NOTE: For other recent news of African resistance see Africa battles the GM lobby and Ugandan farmers reject GM seed.
Kenyan Farmers Root For Organic
Africa Science News, 30 May 2011
A coalition of small-scale farmers in Kenya has reignited the campaign against cultivation of genetically engineered crops while stressing that organic farming offers a sustainable path towards a food secure and ecologically healthy future.
The farmers challenged the government to recognize organic and other agro ecological farming practices in agriculture policies.
Advocates representing farmers, consumers and environmental groups fear that large scale production of genetically engineered crops will trigger health and environmental hazards while undermining Kenya’s food sovereignty.
President Mwai Kibaki signed the Biosafety Act in 2009 to pave way for cultivation of genetically altered crops as a means to attain food security.
Proponents of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) hail them as the solution to food scarcity against a backdrop of rising demand from a burgeoning young population.
Likewise, the proponents insist that genetically engineered crops can withstand vagaries of weather, as well as attacks from pests and diseases.
A federation of green advocates in Kenya however, urges caution and reiterates that Kenya can achieve food security status through organic farming.
Anne Maina, Advocacy Coordinator, African Biodiversity Network, noted that "the developers of GMOs have exerted great pressure to ensure that our recently enacted Biosafety Act of 2009 serves the interests of foreign Agribusiness, rather than farmers and consumers”.
She added that “introduction of patented seeds and related chemicals into our farming systems threatens our agricultural practices, our livelihoods, the environment, and undermines our seed sovereignty”.
Maina underscored the potential of organic and agro ecological farming practices to feed the nation without harming the environment.
“Our ability to feed Africa through agro ecological practices is recognized and supported by UN reports and broad scientific consensus”, said Maina.
She pointed at scientific evidence that show GMOs can cause serious damage to health, environment, food production and livelihoods.
Support for small scale farmers to have access to water and capacity building in organic farming is crucial to charting a new path to food security in the country.
Maina urged greater cooperation between farmers, scientists and the government to ensure that organic farming is entrenched in legal and policy frameworks.
Smallholder farmers in Kenya have embraced organic farming that has boosted yield and income streams.
Jack Rware, an organic farmer in Embu says that organic farming has brought good tidings to his household since he embraced the practice almost two decades ago.
“We no longer spend money on chemical fertilizers and depend on compost manure to grow staple crops. Organic manure promotes soil nutrients and water retention. Yields have gone up and new market frontiers for organically grown crops have opened up”, said Rware.
On his part, John Maina, an organic farmer in Kiambu County, hail organic farming as solution to food insufficiency and poverty blighting small scale farmers in rural Kenya.
Since embracing organic farming, Maina revealed that his average size piece of land is able to produce surplus vegetables for both domestic and overseas market.
According to Maina, small scale farmers in his locality have taken up organic farming in greater numbers and the benefits are legion.
He noted that “at least now farmers can grow enough for their families and for sale using simple and cheap methods unlike before when high cost of fertilizers undermined food production.”