AFRICA CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AGREEMENT AND AFRICA FOOD NUTRITION SECURITY AGENDA

The dawn could be getting closer for Africa’s food and nutrition agenda following the continental free trade agreement (CFTA) that was endorsed by 44 out of 55 AU countries in Kigali, Rwanda on the 21st March 2018. The CFTA has it focus on increasing trade in Africa by having it members cut tariffs by 90% meaning that there will be free movements of goods, commodities and services across the continent. Reports by the United Nations Economic Commissions for Africa shows that through CFTA there will be increase in trade including agricultural trade by 52% by the year 2022.

MARKET ACCESSIBILITY

Through CFTA Africa is eyeing the light at the end of the tunnel with its Food nutrition and security agenda. This means that if CFTA is implemented there will be ease of accessibility of the market of agricultural commodities. Agricultural products will easily find way into the neighboring African countries increasing preferences and nutritional uptakes by consumers. Consumers will have wide range of food products to choose from allowing them to embrace nutritional diversification and diet change.  Farmers and food producers will be able to have wider market to supply too thus increasing agricultural and food production. A readily available market reduces the risk of post harvest losses during storage in search of market a threat to Africa’s food nutrition and security agenda.

LOW COST OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION

With free movements of agricultural inputs like fertilizers; seedlings; machinery etc. the cost of production will go down. This will be a win for the small-scale farmers across the continent as cutting down cost of productions to them is a motivation to continue engaging in agricultural production. Currently; the high cost of agricultural inputs is pulling the farmers down as it is making it more expensive to produce thus posing a risk to the ‘competition’ between increasing agricultural production and feeding the increasing human population.

DIVERSIFICATION/ SPECIALIZATION IN PRODUCTION

Africa stand a chance to re-traced back to barter-trade like system whereby countries engage in specialize agricultural production with the aim of fostering the other’s nutritional need. Agriculture in Africa is more climate dependent and thus not all food crops does well in all African countries. This means that, with the CFTA in place it will be a motivation for an African country engaging in ‘specialize’ agricultural and food production and trade at a much lower cost with the other African countries in exchange of food/agricultural produce of need. This way; nutritional needs will be met at the consumers’ level through increasing food availability.

VALUE CHAIN APPROACH/CONCEPT

As African countries strive to achieve food and nutritional security; CFTA gives a room for investment in agricultural and food value chain concept. This could be made possible as the value chain strikes balance between improvements of productivity where there seems to be high potentials for maintenance of market functions that aim at improving food availability in food deficit areas. 

By. Ms. Mercy Limbua

Food safety and value chain consultant.

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COULD GMO BE THE FUTURE OF KENYA FOOD NUTRITION SECURITY?

The discussion around GMO’s is surrounded by both facts; beliefs; misconceptions and misinformation. With many arguing ‘if ban in other countries; why bring it in Kenya?’  It is time we open our minds as GMO’s present a potential solution if not 100% in the drive towards attaining food nutrition and security in Kenya.

Looking at the history of Kenya in line with food nutrition and security our challenges not only lies on production but also frequent droughts; disease and pests outbreaks which over the years have become a nightmare in the FNS agenda; something if given a trial GMO could successfully and safely address.

Having drought resistant crops for our agricultural production present us with opportunities to continue with our agricultural production even throughout the drought season. This means that we will have food production taking place throughout the year across the country from the arable parts of the country to the arid and semiarid regions of the country. Access to food throughout the year means that nutritional intake will be continuous thus reducing malnutrition cases in Kenya.

The recent reoccurrence of aphids among other pests threatens the realization FNS agenda as maize production is affected. If we are able to control the vulnerability of maize for instance to pests we will be steps ahead towards mitigating losses associated with pests attacks on the crops which contributes a lot to insufficient food for human consumption presenting risks for conflicts and hunger strikes in Kenya. The recent and undergoing trials and research by KALRO on BT Maize presents a solution on such cases of pests with the results turning out to be the long awaited solutions.  

 With the growing human population; Kenya must fasten its speeds towards preparing to sustainably and sufficiently feed its people. This means that; the relevant authorities; the government must put aside politics and focus on  synergy towards finding not only a long lasting but also safe; sustainable and sufficient  means of food production.

