By Kimani Chege
While growing up in Nyandarua County, as a farming community, there were many challenges which at some point I thought needed someone bigger than us to solve them. There were problems of infrastructure with impassable roads being the norm. Milk could go to waste, sukuma-wiki and cabbages could rot in the farms, same as potatoes and tomatoes. Food was plenty, but no market for us.
The situation remains almost the same, few decades down the line. Thinking of it now, I am seeing an option where communities such as those in Nyandarua could be empowered to adopt a technology that can help prolong the shelf-life of their products.
Biotechnology is one tool that has been proven to come up with certain solutions. This can be mirrored towards meeting the needs of specific communities and locations.
Most of the biotechnology products available through out the world are geared towards solving problems like drought, acidity, taste and recently nutrition deficiency (e.g Vitamin A). However, there are unique challenges present in certain areas which have not been addressed. For example, there is a variety of cassava that has certain toxins if eaten. Farmers in the counties where this is grown can demand a technology that develops varieties whose toxins have been neutralized.
Another technology that can easily be demanded by farmers and food processors is a technology that alters the gene responsible for producing toxins present in beans that occasion bloating. Being a staple food, communities can demand varieties that can sell more while free of these toxins.
Naivasha whose large percentage of its population suffers from excessive fluoride consumption (fluorosis) can be assisted by farming crops that neutralizes the excessive fluoride, if any.
The list is endless, and that is my point. The new constitution leaves agriculture in the hands of the county governments. They hold the key to expanding this important sector and what they can deem as important can not be ignored by national government.
It is the role of science to solve problems in the society. The country assemblies and the Senate hence becomes the new frontier of lobbying if one needs to sell a biotechnology agenda. However, for such to happen, communities need to be educated to clearly see the benefits a technology can be based on local-problem/local-solutions.
The writer is the coordinator of the Media for Environment Science Health and Agriculture MESHA).