KENYA – The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) has embarked on a move to increase its workforce by 12.5 percent this year to boost the fight against fake seeds and monitor plant diseases.
Speaking during the fourth International Phytosanitary Conference in Nairobi, KEPHIS Managing Director Prof Theophilus Mutui said the agency has been cleared to recruit 50 new workers to address staff shortage.
The state parastatal regulates the quality of seeds to boost production and prevent the spread of diseases.
He revealed that currently, the state agency has about 400 staff and recently recruited 66 new inspectors who we have deployed in different parts of Kenya.
However, Mutui noted that the workforce is still limited in providing services for efficient agricultural inputs and produce quality.
We are not where we ought to be (regarding staff count) and we are recruiting through replacement so that we can have enough staff to inspect plants as well as seeds,” he said.
According to him, Kephis has officers at various points of exit and entry including the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) for testing of plant material being brought into the country since the country is a major importer of plant material from various countries.
In June last year, Kephis received equipment worth Ksh1.3 million for seed inspection to enable real-time inspection of various crops such as maize, beans, wheat, sorghum, cowpeas, green grams, potato, and rice.
Gatsby Africa donated the 30 tablets to facilitate the implementation of the automated seed certification and plant variety protection system, aimed at providing digitalized services to the farming community.
According to Prof Mutui, the tablets would enable the transmission of real-time information and data to KEPHIS, thus enabling faster decision-making on seed inspections.
With more than 150 seed companies registered under KEPHIS, Mutui stated that the new tablets are expected to ease the huge inspection task.
According to country data, Kenya has been operating on manual inspections since the inception of KEPHIS in 1997, till 2018 when it began developing the automated system.
However, the existing manual registration and licensing processes were associated with delays, documentation errors, and inefficiencies, including security, scheduling, and processing time, hence the government potentially wanting to harness technological solutions.