Israel, Kenya can improve food security together

Thursday, August 20th, 2020 00:00 |
Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security. Photo/PD/file

Agriculture is a crucial component of any nation. It is no wonder that President Uhuru Kenyatta has placed food security as one of the Big 4 Agenda.

Kenya is a rich country with vast lands that are mostly arable. And even in the arid and semi-arid areas, the situation is not as grim as in desert lands like in Israel.

However, external factors could affect agriculture such as climate change, widespread global desertification and water crises, extinction of animal and plant species, and with it, a huge damage to biodiversity.

These and other issues are threatening our ability to supply food over the long term.

As a result, there is great importance in preparing ourselves for guaranteeing food security and for agricultural production by means that do not adversely affect the environment and climate.

Coivd-19 has further complicated and exposed a global economic crisis: the world is unprepared for food security.

Leading food producers have placed limitations on export of agricultural goods , interruptions have been encountered along the global supply chains, the decline in demand and purchasing power due to global economic recession, shortage of farm-hands and the contraction of disease amongst workers in the food-packing factories.

The UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 shows that the world is not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 and, despite some progress, most indicators are off track to meet global nutrition targets.

The World Food Programme (WFP), states that the number of people suffering from acute challenge on food security will double from 135 million people 2019 to 265 million at the end of 2020.

Harsh circumstances that Israel has faced since its re-establishment in 1948 - from hostile neighbours to tough climatic conditions, forced usto adapt creative technologies to bloom the desert, thus becoming a leader in innovative agriculture. 

Drip-irrigation is a best example of this. Moving to irrigated farming would increase crop yield, save water and greenhouse gases, and, over time, create food security.

It is worth noting that most agricultural crops in many parts of the world are still grown by ‘dry farming’, that is farming reliant on rain for irrigation.

“Precise agriculture”, which supplies all plants’ needs on an almost individual basis, is another example.

Today, sensors are capable of informing precisely how much water and fertiliser is required for each tree and from what diseases it is suffering.

Subsequently, individualised treatment, often administered via drones or other methods, is implemented.

The use of satellites for information gathering and remote sensing, computerised greenhouses and continuous monitoring of temperature, humidity, pests, insects, from afar also increase agricultural crop yields and create more food.

Having said the above, the government of Israel has been cooperating with the Kenyan government in different aspects of agriculture.

The 11-month agricultural training programme involves sending Kenyan graduates to Israel to undertake a theoretical and practical training that exposes them to Israel’s technological expertise and experience.

At this juncture the Embassy sought to take this collaboration a step further and engaged students who returned to Kenya to ensure the training would continue to benefit them and their communities.

On August 5, the Embassy organised, ‘AgriNow2020’ to transform trained students to agripreneurs.

They were given the opportunity to present their agribusiness ideas and to connect with government institutions, financial partners, agricultural organisations, Israeli companies in Kenya, in an effort to jointly address Kenya’s food security challenges.

In the wake of Covid-19, it is crucial to understand the fragility of the global food supply chains, the vulnerability of food security to  disturbance, and to increase local food production in large-scale.

Israel would be both happy and honoured to continue to partner with a friend and ally like Kenya, and together explore solutions that would make our nations resilient in food supply even in unprecedented and times. — The writer  is the Ambassador of Israel to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Seychelles.   

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