Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Food security: some ideas

The second part of this post looks at some ideas on bringing about food security. And their pros and cons:
  1. Paying farmers market prices or improved prices: The two are not necessarily the same but, we can't expect that farmers will farm at a loss for even 2 or 3 years in a row without abandoning the whole thing altogether and joining their brethren in the slums. In particular, young generation who are naturally drawn to lights will have fewer reasons to choose agriculture over urban setting if the industry doesn't pay. The milk industry wasn't revived by writing off debt, but by paying famers for their milk on time and decent prices. From getting ksh9 per litre every 3/4 months, they now regularly get late teens or early 20s per litre paid at the end of the month.
  2. Encourage the growth/stabilisation of co-operatives: 3 words. Economies of scale.
  3. Commodities exchange: There is nothing special about a tea/coffee exchange/auction market. We should also have one for any other agriculture commodities that we deem important for our economy. Starting with maize...Probably not useful for perishable goods but can be captured as a signal. Would be useful in meat/milk sectors.
  4. Streamline the industry: the mushrooming middlemen phenomena will lead to a fragmented agriculture sector. Economies of scale is no respecter of industry. If farmers can't or don't want to grow together, they will be brought down separately.
  5. Growth of traditional foods: knowhow of how and when to grow is still there. However, there are reasons they've been abandoned. As an example, growing up, sweet potatoes and arrows roots were in abundance. No so today because arrowroots for example perform best in near swampy conditions which have dried up. Cash has also played a role. So why not create an active market for these crops. I've never seen Uchumi, Nakummat stock traditional foods (millet, sorghum, ndengu (until recently), arrow roots, cassava). This despite the fact that so many like these foods as shown by their love of traditional (tribe) nights at Pan Afric and elsewhere.
  6. Promote Kenyan crops: cookery programmes that show peeps how to cook certain crops will encourage their consumption
  7. R&D: Kenya has 20% of land that is arable i.e. farmable without significant intervention in form of irrigation and the like. To feed Kenyans, we must produce more per acre at a rate that keeps up with our population growth. We are not doing that. We are doing the opposite in fact. KARI was setup in recognition of the role of agriculture in our nation. Who evaluates KARI? What it its success rate in developing and disseminating the following to farmers:
    -drought resistant crops and animals
    -higher yielding crops that require less fertiliser
    -fast growing trees that don't require the water uptake of such trees as blue gum, but give the country the same resource i.e. rain capture, usage potential
    -all year round crops that feed the nation. Maize can't be grown unless in the rain season or harvested unless its hot. Any way of reversing this?
    -popularising traditional crops
    You'd be surprised that a lot of the above are in its targets, but I didn't see the corresponding side i.e. what has been delivered?

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