The Kenyan government is in talks with the Japanese government to help boost Japanese investment in the agriculture sector to improve food security in this country, says Cabinet Secretary (Minister) for Agriculture Willy Bett.

Despite major investment in the sector, food security remains a challenge to many households in Kenya, Bett said during a pre-TICAD forum on agriculture here Thursday. Nairobi is hosting the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (IICAD VI) on Satursday and Sunday.

Bett, who said that Japan is willing to help Kenya boost investment in irrigation, added that despite increased funding for the agriculture sector, Kenya was still severely exposed to food insecurity because of poor farming methods and reliance on rain-fed agriculture.

Currently, the government is in the process of setting up large irrigation schemes like the Galana Kulalu Food Security Project to improve food security, said Bett, who added that with the help of Japan, the country was exploring ways of value addition to improve earnings from agriculture.

Japanese conglomerate Toyota Tsusho Corporation is putting the final touches on a new fertilizer factory in Eldoret in western Kenya which is expected to help save the country close to five billion shillings (about 49 million US dollars) annually in fertilizer import costs and lower the price of the commodity in the country.

According to the World Bank, Kenya’s agriculture value-addition had grown 14 per cent per year since 2010 and currently stands at 30 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Food manufacturing value addition as a percentage of agriculture GDP stands at 13 per cent while in Egypt it is at 19 percent.

The World Bank also indicates that 75 per cent of Kenya’s labour force is employed in agriculture, while 75 per cent of agricultural production comes from smallholders.