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Kenya task force seeks to revamp sugar sub sector

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Wednesday formed a taskforce to help revamp the sugar industry which is facing a lot of challenges.

Mwangi Kiunjuri, cabinet secretary in ministry of agriculture, livestock and irrigation, said that the task force will help identify the challenges and offer practical solutions which would address the industry’s competitiveness.

“Over the years, the sugar sub sector has suffered a number of challenges which have led to inadequate production of sugar for national consumption and for export hence denying steady income to farmers,” Kiunjuri said during the launch of the taskforce in Nairobi.

He noted that through the implementation of the recommendations of the task force, all the stakeholders in the value chain will achieve value from their endeavors.

Kiunjuri said that the recommendations will also address the challenge of the current uncompetitiveness of the industry as well as contribute to the economic growth of the country.

Sugarcane farmers in Kenya are faced with low cane supply, cane poaching, aging equipment, obsolete technology and high debt portfolio, among others.

The move follows a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta recently that a sugar industry taskforce be established to look into ways of how it can become vibrant and benefit farmers.

During their tenure, the task force members will review the policy, legal, regulatory and institutional framework of the sugar industry and make appropriate recommendations.

They will also review past, present and emerging challenges; review the value chain including research and review importation and taxation structures in the sugar sector.

The team that has 30 days to present their findings will also undertake an absolute and comparative assessment of the sugar industry’s competitiveness in the East African Community, the Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa and globally.



FAO unveils toolbox to boost solar powered irrigation in East Africa

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Wednesday unveiled a toolbox to help promote solar powered irrigation across the east Africa region.

Michael Gitonga, FAO’s land and water officer for Kenya, said that the solar-powered irrigation systems (SPIS) will be used to scale up solutions for irrigation and other productive uses, such as livestock watering, homestead gardening and domestic uses.

“The toolbox will help increase arable land since land used for agriculture under rain fed is already shrinking,” Gitonga said during a meeting for irrigation experts from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana and Nigeria held in Nairobi.

Gitonga observed that even though solar pumps are commonly used for drinking water supply in East Africa, there is a need to better understand the feasibility, applicability and their potential in other areas.

He said that with the reduction of water due to climate change, there is need for supplementary irrigation in food production to help feed the increasing population in the region.

“The introduction of the toolbox will play an important role in increasing food productivity per acreage and also increase production from arid and semi-arid lands into serious food producing areas,” he noted.

The FAO official said that there has been a growing interest in solar technologies in recent years because they are relatively affordable, climate friendly and adaptable to different contexts.

“Solar enables farmers to produce food when there is low rainfall and during off seasons,” he added. Gitonga noted that the new toolbox has made farming through solar irrigation interesting especially for the youths.

He revealed that the UN agency has carried out a number of relevant studies, including an assessment of water resources in Kalobeyei and Kakuma in northern Kenya looking for applicability for refugee camps and host communities.

Gitonga noted that given the plenty of sunshine and willingness of the private sector in support of solar power, the regional countries are capable of producing plenty of food both for local consumption and export.

He however noted that the new initiative requires building of capacity for users, proper financing, good water quality and quantity and hectares of land to irrigate to help make a difference.

The official said that the workshop is meant to provide participants with an overview of what is needed to make solar technologies work in different contexts - finance, design, set-up and irrigation management and how to create an enabling environment for the sustainable use of SPIS.

SPIS provides a clean alternative to fossil fuels and enables the development of low-carbon irrigated agriculture.

The toolbox was developed by FAO in collaboration with German Technical Corporation. Enditem


Kenya starts data collection on farming

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s agriculture ministry said Thursday it has embarked on data collection on farming to help improve agricultural productivity.

Mwangi Kiunjuri, cabinet secretary for agriculture, livestock, fisheries and irrigation, said the move has been necessitated due to lack of proper data on the agricultural sector.

“We have started registering farmers countrywide so that we may know their exact number and acreage of land that they own,” Kiunjuri said during a sorghum forum in Nairobi.

The data is expected to help inform on soil fertility levels in all parts of the country and offer information to farmers on what fertilizers to use and what seeds to plant, Kiunjuri said.

“The data will help us know the root cause of problems that has led to low performance of the agricultural sector,” he added.

Kiunjuri said the data, which will be used to spur growth of the sector, will be unveiled and disseminated to farmers in the middle of next year.

The government has formed a cereal enhancement program to look at the quality of seeds, introduce drought-tolerant and early-maturing seed varieties, he said.

Kiunjuri noted that the government is considering introducing contract farming in the country to save farmers from suffering food wastes.

“We are working on blending of maize, sorghum and cassava flour in one packet to help reduce over-reliance on maize and help reduce malnutrition in the country,” he added.


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