Kenyatta urges African states to base food security policies on data

Friday September 10 2021

Farmers spray their crops. Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged African states to use data and science in coming up with food security policies. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday urged leaders in the continent to improve food security policies by basing decisions on data and science.

The President spoke at the virtual African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) summit at State House, Nairobi, on the same day he declared drought in some parts of Kenya as national disaster.


But he did say decisions based on adequate research can help sustain adequate food even in times of uncertain weather.

“Equally important to note is that our renewed drive anchors our food systems transformation agenda on data-driven decisions.

“Armed with relevant and precise data, we are better able to make targeted interventions that address water-scarcity, climate change, land pressure, and the competition between subsistence food crops and export cash crops.”


He spoke to a virtual audience that included President Samia Suluhu of Tanzania, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera.

Other leaders included AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, the current Chair of the Africa Union.

Almost all of these countries in attendance have faced some food shortage of a kind, either caused by conflict, drought or simply bad agricultural policy.

Make agriculture attractive

Africa, President Kenyatta said, must make agriculture as attractive to children just as law or other careers are.

“In order to overcome these negative perceptions and to show our children and youth the nobility and profitability of agriculture, we are elevating the place of agriculture in our schools by revitalising the 4-K-Clubs,” he said of Kenya’s efforts.

“We are doing this because Kenya’s 31,218 primary schools and their enrolment of close to 10 million school-going children, offers a vast network through which knowledge about food and nutrition security can be boosted.”

Those agriculture clubs, which were common during President Daniel Moi’s era, lost fame as children turned to other careers. Nairobi argues that reviving the clubs could change children’s perception about the value of farming.

Rallying call

The virtual conference opened up a critical conversation with various African leaders on ways to accelerate the process of building and developing healthier and resilient food systems on the continent, ahead of the United Nations Food Systems summit on September 23.

And the rallying call from speakers focused on doubling down investments to secure the continents shaky food systems.  

Africa will urgently need to address challenges hindering sustainable food systems such as poverty and hunger, adverse impacts of climate change and health issues, the speakers said. 

The Presidential Summit was followed by a high-level presidential panel with African Heads of State and government.  

It was co-organised with Alliance of a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) 2021 and featured Government leaders from Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Senegal, Botswana, Egypt, Nigeria, Zambia, DRC, Mozambique, and Uganda. It also featured former Heads of States from Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia among others as well as Chairperson of the Africa Union Commission. 

The five-day meeting, which started in earnest on Tuesday under the theme “Pathways to recovery and resilient food systems”, is one of the largest dialogues on inclusive agricultural transformation in Africa.

The summit is meant highlight the political, policy, and financial commitments and innovations the continent has achieved and needs to advance the commitments made at the Malabo Heads of State Summit and towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 


“This continent is now importing three times more than we did 10 years ago,” revealed AGRA President, Agnes Kalibata. 

Africa remains a net food importer, with a food import bill higher than its food export earnings.

According to estimates by the African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa spent $64.5 billion importing food in 2017—a food import bill projected to hit over $110 billion by 2025 under the business-as usual paradigm.