Taking place on November 19 and 20 at the Safari Park Hotel, the event will be focusing on what needs to be done to boost economic growth.
The conference themed Stimulating agricultural productivity in order to boost food & nutrition security will broadly discuss food security and investment prospects in Kenya.
As part of efforts to accelerate alleviation of hunger and malnutrition as well as to boost food production in Kenya and across Africa, the private sector under the auspices of KEPSA has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to host this forum.
The conference will enable stakeholders drawn from across seven Africa countries to exchange and share their experiences, present research results, explore collaborations, and to spark new ideas, with the aim of developing new projects and exploiting new technology for food security.
As is widely recognized, East Africa remains one of the world’s hungriest regions.
Research shows that one-third of the people living in East Africa are classified as chronically undernourished, even with the marked improvement in nutritional status over the last decade.
The conference will, therefore, examine what needs to be done to build a more dynamic economy in which agriculture drives the manufacturing agenda which in turn can ensure enough and affordable food
This forum will bring together business leaders in the private sector, economists, government officials, academics and other opinion makers in a lively mix of keynotes, panel discussions, interviews, and research result presentations.
In Kenya, there has been a dwindling of food especially since the discovery of the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) in the year 2011.
MLND affects maize production by stunting growth since the maize plant leaves can no longer effectively synthesise nutrients killing the plants.
Efforts to manage MLND have been in high gear since then and this conference will be a meeting of minds and efforts to help address the issue that has made Kenya become an importer of its staple.
The Kenya government-using funds from Syngenta and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation established the Naivasha Maize Lethal Necrosis Screening facility to address MLND which affects seed production. Infected seeds, in turn, affects food security since they transfer the defect to the plants lowering productivity.
“When there’s no maize, Kenyans say there’s no food even when there’s a lot of yams,” Nyoro adds.
The agronomist who has worked Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation and has been an adviser to the Kenyan Presidency on matters food security advised that Kenyans need to move away from this mentality and adopt other crops for food if they are to avoid the perennial food shortages.
Orphan crops like sorghum, millet and others have for long been side-lined from meal tables which gave maize an edge but risking the country’s food security.
“The country needs to diversify if it is to comfortably feed the burgeoning population. Otherwise, if we stick with the same old policies and structures, this will remain a dream for a country aiming to be a middle income country by 2030,” Nyoro quips.
The issue of biotechnology, especially around Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) remains shrouded in mystery in Kenya.
Those against GMOs fear that the foods will be a threat to health and also to indigenous farming.
Th pro-GMO say that the fears are unfounded and this means will keep experiencing the perennial food shortages. They say that biotechnology should be used to augment agricultural output.
Wanjiru Kamau from the Kenya Organic Agricultural Network (KOAN) says it is better to continue with conventional and traditional farming rather than introduce a technology which may prove fatal in the future.
As an organic farmer, she feels investing in GMOs would be a risk and a gamble with the future food security issues.