The government has launched an innovation manual with applications geared towards heralding lasting solutions to the cycle of food shortage and poverty in the country.
The Manual, a collaborative research partnership between USAID and two Kenyan universities, has yielded over 600 agricultural innovations which will be disseminated through a countrywide network of 61 public libraries administered by the Kenya National Library Service (KNLS).
The Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and the Arts Dr Hassan Wario said that the five-year Sh1.8 billion project dubbed 'Feed the future Kenya innovation engine' will benefit peasant farmers in 22 counties in a bid to alleviate recurrent food shortage in Kenya.
"We are working with 99,000 peasant farmers in 22 counties, researchers from Maseno University, Nairobi University, KARI, KALRI and a US NGO called Land O'Lakes to come up with several production and marketing mechanisms with an aim of ensuring both maximum yield and profit to the farmers," said Dr Wario over the weekend at Kisumu KNLS Library where he officially received the Manual from the USAID director Mike Carreto and the head of the 'Innovation Project' Tittiane Donde.
Dr Wario said that innovations have the power to transform quality of life by tackling challenges posed by increasing population and food demand against a land size which mostly is static.
He announced that public libraries, which now have free internet, would be leveraged as creative hubs to drive the adoption of agricultural innovation especially by the youth, who are the predominant users of the facilities citing Buru-Buru Library in Nairobi which boasts an average two thousand customers daily.
"We are in the Information Age and Libraries have to be dynamic to survive rather than remain in their comfort zones as lender of books," said the CS.
Speaking at the same event, Principal Secretary for Arts and Culture Mr Joe Okudo said the Ministry was redefining its role to be a 'one-stop destination' for the youth in terms of capacity building, economic productivity and marketing.
Mr Okudo said the cycle of predictable drought and accompanying food shortage in Kenya was a reminder of the need for innovative measures in agriculture as well as collaborative inter-Ministerial programmes.
"Among the innovations featured in this guide is a Livestock Identification and Traceability System (LITS) which creates a database of cattle and cattle owners and tags the animals with tamper-proof tags to reduce livestock theft and enhance the tracking of disease outbreaks," said Okudo.
In the Manual is a 'Do-it-yourself' (DIY) Bluetooth-enabled digital scale that automatically transmits the weight readings of a farmer's produce to the farmer's mobile phone for easy tracking and records management.
This can potentially eliminate scale 'tampering' by data clerks at buying centres for produce such as tea, sugarcane, milk, coffee and fish.
Another application from the Manual is being implemented in Homa Bay and Siaya Counties where 3,000 smallholder farmers around Lake Victoria are involved in consolidation of idle land.
This has resulted in the lease of 760 acres for commercial horticulture with use of the Lake water for irrigation.
Yet another research by Maseno University has led to the introduction of a new maize variety which is resistant to the Striga weed, prevalent in the Lake Region and responsible for up to 30 per cent loss of the maize crop. The new maize variety has thus eliminated the use of chemical control methods.
Meanwhile, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), working with Homeland Dairy Foods Ltd is developing a school meal (UJI PLUS) with deworming properties as an innovative solution to intestinal parasite through a porridge flour fortified with paw paw extracts that have demonstrated deworming properties.