By CATHERINE RIUNGU
As we were going to press, reports reached us that the Department of Horticulture in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries has formed a National Horticulture Transformation Technical Working Group composed of experts in the horticulture industry meant to create harmony and fill the gaps at national, to counties and all the way down to ward levels.
The working group has been broken down further into nine sub-committees with some being responsible for ensuring food safety standards in the country are maintained. This comes at a time there have been incidences of non-communicable diseases associated with consumption of contaminated foods by pathogens and pesticides residues.
Speaking to Hortinews during a visit at his office in Kilimo House, Mr. Joshua Oluyali, the Head of Horticulture Division in the ministry says the group will help in coordination of the industry for seamless flow of information and facilitate the private sector to know what the government is putting in place to spur development in the sector.
The coordination of industry actors is expected to reduce duplication of roles while creating synergies and eventually translate into faster development of the horticulture sub sector.
We, like other stakeholders in this industry welcome this step despite coming quite late in the day for a sector that is fairly stable largely due to its being private sector-driven. If indeed Mr Oluyai succeeds where many efforts have failed to deliver on centralizing information sharing for the sector, it will not only be a milestone but also herald a brighter future as critical gaps will be sealed. The experts in the working group will be identifying challenges facing the industry and suggest solutions.
The nation will be watching what the sub-committee responsible for food safety will recommend considering there are no checks on locally consumed fresh produce unlike the strict enforcement of rules and regulations on exports by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service. Mr Oluyali insists going forward locally sold produce must be tested and certified as safe for human consumption with clear policies on handling and application of pesticides.
This will be achieved by introducing of spray teams that are trained on scouting of pests and diseases, application of different pesticides and pre-harvest interval periods.
The technical team seeks to introduce basics such as the right skills, equipment, and early warning monitoring for outbreak of pests and diseases. Already, some 800 spray teams working in farms under USAid funded pilot programme are in 12 counties to lay the foundation on which the system will be scaled up to cover the entire country.
To mop up excess chemicals exposure, the ministry will facilitate establishment of stores for safe custody of pesticides and spray equipment.
HortiNews, a player in the National Horticulture Transformation Working Group will keep tabs on this development and keep both te sector, the nation and the global community informed on the status of the road towards a better coordinated sector and creation of a safe food supply chain.
We wish the team all the best in realization of a long awaited policy.