Fertilizer alone will not boost production, says Kiunjuri

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The Ministry Agriculture is implementing the agricultural sector transformation and growth strategy aimed at transforming the nationwide subsidy programme.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mwangi Kiunjuri said that fertilizer use in Kenya has gone up by 20 percent since 2007 when the government begun the subsidy programme but the yields have remained the same and this means that giving fertilizer alone is not sufficient.

In a speech read on his behalf by Agriculture Principal Secretary (PS) Hamadi Boga on Monday during the launch of the book titled ‘Feeding Africa’s soils’ which has been published by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Kiunjuri said that they want to target one million high yield and deserving households and empower them to access a range of inputs that included fertilizer.

“In the past, we have been distributing fertilizer and seeds but now we want to be undertaking soil testing and distribute the fertilizer according to the soil test results. We will also distribute lime which is mandatory as well as other agrochemicals,” explained Kiunjuri.

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He added that access to affordable fertilizer is critical especially to the small holder farmers considering that there was ‘only so much that we can do to raise productivity even if we increase the acreage of land under agriculture.”

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“Kenya under the Big4 agenda has prioritized food security as one of the pillars of growing the country and we are all focused on food production so that the majority of Kenyans who rely on agriculture can have food security,” said Kiunjuri.

The CS said that there were many efforts that stakeholders are putting in place to raise agricultural activities and fight poverty adding that to push the Big4 agenda, there are certain policy changes that everybody needs to make in fighting hunger and poverty and the government has in the recent past made a number of policy choices towards attracting investments in agriculture.

“The ministry in collaboration with other stakeholders is in the process of finalizing the integrated soil fertility management policy that seeks to address issues related to sustainable agricultural land management, soil and environmental management, technology development and dissemination of information,” highlighted the CS.

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He said that in Kenya, soil acidity is a major problem affecting 13 percent of land area covering about 7.5 million hectares under maize, legumes, tea, coffee and it affects over five million small holder farmers.

“Findings of a 2016 report on soil acidity in Kenya showed three main things; that less than four percent of Kenyan farmers are aware of soil problems, less than eight percent carry out chemical analysis on soils, less than three percent apply lime to the soil and this demonstrates that we need to undertake a lot of education about soil studies to the farmers and that is why the issue of extension services is very important,” said Kiunjuri.

“Farmers need to adopt other technologies like conservation farming which ensures that even if there is insufficient rains, they have enough water to take the cops into maturity. I have seen a farmer who can retain water for 120 days while his neighbours are asking the government for food relief,” he explained.

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AGRA president Dr. Agnes Kalibata said that soil testing is very important especially for Africa, the cradle of mankind, thus her soils have been in use longer which leaves it susceptible to environmental pressures like soil erosion.

According to Dr. Kalibata, fertilizers play a critical role in soil fertility but a lot of testing needed to be done to provide the right fertilizer for the right soil and crops.

“Blending fertilizer to specific crop requirements is a concept that is gaining traction as it pays attention to both the soil and environmental needs,” said Dr. Kalibata.

She explained that 30 to 40 percent of the food produced in the world comes from new grounds and this is not sustainable insisting that there was need for afforestation in these lands and use of fertilizer to improve the production in the existing lands.

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