MACHAKOS, Kenya, Before the onset of devolution, Machakos County would never miss in the list of counties that were given relief supplies every time there was famine in the country.
But as a biting drought hits 12 counties across the country, Machakos has been spared the ravage of hunger due to food security programs launched by the government since 2013.
Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua says he decided to launch sustainable food policies “to end the shame of food relief.”
“Over a few years and again this time after the county launched the programs, we have remained food secure,” said Mutua.
He says farmers across the county were food secure adding this was “the magic of good agricultural policies”.
When he took over office as the first governor in 2013, Mutua pledged to eliminate perennial food shortage by putting in place an ambitious agriculture subsidy program, water harvesting and expansion of economic welfare of the county’s approximately 1.2 million people.
In 2014, the governor mooted the famous Machakos comprehensive water and food security program, which saw huge budgetary allocations towards provision of water for both domestic and subsistence farming, as well as expansion of arable land through provision of free tractors in all 40 wards across the county.
Forty tractors were procured and have so far tilled 12,814 acres of land for free.
“Over 7,335 households have benefitted from the free ploughing and this has led to bumper harvests,” said Mutua.
He said countries in dry zones like Saudi Arabia receive little rains yet they are food secure adding Machakos will soon be a model county in terms of food reliance.
The county government has so far sunk 420 boreholes at the village levels this enabling the public to access clean drinking water.
“Access to water is a right and not a privilege. We have also sunk over 400 boreholes and built weir’s across seasonal rivers to retain water when it rains,” said Mutua.
He says schools have been provided with 10,000 litre tanks to ensure no pupil is thirsty.
Through the food sustainability program, the county government also went on to provide free certified seeds as well as subsidized fertilizer to farmers.
So far, 619 tonnes of seeds have been given to 139,000 households with 26,143 bags of fertilizer also being distributed.
The county also employed dozens of agricultural extension and veterinary officers to carry out free insemination and veterinary services.
“It is a combination of these well planned and thought-out strategies geared towards providing a permanent solution to food insecurity which has curved out Machakos from the list counties in desperate need of food aid,” said Agriculture and Cooperatives Executive Committee member, Urbanus Musyoka.
Musyoka said prioritisation of water as a critical element of food production was the first and most important step towards securing the county from the fangs of hunger and starvation of its residents.
Musyoka said at least 58,321 chicks have also been distributed to 4,163 households .
“Farmers now have chicken they can sell and use the money for other purposes,” said Musyoka.
He adds at least 602,707 livestock in the county have been vaccinated for free.