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Kenya: Boosting food security amid biting land scarcity, learning from Singapore

Singapore is an island city-state with a population of 5.6 million people and a land mass of 277 square miles. The Singaporean government has an objective of cutting back on its food imports and increasing domestic food production through an initiative called “30 by 30”. It aims at increasing food production to a level equal to 30 per cent of the country’s consumption by 2030.

Singaporean farmers are being encouraged to grow more with less. Given the country’s small land area, the focus is on urban agriculture, with emphasis on intensive farming methods like tiered fish farms, lab-grown shrimp and vegetables grown in pots on top of buildings. The government plans to achieve these goals by: First, embracing the concept of multistorey vegetable farms illuminated by LED lighting and recirculating aquaculture systems with potential yields of up 15 times as much as conventional systems.

This initiative uses applied research and development, strengthening climate-resilience and overcoming resource constraints. All farmers also are to have access to computerised control systems.

The government has rolled out public education campaigns to encourage consumers to choose local produce, by forming partnerships with supermarkets to organise local produce fairs and by marking local produce to make it easier to identify.

It would seem difficult to draw lessons from Singapore for Kenya because it is a first‑world State, highly industrialised and at an advanced level of development, with a highly disciplined workforce, deeply entrenched work ethic, much lower corruption levels and a high commitment to its national economic vision and five-year development plans, but the lessons are still useful to Kenya.

As is the case in Singapore, the Kenyan government should work with agricultural universities and research institutions to assist farmers.
There are pockets of innovation that are being promoted locally by universities or individuals in various subsectors of agriculture. These must be systematically documented and showcased and then shared widely.

The young people who have studied agriculture should also be encouraged and supported in taking up farming as a profession, rather than seeking employment elsewhere. The budget from the government should also be better allocated to support the agricultural industry.

Read more at: Daily Nation (John Kakonge)

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