May 13, 2022 - 5 minutes read

Agroecology is the magical bullet to Food Insecurity and Sustainable Farming in Kenya

By Naisiae Simiren

Agroecology is the application of ecological principles to agricultural systems. Studies reveal that agroecology offers solutions to the ongoing farming and food security challenges in Kenya such as drought, hunger, poverty, and inequality. Agroecology supports small scale farmers in diversity and ensures long-term balance between food production and the sustainability of natural and environmental resources. 

The proposed Finance Bill 2022 does not contain fertiliser price subsidies which the government has previously been providing. This means that farmers will have to grapple with high agricultural production costs. High farm input costs have a domino effect in the increase in food costs which Kenyans are already struggling with in the ever-increasing cost of living.  The cost of living has gone up all over the world which further necessitates national intervention. Agroecology transforms food systems and ensures resilience by balancing between socio-economic and environmental facets.

The Finance Bill 2022 proposes to increase excise duty on alcoholic products such as beer. Beer for instance relies on barley and sorghum for its production. In embracing agroecology, the sorghum farmer, for instance, can replace the harmful pesticides with bio-pesticides which are environmentally friendly such as desmodium grass. The desmodium grass naturally repels pests and suppresses weeds such as striga therefore reducing soil degradation. High striga infestations reduce yield productivity. Studies by research institutes show that desmodium grass increases yield results which addresses the issue of hunger and poverty as the farmer not only has enough for subsistence consumption but also for commercial purposes.

Another agroecological practice includes change in planting methods, row planting at a spacing of 60x20cm or 60×30 cm would increase high cereals yield productivity and make weeding and harvesting efficient. This method of planting is proposed against the traditional broadcasting method of planting. Broadcasting planting method uses more labour during weeding and harvesting and wastes seed during plantation.

Intercropping is also another agroecological practice that should be encouraged. Sorghum and barley farmers can intercrop with crops such as sorghum-cowpeas and barley-peas. These crops not only improve nitrogen and carbon content but also ensure crop rotation and ecosystem photosynthesis. Ecosystem photosynthesis occurs when plants use the process of photosynthesis to transform water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide into oxygen, and simple sugars that the plant uses as fuel. All these practices corroborate towards food security which is among the Big Four agenda. Increase in yield productivity in all types of crop farming guarantees sufficient food which addresses food security challenges such as hunger and poverty.

A report by Tegemeo Institute reveals that farmers, especially sorghum and barley farmers, were negatively impacted during the Covid-19 outbreak. Closure of bars led to a reduction in alcohol consumption which meant reduction in alcohol manufacturing and demand for the grains. The current tax increase proposals in the Finance Bill will only worsen the situation as the country is yet to economically recover from the effects of the pandemic. The government should work with all relevant stakeholders and policy makers to identify policies that can incorporate agroecology in reviving the country’s economy and achieving the Big Four agenda on food security. This can include reducing tax increments on products that will have a negative impact on farmers and introducing agroecology policies for sustainability. This will see Kenya achieve several sustainable development goals such as; zero hunger, no poverty and ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns.

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