Making a case for Kenya’s use of Nuclear technology in Agriculture

Agriculture is considered among the largest Kenyan economic sector and growth driver. The sector employs more than 75% of the active populations at the same time accounting for 25% of annual GDP according to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture, Labour and Fisheries.

However, less than 10% of the land in the county is being used for crop and food production. These lands are well irrigated and have adequate rainfall coverage. Unfortunately the rest of the land is arid or semi-arid and are being affected by climate change and deteriorating ecosystem.

Agriculture remains one of the pillars of country’s growth; this sector is very attractive for foreign investors, who are interested in maintaining the high level of crop yields and productivity. Against this backdrop, further development of Kenya’s agribusiness is of essence.

Reducing high reliance on rain-fed agriculture will be a critical priority for farmers and all parties interested. With elaborate irrigation, strategy farmers would be able to increase productivity, to boost value-added production, incorporate arid lands into strategic agricultural reserve, and provide new opportunities for private sector and substantial farmers.

The use of new technologies coupled with nuclear science can be a real game-changer in agricultural business in the country. By using nuclear techniques with the help of IEAE and its Member States, Kenya has improved its soil fertility and secured better water management.

Indeed, the nuclear techniques help to maintain the right carbon and nutrient balance in the soil and prevent it from deterioration. In addition, they are useful in proper water management in irrigation.

The soil fertility integrated management technology, implemented in different semi-arid and arid parts of Kenya, demonstrated higher levels of crop varieties, manifested in increased crop yields from less than 500 kg per hectare to an average 1.2 tonnes per hectare.

The positive side of this technology is that in order to implement nuclear techniques local farmers don’t need to understand the hi-tech science to benefit from such kind of projects. In Kenya, the IAEA has worked with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to evaluate the efficiency of nuclear techniques by measuring crop yield increase. Crop evaluation showed that pea yields increased from 2,500 kg per hectare up to 3,500 kg.

With the Climate getting worse, means that crops fail to grow as a result of insufficient rain and therefore fragile environment, which simply cannot support farming, which thus leads to starvation.

Eclectic approach therefore should be adopted in management of agriculture .The ministry of agriculture has taken cognizance of the fact that in order to improve agricultural production, there is need to leverage on the current nuclear technologies available.

Following the successful implementation of the nuclear techniques, the ( KALRO ) Kenyan center was selected as the regional center of excellence to train regional workers on nuclear application in agriculture. The KALRO laboratories are now responsible for preparation of scientists from different African countries, including Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Similar techniques in Ghana and Tanzania have been able to reduce cabbage water requirements by as much as 60% through drip irrigation and increase yields by up to 17 times, respectively.