Stakeholders in the organic sector want the government to step up measures to conserve genetic resources in the wake of emerging technologies and climate change that could wipe up indigenous varieties.

Martin Njoroge, a programme officer with Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN), has highlighted the need to preserve the nation’s invaluable genetic resources for future generations.

Kenya boasts an abundance of genetic diversity, and Mr Njoroge has emphasised the importance of empowering organisations dedicated to safeguarding these precious seed heritages to ensure they do not become extinct.

Njoroge firmly believes that a central coordination hub is imperative to collate and effectively distribute Kenya’s genetic wealth.

He stresses that while the country is rich in genetic resources, there’s a pressing need for a centralized repository where these resources can be consolidated and shared with the people of Kenya.

“Genetic diversity is a critical infrastructure for Kenya,” Njoroge asserts. “Without seeds, there are no crops, and without crops, there’s no food. In the absence of food, we resort to imports, which deplete our resources unnecessarily,” he said.

“We have everything required to thrive as a nation independently, without relying on other countries. Strengthening these organizations and supporting our policies, along with providing funds and resources, is paramount.”

Nungari Ndehi, a director with Kamunjuu Coffee Farm. Image: BDA.
Nungari Ndehi, a director with Kamunjuu Coffee Farm. Image: BDA.

He pointed out that many Kenyan communities have embraced sustainable agricultural practices, such as agroecology, that reduce the need for heavy inputs.

For instance, Nungari Ndehi, a director with Kamunjuu Coffee Farm in Kiambu says she has embraced organic farming on her farm.

“At Kamunjuu we are implementing organic coffee production by use of natural fertilisers such as manure, and we are using copper as pest repellant instead of synthetic pesticides,” she said.

Ms Ndehi said she also uses mulching to reduce the growth of weeds on her farm, which cuts the need for use of herbicides.

Anne Maina, the National Coordinator of the Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya (Biba), says Kenya is a country endowed with a rich heritage of genetic resources and our constitution protects Indigenous Seeds.

“It is important that our seed laws protect farmer-managed seed systems while supporting farmers to maintain phytosanitary conditions and exchange their seeds,” said Ms Maina.

She said Smallholder farmers have fed the country for decades and that local and diversified foods are rich in nutrition key for health and prosperity.

Desterio Nyamongo, director Genetic Resource Research Institute. Image:BDA
Desterio Nyamongo, director Genetic Resource Research Institute. Image:BDA

In Kenya, Genetic Resource Research Institute, which is a semi-autonomous institution under the Kenya Agriculture Livestock Research Organisation, is mandated to conserve biodiversity.

The institution’s Director Desterio Nyamongo. Currently, their primary focus is on plant genetic resources due to their existing capacity, even though they have the capacity to handle other genetics such as marine.

The Gene Bank, was established to safeguard traditional seeds and prevent the loss of genetic resources as new varieties are introduced into the market.

Remarkably, the institute has amassed a collection of 52,000 different plant species from across the country, ensuring that they remain unscathed in the face of civilisation.

These genetic treasures are sourced from farmers and wild lands, predominantly from protected areas designated for conservation.

Kenya is taking steps to secure its genetic heritage, ensuring that future generations can continue to benefit from its incredible genetic diversity.