A recent poll; I conducted on twitter represents the views of a few Kenyans who participated with interesting results where  41%  voted yes; 44% voted no and 15% who were not sure. This presented a clear stand on the public views on GMOs with the biggest worry and concern relating to safety and consumer’s health bearing in mind we are living in times where cancer cases are rising every dawn.

There must be clear assignment of responsibilities and tasks in the monitoring of the activities involved in the study and research on the development of GMO’s by the relevant authorities.

The public must be involve as a process of making them understand more about GMO’s and the science behind it as part of reducing the misconception and misbelief about the development of GMO products.

A big challenge lies on the access to the seedlings and relevant resources; who to control the prices; distribution; how easily accessible will the seedlings be to farmers without stress and strain and thus; clear policies; laws; procedures  must be in place to address the concerns independently without exploiting the farmers at any single point and time and without conflicts.

Lastly; consumer safety and health must be a priority in the research and roll out of the GMO’s products in Kenya.

By;

Mercy Limbua

Food safety and value chain consultant.

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WHY OUR AGRICULTURAL POLICIES ARE FAILING

Agriculture is said and believed to be Kenya’s ‘bread-winner’ as it accounts for approximately 33% of the country’s gross domestic income while 75% of Kenyans earn their income from it. In the last decades there has been continual increase in the human population in Kenya and contrary to the expectation; agriculture productivity has remained constant if it has not reduced. With the arable land at 20% under the increasing human population; it is feared that the agricultural land will continue to face competition with human settlement. The speedily rise of industrialization and commercialization of the food system continues to stir social interest in many citizens over agricultural production to meet the demand of the food system in specific human nutrition and access to adequate food. Reflecting on the role of agriculture; it is a key player in the economic growth of our country and catalyzes the move towards poverty eradication in Kenya. With food nutrition and security as an umbrella of the president’s big four agenda; the agricultural policies in place should be walking us towards the attainment of a zero hunger nation. However; this is not the take; we are walking backwards with reports and news showing increase in number of people going to bed hungry to 1.5M within seven months.

 Government politics

Government policies and politics have always had an impact in agricultural policies. However; our government politics are occasionally against the purpose of the agricultural policies. For instance with the ever occurring maize scandal the NCPD and MOALF always face political drift leaving farmers crying; disappointed and ‘desperate”. Our politics kind off fight the willingness of Kenya’s small holder farmers and oppress them to the extend there has been evidence of some shifting from maize production to other most ‘promising’ agricultural produce if not real estate business posing Kenya at a risk of failing to achieve zero hunger. The self-centered interest by some government officials and leaders have always been a barrier to implementation of our policies. Contrary to agricultural policies advocating for consumption of local produce and capacity building of our farmers towards increase agricultural production we daily witness food importation and neglecting of our own farmers by the government citing seeking better and fast solution.

LACK OF COMMITMENT AND TRANSPARENCY

Kenya we are doing well in holding conferences and boardroom meetings discussing our policies and making new ones but we fail because we don’t want to hold accountable and to give accounts. The moment we fail to be transparent and accountable in implementation of what we draft and pass; it is the start of a failing journey. Been transparent calls for ability to be able to provide supportive evidence and records of every step and process to in the implementation of the policies. Lack of serious commitment from those in relevant position in implementing the policies also plays a role in its failure as there is disconnects in dots and flow of work in progress isn’t continuous making it hard to account for.

GREED/ CORRUPTION

For a good period of time; the agriculture sector has been hit by numerous cases of corruption as a result of greed from self-centered leaders/employees/personnel in the relevant dockets. There can never be progress if those assigned are just but eyeing their pockets. The ever trend of food importation in specific maize and rice; fertilizer and agricultural inputs always find themselves articulated to corruption and cartels who want to dominate; earn and oppress the small holder farmer. A question that never finds an answer and if does not clearly; why is it that we find ourselves going round the maize scandal each and every year? Why do we have to import maize then from blues we have our stores full while farmers cry of having nowhere to take their maize? Our policies safeguarding the issuance of subsidies to farmers; purchase of maize/agricultural products  are very clear and as easy to implement but because of self-interest then it is over showered by greed and corruption.

