By: Carol Koech, Country President East Africa, Schneider Electric
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a conference focused on food sustainability, which further deepened my interest in sustainability practices across different industries. Food, being a fundamental need according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, is under threat due to climate change. The adverse effects of climate change have led to extreme weather conditions worldwide, significantly impacting food production. In Kenya, for example, just as we experienced relief from prolonged drought, heavy rains accompanied by hailstones have eroded the gains made in recent months. Witnessing farmers’ investments washed away by nature’s fury raises concerns about our ability to address these challenges.
Soil degradation and the diminishing productivity of smaller land parcels present significant obstacles to farmers in rural Kenya. What was once subsistence farming has turned into survival farming. I recently observed a neighbour’s poorly nourished maize crop, and it became apparent that without intervention, the harvest is likely to be disappointing. The high cost of inputs, such as fertilizers and certified seeds, exacerbates the situation, leading to poor-quality crops. When the effects of climate change are added to the equation, the situation becomes even more dire.
While attending the event, I discovered the significance of aquaculture in meeting the protein needs of a growing population. I was fascinated by the work of Victory Farms, which aims to fulfill the fish demand in our country. However, it’s crucial to recognize that fish farming requires land for feed production. Although progress and innovative business models are helping address the increasing food demand, the degradation of the agricultural backbone remains a pressing concern. Organizations are now using terms like permaculture and regenerative soil technologies to combat these challenges, and I’m eager to explore how we can fast-track their implementation to achieve food security.
Energy plays a vital role in the food equation. In Kenya, electricity is essential for milling staple foods like maize and wheat flour, and farm machinery relies on energy sources to operate. Rising energy costs lead to higher food prices. Therefore, exploring renewable and cost-effective energy sources for food production, such as solar-powered tractors, presents an exciting opportunity. I am curious to learn more about these technologies and whether they are already being utilized. Notably, companies like SunCulture are already employing solar power for irrigation solutions. The emergence of electric mobility technology in Kenya will definitely help to lower the transportation costs of food.
Another concern is the cheaper importation of food compared to local production in Kenya. This raises questions about the competitiveness of our country. The government has initiated various programs to address these issues, but collaborative efforts from multiple stakeholders are required for meaningful progress.
Food sustainability is a complex challenge that demands attention and action from all sectors. Climate change impacts food production, while soil degradation, high input costs, and energy expenses further compound the problem. However, there are encouraging developments, such as aquaculture and innovative approaches like permaculture and regenerative soil technologies. Exploring renewable energy solutions and enhancing the competitiveness of local production are also key focus areas. It is crucial for governments, organizations, and individuals to work together to ensure food security for present and future generations. By prioritizing sustainable practices and investing in innovative solutions, we can pave the way towards a resilient and nourished future.