Farmers urged to adopt technology for improved yields

25 Jul 2019

Smallholder farmers in the county have been urged to adopt technology and mechanized agriculture to boost production and quality of their produce. Kenya Plant health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) Chairman Robin Achoki said the notion that mechaniZation is only for those in large-scale farming was misguided and a threat to Kenya’s food security. Speaking in Opoda Farm in Bondo, where ODM leader Raila Odinga had invited hundreds of farmers for a field day, Mr Achoki said technological advancements and innovations have helped small-scale farmers improve productivity.

“As Kephis, we play a big role in promoting agriculture and nutrition. We therefore recognise that use of technology is making agriculture more profitable,” he said. Achoki, accompanied by Kephis MD Esther Kimani, said the need to boost crop yields is a priority towards realisation of the Government’s Big 4 Agenda. “Some of the ways of achieving Big 4 agenda on food security include mechanised farming, irrigation, and use of quality seeds and appropriate fertilisers,” he said. Achoki said Kephis has enabled farmers get quality seeds with high nutritional value, tolerance to pests and diseases, and early maturing especially in light of the current unpredictable weather patterns. Dr Kimani said they had developed a seed sticker label as part of certification processes. “While at the agrovet shop, a farmer scratches the sticker on the packet and texts the code underneath to 1393,” she said. 

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15th CAADP: African countries urged to protect farmers

16 Jul 2019

Kenyas deputy President William Ruto asked African countries to protect their farmers by buyung local products as part of efforts to boost production.

He said there was need to come up with measures aimed at protecting local industries and farmers form cheap imports, urging African nations to trade more with each other. The deputy President said Kenya was committed to working closely with other states to speed up regional and continental integration as part of efforts to boost trade

The  Deputy President said Kenya was committed  to working closely with  other states to speed up regional and continental integration as part of  efforts to boost trade.

He said Kenya was among those countries, which have agreed that continental and regional integration is the path to transforming African  countries from being developing to developed economies.

Speaking during the 15th Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme  (CAADP) Partnership Platform meeting held in Nairobi, the Deputy  President said Kenya is determined to pursue free trade and regional  integration. 

Dr Ruto said Kenya was not only the first country to sign the free trade  area agreement but also took the lead in ratifying it so as to use its boundaries as bridges to share its prosperity.

“I  want to persuade you, political and knowledge leaders that this is our  moment to take steps that change the fortunes of our continent,” said the Deputy President.

 The theme of the meeting was ‘Enhancing Trade and Market for Accelerated Agriculture Transformation’.

 “From  our East African Community, which has made tremendous progress towards  maximum integration, to Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa  (COMESA), which is the largest common market at its level of  integration, the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) is a  logical next step in our national vision of greater integration,” said  Dr Ruto.

 He said African countries must embrace economic and political integration  in order to spur prosperity and ensure strategic security for their citizens.

The Deputy President said African countries have applied themselves  strongly to creating policies and programmes that ease these critical  challenges, but the success rate has persistently failed to reflect the  efforts invested.

He said the move can be discouraging, and may lead to pessimism and widespread skepticism. 

 “A  continent-wide approach offers many benefits, including scale, breadth,  diversity and flexibility.  This is why CAADP has become increasingly  critical to African problem-solving and African development,” said the  Deputy President.

He said agriculture remains key in unlocking opportunities for sustainable development in the continent.

“When  we compare agriculture’s contribution to our GDPs with our collective  share of world trade, we draw the unhappy observation that agriculture forms a big portion of a very tiny pie indeed,’ said Dr Ruto. 

He called on the need to optimize agriculture through implementation of ideas that deliberately build and exploit the many complementarities located in the sector and its value chains.

He said access to markets, research and technology dissemination and  increased food production are vital components of complementary commitments that aim to boost African countries’ individual domestic, as  well as collective continent-wide production. 

“This partnership platform is Africa’s policy framework for agricultural  transformation, wealth creation, food security and nutrition, economic  growth and prosperity for all,” said Dr Ruto.


Kenyas deputy President William Ruto asked African countries to protect their farmers by buying local products as part of efforts to boost production
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Here’s our plan to lift up farmers

15 Jul 2019

The rains have become erratic, new pests and diseases are emerging and there is an influx of food imports. Farmers are squeezed and in dire need of government action. What is your word to them?

