Wanted; innovations in agricultural production

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If so, that idea is wanted by the Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Programme.

The five-year project (KFIE ) is seeking to build partnerships with individuals and institutions with innovative approaches that have proven ability to improve productivity in horticulture, staple and dairy sectors for food security and nutrition.

It is being implemented by Land O’ Lakes and funded by the United States Agency for International Development USAID, under President Barack Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative to improve food security in developing and poor countries of which Kenya is a beneficiary.

Selected innovations will be identified and scaled up to widen the reach in some 15 counties where the programme is operating among them Meru, Tharaka Nithi, and Taita Taveta.

“The innovations must be game-changing”, says Land O’ Lakes Agriculture Innovations Manager, Pauline Mugendi. “We are scouting for novel ideas that will change the way we have been handling agriculture,” she says.

The organization is calling for concept notes from which selected ideas will submit proposals and those with potential to bring a revolution to productivity earmarked for partnership.

“The innovations we are looking for are those that will help to tackle generic challenges most of which are already known”, said Ms Mugendi.

The feed the future innovation programme cuts across government, private sector and development partners as ways are sort to feed the world’s ballooning population. According to Ms Mugendi, the project’s officers have moved across the country and identified some innovations that require scaling up and replication. “This is why we want to create a platform where these good ideas can be borrowed, scaled up and replicated to benefit as many players as possible,” she said.

The first call for concept notes will focus on the horticultural sub-sector which has over the years grown to become a major foreign exchange earner, provided the much needed employment to the society and contributed to food security. The sub-sector employs approximately 8 million people countrywide directly in production, processing, and marketing, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The sector is earmarked as a key industry for support as a pillar of Vision 2030, the social-economic blueprint that seeks to propel Kenya into a middle-level income nation in the next 20 years.

The goal of developing these technologies is to address specific and targeted horticultural productivity constraints and ultimately enhance farmers’ incomes and livelihoods.

Some of the challenges that have been identified by KFIE in the sub-sector include; rain-fed agriculture which the program appreciates cannot provide sustainable food production and must be replaced with alternative mechanisms driven by innovative irrigation technology.

Other productivity constraints in the horticulture sub-sector along the value chain are high prices of farm inputs, poor quality seeds, and limited access to suitable credit facilities.

Marketing is also a major problem for smallholder producers where middlemen frequently exploit them by offering low farm gate prices for both export crops and produce for local market. The problem is aggravated by lack of cold storage facilities, poor post harvest handling techniques, and congested markets. Poor road infrastructure in production areas contribute to high post harvest losses and higher transportation costs.

The sub-sector is further affected by high incidences and inadequate technical knowledge in the management of pests and diseases leading to loss of produce and rejection in the markets.

Smallholder commercial horticulture is also constrained by inadequate technical information and skills due to lack of organized

sources of information.

The innovations that the programme is targeting include, decentralized development and adoption of improved, healthy planting materials for horticultural crops; innovations that increase water use efficiency; alternative, efficient, and safe crop protection technologies; post-harvest handling and value addition technologies; use of agricultural ICT platforms and innovative agricultural financing models