DISCONNECTING DOTS IN MONITORING AND EVALUATION

For those who understand the role of monitoring and evaluation will agree that we have a gap of this in the implementation of our policies. We lag behind in keeping an eye of our moves and progress. Our dots don’t connect; always missing information and disagreement in how far we are. How we evaluate our implementation is wanting; can we review our policies results for the last five years? We rarely have a result oriented driven policies, meaning that we need to develop policies from impacts of the previous period results. What wasn’t achieved or attained in the previous period of policy implementation should form a baseline in drafting and implementation of the new period policy. The dots should always connect for the policies are our “rules” guiding us on how we can and will do our agriculture business towards achieving the zero hunger agenda.

RECOMMENDATION

We don’t need new agriculture policies; let us refined our doings and align ourselves towards the existing guidelines and adopt accountability; transparency; monitory and evaluation and cut of greed and personal interest.

By

Ms. Mercy Limbua

Food safety and value chain Consultant

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INVEST IN VALUE CHAIN CONCEPT IF KENYA MUST ACHIEVE FOOD NUTRITION AND SECURITY

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We are said to be food secure if at all every person in Kenya including the most vulnerable have access to adequate quantities of safe and nutritious food.Food security is a human right and article 43 (1)(C) of the Kenyan constitution 2010; states that’ Every person has a right to be free from hunger and to have access to adequate food of acceptable quantity” thus gives the base of human right approach to food security in Kenya.

However; this is not attained as food security is challenged by lack of education;inadequate planning and policies,political instability; lack of transparency and improper governance; financing; slow paces in technology development among other governance issues. The improvements of these factors; would play critical functions in the attainment of food nutrition and security in Kenya.

Technology uptake should be realistic and very practical as per our country need and capacity. What has worked in another country may or may not work for Kenya simply because our systems are different and the approached used could not be the same. As a country we must learn to do analysis of what best technology fits our needs and systems in addressing food insecurities.

Improving nutritional outcomes calls for considerations of not only how the food is produced but also how it is processed; distributed;marketed and consumed. A processed described as value chain.

Why value chain approach should be a priority

A 2017 report by Kenya national bureau of statistics (KNBS) indicates that Kenya shillings 150 Billion worth of food was wasted. These losses were attributed to farmers struggling to manage; store and transport their produce to the market.

Integrating food value chain approach to food security presents consistent availability of appropriate food; individual access to appropriate food and proper utilization of food.

The value chain approach is featured as market driven. This is described by it focuses on linking the households to the markets such that they earn from the purchase of the additional foods.This approached could diversify diet as well minimized over-reliance on production for their food security.

The nutrition-sensitive value chain (NVSC); a working concept adopted by FAO; IFAD;WFP along with Biodiversity international and IFPRI is an example of a practical approach that navigates the complexity of food systems; identify investment and policy opportunities towards ensuring food value chains contribute to food nutrition and security. The adoption of the nutrition-sensitive value chain allows analysis of the roles and incentives of all the different actors.

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The value chain approach aids in the identification of high impacts that could be overlooked. The approach strikes balance between improvement of productivity where there seems to be high potentials for maintenance of market functions that aim at improving food availability in food deficit areas.

Value chain approaches also strengthen the enabling environment towards making ensuring that the right and best incentives are in order for supporters of food security agenda. It seeks to achieve sustainable solutions as its aims at the underlying causes and works towards presenting lasting and sustainable solutions.

By; Mercy Limbua

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WHAT WE NEED TO DO TO INCREASE FOOD AVAILABILITY IN KENYA

Agriculture and nutrition for a very long time have been stand-alone components. Every aspect of the food system from the farm to fork have influence on the availability and accessibility of safe, diverse and nutritious foods. The growing population of food and nutrition insecurity in Kenya is linked to the slow growth of agricultural production. Kenya has about 80% of its population residing in the rural areas where agriculture dominates. In the last four decades, the country has generally experienced positive growth in agricultural output. However, we have not managed to attain national food self-sufficiency due to over reliance on rain fed agriculture (98%) which suffers recurrent crop failures as a result of unexpected weather and climate changes not forgetting the fast growing human population.

every consumer long for a dawn of food security and zero hunger

The net deficit of staple foods has been recovered through food imports. Occasionally, Kenya experiences occasional food deficits and in number of cases acute food shortages resulting to reduction of per capita food availability declined by approximately 25% in the past three decades subjecting over 10 million Kenyans to food insecure. A sudden increase in the supply of agriculture commodities not matched by an equivalent increase in demand will translate to decreased prices in food and agricultural products during the harvest and will leave farmers in debt. The government must therefore address the rule of market sup­ply and demand to control commodity price fluctuations, a long-term component for food security. Short-term emergency responses to food security, for example provisions for heavily subsidized inputs, will not address Kenya’s food insecurity problem in the long run.

