BY GUSII TEAM
The Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) wants County Governments to support farmers groups in establishing markets for organic foods in the effort to scale up production and consumption of healthy food in the country.
PELUM Kenya Chairman Collins Othieno says these markets are significant in the bid to spur more than 15,000 small holder farmers across the country in to safe production of food for a healthy nation while they improve their livelihoods.
He was speaking in Nakuru during the Agroecology Symposium that brought together over 3,000 small holder farmers affiliated to 56 member organizations promoting organic Agriculture and climate change.
Othieno advised devolved units to devote resources towards promotion of agroecology-safe land use practices in a bid to encourage farmers to adopt best farming practices that will conserve the environment and make soils on their farms more productive.
Participants in the annual symposium called on County and National Governments to heed the Maputo declaration of 10 percent of their total budgets to the Agriculture sector saying this will enhance training of farmers in safe land use practices and awareness creation for increased uptake of organic food among citizens.
At a time when mechanization is fast gaining traction on farms, Othieno challenged farmers to incorporate indigenous knowledge in their practices in the effort of preserving their heritage.
Othieno called on Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to support available farmer managed seed systems by regular training about appropriate sorting and preservation before planting.
He noted that multisector support for community seed banks will help in enabling farmers to sustain expanded breeding of indigenous seeds, growth of indigenous crops and ensure a constant supply of indigenous seeds for planting.
He pointed out the need for preservation and planting of indigenous seeds which he said are scientifically proven to be of high nutrition value as compared to genetically modified seeds.
The Chairman urged the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) to sustain its awareness about the dangers of harmful pesticides and make public harmful pesticides likely to be used by unsuspecting famers.
PELUM Kenya Country Director Rosinnah Mbenya called on County Governments to integrate agroecology in their agricultural policies saying this will ensure large and small scale farmers practice organic Agriculture which advocates against use of synthetic chemicals in food production and sustainable land use practices.
Mbenya said adoption of indigenous seeds enables farmers to produce crops that are resistant to drought and this minimizes losses.
She noted that consumption of organically produced food will reduce cancer related illnesses associated with ingestion of carcinogenic substances found in food produced using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
Small holder urban farmers who spoke at the symposium called on the County Government of Nakuru to promote Organic urban Agriculture and markets to help them improve their incomes.
Official figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries indicate that there are 2 million farmers in Africa practicing Organic Agriculture and 20,000 of them are in Kenya.
Advocates for organic agriculture have been calling for concerted efforts to expand research in organic farming and streamlined policies that will attract investment in the model of farming.
Experts say with inexhaustible organic food markets in Europe and the United States of America, Kenyan farmers who are venturing in organic Agriculture have a potential to increase their earnings.