I agree that our agriculture is ailing. About 98 per cent of our farming is smallholder and 2 per cent large-scale. However, the 98 per cent produce 70 per cent of our cereals while the 2 per cent produce 30 per cent. To transform our agriculture, we have to shift the smallholder farmers (below 20 acres) to high value crops (not maize) and make maize and other cereals large-scale crops as they were meant to be.

Usually, smallholder farmers are highly inefficient as they are largely not mechanised and are challenged by knowledge gaps. In our recently developed agriculture sector strategy of 2019-2029, we are proposing to come up with 50 new large-scale farms and also designing medium-scale farms (30 acres to 100 acres) to increase production and create more jobs. Eventually, we have to move the smallholder farmers away from farming into jobs as we industrialise. All societies that have developed have had to make this transition.

The government allocated agriculture Sh51.7 billion in the recently unveiled Sh3.02 trillion 2019/2020 budget. With this small amount, is the government really keen on implementing its radical proposals to lift the sector?

To realize the Big Four agriculture agenda, we have to implement the Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS) in full. Of course this needs much more resources. The Sh51.7 billion is barely 1.6 per cent of the budget, way below the 10 per cent of public spending promised under the Malabo Declaration of 2014.

To fund the ASTGS, we need roughly Sh200 billion annually, much of it through private-public projects and development partners. But as a government, we also have to play our facilitative role, especially when it comes to supporting the smallholder enterprise. The good thing is that a shilling invested in agriculture will come back and even be multiplied because it is one of the productive sectors that create wealth and employment for the people.

The disconnect between research and extension is big. Does the government care about these two services anymore?

Agriculture extension barely exists. It is not financed very well and neither is research. Agriculture is a technical undertaking and it is knowledge-intensive. The Kenyan smallholder farmer struggles from the start as they do not have superior genetics (seed, animal or fish), they have poor soil management skills and struggle with timing, weather, pest and disease control and recently the erratic behaviour of the weather (climate change). Only 1 per cent of the agriculture budget goes to extension. About 12 to 20 per cent goes to agriculture research/knowledge, but not to the real work. Instead, it goes to paying salaries of Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) employees.

In the ASTGS, we are proposing programmes to train 3,000 extension workers to cover the country properly. The national government is working closely with the county governments using some of the donor-funded projects to address challenges in specific value chains. But we must invest more in research and extension if we are to transform the smallholder farmer. We are experimenting with digital tools to reach the farmer. Farmers can SMS the word “farm” to 40130 to see some of the solutions that the ministry has developed to reach them.

Our agriculture has been rain-fed for long but it is certain we have to shift from this trend due to climate change. Irrigation is the way to go but the technology remains expensive …

We have planned investments in new irrigation schemes, desilting of old colonial dams and intensifying household water pans to boost household irrigation. Apart from that, we also have support of World Bank and the African Development Bank to build resilience in arid and semi-arid communities. Water and soil conservation are key to sustainable agriculture and we are working with Kalro and other development partners to intensify conservation agriculture in the country.

The bulk of the food sold in the local market does not meet safety standards. Is the government eager to enhance the quality of food in the local market?

The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) is putting in place regulations to guarantee Kenyans safe food. We are also working with the Ministry of Health to put in place a consolidated robust food agency that will coordinate food safety issues. Currently, a number of agencies such as the Kenya Bureau of Standards, Department of Public Health, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services and the Department of Veterinary Services are responsible for different components of food safety. In the next 60 days, we will focus on realigning and sharpening our food safety system.

The government plans to operationalise the commodity exchange by January next year. What should farmers look forward to?

This is a very progressive step. It has taken over 10 years for the country to adopt the warehouse receipting system, which anchors the commodity exchange. Through this, we hope to improve access to finance and markets for farmers through the warehouse receipts.

Agricultural commodities like maize will in future be traded through the exchange, and prices of commodities will be much better.

There are many campaigns to attract more youths into agriculture, yet it remains an optional subject in schools. Do you think the ministry should push for  agriculture to be a compulsory subject to address the jobs crisis and boost food security in the long-term?

To be a farmer, you do not have to have studied agriculture. I think the reason the youth opt not to take agriculture in college is that there are few formal jobs in the sector since 98 per cent of our farmers are smallholders.