THE GOVERNMENT

Towards promotion of storage and processing of both agricultural; livestock and fisheries products the government should be part of the public-private participation in the food business. Some of the practices the government should consider getting involved in providing support and promote the effective storage mechanisms of food stuffs by the private sector. Towards addressing farmers’ challenges to access to storage facilities; the government should put measures that facilitate renting of underutilized public storage facilities. This will help reduce wrangles between the farmers and service providers on food storage cold-wars at the same time keep the produce safe and secure for the next cycle of food supply. Towards ensuring product quality and safety; it is critical for the government to enrich the capacity of the institutions involved in product development; standards establishment and quality monitoring. With post-harvest loss as the biggest threat to food security; it is about time the government to consider promotion of value addition technology at both home level and commercial level. Aside from reducing post harvest losses of the produce; value addition also increase nutritional availability that are very critical to human health and nutritional need.

STRATEGIES TO FIGHT POST-HARVEST LOSSES

Different strategies are required to tackle these wastes for instance public investment in transport infrastructure would reduce the opportunities for spoilage, whereas better-functioning markets and the availability of capital would increase the efficiency of the food chain, for example, by allowing the introduction of low-cost cold storage technologies. Investing in the modernization of extension services is essential, including approaches such as farmer field schools the use of rural radios and other mobile telecommunication method .Research in post-harvest storage technologies is a key strategy to the mitigation of food loss and wastage. Improved technology for small-scale food storage in poorer contexts is a prime strategy for the introduction of incentives for innovation, with the involvement of small-scale traders, millers and producers.

Developing knowledge and capacity for stakeholders involved in food production and supply (farmers, processors, distributors and retailers) will ensure safety standards are adhered to, thus preventing losses associated with disposal of substandard foods as in the one experienced by Kenyan horticultural products in the European market on the basis of noncompliance. Food processing firms should create awareness and promote post-harvest technology, both the traditional and modern methods of food preservation among farmers who produce the raw materials on how to preserve their harvest before it is bought and taken for processing. Such a venture would go a long way in ensuring that all the foods stored in periods of excess produce can be used during the dry season in perfect condition fit for human consumption, free from pests and fungus.

KEY TAKE AWAY.

Addressing food nutrition and security requires integrated action and complimentary interventions through multi-faced approaches aim at tackling both the immediate and underlying causes in the wider policy domain. In addition, it also requires the involvement of the public and private sector in fighting hunger bearing in mind that improving nutrition is a shared responsibility of all Kenyans. Therefore, need of an effective coordination alongside collaborative planning and programming through multi-sectorial approaches in the county, national and community levels are all necessary to speed up food nutrition and security attainment.

BY

Mercy Limbua

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FOOD SAFETY AND FOOD CONTROL SYSTEMS

Food safety is receiving much attention in the global level as its necessity crosslinking between food and health gaining momentum across the world. As food safety improvement is an unavoidable element in the campaign, work and progress towards food security. As food trade is expanding across the world, food safety has become a shared concern among both the developed and developing countries. Enhancing food safety, is vital to improving the health and nutrition of the consumers, an SDG 2 goal. Improving food availability does not only benefit those at nutritional risk without correspondence to improvements in the nutritional quality and safety of food as there is reduced food- borne illness and disease. In order to addressing food safety, developing countries should evaluate investments in the overall scope of public health, nutrition and food systems policies.

Food control is the compulsory regulatory activity of enforcement by the authorities to provide consumer protection and ensure foods are safe during production; handling; storage; processing; distribution and fit for human consumption.

