International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) celebration of World Food Day in Kenya, with a focus on promoting millet, highlights the organization's commitment to sustainable food systems and food security in dryland regions.
The event showcased the importance of millet and other drought-tolerant crops, as well as their role in adapting to climate change and encouraging agribusiness. The participation of young farmers and women in this initiative is a positive step towards empowering the next generation and diversifying food production.
The success story of Esther Waita, who transitioned from small-scale farming to agribusiness with millet farming, exemplifies the impact of training and the adoption of resilient crops.
“On this day I have every reason to celebrate World Food Day because of ICRISAT’s training and drought-tolerant crops. I used to perceive millet as chicken feed but lately, we realized that these foods have higher nutritive value with immense benefits to our bodies. I ventured into farming pearl millet, finger millet, and sorghum. The production has been good because the crops can withstand the tough climatic conditions in Makueni, unlike other crops we used to farm.
Esther runs a restaurant where she does value addition. The production of millets has enabled her to diversify her menu by introducing millet products like cakes. This has given her a competitive advantage as the popularity of her meals in the area has soured.
“This has helped me to create employment for eight more young people. I am glad on this day because as we celebrate World Food Day, there is a reason to because there is food on our tables and money in our pockets.
Addressing farmers and stakeholders, the guest of honor, Mr. George Apaka programs lead, agriculture, at Mastercard Foundation noted that empowering youths, especially women through agribusiness holds the key to transforming livelihoods. Improving food systems will be accelerated if youths are brought on board. The youth are the future because Africa's population is very young. This is the group that is going to move Africa forward.
Dr. Rebbie Harawa, the Director of the ICRISAT Africa Program noted that this year’s World Food Day theme Water is Life, Water is Food. Leave No One Behind resonates with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics' (ICRISAT) work.
“In drylands, water is a scarce resource and therefore we have drought-tolerant and early-maturing crop varieties, and soil and water management technologies to achieve food and nutrition security. For example, we promote millet and sorghum because, with very little water, farmers can reap big. Grain legume crops such as pigeon peas and groundnuts are also climate-resilient and nutritious.
With these technologies, farmers in dryland agroecologies of Africa can still feed their families and get the surplus production to markets.
The emphasis on growing the right crop varieties in the appropriate agroecological zones was echoed by Dr. Lusike Wasilwa, Director of Crops Systems at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO). She underscored the importance of following scientific recommendations for optimal yields and diversifying the food we consume. This approach contributes to food security and ensures that local communities have access to nutritious and sustainable food sources, even in challenging environments.
“Scientists have done their part of developing good varieties, farmers need to do their part of planting recommended crops for their zones. This is important for optimal yield which is nutritious. It is equally important for the consumers to diversify the foods they eat.” She said.”
Overall, the celebration of World Food Day by promoting millet in Kenya represents a significant step in addressing food security