At the heart of the vision 2030 Agenda, lies sustainable farming, the key to achieving sustainable Development Goals. Kenya’s Big 4 Agenda is directly or indirectly connected to food production. Agriculture is an important sector in Kenya, practiced mostly by smallholder farmers. Energy inputs play a critical role in every stage of production. This ranges from the chemical application, fueling tractors to lay seeds and harvesting crops, lighting, and cooking. However, this energy use and exploitation are not without costs to their health. Especially if the energy is not clean.
The world’s poorest – many of whom are smallholder farmers – are tasked with the bulk of food production in developing countries. Yet, most are marginalized. This creates a huge deficit for them to access energy-efficient services for their farming activities and domestic use. In particular,65 percent of farm power in Sub-Saharan Africa relies on human effort, 25 percent on animals and only a small percentage rely on engines.
With access to modern energy-saving technologies, smallholder farmers can significantly impact food security, end rural poverty and reduce gender disparityCleaner and reliable energy services enable farmer and agribusinesses to cut on costs, engage in value-added processing and improve farmers’ health.
Being no strangers to the power of sunlight, smallholder farmers can explore the potential of solar energy to cut the farm’s electricity and heating bills. They can use solar heat collectors, water heaters and electric panels in daily farm productions and operations such as drying crops, powering water pumps for irrigation and lighting of homes and farmhouses. Also, solar box dryers can be used to dry the easily perishable crops for easy transportation. These benefits are not only geared towards increasing a farm’s efficiency and cutting costs but also help improve the farmer’s health.
Farmers can also benefit from the energy and opportunity blowing in the wind. Farms that rely on wind energy go a long way in saving costs associated with energy consumption. Use of wind turbines in agriculture comes in handy in mixing up the air and getting more CO2 to the crops. Also, they reduce the amount of dew on leaves at night, helping reduce crop diseases such as those caused by fungi.
The effects of burning solid fuels indoors have been associated with the poor in developing countries for many years. Smallholder farmers who use coal, wood and other solid fuels for cooking purposes are most likely to suffer the adverse effects of carbon emission and global warming. Biomass energy – produced from plants, organic wastes, and farm residues – as a source of biofuels can be used for lighting homes, farms and cooking. This increases food production while at the same time lowering the negative effects of burning fossil fuels such as the hazardous effects of carbon monoxide on a farmer’s health.
Energy smart food systems are ‘climate-smart’ since they help mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Embracing energy-smart food systems, help smallholder farmers become resilient to the effects of climate change and enhance their health as well as diversify their incomes. Embracing bioenergy crops, biomass residues and renewable platforms such as wind, solar and mini-hydro help farmers avoid health problems such as asthma, bronchitis, and cancer and increase farm productivity.
It is with no doubt that there exists a relationship between food and energy in both high and low GDP countries. The world needs to produce 70% more food by 2050. Achieving this goal will be difficult if energy prices keep rising. Organic energy consumption can point the way to wisely balancing food production, economic efficiency, and environmental conservation. This will ultimately enhance the health viability of smallholder farmers who adopt energy-saving practices.