Productivity of most arable land in Kenya is declining at an alarming rate. In rural areas where many folks depend on subsistence agriculture for food and income, poverty is an eye sore. Gains that have been made to warrant the sector significant niche of the backbone of Kenya’s economy are radically being watered down and drastic action should be taken to remedy the situation.
Many people are pauperized because their lands cannot yield enough to ensure sustained quality life. Even if this situation is linked to global warming among a legion of other environmental factors, the role that quality seeds play in the whole matrix of food production cannot be expressed hyperbolically, they are explicit.
Agriculture Principal Secretary, Sicily Kariuki during the just concluded STAK Congress 2013 pointed out that the seed industry was a key element of the economy contributing 25% of GDP and provides employment to many people in rural areas.
The use of low quality and uncertified seed is making many countries in Africa food insecure. This situation has not only affected rural folks, those living in urban areas have not been spared either. They have to endure scathing high food prices occasioned by acute food shortages and governments have been left to grapple with situations that leave their economic dreams shattered. Mr. Evans O. Sikinyi, Secretary to the Executive Committee and CEO Seed Trade Association of Kenya- STAK-attributes this serious and economic threatening problem to unawareness of farmers about new technologies and high quality seeds they can plant to get high quality yields. "We have a lot of technologies farmers are not aware of, in fact even without developing new technologies, if farmers can apply, what we have they will double their productivity. Some seed varieties have the capacity to yield 40 some 48 bags per acre, but you find farmers are only getting 20 bags which mean if they can do what they are supposed to do they will be able to get 40 bags. We want to capacity build the seed stockiest to work with the seed industry" said Evans, when interviewed by hortfresh crew before the Congress.
This is the challenge that STAK was wrought to mitigate. STAK is an association for seed companies registered by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), to produce, process and distribute seeds of various crops. STAK members control 90% of the formal seed sector in Kenya. The seed organization strives to promote the welfare of farmers by making sure that all members sell only quality seed and adhere to ethical practices at all times. The seed industry system is organized in such that there are STAK members who are the seed merchants, and at wholesale level there are the seed agents who supply to stockiest who actually deal with the farmers.
To attain excellence in quality seed trade and related services STAK is committed to make farmers know more on quality certified seeds, adopt and use them in their farming. That is the rationale STAK is creating awareness through field days, shows, Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries and also encouraging use of new agricultural technologies by farmers.
STAK in a bid to enhance agricultural productivity is also involved in policy making through harmonization of seed trade policies in the country; training and advocacy, as well as recommending amendments of laws concerning seed trade. They are also concerned with capacity building, marketing, equipments and infrastructure, anything to do with moving and using seeds including ensuring that seeds are up to standards.
One way that STAK has adopted to ensure that farmers adopt new seeds and technologies is to sensitize farmers and sharing this crucial information through STAK Seed Congresses.
Seed Congress is a forum of seed companies that promotes use of quality and certified seeds; and development of formal seed trade. In these congresses seed developers, policy makers, sellers and farmers meet to discuss and find common solutions on different issues facing seed industry in Kenya.
The first seed congress by STAK was held in 2012 and it was successful. This year (2013) second edition STAK Congress, whose theme was Embracing Novel Technologies for Agricultural Solutions, was held from November 6th- 8th at Safari Park Hotel Nairobi; sponsored by Syngenta and attended by County Directors of Agriculture and farmers from various counties, was even more successful.
Speaking during the congress, STAK Chairmain Mr. Azariah Soi noted that the increased land subdivision is causing seeds shortage. The effect is already being felt in Nakuru where production of commercial wheat seeds has dropped drastically. "Farms belonging to corporation such as Agriculture Development Corporation- ADC, which has large farms, if well managed will play a key role in ensuring stable supply of seeds" Soi said. Regarding maize lethal necrosis disease he urged the government to help researchers come up with seeds resistant to the viral disease. The organization faulted the recently imposed tax on vegetable seeds as is detrimental.
Many counties from all over the country sponsored farmers to the congress to learn more new technologies at their disposal. The congress came at a time when there is a great need for farmers to embrace agritechnologies in order to deliver "more with less".
Mr. Evans O. Sikinyi, Secretary to the Executive Committee and
CEO Seed Trade Association of Kenya-STAK