Kenya agriculture needs more funding

NAIROBI,Kenya – Kenya will need to increase investment in the agricultural sector if it is to meet the demands of the fast growing population and the aspiration of its Vision 2030.

One of the goals of the Vision 2030 is to ensure that Kenya is food sufficient and produces in surplus by the year 2030. Currently, the country is forced to import from neighbors to cover a deficit especially in its staple maize and other critical supplies such as sugar and rice.

One of the main undoings on the side of the government over the years has been decreasing investment in agriculture and production has dwindled over the years. The Food and Agriculture Organization  says Kenya is one of the countries which has not increased budgetary allocation to the minimum 10 per cent.

The sector recorded a growth of 3.8 per cent in 2012, a figure that plunged to 3.2 per cent in 2013, way below the expected growth of 7 per cent that is required to feed the 40 million-plus Kenyans. Last year marked one of the poorest harvests of maize which is Kenya’s staple food. The bread basket regions in the Rift Valley were the worst hit by the poor harvest, raising the red flag of a likely food shortage for the country in the course of this year. 2011 was the worst year for the agricultural sector as it registered a paltry 1.5 per cent growth. It will be remembered that this was the same year that there was a massive famine in the norther region of Turkana that prompted humanitarian organizations, corporate and individuals to fund raise to save the starving populations.

Performance of different sub-sectors in agriculture varied in 2013 mainly on account of delayed long rain across the ecological zones. The government will need to work more closely with farmers to ensure that seeds and other farm inputs are in place in good time to forestall a recurrence of the last year’s confusion where these essentials either arrived late or never reached the intended farmers at all.

In 2013, marketed production rose by 3.9 per cent from Ksh 331.8 billion in 2012 to Ksh 344.6 billion (almost $4 billion) in 2013. There was also increased production of key crops save for horticulture, tea and pyrethrum which recorded declines despite being Kenya’s main cash crops.

During the year, value of marketed tea rose marginally in spite of a decline in production due to high prices.