Kenya should encourage small-holder farmers to embrace nature-based food production systems that guarantee food security and climate resilience amid shocks linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists said on Saturday.
Mary Nyasimi, executive director of Nairobi-based Inclusive Climate Change Adaptation for a Sustainable Africa, said that ecologically friendly agricultural practices have the potential to shield rural farmers from negative impacts of the pandemic and climatic shocks.
“Having agro-ecology embedded in existing agricultural, food, environmental and climate change policies is important so that when implementation and budgetary allocations are made for such policies, agro-ecology can also be part of it,” said Nyasimi.
She was a co-author of a recent study commissioned by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Biovision Foundation and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, which found that agroecology boosted food security, incomes and climate resilience for Kenyan small-holders.
The study titled “The potential of agroecology to Build Climate-Resilient Livelihoods and Food Systems”, says that greater adoption of nature-based farming practices is key to address rural poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
Nyasimi said that small-holder farmers should leverage on compost manure, agro-forestry and crop rotation in order to improve crop yield, restore soil fertility and sustain the health of vital ecosystems like wetlands.
She said that policy shift combined with awareness targeting farmers and consumers is key to boost uptake of agroecology at the small-holder level.
“Kenya needs strong consumer movements to advocate for agroecology farming practices,” said Nyasimi adding that demand for organically grown food has gained steam in many African countries amid their health benefits.
Frank Eyhorn, CEO, Biovision Foundation said that a shift to farming practices that promote conservation of habitats has the potential to lift Kenyan small-holders from abject poverty while shielding them from climatic stresses.
“Decision-makers must reset the course towards agro-ecology and agrobiodiversity based approaches in order to be able to deal with climate change and provide farmers a decent economic and social livelihood,” said Eyhorn.
Kenya is among African countries that have developed robust policies to promote agroecology as devolved units spearhead efforts to boost its uptake among smallholder-farmers who produce more than 70 percent of staples consumed locally.