I am happy to come home and join you at this year’s Migori Agricultural Show. This has been our show over many years. We have an obligation to support it and to relive the memories that come with it. More importantly, this is a great moment to emphasize that Migori has a huge potential for Agriculture.
MigoriCounty can and must be able to feed itself and feed Nyanza. The county has rich agricultural land that can support all sorts of traditional crop farming in addition to horticulture. The farm lands are supported by expansive low lying fields that are suitable for other farming activities like livestock and beekeeping.
We have expansive water bodies, including several permanent rivers and a lake that should support extensive aquaculture. No child in this county should die of hunger and starvation or suffer malnutrition. That can only happen if we place highest priority on agriculture and food security as the basis for economic transformation of the county.
We need to create a Migori County Food Basket Fund that will finance Innovations, Interventions and Strategic Partnerships that will initially be implemented here, then extended to other parts of Nyanza and neighbouring counties. We need approaches that highlight agriculture and food security,supported by investment in strategic transport infrastructures, energy development and Information Communication Technology as the springboard for growth.
Our focus on improving agriculture and food security must include innovative interventions that include subsidies, improved extension services, increased budgetary allocations, private sector involvement and affordable information and communications technology.
For effective performance, we must map out the County with a view to establishing what agricultural activities are suitable for which parts of our expansive and geographically diverse county. Not all parts of this county can grow maize, or keep dairy cattle. Not all parts are good for livestock.The one size fits all approach will not serve us well and has to be abandoned.
We must embark on efforts to promote and protect our farmers. If Rongo, Uriri, Suna, Nyatike and Kuria can give us milk and vegetables, the farmers in these areas must be assisted and shielded from importation of these same products. This county should not allow the importation of what is or can be produced here.
We must aggressively provide subsidies for smallholder farmers, especially women, to enable them produce beyond subsistence. Peasant farmers are the cornerstone of food security in many parts of this county. They must not be ignored in favour of big farmers.
Subsidies to these farmers ought to be directed towards the purchase of fertilizers, improved seeds, pesticides, tractors and irrigation equipment, extension services, and marketing. The County cannot realize its potential in agriculture without taking interest on the seeds they plant and how the produce get stored and then get to the markets.
We must invest in efficient utilization of land and water resources for irrigation, increased soil fertility management technologies, increased access to farm inputs, mitigation against climate change, use of improved seed for drought tolerance, improvement of storage facilities to reduce post-harvest food loss, value addition and marketing systems for agriculture products.
Investing in the prevention of heavy post-harvest food losses is critical and urgent. So is provision of reliable storage facilities for harvested crop.
The County government needs to determine and invest in the staple food crops grown in different parts of the county.
These staple food crops like millet, finger millet, cassava, simsim and ground nuts have stood the test of time. They are naturally suited to the soils and weather of the regions where they have been grown for generations. And today, these crops have found their way on to the breakfast and dinner tables of nearly all middle class homes and five star hotels. We have a reason to invest in them and promote their production.We should encourage local farmers and investors to invest in and grow any staple food crops for export to other parts of the country where these are needed.
Climate change has significantly affected our agriculture through altered rainfall patterns. We must, as a county, invest in educating our farmers on this phenomenon and help them mitigate its effects and adapt to the changes it brings.
Other than educating the farmers, let’s introduce “green belts” along our perennial rivers and lake basins. These would provide new arable lands for growing a variety of food and cash crops.
We must combat shortages of rainfall resulting from climate change by embarking on extensive irrigationprogrammes and through increased investment in water development for irrigation farming and mechanization. The ox plough can no longer help us meet our food needs. The days of the hoe are long gone.
We must pursue extensive reforestation. Huge sections of these county, particularly in the low lying sub-counties in Nyatike and neighbouring regions have lost all forests to charcoal burners and firewood fetchers. We must address this.
Our agricultural transformation must be supported by efficient transport infrastructure in order to transport food more efficiently and cheaply from surplus to deficit regions and also to access markets. Our farmers must not be stuck with produce or be forced to sell at throw away prices just because they cannot access markets because of bad roads.
The sum total of all these requirements is that we must increase investment in agriculture through budgetary allocation and funding from development partners. And we must put our money where it will give us best value.
Thank You and God Bless You.