatively affected our food production, leading to a serious food crisis. And as a result, we have been forced to import huge amounts of food using valuable foreign exchange reserves," said President Kibaki….

Offloading avocados in Kenya, photo by USAID

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