Kenyan farmers are challenging the state to increase investment in indigenous seeds as debate rages on over the Cabinet’s decision to lift ban on genetically modified crops.
According to the farmers who have benefitted from Knowledge Hub for Eastern Africa programme run by Biovision Africa Trust, there is potential risk of losing indigenous seeds as government plans to issue at least 11 metric tonnes of seeds for planting during the long rain season next year.
Efforts by the government to ensure food security and nutrition continues to be hammered by prevailing drought that has now affected 24 counties with millions now at risk of hunger.
Farmers are now uneasy with the looming possible neglect of indigenous seeds which research has found to be more nutritious and fetch higher market prices.
“I don’t think GMO is the Solution to the current food,” said Evelyn Riripon, a farmer from west Pokot.
“We have enough indigenous seeds. The problem is water. If the government can ensure farmers have enough water, we can plant all kinds of cereals and vegetables,” she added.
There has been a heated debate ever since the decision by the Cabinet to lift ban on cultivation, sale and importation of GMO on October 3, 2022 with many saying there needs to be an open debate on the subject in order to reach consensus.
“As our own population in this country keeps increasing and the need to increase production is certainly paramount. But we would like to increase production and at the same time consider issues of nutrition and health and that is why what we produce, how we produce are important questions that we take into account,” said Dr David Amudavi, BvAT Executive Director.
Through the Knowledge Hub for Eastern Africa programme which is run by Biovision Africa Trust and funded by the German government 150,000 farmers have been trained on ecological farming as the programme enters phase two targeting 10,000 more farmers.
“The demand globally for organic food is increasing very much in deed and this became during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone was saying we have to eat the healthy way because those who were eating the healthy way seem to have been recovering very quickly from infections,” added Dr Amudavi.
The government is now being urged to boost availability, production and distribution of indigenous seeds in the wake of the lifting of the GMO ban.
“Consumers and producers have to sit together say what’s the future we want. It’s not about ideology or someone from abroad telling people what to do. The discussion should be there in order to find solution. So whatever the solution for Kenya will be, if the government decides GMO is the solution maybe, but it’s the society to take charge,” added Andreas Schriber, BvAT Chairman.
Through the Knowledge Hub for Eastern Africa, BvAT helps disseminate information on sustainable farming solutions such as ecological farming to farmers in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda with phase two of the programme to also include Madagascar.
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