Despite the fact that agriculture is responsible for 33 per cent of the gross domestic product, there are only 350,000 formal jobs in the sector. Investment in medium and large-scale farms will increase demand for agriculture graduates. Further, in our ASTGS, our first pillar proposes creation of 1,000 farmer-related small enterprises such as agrovets, mechanisation services, off-takers and processors and most of the youthd can find their calling in some of these enterprises. The ministry is working to come up with the Kenya Agriculture Transformation Fund (KATF) to support the financing of small and medium-sized farms and also fund the other farmer-facing SMES. This will help to fill the funding gaps since agriculture attracts only 3 per cent of financing from banks as it is considered risky. The KATF is, therefore, key to unlocking financing for agriculture SMES. It is alarming that the average farmer is 60 years, while the average consumer is 17 years old. We will address the bottlenecks that hinder the youth from venturing into the agriculture sector, which include lack of access to land, finances, machinery and low level of knowledge.

Most farmers sell their produce raw, yet they can add value and make more money. Can the government help?

The ministry is in discussions with the African Development Bank to finance the design and setting up of agro-processing parks in six regions alongside the regional economic blocks. For agro-parks to emerge, they need a steady supply of enough quality raw materials. We are faced with a chicken and egg situation, because agro-parks need inputs and farmers need markets for their produce. Pillar three of the agriculture sector strategy gives elaborate proposals and identifies zones where the proposed agro-parks should be located and the mechanisms for setting them up. This is going to be a very exciting space in the coming years as we seek to support the manufacturing pillar of the Big Four agenda.

Land sizes are shrinking and real estate development is taking over agricultural land. Does this worry you?

Yes, it worries me. Land fragmentation is a danger to agriculture. Economies of scale are important. In some of the places where the land size has shrunk to less than quarter of an acre, we may as well refer to this as gardening and not farming.

We must rethink our land policies and spatial planning. The counties and the Lands ministry must secure agricultural land.

Only 10 per cent of Kenya is suitable for growing crops. Apart from land, other issues that are of concern are climate change, the state of our soils, overuse of pesticides (which is killing pollinators like bees) and general land and environmental degradation. Sustainability of the agriculture enterprise will depend on the society embracing solutions and technologies that are designed to mitigate some of the challenges.


The 15th CAADP Partnership Platform (CAADP PP) Meeting

The 15th CAADP PP meeting will convene from 11th to 14th June 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya.

The theme chosen for the 15th edition of the CAADP PP is centred on “Enhancing Trade and Market Access for Accelerated Agriculture Transformation”. The theme
is chosen in the context of the Africa Continental Free.

Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) that was adopted in Kigali in March 2018 by the African Union Assembly. Indeed, this theme has been chosen because of the role that intraAfrican trade in agriculture can (and should) play in driving economic growth; but also, the significant challenges involved. In 2015, African countries spent about US$63 billion on food imports, largely from outside the continent.

The modelling work by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) projects that intra-African trade in agricultural products will be between 20% and 30% higher in 2040
with the AfCFTA in place which would then generate state revenue, increase farmer income and expand both farmer and country capacity to invest in modernizing the sector through processing and mechanization. Despite the current affairs marked by the signing of the African Union Treaty last year, the immense potential of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area has not yet been fully analysed and clarified for agriculture.

The 15th CAADP PP will, therefore, present African countries and their development and technical partners with the opportunity to reflect together, share best practices and identify
strategies and policies to foster integration, enhanced market access and intra-regional trade in agricultural commodities and services

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EAC Assembly calls for more funds to agriculture sectors

16 May 2019

The East African Legislative Assembly has once again reiterated the need to implement the Malabo Declaration as a means to ensuring food security and transformation of the agricultural sector among the member states.

A report from of the Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources on Budgetary Enhancement in the Agricultural Sector presented to the House by the Committee Chairperson Mathias Kasamba recently, states that despite its potential towards fighting poverty among the regional states, the agriculture sector has been growing slowly over the years and continues to attract limited funding from governments.

Kasamba said the sector’s funding is still below the continental benchmark of 10%. This he said has negatively impacted the sector and is a big obstacle in attracting the youth to participate in the sector.