THE FOOD SAFETY ISSUES

Every consumer is always on the lookout when purchasing food. The food safety concerns plays vital role in the consumer health and that is why nobody would wish to consume unsafe/unhygienic food. Currently global food production has been consolidated with troubling results. This is due to the takeover of the food industry by dominant multinational organizations resulting to the shift in focus of food production. Increase in food industry competition has seen diversion in the industry to profitability over quality.

Some of the most important food safety issues of concern include:-

  • Food borne illnesses
  • Food contaminants
  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Pesticide residues
  • Environmental effects

ROLE OF GOVERNMENT, FOOD PRODUCERS, MARKETERS, CONSUMERS AND ACADEMIA

GOVERNMENT

Every level of government in any country has a role to play in ensuring safety and quality of food. At the national level, the government has international responsibilities in regard to bi-lateral trade to and from other countries.

The policy makers and food control agencies must make sure that adequate food control legislation are in place to enable control of all food risk factors as well as consumer protection. The laws in place should be in place to meet the requirements of current food risks needs and not be detailed to be incomprehensible; or scattered among rules and other policy documents so that there be transparency and easy understanding of the rules.

In addition, the government is also responsible for adequate funding of the pre-market approval process and monitoring operations that are designed to make sure that the food legislate needs are met.

FOOD PRODUCERS

With the continual increase in the world’s population and urbanization, food chains and webs have been increasingly complex. Thus; assuring food safety and quality calls for adequate knowledge and ability by all food business players to meet and exceed the basic food safety laws. However, this requires the creation and implementation of food quality systems that ensure basic composition, nutritive value and safety of food.

Every food producer is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring safe end products at the table of the consumer. Right from ingredients used, how produced is handled, product packaging, distribution and marketing should be the core main concern of any food producer.

MARKTERS / DISTRIBUTORS

How a produced is handled for marketing/ distribution really determines its safety. How the produced is packed and transported also matters in terms of its safety. How the food is sold or where also has either a positive or negative effect to its safety. Food distributors/ marketers need to be sure of how they present a produce to the consumers. Food products are very sensitive and delicate and if poorly handled at the market and distribution stage the effects would be immerse.

ACADEMIA

The academia has critical role to play in the research into food quality and safety problems. At the primary and secondary school level, approved curriculum   should also include education on the value of foods, importance of balance diets in proper nutrition.

 DEVELOPMENT OF FOOD CONTROL SYSTEMS.

The attainment of food control systems aims requires the knowledge of the current situation and development of national control strategy that are influenced by current or emerging food safety and qualities issues. It is key to examine all the factors that could impinge upon aims and performance of the systems while coming up with the food control strategies.

The governing principles guiding the development of food control systems comprising of:-

  1. Maximizing risk reduction by applying the principle of prevention throughout the food chain.
  2. Addressing the farm-fork continuum.
  3. Establishing emergency procedures for dealing with particular hazards.
  4. Developing science-based food control strategies.
  5.  Establishing priorities based on risk analysis and efficacy in risk management.
  6. Recognizing that food control is a widely shared role that requires positive interaction between all stakeholders.

DEVELOPMENT OF STRATEGY

The preparedness of the national control system allows a country to develop an integrated, coherent, effective and dynamic food control system. This also allows, the determination of priorities that ensue consumer protection.

It should focus on multi-sectorial input and on the need for food security not forgetting consumers’ protection from unsafe adulterated / misbranded food. In addition, the strategy should also take into considerations the economic interest of the country in reference to export/ import trade, development of food industries and the interest of the farmers and food producers.

The strategy is influenced by the country stage of development, economy size and level of sophistication of its food industry.

 The final strategy should include:-

  • Development of appropriate food legislation or revision of the existing legislation to achieve its objectives defined by the national strategy.
  • Development and organization of training programs for food handlers and processors, food inspectors and analysts.
  • National strategy for food control with defined objectives; a plan of actions for its implementation and milestones.
  • Program for strengthening food surveillance and control systems.
  • Promotion of consumer education and other community initiatives.
  • Development or revision of food regulations; standards and codes of practice as well as harmonizing these with international requirements.

The task of food control is shared among the different agencies, where their roles could be different. The key assignment of the food control is to enforce the food law(s) thus protecting the consumers against unsafe, impure and fraudulently presented food by illegalizing sale of food that is not of nature, quality, and substance as quested by the consumer .

