The Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with Kenya Editors’ Guild hosted a webinar on June 12 on the theme ’Widening the Food Basket’. The Ministry had released a raft of reforms aimed at restructuring governance and operations in the Strategic Food Reserves, to address challenges in the agriculture sector so as to achieve 100% food nutrition security in line with the Big Four Agenda pillar. The forum was aimed at engaging the editors in explaining the rationale of these reforms and to answer key policy decisions surrounding the reforms.

Prof, Hamadi Boga, Principal Secretary in State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research, opened the conversation by outlining the Big 4 agenda and food security Targets by 2020.The strategies had been put in place to build food resilience and commercialize Agriculture. It is also meant to digitize agriculture while supporting farmers in their needs and not to particular value chain. He expressed the need to tap into large-scale farming. “The small holder farmer alone will not feed this country”, he said. “We need to grow the small number of large-scale farming.” There was also need to grow the private sector as agriculture largely falls under it.

Dr.Orodi Odhiambo, pointed out that there was an overreliance on maize production in regards to food security. “We need to widen the food Agenda conversation from maize conversation.” he said. And instead, “widen the food basket to a variety of food items to boost nutrition.” Furthermore, he stated that the National Cereal and Produce Board (NCPB), was working to bring onboard neglected traditional and nutritional food with high potential. It was also working towards restructuring the private sector to play a role in the agricultural value chain in order to create a competitive food market. In regards to climate change, “the right crop in the right place is the best adaptation measure.” he advised.

Jane Ngige, Chairman, Warehouse Receipt Systems Council, gave an insight of what the reforms entailed for marginalized groups in the food value chain. She acknowledged that the main challenge farmers faced was market. She stated that the reforms sought to support the development of the market and also to provide quality management systems and delivery of service. She pointed out the need to train and advise farmers on post harvesting management as this was a challenge.

To usher in questions, KEG president Churchill Otieno alluded that there was loss of progressive ideas in the agriculture space hence the need to open up conversations to a broader audience. He posed a question on why the reforms were based on cash transfers rather than giving out food. Patrick Kibet, an editor, wanted to know whether the transformational agenda was being brought to life as some of the reforms were left at policy level or took long to be approved.

To address the questions raised, Prof. Boga stated that the E-voucher and the Warehouse Receipt System (WRS) reforms had been implemented. He proceeded to note the intention of the sector to bring the farmers close so that they are not exploited by politics. Furthermore, he stated that a policy had been developed for cash transfers which was calculated based on the cost of living in households. The sector had moved away from physical distribution of food to cash transfers in an aim to digitize agriculture and also to keep the economy going.
To end the session Ms. Jane Ngige called for interventions to improve food production and to add value to agriculture and make it more appealing to young consumers. Dr. Odhiambo re-emphasized that the ministry should be a policy place and not a trading Centre and it should work on providing incentives to the private sector.