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Let’s match intent with action to boost food supply

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By NELSON MAINA
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When President Uhuru Kenyatta announced his Big Four Agenda soon after winning a second term, it was heart-warming that agriculture has been given priority in the plan alongside manufacturing, housing and health.

The agenda gave stakeholders in the agriculture sector good momentum this year. The industry continued to position itself not just as a front-runner in foreign exchange earnings but also a job creator.

Notably, the youth have warmed to farming, coming up with innovative ideas that have grabbed international headlines and attracted more to the sector.

Studies have indicated that in 2018, innovations in agriculture, including mechanised farming and investment in modern irrigation, continued to create more jobs.

Flower farms that had relocated to Ethiopia are now coming back to Kenya because of the political stability and good climate the country offers.

Therefore, we can conclude that agricultural stakeholders are playing their part in fulfilling the Big Four Agenda.

As we step into 2019 with optimism and vigour, agriculture will continue to take pride of place in contribution to the national purse and taking care of the population.

We look forward to matching intent with action, to walking the talk both as the government and the private sector players.

Flower farms that are returning to the country for example are bringing with them numerous investments and jobs. We need to address the reasons they left.

Higher taxation continues to discourage investment and needs urgent attention if we are to take the sector to the next level. The recent slapping of taxes on pesticides and related inputs should be relooked to lower the cost of production.

Delicate and volatile times

Young people who traditionally shied away from agriculture have shown enormous enthusiasm through transformative investment in agriculture. We call upon the government and private sector to invest in many more whose dreams and aspirations are enough to make the country produce more food.

We are in very delicate and volatile times. Our staple foods have been ravaged by some of the most devastating pests and diseases to have ever been witnessed in our country’s history including the fall armyworm, maize lethal necrosis disease and Tuta absoluta and lately, the false codling moth.

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While traditional threats to agriculture have not fully been dealt with, the emergence of more vicious ones has thrown productivity into a spin, and should thus force policymakers and crop protection experts back to the drawing board.

Land is shrinking faster as population increases and climate change has totally altered growing seasons turning many parts of the country barren. We call on the government and sector players to commit more resources into research to prepare the industry for unforeseen challenges and forestall disruptions of production.

We are 12 years to 2030. A year in which the country envisions that it will reach mid-level economic status. A year we promised ourselves that there would be no more begging bowls, no hungry stomachs, and Kenya would be a land of plenty.

We have made major milestones especially in the agriculture sector and we continue to do more, but the movement is snail-paced. We cannot expect government alone to actualise this dream. This is a personal call to action.

In a country that has been classified by global institutions, including Food and Agriculture Organisation, and World Bank, as capable of being an agricultural supply station for the rest of Africa, we really should not be having a conversation about systemic hunger but rather how to ensure we are farming smart to not only cater for our people but transform the sector to allow more people earn from it.

A recent study indicated that one per cent increase in agricultural per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) reduced the poverty gap five times more than a one per cent increase in GDP in other sectors, especially among the poorest people. Another study demonstrated that for every 10 per cent increase in farm yields, there was a 7 per cent reduction in poverty.

Agricultural productivity can be increased, farmers’ incomes raised, more people fed and indeed, the general economic welfare enhanced. As a country blessed with a lot, we just need to match intent with action to drive agriculture to the status it rightly deserves.

The writer is the communications manager, Elgon Kenya



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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