Over 370,000 youth to benefit from Sh7.5bn agriculture project

The plan will support young people from 15 countries to promote biofortification and fight against aflatoxin

In Summary
  • Kenya is the regional centre of excellence in dairy, while Uganda is leading in cassava.
  • Ethiopia is leading in wheat, Tanzania in rice and Eritrea in production of  edible oils.
Agriculture and Livestock Development Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi during the 3rd ASARECA Council of Patron Ministers meeting in Nairobi on February 15, 2024.
Agriculture and Livestock Development Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi during the 3rd ASARECA Council of Patron Ministers meeting in Nairobi on February 15, 2024.

Kenya is among 15 countries from the Eastern and Central Africa region that will benefit from a Sh7.5 billion (US$50 million) programme. 

The programme is aimed at supporting youth in agriculture, promoting biofortification and in reducing aflatoxin.

The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa is seeking for $50 million to among other things support over 375,000 youths in engaging in agribusiness.

Agriculture and Livestock Development Cabinet secretary Mithika Linturi said since inception in 1994, ASARECA has worked with the National Agricultural Research Systems' 15 member countries.

It has so far mobilised over Sh39 billion ($258 million) to implement Agricultural Research for Development initiatives in member states.

In Kenya, ASARECA has invested Sh3 billion ($19.91 million) to catalyse agricultural transformation and improve livelihoods.

The CS spoke during the 3rd ASARECA Council of Patron Ministers meeting in Nairobi.

ASARECA is an intergovernmental organisation formed by the governments of 10 countries in 1994, but it has now expanded to 15 member states.

It is led and guided on the governance structure by the Council of Patron Ministers— ministers responsible for agriculture or for agricultural research.

Members countries include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Burundi, Madagascar and Somalia (which joined in May 2023).

Linturi said this has helped in controlling the spread of Banana Xanthomas Wilt by promoting proven measures to control the deadly epidemic in hotspots such as Ugunja in western Kenya.

“This has reduced the prevalence of BXW from over 90 per cent to less than five per cent and restored banana production from zero to 80 per cent. The investment has also increased availability and productivity of water in rain fed and irrigated farms for over 1,500 households in Machakos and Makueni counties,” he said.

He said ASARECA has also supported in coordinating Eastern Africa Agricultural Productivity Project, where Kenya attained the status of the regional centre of excellence for dairy, leading to development of over three million doses of livestock semen among other benefits.

This is in addition to fighting Cassava Brown Streak Disease, leading to the development of tolerant varieties such as Mkombozi that were available to farmers in Kwale, Kilifi and Taita Taveta counties. 

“Kenya has also benefited from scaling out orange-fleshed sweet potato as a cheaper source of vitamin A for children by promoting three varieties, Ejumula, Kabode and Vita in Western Kenya, especially Busia and Bungoma counties,” the CS said.

ASARECA executive director Enock Warinda said the 2024-2028 strategy also seeks to identify regional centres of excellence.

He said regional centres of excellence mean that one country, for example Kenya, leading the other 14 countries in any research on dairy.

“Uganda is leading in cassava, Ethiopia in wheat, Tanzania in rice while Eritrea is to come up with the edible oils. Rwanda is to come in and lead in land husbandry, which is natural resources management,” Warinda said.

He said the strategy also seeks to develop biofortification.

“Biofortification is important because all mothers, whether pregnant or lactating, or young children under five, and even older people, need certain nutrients. This means there are certain foods that need to be biofortified in the right way,” he said.

Warinda added that the strategy will also look into reducing aflatoxin, which is a big problem in the grain subsector because many of the people in the villages are growing maize and groundnuts.

“If you do not have good storage technologies and they eat this, they are eating more or less some poison. We want to bring this up so that our people are free from aflatoxin and they can eat safe food,” he said.

“We want to get more youth in engaging in profitable agriculture, and also support farmers in technologies that can help them increase their productivity and market access,” he said.

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