BY MS.MERCY LIMBUA

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WHAT IS CLIMATE SMART AGRICULTURE?

The world has changed and so has climate. In the past years we have experienced dramatic change in climate in line with increasing temperatures, change in rainfall patterns, high levels of carbon emission   and greenhouse gases emissions. The world forest has suffered harm and has continued to face high rates of deforestation.  These changes have seen the world agricultural practices faced challenges in terms of reduced productivity and income.

Climate changed has reduced global yields of maize and wheat by 3.8% and 5.5% respectively.   With temperature exceeding critical physiological thresholds there is a deep decrease in production while increase in climate variability exacerbates production risks and challenges farmer’s coping ability. Climate change is a threat to food access since it reduces agricultural productivity, incomes and also increase risks of disruption to the markets.

Climate smart agriculture (CSA) is an integrated approach aimed at transforming and reorienting the current agricultural systems to support food security under the existing realities of climate change. The  changes in climate has seen agricultural productivity faced challenges for instance the reduced agricultural productivity and increase the vulnerability of the population that depend on agriculture for their live hoods.  These challenges can be overcome by increasing the adaptive capacity to farmers’ resilience and resource use efficiency in the production systems. (Leslie lipper et al).

A good example of the CSA practice is the conservation agriculture which under FAO Kenya and through the leadership of the FAO representative in Kenya, Dr Gabriel Rugalema has seen it adoption in some parts of Kenya and has successful contributed towards increasing agricultural production in the areas for example Makueni where farmers are now enjoying the increase in yields despite the climate threats. What classifies conservation agriculture (CA) as a CSA practice? Under FAO, Conservation agriculture is defined as a farming system that promotes maintenance of a permanent soil cover, minimum soil disturbance and diversification of plant species.CA enhances biodiversity and natural biological processes above and below the ground surface this contributing to increase water and nutrient use efficiency and to improved and sustained crop production.

Climate resilient pathways as channels of CSA focused on four main action points that include:-

  • Building evidence
  • Increasing local institutional effectiveness
  • Fostering coherence between climate and agricultural policies
  • Linking climate and agricultural financing

There is need to fight climate change in Africa as 80% of food production in Africa is climate fed. Meaning 80% of our agricultural production depends on climate which is changing every day. Studies shows that by 2050, 3% of Africa’s land will no longer be able to grow maize and will transition from mixed crop and livestock systems to livestock only farming system. Thus there is need for adaption of CSA practices to safeguard production of food, towards food security.

Currently 20% of the population is under average food insecure with 75% of these population who are also the world poorest are living in the rural areas. It is for this reason that there is need to increase income and productivity as a measure towards eradicating poverty and achieving food security. By the year 2050, 2.4 Billion people are expected to be living in the developing countries thus need for increase in agricultural productivity by 60%.

Climate smart agriculture as an accelerator towards food security serves under three guiding pillars:-

  • Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes.
  • Adapting and building resilience to climate change.
  • Reducing and/ or removing carbon emissions.

CSA appears as an obligatory field-level supplement designated to safeguard agricultural intensifications from climate change impact. The World Bank has integrated CSA into long standing modernization narrative that seeks to  address the problems of the global food system that are largely to be tackled by the increasing supply through liberalization, technological advancement and the diffusion of modern production techniques to the developing world.

On the basis, the framework of a climate – wise food system could seek to put emphasis on:-

  1. Climate change amplifies concerns over access to sufficient and nutritious food thus the acquisition of food distribution becomes critical.
  2. Shift in the consumption patterns are essential elements of the climate-wise food system. The tyranny of consumers’ sovereignty that reflects the embedded power of money as a claim on global resources should not be allowed to dictate it’s dynamic.
  3. The climate-wise food system would be predicated upon strong normative preference for ecological intensification in which biological processes in combination with human labor   productivity advances rather than cheap energy inputs( Tittonell,2014)

 

Like a small baby learning to walk by herself, CSA requires an enabling environment that will see it adoption and implementation a success. The private, public sectors, the civil society organizations needs to give room to: policy and legislation development, program development, review and mainstreaming, promotion, awareness and publicity.

By Ms. Mercy Limbua

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