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December 8, 2022
Agribusiness Featured

Sustainable farming key to achieving net zero emissions goal

The annual Economic Survey report published annually has always made for an exciting read on agricultural economics and the sector’s contribution to the economy.

The Economic Survey 2021, for example, confirmed that essentially rain-fed agriculture had remained the most dominant economic sector, accounting for 23 per cent of the total value of the economy in 2020.

Despite the poor short rains, Covid-19 pandemic and desert locust attacks, the report confirmed that in 2020, it was a mixed bag of performance in the sector.

The overall value of marketed agricultural production increased by 9.3 per cent from Sh466.3 billion in 2019 to Sh509.7 billion in 2020. Crops contributed the highest share of the marketed production in 2020 at 68.0 percent.

The sector plays a pivotal role in feeding a growing population but must also be critically checked and utilised in environmental management initiatives.

Farming has to be responsibly undertaken with a conscious focus on preserving water catchment and soil erosion through cover crops.

The truth is, carbon positive, sustainability and future-proofing farming are not just catchphrases that we can pick up and put down at the appropriate time. They are fundamentally about sacrifice and investment.

It is no longer acceptable to talk about being carbon net-zero, we must farm in a manner that captures atmospheric carbon into our soils to grow our plants. We must be carbon positive.

Sustainable traditional agricultural techniques have long been practised in Kenya. However, given today’s populations, the use of technology and science to create the future’s ‘sustainable farming handbook’ is essential.

Kenya is already well advanced in this journey in integrated pest management, but there is a long road yet to travel.

The preservation of agricultural soils, conservation of water, enhancement of natural watersheds and catchments must be combined with many other elements if we are going to future-proof our farming and become carbon positive.

Simply put, something has to be done to achieve these milestones. For instance, dams will not fill with water unless catchments are set aside and preserved.

Soils will not be enhanced and regenerated unless a conscious decision is made to do something. Forests will grow but not if we don’t find an alternative to charcoal.

Many conversations are primarily geared towards cleaner, less emission-intensive energy at the national and international environmental conservation forums.

The role that agriculture plays in generating greenhouse gas emissions and how to cut those emissions is becoming increasingly evident.

For example, at Kakuzi, in practising sustainable agriculture, we do not take water from other uses to irrigate our crops. We have invested in harvesting rainwater.

The next part of this journey for us in the sector is to understand how our agricultural practices can have a positive impact on climate change. We must become carbon positive.

This process is complex and still largely unregulated in Kenya and across many regions, hence the need to get started on this, 2030 is way less than a decade away.

We do not deplete or erode our soils since we have invested in the correct farming methods. We do not make short-term decisions. We make decisions based on a 20-year horizon.

Our farming methods are informed by the fact that sustainability is much broader and deeper than just Climate Action. It is also about having excellent practices that create sustainable jobs and policies aligned to international best practices.

Where some may see a empty piece of land, we see a water catchment area which is managed to maximise the water recharge to our 19 dams.

Indeed, the goal of the recently concluded COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow was clear- Secure global net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by mid-century.

The ongoing discussions have pointed out one key fact, unless our carbon footprint is carefully, scientifically and credibly measured it cannot be managed and thus change cannot occur.

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