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Experts warn about declining soil fertility

By Antony Gitonga
KALRO Director-General Dr. Eliud Kireger (R) has a word with the director of Agricultural Research in the ministry of Agriculture Dr. Oscar Magenya during the 29th Soil Science Society of East Africa (SSSEA) Conference in Naivasha.

Experts have warned that food production is threatened due to a drop in soil fertility.

They said the Western and North Rift regions, which are considered the country's food baskets, are the worst affected.

This warning was issued during the opening of the annual Soil Science Society of East Africa Conference that brought together more than 200 delegates at the Lake Naivasha Country Club.

The imminent food shortage was attributed to over-cultivation, soil erosion caused by flooding and misuse of fertilisers.

Charles Warria from the Kenya Market Trust said the country's food baskets were in jeopardy owing to the loss of soil nutrients.

Mr. Warria also attributed the looming crisis to overpopulation and failure to practice crop rotation.

“This is not a laughing matter because very soon we will be overtaken by our neighbours whose good use of soil has made them food sufficient,” he said.

Warria said chemical manufacturers were willing to assist farmers by providing agricultural lime that would improve soil quality by reducing acidity, thus boosting food production.

“Time has come for farmers to mix these limes with fertilisers and thereby promote the quality of soil rather than use the normal DAP,” he said.

State Department for Agricultural Research Director Oscar Magenya said the government had taken several measures to address the soil health issue.

“We are promoting soil science research for development,” Dr. Magenya said.

Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation Director-General Eliud Kireger said productivity was hampered by land degradation, climate change, drought, and desertification.

Agriculture Executive Immaculate Maina said the county was working with Egerton University and Baraka Agricultural College to address poor soil quality.

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