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Kenya host Africa Continental Conference on Organic Farming

by Njoroge Kaburo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya will host an inaugural African continental conference next week to discuss farming systems to mitigate climate change and other ecological challenges, organizers said on Friday.

David Amudavi, lead researcher and executive director of Bio-vision Africa Trust, one of the organizers, said the conference, dubbed International Conference on Agroecology, the first to be held in the horn of Africa, will bring together more than 200 agricultural experts.

Topics will include the dangers of genetically modified organisms and strategies for increasing the uptake of organic initiatives in Africa.

"The conference will converge participants including farmers, scientists, policymakers and organic business entrepreneurs from various countries to discuss a way forward on how to substantially and sustainably reduce the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in the African continent," Amudavi told journalists in Nairobi.

The June 18-21 conference will facilitate the establishment of "truly sustainable food and agriculture systems in the continent," Amudavi said.

"The conference will further provide a platform for discussions on how to enhance ecological trade in the region and transform agricultural and food systems in Africa," he said.


Expert says organic farming critical to achieving food security in Africa

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Use of organic methods of farming and integration of climate-resilient production systems are viable solutions to food insecurity and achieving food safety in Africa, an agricultural expert said on Friday.

Peter Mokaya, executive director of Organic Consumers Alliance, an advocacy group for organic agriculture, said agroecology has the potential to boost food production, food security and nutrition while restoring the delicate ecosystem and biodiversity that are essential for sustainable agriculture and development.

"Not only does the approach offer the prospects for zero hunger, poverty eradication, growth and sustainable resource management, but also remain the safest method to be embraced by the local population," he told a forum in Nairobi.

Mokaya noted the harm that chemicals cause to soils, stressing the urgent need to develop alternatives that will help farmers reduce the use of chemical fertilizers, and ideally to stop using them altogether.

"It is unfortunate that the overuse of chemical fertilizers that were supposed to improve farm yields continue to degrade our lands and makes agriculture not really profitable for farmers, and in some cases leading to a situation where lands are affected by advanced degradation, posing a danger to the food we eat," he said.

The expert said while striving to achieve food security, food safety is an important component that cannot be ignored.

"Considering the potential risks of poisoning, burns, cancers, birth defects and environmental degradation, chemical fertilizers should be used with extreme caution," he said. "At the same time we should reckon that there is no food security without food safety."

Kenya urged to invest more in agriculture

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Experts on Friday urged Kenya to increase investments in the agricultural sector to boost the country’s economic growth.

Ken Gichinga, chief economist at Menotria Economics, said agriculture is the largest sector of the economy that provides the bulk of employment opportunities.

"Investments in the agricultural sector are likely to have the biggest impact on the economy as compared to any other sector," Gichinga said during a post-budget briefing by Ernst and Young.

On Thursday, Kenya launched its 3.02 trillion shilling (30 billion U.S. dollars) budget for 2019/2020 financial year.

In 2003, African heads of state signed the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security that urged the continent to devote at least 10 percent of its budgetary resources to agriculture.

Gichinga said that in the next financial year, Kenya has devoted approximately 550 million dollars to agriculture, which is less than 10 percent of budget.

The average age of a farmer in Kenya is above 50 years, with the youth migrating to urban centers in search of employment opportunities, he noted.

Bitange Ndemo, senior lecturer of the School of Business at the University of Nairobi, said the government is not doing enough to catalyze the growth of the agricultural sector.

Ndemo said Kenya is a net food importer despite having huge tracts of arable land.

Value addition in the agricultural sector could help the country achieve food security, he said.

Ndemo also called for efforts to cut waste in agricultural production.

"Between 30 to 40 percent of agricultural harvest goes to waste," he said.

"There exist innovative solutions that can help to curb the food losses."

Pan African digital platform launched to spur female led agribusinesses

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A pan African digital platform was launched on Thursday to spur growth of female-led agriculture based enterprises through provision of real time information on sources of finance and markets.

