Food security in Kenya

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The national food security situation in Kenya has remained stable, as stocks of most coarse grains improved following the enhanced production and supply of the major food staples. The national maize stocks as at March 31, 2013 stood at 24,723,059 bags, with farmers holding about 17,694,293 bags,traders 3,918,546 bags, millers 644,950 bags and NCPB 2,465,270 bags.

Beans stocks totaled 3,260,584 bags, wheat 735,188 bags and rice 697,046 bags.At an average consumption of 3.72 million bags per month, the surplus of 11,723,004 bags was expected to meet the national maize requirement, with increased inflows from Uganda and Tanzania,and the expected early harvest from the South Rift Region expected to meet any shortfall until the end of the year.

Traditional food crops such as sorghum, millet, sweet potatoes, cassava, pigeon peas, cow peas,green grams and dolichos have been pivotal in ensuring self-sufficiency.These crops are important becauseof their ability to adapt to climate change.

They have an enormous potential for ensuring food security to millions of Kenyans, especially those in arid and semi-arid lands, yet there has been a decline in their production over the years.

This has mainly been due to little support for their research and development, low interest by seed companies to multiply the seeds, low investments on research to develop and promote superior varieties, emergence of pests and diseases, limited knowledge on utilisation and agro – processing to add value and improve marketability.

While good quality seeds and fertiliser are major inputs in crop production, a majority of poor people rely on the informal seed system and often recycle seeds that have declined in quality through generations of cultivation.

Use of poor quality seeds leads to low yields, food security, poor nutrition and low household incomes.

To mitigate these problems, the Ministry of Agriculture initiated the Traditional High Value Crops in 2006. In the programme, basic seed is produced by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) and distributed to farmers groups for bulking and distribution to other farmers.

Since its inception, the project has distributed a total of 5,096 metric tonnes of assorted drought tolerant food crop seeds, 13 million sweet potato vines and 14 million cassava cuttings, all valued at Kshs1.35 billion and reaching 2.4 million farmers.

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