Roundup: Kenya pushes small-scale farmers to grow globally acceptable food

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by Bedah Mengo

NAIROBI, April 18 (Xinhua) -- For many years, small-scale farmer Japheth Kilome has been growing crops using animal manure, which is readily available from his three head of cattle and some goats.

The farmer, who is based in Machakos on the east of the capital Nairobi, has been scooping the dung from the cowshed and applying it on bananas, tomatoes and vegetables that he grows on part of his one-acre farm.

While Kilome farms the crops and keeps livestock for his subsistence, he sells the surplus produce at a nearby market.

The mode of farming is shared by thousands of small-scale farmers across the east African nation, many who cannot afford inorganic fertilizers or who buy them in smaller quantities, therefore, have to supplement with organic manure.

Over the years, this has been the standard practice but the government is seeking to change this if farmers like Kilome are to sell their produce internationally.

The government, through the agriculture ministry, is working on regulations that outlaw the use of non-composted organic manure to grow crops, as many farmers in the east African nation do.

The law named Crops Act 2018 criminalizes use of raw animal manure for the production of food crops, with those breaking it facing up to 10 million shillings (100,000 U.S. dollar) fine.

The regulations also prohibit farmers from growing crops near cattle sheds, garbage disposal and industrial waste sites and roadsides.

"These laws may push many out of farming because most people are mixed farmers. We keep cattle or poultry and grow crops using manure," said Kilome on Thursday.

However, agriculture principal secretary Hamadi Boga noted that the laws would not only ensure farmers grow crops that are safe for local consumption but also for the international market.

"It is time a majority of small farmers grow crops that complies with international food safety standards. Who wants to eat salad that is contaminated because it was grown with animal manure that was not well-composted?" he posed.

Boga said that a lot of food currently grown in Kenya cannot meet international standards because most farmers do not observe safety standards.

"We cannot use raw manure and hope to sell our food internationally. If we are eyeing the global market, then farmers have to abandon some of these practices," he said.

According to him, raw manure must be composted for months for it to be ready for growing safe food.

"The government will not relent on the regulations which are meant to guarantee food safety and to ensure that the country's agricultural produce is highly marketable outside our borders," he said.

Kenya Plant and Health Inspectorate chief executive Esther Kimani reckoned that most farmers in Kenya have not stopped growing crops using cultural practices handed over from one generation to another.

"Small farmers must approach farming as a business and not as a cultural practice where manure is used without regard to food safety. Besides using quality manure and inorganic fertilizers, farmers must also embrace hybrid seed, and irrigation to stop reliance on rainfall," she said. Enditem

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