The digital platform called Value 4 Her Connect that was launched on the sidelines of the inaugural African women in agribusiness conference underway in Nairobi is an initiative of Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) in partnership with African Women Agribusiness Network and Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF).

"The launch of value for her digital platform is an important step towards digitizing agriculture and putting women agripreneurs on the global market," said Chris Kiptoo, principal secretary in Kenya’s ministry of trade.

He said the digital platform will help female agripreneurs harness opportunities unleashed by establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area.

"The platform will enhance the capacity of African women and youth to trade in agricultural commodities across borders hence contributing to economic growth," said Kiptoo.

Female owners of agri-based enterprises with a working capital not less than 2 million shillings (about 20,000 U.S. dollars) are eligible to enlist in the digital platform to help expand their footprint in the continental and global markets.

Irene Ochem, founder and chief executive officer of AWIEF said the value for her digital platform is expected to boost growth of women and youth owned agribusinesses across Africa.

"The launch of the pioneer digital platform for connecting women in agribusiness was a milestone that will have multiplier impact on our economies and livelihoods," said Ochem.

She said the platform will help connect women in agribusiness to potential investors and networks they require to expand their geographical coverage.

More than 400 women in agribusiness across Sub-Saharan African region have already enrolled in the value for her digital platform and the number is expected to grow thanks to its positive impacts.

Beatrice Gakuba, executive director of African Women Agribusiness Network said the launch of a digital platform is a giant step towards addressing infrastructural, financing and technical hurdles that have derailed growth of female led agri-based enterprises.

"The platform will be a repository of information on markets, agricultural technologies and financial inclusion," said Gakuba.

Michael Sudarkasa, chief executive officer of South Africa based consultancy firm, Africa Business Group, said the value for her digital platform will help female agripreneurs access information on tariffs and phytosanitary standards to ease penetration to overseas markets.

Kenya urges universities to harness agri research, innovation for food security

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Wednesday called on the universities to step up agricultural research and share relevant new technologies with farmers in order to boost food security.

George Magoha, cabinet secretary in the ministry of education, stressed that agriculture was the most feasible and viable way of creating wealth across Africa.

"Adoption of sound agricultural practices is a proven method of poverty alleviation and wealth creation, and this can only be realized through proper research," Magoha said during the official opening of the fifth Nairobi Innovation Week.

He challenged the institutions to implement institutional frameworks that focus on nurturing innovators and researchers who can respond to the agricultural needs of the continent.

"You have been handed a critical pedestal to make societal transformation, you should make maximum use of it," Magoha added.

He said the government was ready to set up a research and innovation fund for continuous research by the varsity researchers in various agricultural thematic areas.

The Kenyan official challenged students to engage in massive research in order to support the government to realize the four development agendas.

"The essence of getting a university degree is to help one understand the societal problems and offer solutions, our university students are not doing enough. this is a call of action to all young innovators to scale up their research and innovation," he noted.

The innovation week forum brings together 88 innovator from universities across East Africa in support of Kenya’s government Big Four Agenda with focus on food and nutrition, manufacturing, housing and health areas.

Kenya to promote fish exports through product certification

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya plans to promote the export of fish through product certification, the standards agency said on Tuesday.

Bernard Njiraini, acting managing director of Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), said in a statement that it has established laboratories for food, agriculture, microbiology, biochemistry and instrumentation.

"The laboratories will offer testing, metrology and calibration services and this will further promote the export of fish and fishery products through product certification," Njiraini said.

He said that the modern laboratories will provide the assurance for all the markets that products meet national safety standards.

Ken Wathome, chairman of the National Standards Council said that KEBS testing laboratories are able to undertake testing of fish.

Wathome noted that in 2015, the European Union approved imports of farmed fish and fishery products from Kenya following a successful submission of the Implementation of Residue Monitoring Plan.

The chairman said that other international markets for fish and fishery products from Kenya include the United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

He added that the expand markets means that Kenya’s exports products meet the international standards.



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