Thursday, 25 September 2014

Contextualizing Kenya’s Agricultural Sector Development Strategy.

Over the years, the agricultural sector has been and continues to be the leading sector in Kenya’s economy. Several policies concerning and dealing with agriculture have been formulated in order to spur and accelerate growth in the sector. Some of the noticeable policies include the Strategy for Revitalizing Agriculture of 2004 and Vision 2030. The Agricultural Sector Development Strategy was formulated to cover the period 2010 to 2020.

The main objective of Vision 2030 is to push Kenya towards the attainment of the middle-income status by the citizens. In this particular working paper, the manufacturing sector is anticipated to be the leading sector. However, it is impossible to be able to set up a strong manufacturing industrial base if a strong foundation in agriculture is not going to be laid down. It should be noted that agriculture contributes directly 26% of the Gross Domestic Product and about 25% of GDP indirectly. It also accounts for 65% of Kenya’s total exports and more than 70% of employment opportunities in rural areas.

In striving to make strides towards enhancing and promoting efficiency in the agricultural sector, the government of the day and the would be successive governments need to pay attention to certain fundamental aspects without which such efforts would only remain as a mirage. The starting point to accelerate performance in this sector is by ensuring that budgetary allocation for the sector is increased not marginally but substantially. Kenya’s allocation to the agricultural sector in the national budget can be termed as meager considering that the total allocation for the sector is way below 10% of the total national budget.

Our previous governments and the current government ought to peg allocations to the sector on the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security of 2003 formulated under the auspices of the African Union. This declaration sought to compel the African governments and administrations to at least have 10% of the total national budget going towards the agricultural sector. It thus remains imperative that a substantial allocation of funds towards agriculture will lead to immense growth of the sector.

To establish or to create an enormous manufacturing sector in Kenya, it is vital to develop agro-based industries in which the latter will act as a strong base for the establishment of the former. With the presence of the agro-based industries, other related modern industries will automatically develop through forward and backward linkages and hence bringing to real existence of the modern manufacturing industries.

Another fundamental aspect in ensuring efficiency in the sector is to enhance effective training, research and development programmes. This can be done by developing the existing agricultural institutions by ensuring the curricula and programmes offered are up to date and the usage of the latest but appropriate technology in training the manpower. These days, some regions hardly have the field officers attending to the needs of the farmers. This situation has created a gap that has consequently led to low production and poor quality products.

In addition, genetically modified and engineered organisms need to be introduced if we are yearning to increase our levels of production and to boost our food security. However, this should be strictly on the crops and not on the animals. Genetically modified crops mature faster and their yields are also high and from my own viewpoint, this would initiate better food security, high surplus which will lead to increased exports. It should be noted that the introduction of such crops is subject to a sober and mature debate.

Most importantly, injecting efficiency in the agricultural state corporations is a key aspect towards the realization of the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy and the overall improvement of the sector. Most of these problems have been affected by the maladministration syndrome which has caused most of them to be run-down. A general and thorough audit of these firms needs to be carried out to determine the various strategies to be executed in order to ensure they have par performance in their operations.

To increase the market surplus, the small holder farmers need to access agricultural credit very easily and cheaply. Banks and other financial institutions need to reduce their conditionalities on loans and other inputs that they offer to the farmers. This will increase the capital base of the farmers and with proper management contribute towards high yields. A lot of emphasis should be laid on the small scale or small holder farmers as they form the largest bulk of farmers nationwide.

Furthermore, reducing reliance on rain-fed agriculture is another vital aspect which this working paper seeks to deal with. This has an implication that a lot of irrigation needs to be done. The present government has made a significant step towards allocating some funds towards several irrigation projects notably the A Million Acre Scheme in order to increases the yields and promote food security. However, the government needs to be at the fore-front in ensuring that the aquifers in Turkana County are drilled so that water for irrigation is easily available. Also other arid and semi-arid lands(ASALs) should also be effectively utilized in agricultural terms through the practical use of technology and irrigation.

In conclusion, the bottomline for actualization of the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy remains increasing  the budgetary allocation towards the sector. Without having enough finances, then realizing all the other strategies put in place to improve the sector would remain all but a dream.