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KALRO Scientific Conference: Farmers Advised to Adopt Digital Tech in Agriculture

Farmers and other agricultural stakeholders have been urged to take a great interest in the digital & artificial intelligence revolution in order to keep up with the sector's evolving technological trends.

Shivam Dwivedi
KALRO has continued to perform research of strategic national relevance to boost Kenya's agricultural and livestock sectors
KALRO has continued to perform research of strategic national relevance to boost Kenya's agricultural and livestock sectors

According to Agriculture and Livestock Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi, use of digital tech is crucial to keeping up with global trends and fully utilizing the agricultural potential to transform business practices ranging from precision farming to e-extension services.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Principal Secretary State Department for Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture Harry Kimtai at the opening of the 1st Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) scientific conference and exhibition, the CS stated that farmers can successfully connect with information, resources, and markets by harnessing the power of digital technologies.  "Climate change is one of the most serious threats we face today," said Linturi.

"It is critical to create new solutions, such as smart agriculture, to limit harmful consequences and to maintain sustainable livelihoods, food and nutrition security for our people." The CS praised the conference's discussions on cutting-edge technology in food, horticultural, and industrial crops, as well as livestock genetic improvement, disease control, feeds and feeding, emerging livestock species, and blue and green economies. He noted that KALRO has made significant advances in agricultural, livestock, and innovative solutions that respond to emerging challenges through research that has resulted in the development of crop varieties, improved livestock breeds, and innovative technologies that are assisting farmers to produce more while also securing their livelihoods.

"KALRO cannot realize its legal mandate, which is directly in line with our development blueprint Vision 2030, without catalyzing the adoption of modern technologies in the agriculture sector," the CS said, adding that the organization has adopted the Agricultural Product Value Chain (APVC) approach in its mandate and implementation with its strategic plan, which has been identified as the application of cutting edge research techniques such as biotechnology tools and participants.

Simultaneously, PS Kimtai stated on the sidelines that the government is focusing more on agriculture, particularly research financing, saying that developing new types and technologies would be difficult without funds. "It will be difficult to boost our productivity without financing, so the government must give more funding to KALRO in order for them to release more items that farmers may profit from," he assured. Kimtai asked the private sector to collaborate with KALRO in marketing and commercializing the novel types developed, claiming that this is the only way the country can enhance productivity.

Dr. Eliud Kireger, Director General of KALRO, stated that for the past 10 years, KALRO has continued to perform research of strategic national relevance to boost Kenya's agricultural and livestock sectors. He stated that the shared goal of their study has been to boost agricultural output and resistance to climate change risks among Kenyan smallholder farmers and pastoral communities, allowing them to become full participants in certain value chains.

"Our primary research has been visible in crops, livestock, and cross-cutting research programmes such as environment and natural resource management, socioeconomics, and policy development," he explained. The emphasis in crops, according to the DG, has been on the development of new drought-resistant and high-yielding climate-smart technologies, whereas the emphasis in livestock research has been on adaptation strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change, emerging livestock diseases, vaccine development to manage the diseases, and pasture establishment.

"We have 3,000 strong human capital, development partners, and collaborators, and our scientists fully grasp that sustainable and climate resilient agricultural systems, as well as impact-oriented solutions, are the new paradigms that drive our funding and partnerships." Dr. Kireger stated that the most significant achievement for KALRO has been in the digitization of their technology, given that the greatest struggle has been between research and extension services.

"We have focused on digitizing technologies so that they are available to farmers through an e-extension platform employing digital tools, as well as a 7-day-a-week call centre where farmers on the ground can receive information through various applications," he added. Going forward, particularly in light of the country's severe drought, Dr. Kireger believes climate smart technology will play an important role in the country's food system, both in cattle and crops, emphasizing the importance of irrigation, soil and water conservation, and soil management.

KALRO is now the guardian of Kenya's farmers register and hosts a big data platform. We hope to change agriculture with these resources, from precision farming to e-extension services. Dr. Kireger believes that by harnessing the potential of digital technologies, we can successfully connect farmers with information, resources, and markets. Today's conference coincided with KALRO's tenth anniversary decade of existence, taking stock of accomplishments and difficulties while also presenting the wealth of products and services available in all KALRO Centres and Institutes around the country.

The KALRO research infrastructure includes 17 Research Institutes and 57 Centres strategically located around the country to serve various disciplines and value chains, agro-ecological zones, and socioeconomic systems. The theme of this year's Scientific Conference and Exposition is "Transformative agricultural technologies, innovations, and management techniques for food and nutrition security, income, and climate resilience."

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