Today the Daily Nation carried a headline on ‘New Plan to revive the Agriculture Sector’ by the government. They summarized the Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy, 2019-2029 which is the government’s policy shift after bashing by the World Bank due to it’s misplaced priorities and policies that are not evidence based in addressing the sector’s problems.
Some of the proposals are laudable as they address some of the problems I have highlighted in this blog previously. Key among them, is shifting from large scale government owned agricultural projects to small scale private owned projects with the government providing infrastructure ( roads, power and irrigation systems) and input subsidies through an electronic voucher system. With over three quarters of Kenya’s arable land being arid and semi arid and with the effects of climate change irrigation remains our best bet to increase food production. With over 80% of food produced in Kenya coming from small scale farmers who often go hungry, it was paramount for stare to provide support.
The government also plans to set up six agroprocessing hubs across the country through public private partnerships for local and export markets. Already the government has started feasibility studies and will soon launch roadshows with global and local investors.
The strategy details of nine flagship projects aimed at increasing smallholders’ incomes, boosting household food resilience and increasing output and value addition. However, it is not clear whether these projects are the ones in the Vision 2030, Kenya’s development blueprint launched in the year 2008 which seems to have been forgotten. Implementing it will cost the country Kes 22 billion and with corruption and mismanagement being a major issue in the country, it’s our hope that the funds will be spent properly.
As much as we commend the government for waking and remembering the sector that forms the backbone of our economy, the document remains just that. Commitment from state officials and agencies tasked with its implementation should be people of integrity and committed towards realizing its goals. Public participation should also be emphasized to ensure that where the projects will be situated, locals will support them.
In addition youths who the government complains of not being interested in agriculture should be involved. Some of the proposals include innovations such as using digital data in decision making and tech savvy youths would be key in supporting them.
Generally the document signals a good step and if implemented well, it would transform Kenya’s agricultural sector to increase small scale farmers resilience to challenges such as climate change, boost their incomes and alleviate poverty. Otherwise, it might remain as just one of our several good plans such as the One Village One Product and Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy 2017-2026 which are absorbing dust in government offices.