African Leaders, in 2013, adopted a Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) known as the Maputo Declaration 2003. They agreed that all governments should at least allocate 10% of their national budget to the agriculture sector but very have implemented it yet Agriculture sector is key in contributing to the gross domestic product.

Engineer Habib Mnyaa called on the Assembly to collaborate more closely with the relevant committees in the national Parliaments to allow for the push of enhanced budgets.

Amb Fatuma Ndangiza noted that agricultural sector is crucial in the economies of the partner states and the region.

“Agriculture remains to be critical in all the EAC partner states with 70-72% of the citizens in the region depending on the Agriculture Sector,” the legislator said.

Pierre Celestin Rwigema informed the House of the necessity to secure ready market for farmers’ produce within the region. Furthermore, the legislator reiterated improved infrastructure would allow for smooth movement of the agricultural produce.

Why Agriculture sector needs enough resources

The agriculture Sector is a major contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the East African region, accounting for 31.3% in Kenya, Uganda (25%), Burundi (34.2%), Tanzania (30%), Rwanda (33%) and South Sudan (34.5%).

Recently, various farmers Organization from the East African Community member states presented their views to the regional Assembly where they demanded budget increment for the sector.

Hakim Baliraine, the Chairperson of the Eastern and Southern Africa small holder farmers forum (EASFF Uganda chapter), told East African Business Week that poor funding affects technological transfer between farmers and researchers.

“The agriculture sector is currently facing with the challenges associated with climate change, many farmers have lost their Livestock’s due to drought  but if government had allo9ocated enough resources , the sector ministry could use part of the financial resources to construct water dams  such that there’s availability of water during the dry seasons,” he said.

He added that limited resources means government cannot recruit enough agricultural extension services providers yet such professionals play a big role in the sector.

Story by: Samuel Nabwiso:

Stop frustrating maize farmers, Wetang

29 Apr 2019

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula has lashed out at the government, accusing it of frustrating farmers’ access to subsidised fertilizer.

Wetang’ula said the state had put in place strict measures, including demanding for title deeds at cereal boards, before farmers can get the fertilizer. The senator said the move further delay the planting season with the government having already delayed the provision of farm inputs.

He said many farmers do not have title deeds.

“How many farmers have title deeds when the Ministry of Lands is still grappling with headaches of millions of unprocessed titles everywhere. It is not possible t meet that demand,” Wetang’ula said.

He was addressing reporters on Friday at his Kanduyi home. He was with Bungoma Deputy Governor Charles Ngome, Bungoma Knut secretary general Ken Nganga and Ford Kenya youth leader Wafula Wakoli.

The Ford Kenya leader said it was strange that farmers were being asked to show documents for parcels they had leased.

“How many farmers in the villages go to lawyers to sign lease agreements? If I have good neighbours whom I want to assist, then I don’t lease land to them. I simply tell them; you plant here to feed your family without the lease agreement,” Wetang’ula said.

The senator said the demands at the National Produce and Cereals Board were out of order and only meant to frustrate farmers.

“There is an old man with more than 20 acres which he has subdivided to his sons to cultivate. They don’t have title deeds. How will they be sorted?” He said it was time the governor reconsidered its policies or the country could be turned into a “supermarket economy that receives foodstuff from all over the world.”

“Very soon, we are going to have tomatoes coming from a desert somewhere in Israel. We might have maize coming from countries that are known not to produce maize at the expense of our local farmers,” Wetang’ula said.

He said President Uhuru Kenyatta ought to be serious in the manner farmers are handled for the food security agenda of the Big Four to succeed.

He urged Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri to allow all farmers access to subsidized fertilizer so they can plant in time. “I don’t think there is a crazy farmer who can buy fertilizer to keep it in his bedroom. The fertilizer has an expiry date which means it must be used immediately,” he said.

He said it was unfortunate the government was frustrating farmers; key stakeholders in the actualization of food security.

“It is the planting season and we know our farmers are toiling on their farms to feed this nation.”Meanwhile, the former Senate Minority leader criticised the government’s plan to extend the SGR from Naivasha to Kisumu. Those of us from towns that lie along the old railway line from Mombasa to Kampala via Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret, Turbo, Webuye, Bungoma, Miyanga and Malaba are dissatisfied,” he said.

Edited by P. Obuya

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