African farmers are being left behind, says Kenyan farm leader

By Daniel Magondu

April 26, 2018

Kenya is an agricultural country, and farming is the backbone of our nation. Farmers are the key players at the core of this whole value chain, meaning “no farmers, no food, no life.”

I am a Kenyan small-scale farmer and a farmers’ leader. We grow cotton for food security. We also grow maize as our staple food crop. When the maize dries up because of bad weather we are left with cotton because it is a drought-tolerant crop. After harvesting cotton, we sell it and buy food for our families. When the weather is favorable, we harvest a lot of maize and cotton but only after a lot of pesticide applications to the growing plants.

The conventional cotton we grow is badly affected by cotton bollworms and if a farmer fails to apply pesticide, he either gets nothing or a very poor harvest. The maize varieties we grow are threatened by maize stem borers,  fall armyworms, maize lethal necrosis and the pests that attack the crop in storage.

Genetically modified crops protect against these pests and diseases, but many African governments have put up barriers against adopting modern agricultural technologies.

Here comes the question: When will farmers in Kenya and Africa at large stop sharing their sweat and labor with plant pests and plant diseases when we know that there is a lasting solution in agricultural modern biotechnology?

Kenyan farmers, among many other African farmers, apart from South Africa and southern Sudan, have been left behind because of the barriers on genetically modified crops. It is the wish of the African farmers to enjoy the benefits of the modern agricultural biotechnology like any other farmer on the face of the earth.

The voice of the farmer should be honored.

Daniel Magondu is chairman of the Society for Biotechnology Farming of Kenya (SOBIFAK), which represents farmers from all regions of Kenya. “Our vision is to be the leading producer of food, feed and fiber in Kenya. Our mission is to achieve that vision by adopting modern agricultural biotechnologies, which are the solution to the world food crisis.”