NAIROBI– The government plans to impart Kenyan farmers with new farming technologies to boost maize production and other alternative crops to diversify Kenyans’ staple diet in order to achieve food and nutrition self-sufficiency, says Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Dr. Andrew Tuimur.

The government will deploy undergraduate agricultural technology specialists from public universities to the field to team up with agricultural extension officers to offer farmers expertise in crop production and ways to manage post-harvest losses, adds Dr. Tuimur.

He urged farmers in the grain basket counties of Nandi, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu to increase the unit production of maize by 10 per cent to enable the country bridge the 15-million bag annual deficit in production of the staple crop.

Addressing farmers at Kabiyet Centre in Nandi North Sub-county this week, Dr Tuimur, accompanied by the Principal Secretary (Assistant Minister) for Crops at the Ministry, Dr. Richard Ole Lesiyampe, said last year the country produced 37 million bags of maize and failed to reach the required 51 million bags needed to adequately feed the nation.

If every farmer can add even five bags of maize per unit, they will enable the government realize the goal of adequate food production, he added.

He said farmers will be taught water harvesting technologies by using ponds to collect surface run-off during the rains which can be used to cultivate crops during dry weather to guarantee food production and avoid reliance on rain-fed agriculture.

He cited the example of farmers in Yatta region of Machakos County who have been able to use water ponds to produce horticultural crops that they export abroad.

Dr. Tuimur said the government is working on legislation that will allow the country to stabilize pricing of maize to make production of the crop predictable, adding that the government is contemplating introducing a warehouse receipt system for maize farmers to guarantee returns on their investment.

Lesiyampe asked farmers to diversify food production by increasing production of legumes such as beans, green peas and rabbit farming to widen the variety of food available on the dinner table.

Kenyans’ eating habits revolve around a limited five staple foods countable on one hand — maize meal, rice, githeri, milk and meat whereas in other countries the population has a choice of up to 40 different foods to pick from, he said.

He added that the government will streamline and increase the disbursement of subsidized fertilizer as incentive to farmers to boost production and weed out profiteers from the system.