SEED SCIENCE: BRIDGE to Transforming Agriculture for Food Security and Sustainable Development

Prof. Julius O. Ochuodho 3rd Inaugural Lecture


Kenyan agriculture started taking shape with the arrival of the white settlers and especially the building of the East Africa railway from Mombasa to Kampala in 1901. The government then developed dual agriculture comprising commercial agriculture by settlers to grow for export and African subsistence food crops. Agricultural development followed this dualism even as agricultural research, extension services and crop development authorities were established. However, with time we have failed to define the Kenyan farmer and the research appropriate for smallholdings; experimented with various extension methods to the detriment of agricultural production and unable to institute policies. Together with these is the development of a narrow formal seed sector concentrating on only a few food crops including maize, wheat, sorghum, beans and grasses, while larger proportion of seed is supplied by the informal seed system. These missteps have led to serious problems bordering on catastrophes at times

1) low adoption of technologies

2) poor marketing of agricultural produce

3) an education system that has failed to encourage youth participation in agricultural activities ((10%)

4) diminishing arable land size leading to low productivity by smallholders and 5) food insecurity and large proportion of Kenyans living below poverty line (approx.. 60%.

How can this slide in agricultural production and development be managed? The phrase on the lips of many people is “transformation of agriculture” but there is no single bullet to solve this problem. In this lecture I attempt to give suggestions on the way to increase production and enhance agribusiness in order to improve food security and alleviate poverty: directed research to specific farmers and regions – variety development for resource poor farmers, efficient integrated seed supply system and commercialization of agriculture, researchers including universities to establish continuous engagement with farmers through incubation units / outreach centers; production be aligned with marketing and value addition be encouraged through PPP – University linkages; policies to delineate certain areas as agricultural land and minimum farm size be enforced, among others.

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