The thousands of small-scale farmers in the villages remain Kenya's hope for food security and sustained economic growth, leaders have said.
These farmers must be supported to access markets and improve production, they said.
Dr Kanayo Nwanze, president of the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development, said the current focus on urban farming will not feed African countries.
"Small-scale farmers produce 80 per cent of the food we consume. If we can improve transport, storage and markets, we don't need to produce more but handle better what we already produce," he said.
Nwanze said about one million small-scale producers supply 80 per cent of the Kenya's total milk production.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Ombasanjo said he felt "extremely bad" that Africa spends $35 billion (Sh3.5 trillion) every year to import food that could be produced in the continent.
"As an African leader I feel extremely bad because it's extremely unnecessary. Everyone who is doing any effort to produce more food, especially the small-scale farmers, should be celebrated," he said.
Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya's economy and employs three in every five people in Kenya, contributing more than 50 per cent of export earnings.
However, the majority of Kenya’s farmers are poor and one in three of their children are malnourished.
Ombasanjo praised Nwanze for his advocacy in putting Africa's smallholder farmers at the centre of the global agricultural agenda.
Nwanze was awarded the inaugural Sh10 million African Food Prize for reorienting IFAD's work to focus more on making small-scale farming a viable business, as well as expanding IFAD's presence in developing countries.
"Dr Nwanze's accomplishments on behalf of African farmers are a reminder of what's possible when you combine passion, good ideas, commitment, focus, hard work and dedication," Ombasanjo said.
The prize was awarded at the Unep headquarters in Gigiri during the ongoing African Green Revolution Forum.
“I would like to dedicate this award to the millions of African women who silently toil to feed their families,” Nwanze said. “No nation has been able to transform itself without giving women the same rights and opportunities as men.”
Dr Agnes Kalibata, the president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, said that Nwanze’s achievements reflect the ideals the award represents.
“We wish to encourage many others to follow in his footsteps and boldly use the opportunities available to them to change the reality of African farming—from a struggle to survive, to a business that thrives,” she said.
Svein Tore Holsether, president of fertiliser producer Yara International ASA, said Nwanze's work has improved the lives of millions of smallholder farmers.
"With 80 per cent of farms run by smallholders, the key to transforming African agriculture lies in empowering the smallholder farmer, enabling rural value creation and providing jobs for rural youth,” he said.
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