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World Bank expert advises smallholder farmers to invest more on right farming technologies

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THURSDAY OCTOBER 20 2016
Rice farmers plant the crop at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme.
Rice farmers plant the crop at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme. A World Bank expert has urged smallholder farmers to invest more in precision agriculture. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

·         Dr Ladisy recommends that the government should empower smallholder farmers, acquire land and lease out the schemes to the farmers to manage for maximum returns.
·         The government should also invest in human capital, trained labour has much higher mobility than untrained ones.

By LEOPOLD OBI
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Smallholder farmers in areas facing land and water constraints have been advised to invest more on right technologies which allow precision agriculture and guarantee high returns at the same time.
Precision agriculture entails approaches such as use of drip irrigation and green-houses so that to ensure that only crops which need water or fertilisers receive the inputs.
Dr Ladisy Chengula, lead agriculture economist at World Bank, says such interventions protect crops during shocks which has been intensified by climate change impacts.
In September this year the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) issued drought alerts for 11 counties and an alarm for one. According to the authority’s early warning bulletins, Narok, Kajiado, Taita-Taveta, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Kitui, Makueni, Marsabit and Garissa counties are experiencing a decline in food and livestock production as well as water supply.
The food security situation in the counties is expected to get worse in the coming weeks, the authorities warned.
Food security situation comes in the wake of increasing investment in agriculture by the government which the expert World Bank agricultural economist has faulted as unsustainable and therefore a waste of resources.
Government run irrigation projects such as the 10,000 acre model farm that forms the first phase of the Galana-Kulalu one million acre food security project has terribly failed due to claims of mismanagement and runaway corruption.
EMPOWER SMALLHOLDER FARMERS
Initially the Sh7 billion irrigation project was meant to address the country’s perennial maize deficit of 20 million bags of the grains, but  in the end, the project produced only 10 bags rather than the targeted 40 bags of 90kg per acre on it first harvest.
“Nearly all the irrigation schemes in the country managed by the government, for instance Galana-Kulalu irrigation project have failed to give yields as have been expected,” Dr Ladisy pointed out, during the commemoration of international day of poverty eradication at the World Bank Group offices in Upper Hill, Nairobi.
Dr Ladisy instead recommends that the government should empower smallholder farmers, acquire land and lease out the schemes to the farmers to manage for maximum returns.
He says that unless resilience is built poverty will not end.
“The government should also invest in human capital, trained labour has much higher mobility than untrained ones,” said the expert, adding that farmers in the village should aggregate to overcome challenges of market access and poor prices.


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