7 October 2018

Kenya: Experts - Indigenous Seeds Key in Ensuring Food Security

Photo: Sally Nyakanyaga/IRIN
(File photo).

The solution to achieving food security for the country is based on access to seeds.

This is especially because the quality of seeds determines the quantity of food harvested.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao), about 75 percent of biodiversity has been lost in the last century, globally.

The loss has been caused by, among other things, change of lifestyles and the food that communities opt for and dominance of the seeds industry by multinational companies.

Amidst climate change, however, communities must work towards conserving their indigenous foods which are more tolerant to harsh weather conditions.

PESTS

Besides, these traditional foods are more nutritious and less susceptible to pests and diseases.

These were some of the sentiments that emerged at an event that aimed at creating awareness on ways and need to conserve indigenous seeds and promote open seeds sourcing systems.

Dubbed 'Disrupt', the event was organised by Hivos, an international non-governmental organisation.

It brought together various stakeholders in the agricultural sector including NGOs, farmers and agripreneurs among others.

Hivos Programmes Manager Richard Kagwama said 'disrupt' means interfering with the current seeds system by promoting open seeds access and exchange of indigenous seeds among farmers, as opposed to having the seeds sector controlled by multinationals.

BIG FOUR

"One of the agendas under Vision 2030 is to achieve food access for all, and this can only be achieved by first ensuring access to seeds for all farmers," said Mr Kagwamba, adding that the issue of food access is also among the top four agendas of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He added that the 'disrupt' idea aims at working with entrepreneurs to deliberate on ways of promoting indigenous seeds as well as traditional foods.

If entrepreneurs in the rural areas adopt this as a profitable business, then they will work hard to ensure they promote traditional seeds and foods, thus enhancing food security.

"We need to view organic and climate-friendly seeds as a viable agribusiness, that also promotes the use of integrated pests management (IPM) as opposed to use of chemicals, some of which are harmful to peoples' health," Mr Kagwamba said.

MENTORSHIP

The event, which was held at Strathmore Business School, also brought together experts who mentored seeds entrepreneurs who already have operational businesses.

In a bid to promote open seeds entrepreneurship, Hivos held a mentorship programme for seeds entrepreneurs, which involved a two-day mentorship and climaxed with a presentation by each company.

Eight entrepreneurs in the seeds sector held a competition through which they explained to the judges how their businesses had impact as entrepreneurial investments, their social returns, environmental conservation as well as climate change-friendly.

Caroline Alango, the director of Dashcrop Limited, emerged the winner for her role in promoting indigenous foods in western Kenya.

SMALL SCALE FARMERS

Her company, she said, buys finger millet from small scale farmers, aggregates it and sells it in bulk to East Africa Breweries Limited.

Besides, she added, her company also bulks cassava, amaranth and lentils among other crops from small scale farmers.

The company, she added, works with over 14,000 small scale farmers across the value chains, giving them an assured market for their produce.

Ordinarily, small scale farmers suffer due to lack of markets owing to their little production.

They would, therefore, be more assured of a market when they either have a way of aggregating produce or sell as groups.

Agrifor Limited emerged as the first runners up in the competition.

Samuel Muema, the company's CEO, explained that they offers seed and seedlings.

All the eight participating companies will be supported through further mentorship and linkages to vital connections like financial institutions in a bid to promote their businesses.

The companies will also receive mentorship on access to information and facilities that are vital for growing their businesses.

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